Brand new day at Smith Mountain

HUDDLESTON, Va. — Changing weather conditions meant different things to different fishermen entering Day Three at the Evan Williams Bourbon Blue Ridge Brawl in Smith Mountain Lake.

The 47 remaining anglers were greeted by wind and light rain at the launch site in the final hour before dawn Saturday morning. The rain had stopped by the time the launch began at 6:30 a.m. However, the cloud cover was expected to remain throughout the day and wind gusts are forecast to reach 30 mph.

While the majority of the field has spent the first two days of the tournament sight fishing for bass on spawning beds, the weather change could bring about changes in strategy.

"You could say that," Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., said while pulling out a large swimbait. "I've caught a couple both days when I wasn't sight fishing, so the opportunity is there. There's some big fish in this lake. You'd be surprised."

Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La., who entered Saturday in 18th place with a total of 29 pounds, 10 ounces, said he thought the conditions would result in bigger fish at Saturday afternoon's weigh-in.

"Without a doubt," he said. "This is a bad weather lake. I really think that the biggest bag of the week will be caught today."

Virtually the same number of fish were caught during each of the first two days of the tournament. But Friday's total weight was 102 pounds less than Thursday's. Hackney said that was due to diminishing fish on the beds.

"We all caught the good ones that had moved up on that first day," he said. "I think this is the best day to go fishing and try to catch those better ones."

Then there were those who had an opposite opinion.

"I don't think it [the weather] is going to be as much of a factor as a lot of guys think," said Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Ala. "I think it's going to take more guys out of it than put guys in it."

Swindle entered Saturday in eighth place at 32-10. He said moving into position to win is not a one-day chore.

"I'll try to gain a couple more pounds on the lead and make the cut," he said. "That's what you got to do. You've got to just nibble away at it. It's unrealistic to think you're going to catch 25 pounds out here today. You've got to try to gain a pound or two on the leader and by the last day, put yourself in position to win."

Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., the leader in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, said he planned to keep his previous strategy.

"This has always been unpredictable lake," said Reese, who was in second place with 36-6, five ounces behind leader Jason Williamson of Aiken, S.C.

"[The weather] really doesn't change anything. I'm going to just keep doing what I've been doing, and that's just grind.

"First, I want to go out there and get my five. Then I'll go from there and hope I can stay at the front of this thing."

John Crews of Salem, Va., jumped from 68th place to 12th with a 19-2 stringer on Friday. He said there's opportunities for both those trying to sight fish and other strategies.

"If you're just fishing, today's what you want," he said. "You've got warm temperatures with a lot of wind, so if you're bed fishing then it's going to be a little rough.

"But this lake has got a lot of little nooks and crannies. So if the wind is blowing, you can still look at them a little bit. But it definitely makes the lake a lot smaller."

Crews said he plans to try both.

"I've got some more fish left on beds, so I'm going to go check them out and then see what happens," he said. "I may just go fishing after that.

I'm going to let the day dictate what I need to do."