A huge rally by two-time Bassmaster Classic winner Kevin VanDam on Saturday put him atop a 10-man logjam for today's final round of the world championship of bass fishing on Lay Lake.
Weather permitting, the 25 remaining anglers were to leave at 7 this morning with VanDam leading 10th-place angler Randy Howell of Springville by just 5½ pounds.
If Van Dam holds on he would become only the second angler to win more than two Classics.
VanDam busted the scales with a 19-pound-plus catch to jump from 19th to first Saturday. Also improving was California's Skeet Reese, who moved from third to second and Florida's Terry Scroggins moved from fifth to third.
First-day leader Boyd Duckett of Demopolis, who caught a 19-pound stringer himself on Friday, sputtered Saturday with just 10 pounds, 15 ounces.
Howell entered the day in second but fell to 10th.
Timmy Horton of Muscle Shoals moved up to fifth and will find himself a little more than 3 pounds out of the lead. Auburn's Steve Kennedy also made a move Saturday and will start the day in seventh place.
VanDam's move up the leaderboard was the big news at the BJCC Arena until Alabama angler Gerald Swindle of Warrior took the stage with a sack that was disqualified.
Swindle took off his hat and told the crowd that he was sure they all knew by then that he had been disqualified for a breach of boat safety.
"It was a bad decision," he said. "I just want to apologize to my sponsors."
VanDam was forced to fish Saturday with an armada of spectator boats mirroring his every move. Some of the fans even pulled out fishing rods and fished in front of him and back of him.
"There were a lot of local fishermen there," he said. "A lot of spectators were fishing. It's public waters open to everyone so I can't say anything, but if the shoe was on the other foot I would show them some courtesy."
Severe storms were forecast for Saturday night and into this morning. VanDam was asked how that might affect his fishing today.
"Maybe it will keep some spectators off the water," he said.
Duckett was dismayed with his performance Saturday. He was shooting for two or three good bites Saturday and got two. He missed both fish.
"I'll try the same thing tomorrow," he said. "There's no other way to catch 16 or 17 pounds. I'll hope for two or three good bites and try to get them all in the boat."
Auburn's Kennedy caught 16 pounds, 7 ounces Saturday and jumped 18 positions.
"The weather and timing," Kennedy said, explaining his improvement over Friday. "I went out yesterday looking for largemouth and didn't figure them out until late. This morning I went out looking for spots and went to the place where I got two bites and no fish yesterday and caught a dozen in two hours. I caught one good one and lost another one.
"I then went out looking for largemouths and caught a 4½ and a four. It was a fun day."
Horton's day started with a bang when he made his second cast of the day and caught two bass on the same lure. Horton estimated one to weigh 3½ pounds, the other 3¼ pounds.
"It started good and ended good when I caught another 3-pounder late," he said. "It was just slow in the middle. I need two big bites tomorrow to get back into this thing. I've got a spot I believe has some 4-pounders on it."
Leeds' Aaron Martens caught 13 pounds, 2 ounces of fish and moved up one spot to 13th, but he knows he's out of contention.
"I'm going out tomorrow and try to catch a limit quick and just relax," he said. "This isn't like a points tournament where it matters where you finish. It's either winning or nothing."
Prattville's Russ Lane, the pre-tournament favorite, caught just 8 pounds of fish Friday. He managed to hang onto 25th place and was the last angler to make the cut into today's final round.
"I'm disappointed. This is definitely the lowest moment in my career," he said. "There won't ever be a local guy to win one of these. It's not about the pressure or the spectators, either.
"It's about somebody knowing too much about a place and fishing on past history. I fished where I had caught good fish before, not the conditions."
Takahiro Omori, Rick Clunn and Denny Brauer, all former winners of the event, were among those that failed to make the cut.
Today's weigh-in is set for 3 p.m. today at the BJCC Arena. The winner receives $500,000 of the $1.2 million purse.