BAINBRIDGE, GA. — When bites are as hard to come by as they have been at the Bass Pro Shops Southern Open #3 presented by Allstate, the leaderboard can change dramatically from one day to the next. That was painfully evident Friday for some of the anglers who were leading after Thursday’s opening round.
Elite Series pro Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla., dropped from first to 10th place with a total of 25-1.
“I can’t believe I still made the Top 12 cut,” Lane said. “I’m happy to be fishing tomorrow.”
Brandon McMillan of Clewiston, Fla., demonstrated that he is a young angler to be reckoned with. He brought in the heaviest five-bass limit Friday, 19 pounds, 14 ounces. McMillan’s two-day total of 39-8 puts him in first place with a cushion of nearly 7 pounds.
By making the Top 12 that will compete on Seminole for Saturday’s finale, McMillan also won the Angler of the Year race in the Bassmaster Southern Opens. Any Bassmaster Open angler who finishes among the top five in the AOY standings qualifies for the Elite Series. That was McMillan’s goal for this season.
“I feel a little unbelievable at the moment,” McMillan said. “Things have gone right all year for me.”
Trevor Fitzgerald of Belleview, Fla., jumped from 13th place to second place with a total weight of 32-10. The area he fished Thursday failed to produce a single bass on Day 2. He left to fish new water and finally boated his first bass around noon. By 2 o’clock he had a five-bass limit of 17-9. Like most of the other anglers who made the Top 12 cut, he is flippin’ soft plastic lures into thick grass beds.
The dream of winning the Seminole Open and qualifying for the 2016 Bassmaster Classic is still alive for Randall Tharp of Port St. Joe, Fla. He failed to qualify for the Classic through the Elite Series. Tharp sits in third place with 30-7.
“I had saved some places and they paid off for me today,” Tharp said. “I have a few other places up my sleeve for tomorrow that have 7- and 8-pounders.”
To qualify for the Classic by winning a Bassmaster Open, anglers must fish all three tournaments in any of the three Open divisions. Tharp is just one of 15 Elite Series pros who did not qualify for the Classic that also could have earned a Classic birth by winning at Seminole. The only other angler on that list to make the Top 12 cut is Kelley Jaye of Dadeville, Ala. He is in seventh place with 27-6.
Bailey Boutries of Daphne, Ala., caught a three-bass limit on Thursday and Friday and leads the co-angler field with 18-7. On Saturday, the 16-year-old Boutries will compete to stay ahead of the other co-anglers who finished in the Top 12.
The proverbial match made in heaven must be Tim and Judy Reneau of Del Rio, Texas. Both will be fishing the Seminole Open on Saturday, as Tim sits in fifth place on the pro side with 29-5 while Judy is the seventh-place co-angler with 11-14.
Elite Series pro Chad Morgenthaler of Coulterville, Ill., is the new big bass leader on the pro side with a largemouth weighing 8-12. If none of the Top 12 anglers who fish on Saturday catch a heavier bass, Margenthaler will claim a $750 Bass Pro Shops Big Bass award.
Jay West of Canton, Ga., is the co-angler big bass leader with a largemouth that weighed 5-14. If that bass holds up one more day, West will earn the $250 Bass Pro Shops Big Bass award.
Takeoff Saturday for the Top 12 pros and co-anglers will be from the Earle May Boat Basin at 7:30 a.m. ET. The weigh-in begins at 4:30 p.m. ET at Bass Pro Shops, 4059 Lagniappe Way, Tallahassee, FL 32317.