Lucas leaves the field behind

CHARLES COUNTY, Md. — Throughout his young professional fishing career, Alabama angler Justin Lucas says he’s never found a spot quite like the one he’s fished the first two days of the Bassmaster Elite at Potomac River presented by Econo Lodge.

The stats back up his claims.

Lucas caught the biggest limit of the tournament for the second day in a row Friday, landing five bass that weighed 19 pounds, 14 ounces. That catch pushed his two-day mark to 40-2 and gave him a comfortable lead of nearly 6 pounds over second-place angler Brent Ehrler (34-4) as the event heads into the semifinal round Saturday.

“I’ve fished tournaments for seven years, and I’ve never had a spot like this — especially to myself,” Lucas said. “The crazy thing is that I just stumbled into it. Yesterday morning, I had no clue. Then I got a couple of 3-pound bites early that clued me in on what was happening.”

Lucas estimates the stretch is no bigger than 300 to 400 yards long. But once he hits it just right, the bites come quickly.

“I didn’t get a bite on the first half of the pass I made on it today,” he said. “So I went around and went shallower for a little bit while the tide was pushed in. The wind had the tide pushed up.

“I wasted 45 minutes doing that. But then I went back to the sweet stretch — and within an hour, it seemed like I had 15 or 16 pounds.”

As he did on Thursday when the magic spot produced 20-4, Lucas spent more time guarding the area Friday than he did fishing it. But traffic hasn’t been much of an issue.

“One other competitor came to fish something just on the other end of where I was fishing,” Lucas said. “But there were no problems at all.”

Lucas said he only spent about three hours fishing because he wanted to save some of the 3-pounders that seem to be so numerous there.

With no pressure from other boats, he believes he should easily be able to land 15 or 16 pounds from the spot the next two days.

“I hope the local guys will be respectful, but obviously they can fish where they want,” Lucas said. “I think what I’m doing is different enough and off the beaten path enough that I should be OK.”

Lucas’ limit was anchored by a 5-8 largemouth Friday. It’s an ounce shy of the tournament big-bass mark of 5-9, set on Thursday, when Lucas and Luke Clausen each weighed in bass of that size. If no one catches a bigger bass by the end of the tournament, they will share in the $1,500 Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award.

Lucas’s closest competitor is Ehrler, a fellow California native who grew up fishing tidal waters just like Lucas. Ehrler caught 17-13 on Day 1 and added 16-7 Friday to push his two-day total to 34-4.

Ehrler came into this week’s event with loads of experience on the Potomac River from his time on the FLW Tour.

“It helps having the experience here,” Ehrler said. “I’ve fished this place about as many times as I have the California Delta at home.”

Like many anglers in the field, Ehrler is targeting the Potomac’s massive grassbeds.

“I’m fishing grass for the most part — some wood, but mostly grass,” he said. “That’s what everyone’s doing here. I’m throwing moving baits in some spots and flipping in some spots.”

Instead of looking for a certain tide, Ehrler is making his decisions based on what looks right at the time.

“In certain areas, even if it’s a certain tide, it’ll be a moving bait,” Ehrler said. “In other areas, on the same tide, I’ll be flipping. I’m just changing it up a little bit.

“I really have to base it on what I see in a particular spot.”

Behind Lucas and Ehrler are Jacob Powroznik (32-12), Jason Christie (31-7), Bill Lowen (31-3) and Gerald Swindle (30-5). Swindle maintained his spot in the Top 6 with today’s catch of 14-0 and kept a comfortable lead in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.

The tournament will resume Saturday with only the Top 50 remaining anglers taking part in the semifinal round. The take-off will be at 6:15 a.m. ET from Smallwood State Park. But unlike the past two days when the weigh-in was also held back at the park, Saturday’s weigh-in will be at 3 p.m. at Indian Head Pavilion on the Village Green.