Man on Fire

LAKEPORT, Calif. — OK, now we can start talking records.

For a second straight day, the anglers of the Bassmaster Elite Series lugged copious amounts of portly largemouths out of Clear Lake on Friday, and speculation that the Golden State Shootout presented by Evan Williams Bourbon would produce a BASS record for biggest winning weight began to take on more credence.

No less an authority than Preston Clark, the man who set the bar with 115 pounds, 15 ounces in four days on Santee Cooper last year, has resigned himself that his staggering total will be dusted on Sunday.

"There's a 95 percent chance it's going to be broken," Clark said. He missed the cut by 4 pounds, and after seven straight weeks on the road, he's heading back home to Florida. If he didn't miss his kids so much, he'd almost be tempted to stick around. "It's fixing to get crazy, the next day or so," he said.

A half-dozen anglers remain in striking distance of Clark's total; for any of them, about 60 pounds in the rest of the tournament would do it. But for now, the only man actually on pace to surpass Clark is Greg Gutierrez, the fire captain with the hot hand.

Gutierrez weighed in 33-13 on Friday, a pound heavier than the bag that gave him the Day One lead on Thursday. Instead of following routine of weighing the bag before displaying trophy fish, Gutierrez marched onto stage brandishing a twitching hog in each hand.

"I don't know if I can keep the pace, to be honest with you," said Gutierrez, whose two-day total of 66-10 puts him nearly 11 pounds ahead of second-place Kelly Jordon. "Somebody's gonna break the record. It may not be me."

Gutierrez caught his 20-pound limit so quickly that the cameraman following his boat had gone through only half a 45-minute tape. "I was just catching fish and laughing all day long," Gutierrez said. Blowing away a stacked field, fishing close to his hometown of Red Bluff, with friends surrounding him, Gutierrez' week is shaping up similarly to Aaron Martens' week at the previous tournament, the Duel in the Delta.

"I'm ahead of Kevin VanDam," Gutierrez said. "How lucky am I?"

And VanDam is catching them like nobody's business. It's just that weights have reached such a ridiculous pitch that VanDam (t-6th, 52-6) grimaced when the scale read only 24-14.

"It's pretty bad when you catch 25 pounds and you're not happy," he said. "They're going to break the all-time record here this week, and it's not even going to be close."

At least two anglers set personal records Friday: Jeff Reynolds, with a 12-11 bass that was the biggest he had ever caught; and Jordon, with a stringer of 32-8 that put him in second place with 55-11.

"I was more dialed in today," Jordon said. "I figured everybody was going to catch 30-pound bags."

The plump Florida-strain largemouths that teem in Clear Lake have made 30 pounds the new 20. No one besides Jordon and Gutierrez sacked 30 pounds Friday, but a few anglers came close. Jared Lintner (9th place, 51-3) weighed 29-7, Steve Kennedy (12th, 49-13) bagged 29-13, Reynolds (16th, 49-0) had 29-6 and Pete Ponds (22nd, 29-2) kept himself in the tournament with 29-2.

So far, though, only Gutierrez has been consistent at that level. Jordon's huge sack was more than 9 pounds heavier than his Day One bag. Behind him are Skeet Reese (3rd, 54-5), Peter Thliveros (4th, 54-2) and Ish Monroe (5th, 53-0). After a monster Day One sack, Monroe managed only 20-7 on Friday — the smallest second-day bag of any angler still in the top 20.

"I'm going out trying to go get one bad mama," Monroe said. "I'm swinging for one big bite on swimbait, then I'm going fishing."

The second-day cut from 108 anglers to 50 sent a few big names packing. Mike Iaconelli (56th, 40-15) nearly doubled his Day One weight, but couldn't overcome his slow start. And 24-0 couldn't keep Derek Remitz, the leader in both the Angler of the Year and Rookie of the Year points races from finishing better than 75th, with 37-4.