Payne leads Wheeler: Day Two

 DECATUR, Ala. • Day One leader Chris Payne of West Blocton, Ala., maintained his lead Friday on Wheeler Lake, bringing 15 pounds, 12 ounces to the scales for a two-day total of 34 pounds, 4 ounces. Payne managed to hold off a hard-charging Elite Series pro Mark Menendez of Paducah, Ky., who is more than 3 pounds back with 31 pounds, 1 ounce.

 A short rainstorm delayed the start of Day Two by almost an hour, forcing anglers to think on their feet and find the fish all over again. More rain was in the forecast for Saturday's conclusion of the second stop on the 2009 Bassmaster Southern Open circuit.

 Payne realized at the start of Day Two that he need to change gears on the fly if he wanted to maintain a solid lead heading into the final day of competition.

 "The clouds pushed the fish shallow, and I started beating the bank," said Payne, who works at a local moving company. "I was following guys who were using spinnerbaits and decided to toss something similar, but different."

 Payne's "similar" bait was a Chatterbait, and it produced a 6-pound, 10-ounce largemouth from a tree top. The lunker turned out to be the big bass of Day Two.

 "I've never caught a fish out of a tree before," he said. "Everyone gets a limit here, but you need a solid kicker fish to put you over the top. When I got that fish, I felt total elation."

 Payne said he was concerned about lock-jawed, over-pressured bass for Day Three, adding that he was more concerned about the stiff competition. With an Elite pro at his heels in the standings, he had reason to be wary.

 Menendez was on a slightly different pattern; he was tossing a Strike King Series 6 crankbait in Sexy Shad about 25 minutes from the launch site. Menendez's pattern was brought about when he adjusted to the conditions Day Two presented.

 "The fish are in kind of a funky mood," he said. "They're moving a lot now with the weather, and you have to follow them. If they go deep, you need to adjust."

 Mark McCaig of Oxford, Ala., moved up to third with a two-day total of 28 pounds, 0 ounces. Rounding out the top five were James Charlesworth of Saint Cloud, Fla., in fourth with 28-4, and Chad Hall of Dora, Ala., in fifth place with 26-7.

 On the co-angler side, Clarence Pinkerton of Grant, Ala., took the lead with 15 pound, 14 ounces, bringing his two-day total to 25 pounds, 10 ounces; five pounds ahead of second-place Donald Scott of Tupelo, Miss. Scott has 20 pounds, 10 ounces, while Jeff Sullivan of Frostproof, Fla., is in third with 20 pounds, 5 ounces.

 Pro anglers are vying for $45,000 cash and points toward a berth in the 2010 Bassmaster Classic on Lay Lake, set for Feb. 19-21 out of Birmingham. Complete Open division standings can be found at

 The winning co-angler of this event will receive a Triton/Mercury package worth $32,000.

 Fans are invited to Saturday's takeoff and weigh-in at Ingalls Harbor, 701 Market Street NW, Decatur. Anglers will launch their boats at 5:45 a.m. CT and the weigh-ins are scheduled to begin at 2:05 p.m. All activities are free and open to the public. The weigh-in for the second stop of the Southern Open circuit will be streamed live on, along with other unique content.

 The final stop in the three-tournament Southern Open division is the Oct. 22-24 event on Santee Cooper Reservoir out of Manning, S.C.

 The Decatur Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau is the tournament host.

 Official Sponsors of the 2009 Bassmaster Opens: Toyota Trucks, Berkley, BOOYAH Baits, Evan Williams Bourbon, Mercury, OPTIMA Batteries, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha Marine.

 Supporting Sponsors of the 2009 Bassmaster Opens: Bass Pro Shops, Triton Boats.