BAINBRIDGE, Ga. -- The final stop on the Bassmaster Southern Opens presented by Bass Pro Shops is turning into a Fox hunt -- Kyle Fox, that is.
The young Florida pro brought a five-bass limit weighing 20 pounds, 3 ounces to the scales today, giving him an almost two pound lead over Alabama's Randall Tharp (18-5).
In addition to first-place prize money totaling more than $35,000, the 138 professional anglers in the field are vying for two berths in the 2011 Bassmaster Classic and seven invitations to join the 2011 Bassmaster Elite Series. Fox, who has grown up fishing BASS and began his tournament career as a Bassmaster Junior angler, worked a one-two punch of patterns to catch his fish. "Early in the morning I had a topwater bite going," Fox allowed. "And as the sun got higher, I switched over to flipping heavy cover." Fox's flipping and pitching pattern was echoed by several of today's top competitors.
The bass action has been slow on Lake Seminole, and only 27 professional anglers topped double figures for the day. There were just 29 five-bass limits among the pros. Frank Jordan, Jr. (17-14), David Kilgore (17-11) and Derek Allen (17-10) round out the top five. Adding drama to the event are the two Bassmaster Classic berths and seven Elite Series invitations at stake here. Going into the finale, Andy Montgomery of South Carolina leads the Southern Open points standings.
He's 15th at Seminole after the first day. Elite pro Bobby Lane was in second place in the Southern Open standings, but hurt his chances to double-qualify for the Classic (he's already earned a berth through the Elite Series) after catching just two keeper bass today. If Lane can double-qualify through the Southern Opens, fellow Elite pro Jared Lintner would earn a spot in the Classic.
The angler who did himself the most good today was Randall Tharp. Sitting in third place in the overall standings coming into this tournament, he's in second place after the first day at Seminole and looks prepared not only to lock up an Elite Series invitation, but also a Bassmaster Classic berth.
David Kilgore -- currently sixth in the Southern standings -- also helped his chances at a Classic spot today with a solid fourth-place limit weighing 17-11. On the amateur side, Georgia's Fred Hood leads the way with 14-10 with a three-bass co-angler limit. If he had the same catch on the pro side of the competition, he'd be comfortably in the top 10.
Co-anglers are competing for a top prize of a Skeeter-Yamaha boat and motor package. The full field of 138 professionals and 138 co-anglers will be on the water again tomorrow before the competition is pared to just 30 pros and 30 co-anglers for Saturday's final round. Check out the latest in the action on Bassmaster.com, including live, interactive video with the winner after Saturday's final weigh-in.