Scroggins jumps out front

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — Unlike his competition, Terry Scroggins isn't competing in the CITGO Bassmaster Southern Open on Lake Guntersville with an eye on making the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic.

In addition to taking home the $50,000 prize in the Guntersville event, many of the pros are working to earn valuable points toward the CITGO Bassmaster Open championship, where the top five will receive a Classic invitation. By virtue of his third-place performance on the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Tour, the Florida pro has already qualified for the Classic, which is set for Feb. 24-27 on Lake Tohopekaliga in his native state.

It is with that relaxed state of mind that Scroggins banged out another big sack of Big G largemouth Friday. He followed up an opening-round catch weighing 21 pounds, 9 ounces with a five-bass limit totaling 18-13 to take the lead entering Saturday's final round.

His two-day total of 40-6 jumped him ahead of first-round leader Andy Morgan of Tennessee (38-12) who brought in 16-11 Friday. Fellow Tennessean Marshall Deakins remained in third with 34-4, followed by local angler Steve Stinson (13-13) with 33-4 and Tennessee's Jay Kendrick (17-7) with 32-9.

"I did pretty good today," Scroggins said. "I only fished my best spot for about an hour. I was trying to be conservative and save them for tomorrow. I'm going to fish them all day tomorrow and see what happens."

His pattern involves flipping a 4-inch Zoom tube teamed with a big 1- or 1 ½-ounce Penetrator weight (tied to 50- or 65-pound test SpiderWire Stealth braid) with a 6/0 Gamakatsu hook into shallow topped-out hydrilla mats.

"In practice I had several different areas, but the water has dropped down in the lake upriver and that's kind of hurt me up there," he said. "It's a 35-minute run up there and when I got there the water was so low that I couldn't catch anything. So that's kind of helped me make my decision about tomorrow."

Success has come relatively easy for Scroggins, 36, who has emerged as one of the sport's rising stars since joining the BASS circuit in 2003. Since then he has won two tournaments, qualified for three Classic appearances and earned $276,000.

Predictably, he has a lot of confidence about his chances of winning.

"I feel pretty good about it," Scroggins said. "I feel like I can produce at least a 20-pound bag. Once I left that spot today, I didn't do much, but that doesn't really matter because I'm going to stay there all day tomorrow and milk it out."

Morgan, 33, relinquished the lead in his first BASS event, but stayed well within striking distance by continuing his first-round strategy of pitching a Zoom Brush Hog creature bait and War Eagle jig to submerged hydrilla in about 12 feet of water (winching the bass out with 65-pound test braided line).

"I caught a few today, but I didn't catch enough," he said. "I think maybe being in the later (flight) today hurt me. I know having the early draw yesterday really helped me because the first 30 minutes of daylight is pretty critical.

"I think I was just a little bit behind them. And this afternoon was basically when I caught my fish. It's an early and a late deal. That's what it's been for me. I know there are some people still catching them in the middle of the day, but I'm not catching any big ones in the middle of the day. The good ones are at the front and the end of the day."

Just 1-pound, 10-ounces off of the pace, Morgan plans to return to his best spots and continue to run the same pattern.

"It was pretty slow today, but I'm going to do the same thing," he said. "I've got to catch a 20- to 24-pound stringer to have a shot at winning. So I'm not going to change up anything. I know that stringer is there if I can just get my bait in front of them at the right time.

"A lot of this is timing. If you have bad timing at these places you're not going to catch those big ones. You're going to catch a few keepers, but you're not going to catch those big ones."

Morgan lamented that the 12-ounce penalty for two dead bass on Thursday "hurt me or I would have been within ounces" of the leader.

Deakins, a 53-year-old owner of a cabinet shop owner in Tennessee held onto third place with his game plan of working a topwater frog fished across shallow grass flats.

Indiana's John Gray took Friday's Purolator Big Bass honors with an 8-pound, 3-ounce largemouth. It was caught on black-and-blue Yum Vibra King tube flipped into shallow grass mats.

On the co-angler side, Alabama's Steve Harris brought in four bass weighing 14-3 to jump from 25th place into the lead with 20-11.

Local sponsors include the city of Guntersville, the Guntersville Chamber of Commerce and Guntersville State Park.

Bassmaster Northern Open sponsors: CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).

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