Finding the kicker fish

HUDDLESTON, Va. — Most of the Bassmaster Elite Series fishermen remained committed to sight fishing on spawn beds as Day Two of the Evan Williams Bourbon Blue Ridge Brawl launched Friday morning on Smith Mountain Lake. However, most agreed that something else will be needed in order to win the tournament.

First-day leader Jason Williamson of Wagener, S.C., said he will go back to the beds, but he added he will also be searching as well.

"I may end up mixing in a swim bait or jerk bait, especially since the wind's supposed to blow this afternoon," said Williamson, whose Thursday stringer weighed 22 pounds, 9 ounces. "I found a lot of fish, but those 4-plus [pounders] are really, really hard to find. When you find one, they're usually paired up with a male and they're not that easy to catch."

Marty Stone of Fayetteville, N.C., was one of fishermen hoping to find a way above Friday's 47-man cut line after finishing Thursday in 53rd place with 13-4. He said finding and catching five keepers is not an issue — the key is bringing in the larger fish.

"I think you can still catch your 11 or 13 keepers [while] sight fishing," said Stone. "But it's going to take a combination of sight fishing and something else. You've just got to figure out a way to make one of those big females fire up. Sight fishing will still be a part of this, but it ain't going to be the only part."

Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Texas, sixth after Day 1 with 18-9, said he would also continue to bang the beds, but will search for other options as well.

"I'm going to fish while I'm looking [for beds]," he said. "If I catch a fish and it clues me in a little bit, maybe I'll run with it. There's still a lot of fish left on beds. The problem is here is more of the fish are 2- to 3-pounders. So if you find a 4-pounder, that's gold right now."

Virginia anglers John Crews and Rick Morris, both pre-tournament favorites, struggled on Thursday.

Crews, the winner of the season opener at the Duel in the Delta near Stockton, Calif., said he has to adapt in whatever way needed in order to make the 47-man cut after Friday's fishing.

"I got 10 or 12 keepers Thursday but wasn't able to get more than one good one," said Crews, who was 68th entering Friday with 12-5. "I'm going to have to drop back and punt a little bit, change my game plan and go out there and have a better day."

Morris, of Lake Gaston, Va., only brought three fish to the weigh-in on Thursday, but one was a 6-pounder.

"I was looking for bedders, but most of the ones I found were pretty spooky and run off," said Morris, who was 84th after Day 1 with 9-10. "I'm just going to put the trolling motor on high today and keep looking for bedders because that's how everybody's catching them."

Williamson said he was ready to switch techniques, but not until he was forced to.

"I'm pretty optimistic and I've got an open mind," he said. "I'm not really dead set on any one certain deal.
I'm going to sight fish until I just can't sight fish any more."