DANDRIDGE, Tenn. — Britt Myers swears that a smack across the face kicked-started him into taking the lead in the Douglas Lake Challenge.
As Myers told it, Friday morning fishing in the Bassmaster Elite Series event was slow. Then he finally got a hit. It felt like a big largemouth of 5 pounds.
“I’m fighting and fighting it, and it gets right near the boat and it’s got one itty-bitty hook right in the bottom of the lip,” he said. “It was a dumb decision, but I decided to flip it (jerk it into the boat with the rod) and it came off.
“I turned to my (Marshall) and said, ‘Dude, just smack me.’ So he smacked me. Hey, I told him to — and I deserved it.”
Did the shock work?
“I didn’t do anything stupid the rest of the day,” Myers grinned.
Indeed he did not. With 24 pounds, 1 ounce, to show by the end of the day, Myers of Lake Wylie, S.C., moved from third place into the lead with 45-2 over two days. He was 3-14 ahead of first-day leader Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., who dropped to second place with 41-4.
Third was Jeremy Starks of Scott Depot, W.Va., who turned in 23-1, the day’s second-largest bag. He improved from 12th place, a spot he shared Thursday with Alabama’s Randy Howell. Dean Rojas of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., was fourth with 38-7, and Andy Montgomery of Blacksburg, S.C., was fifth with 33-15.
Myers, hot off a second-place finish April 22 in the Elite’s Bull Shoals Lake event, said quality, not numbers, was the order of the day. He weighed only one of his big bass separately, and it was a 5-8.
“It was one of those days when — thank God — when I got a bite, it was a good one,” he said, describing his catches as post-spawners on the feed.
Douglas Lake’s huge schools of largemouth bass were heavily hit by the 99-angler Elite field, Myers said, but he wasn’t targeting the masses of bass. He declined to specify how he was catching his fish.
“Let me put it this way: I think I’m fishing a little bit different depth, and that was a key (at Bull Shoals),” he said.
Martens could not duplicate his huge first-day bag of 23-14, but his 17-6 of Friday was enough for second place.
He said it was his bad luck that Myers beat him twice to his best spots.
“I don’t know if he caught them there or not, but they were my best big-fish spots,” Martens said.
Martens spent much of his fishing time kneeling at the bow of his boat, trying to work his lure as deep as possible to the wads of bass he could see on his electronics. He said his bigger fish bit sporadically, and throughout the day.
Martens said he had the fish, and was up to the challenge to reclaim the lead.
“I can catch right back up,” Martens said.
Starks, who cut his Day One short due to illness, made up for lost time with 23-1 Friday.
“I had a limit the first five casts,” Starks said. “They didn’t weigh a lot — about 15 pounds — and I upgraded from there.”
Starks said he looks for balls of shad, which attract the bass. His action is in 35 to 40 feet of water, he said. “I never caught anything shallow. That’s not my deal; I’m not a bank-beater, and I get my butt handed to me every time I do that.”
Rojas was taking no chances with his Friday catch. In eighth place after Thursday, he checked in an hour early to ensure all five of the big largemouths in his livewell remained healthy. The last thing he wanted was to lose 4 ounces to a fish-care penalty.
“Four ounces is a lot at the end of the day,” he said
Rojas said he had three patterns going on Douglas: deep, shallow, “and in-between.”
“I’m using the whole water column, switching if one isn’t working with the crazy weather we’ve been having,” said Rojas, who finished second to Rick Clunn at the 2001 Bassmaster Megabucks event, the last time that a high-level Bassmaster event came to Douglas Lake.
“We’re only halfway through this thing, so it’s a horse race from here on out,” Rojas said. “I know what to look for, the right fish to go for, stay in the area that would get me the big bites so I’d have a run at winning this thing.”
Of the three Tennessee favorites — Ott DeFoe of Knoxville, David Walker of Sevierville and Brandon Card of Caryville — DeFoe was faring the best after two days. He was seventh with 33-11, but Card was just one place behind with 33-1. Walker pulled up from 73rd into 31st, enough to stay in the game.
The field was cut to the Top 50 for Saturday’s competition. With 23 pounds, 5 ounces, Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Ala., was the last angler in under the cutline. The first pro out was Russ Lane of Prattville, Ala., with 23-4 — just 1 ounce off the mark.
For Sunday’s final round, the field will be weeded out to the best 12. They’ll compete for $100,000 and a guaranteed berth in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic.
The Douglas Lake Challenge continues Saturday and Sunday at The Point Resort in Dandridge. Fans are invited to the free Bassmaster Elite Series Fan Festival beginning at noon both days and continuing until the start of the 3:15 p.m. ET weigh-in shows.
Bassmaster.com is providing extensive real-time coverage throughout the day. In the lineup are the new-for-2012 War Room show with live, on-the-hour competition updates and interviews; BASSCam videos shot on the water; and BASSTrakk catch estimate data, which is constantly relayed from the water. Streaming video of the weigh-ins and a real-time leaderboard will begin at 3:15 p.m. ET. After the weigh-ins, Bassmaster.com also will post new photo galleries, results and standings.
All access to online features is free.
Following Saturday’s weigh-in, The Evan Williams Bourbon Concert Series will present the band Bush Hawg in a free concert for fans at The Point Resort.
B.A.S.S. officials announced an adjustment to the first-day results that stemmed from enforcement of Bassmaster Elite Series Rule C16, which addresses a competitor’s possession of more than a five-fish limit at any time. Russell Parrish of Riesel, Texas, presented five fish to tournament officials on Thursday, and they were weighed in at 9 pounds, 6 ounces.
Parrish then returned to his boat and discovered a sixth bass in his livewell. Parrish reported his error to tournament officials. Because he had already presented fish — but not all the fish he brought in that day, as the rule stipulates he must — he was assessed a penalty equal to his day’s weight. Parrish dropped from 82nd place to 99th, and the 17 anglers that had been below Parrish moved up one spot in the standings.