HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. — Willie Leaver's goal was just to catch three fish a day as a co-angler in the Tennessee Triumph presented by Longhorn. "I wanted to fish the last day," the unemployed truck driver from Camden, Tenn., said. "Give my boy a reason to be proud of me."
Leavers near and far will be happy to hear: He's not only going to fish the third and final day on Old Hickory Lake, he's leading the dang thing.
As the only angler to have topped 7 pounds both of the first two days — and with the biggest co-angler sack so far on Day Two, at 8 pounds, 5 ounces — his two-day weight of 15-5 has him ahead of veteran co-angler Jim McDevitt, whose 13-15 has him within striking distance of a second co-angler win in the 2008 Bassmaster Elite Series.
The only thing that went wrong for Leaver during his day with Chris Lane was missing a 5-pounder that would have allowed him to cull a couple of pounds. Thinking he was hung up, he pulled hard — only to have a fish rush to the surface while his jig sailed 10 feet back to him.
Otherwise, he said, "when things are going your way, good things come no matter what." He's fishing this tournament largely at the prompting of his wife, Raenell Leaver, who won Purolator Big Bass money fishing the co-angler side on Kentucky Lake a couple of weeks ago.
Leaver was calm during a backstage interview, but in excusing himself, said, "Right now I'm going to go over here by myself and leap for joy."
Most of the field slogged through another difficult day for co-anglers. Ryan Piersdorf, for example — the 17-year-old who sat in second after Day One — was among two dozen co-anglers (and four pros) who zeroed on Day Two.
Such depressed weights add heft to the old saw that it's anyone's tournament. The big bass on the day was Bob Havermale's 5-5 kicker; after zeroing on Day One, he's now in 16th, with 8-11. The weight of that fish alone is the spread between first place and 12th, and between 13th and 42nd.
McDevitt, who won off the back of the boat on the Harris Chain of Lakes in March, enjoyed a brilliant day with fellow Missourian Brian Snowden, racking up 18 bites and culling a few times on the way to a 7-2 three-fish limit. While his pro "made some right moves at the right time," McDevitt said, he himself made the necessary adjustments.
He didn't catch any fish on the lures that got him a limit on Day One, and in fact had to reach back to some lures that pro Jimmy Mize had tipped him off to during Elite Series events on the Harris Chain and on Wheeler Lake earlier in the season.
"I needed a certain color and it was still in my bag," said McDevitt, who's four years retired from the Missouri Air National Guard but stays busy driving a fuel truck and school bus back in Eldon, Mo. "You keep what works."
Close behind McDevitt is Terry Steele (third place, 13-10), who caught four fish in his final half-hour on the water with Terry Scroggins. He caught six keepers on Day Two after boating eight of them on Day One with Byron Velvick.
"I'm wishing it were a five-fish tournament right about now," said Steele, of Sparta, Tenn.
Ron Seabaugh, Tommy Swindle, Jeff Minchey and Lee Sisson also are within three pounds of the lead. Day One leader Steve Greene fell to eighth after catching just one fish for 2-12 behind Kevin VanDam.