Primed and pumped

PARIS, Tenn. — After catching two limits of bass that weighed 24 pounds or better the first two days of Zippo BASSfest at Kentucky Lake presented by A.R.E. Truck Caps, Oklahoma angler Edwin Evers had high expectations for Saturday.

Things didn’t go as well as he’d hoped, but he still managed a five-bass limit that weighed 21 pounds, 2 ounces and maintained his lead with a three-day total of 72-4.

He will now lead a field of 12 anglers into Sunday’s final round with a $100,000 first-place and an automatic berth into the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro up for grabs.

“I’m not nearly as confident going into tomorrow as I was coming into today,” Evers said. “It got a lot tougher out there. There was a lot of local pressure, and that takes a toll.”

Evers took some ribbing about sounding disappointed with 21-2. But after catching 24-0 and 27-2 the first two days, it was a bit of a downturn.

The Tennessee Valley Authority didn’t generate as much water Saturday as they had earlier in the week, and Evers said that lack of current hurt the fishing.

“You just about have to catch them early – early is the thing,” Evers said. “I caught some later in the day back in practice, but there was a lot more current then. I was saving those fish, and I think the lack of current has kind of taken them away.”

After spending much of the week hitting multiple spots quickly and searching for fresh schools of fish, Evers said he didn’t move around as much Saturday. That’s something he plans to change Sunday.

“I’m going to do it a little different tomorrow,” he said. “I’m going to go back to looking. That’s what got me here. I’m going to be a little more wide-open tomorrow and try not to be as conservative as I was today.”

Another 21-pound bag may not be enough to help Evers pull off the victory with so many rock-solid anglers in striking distance behind him. Alabama angler and Tennessee River specialist Derek Remitz (69-11) is in second place, followed by Brandon Lester (69-8), Fred Roumbanis (69-2), Brett Hite (68-11), Kevin Vandam (67-10), Brandon Card (67- 0), Micah Frazier (65-14), Tim Horton (65-13), Andy Montgomery (63-13), Billy McCaghren (62-15) and Kotaro Kiriyama (62-6).

Most of the anglers in the Top 5 behind Evers said they believed it will take at least 26 to 28 pounds to make them feel comfortable about having a chance to win.

Remitz, who caught 28-1 during Thursday’s second round, added 22-7 Saturday.

“I fished a place today where I had been catching my limit every day, and the school had just gotten really big all of a sudden,” Remitz said. “I ended up catching probably 25 or 30 in about an hour. Everything just went like it was supposed to, except I didn’t catch any 6-pounders like I did Thursday.”

Temperatures pushed toward 90 degrees Saturday, and Remitz said the warmer weather helped his cause by pushing fish onto the deeper ledges to feed. The lack of water generation hurt him as it did Evers, but he fished a narrower section of the river where the current was more noticeable.

Remitz used three main lures — a swimbait, a hair jig and a crankbait – and he said alternating frequently between the three was the key to finding what the fish wanted at a given time.

He said he’s hoping for identical weather and water conditions Sunday for a run at his second career victory with B.A.S.S.

“This weather makes them feed,” Remitz said. “It tightens them up on those little sweet spots. Hopefully, it’ll be just like this again tomorrow – high skies and bright sunshine.”

The tournament began with a field of 111 Bassmaster Elite Series pros and 13 invited anglers from the Bass Pro Shops Open circuits. The field was cut to 50 after Thursday’s second round, but 10 anglers earned their way back into the main event by finishing 10th or better in Friday’s Second Chance tournament on Lake Barkley.

The angler who made the most of his Second Chance bid was 2014 Bassmaster Classic champion Randy Howell. He was in 67th place after two days on Kentucky Lake, but he won the Second Chance event and caught 22-13 Saturday for a final BASSfest finish of 34th.

While no Open anglers qualified for Sunday’s Top 12, Canadian Christopher Johnston came close with a three-day catch of 62-5 that left him just an ounce shy of 12th place.

The tournament will conclude Sunday with take-off scheduled for 6:15 a.m. CT from Paris Landing Marina and weigh-in set for 3:15 p.m. CT at Paris Landing State Park.