After placing fourth with an opening-round limit of 18 pounds, 9 ounces, the pro from Kenora, Ontario, added 16-13 and leads Day 2 of the St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Lake of the Ozarks with 35-6.
Bruce heads into Championship Sunday with a 1-ounce lead over Kyle Patrick of Cooperstown, N.Y.
“This lake is a lot of fun,” Bruce said. “I can catch more largemouth in a day than I can catch in a week in Canada.”
The first day of competition saw Bruce delivering the goods on the locally favored tactic of dock skipping — something he had never done in a tournament. Day 2 required adjustments, but Bruce made the right decisions and secured his second Top 10 of the season. He also had a third-place finish at the St. Lawrence River.
“Yesterday, all of my fish were on the backs of the docks, but today, they were out deeper,” Bruce said. “I had one good stretch that I can get a good bite on, and I’ve been lucky enough to get that bite early enough to clue me in.
“That’s the only spot I can go to and (definitely) catch a fish. Then I just take that and fish a bunch of new water.”
After giving the dock bite a good look, Bruce determined that deeper brush was the day’s preference. Some of the brush was located near docks, while others were free-standing in deeper water. Long points were one of Bruce’s most productive scenarios.
Bruce caught all of his bass on a homemade 3/4-ounce jig with a green pumpkin Z-Man Turbo CrawZ. The heavier weight, he said, boosted his efficiency.
“I can fish that jig faster,” Bruce said. “When you really don’t know where you’re going, efficiency and speed are key.”
After a good start, Bruce experienced a mechanical issue that limited his day.
“I had a battery go down at 1 o’clock today and I had about 15 pounds,” Bruce said. “I went and changed it out. By the time I did that, I was way back down the lake and I underestimated the boat traffic out there.
“I couldn’t run back up to where I was (before the battery issue), so I fished down here, ran the same pattern and caught a few more quality fish.”
Bruce caught all of his fish on a 7-foot, 3-inch medium-heavy 13 Fishing Envy rod with 20-pound fluorocarbon. He chose his tackle based on his personal style.
“I like to swing really hard, so I have to gear it down a little bit instead of using a pool cue,” Bruce said. “I wanted to go to 25-pound line in practice, but I couldn’t skip good enough, so I’ve been sticking with 20-pound, and I boat flipped every one of my fish.”
Patrick turned in a Day 1 limit of 19-15 and backed that up with a second-round catch that weighed 15-6. Starting Day 2 with a ton of momentum, Patrick’s morning began with an equipment mishap.
“While I was running to my first spot, I threw a prop ear,” Patrick said. “I went to the shore and tried to use my prop wrench to get it off, but it was too tight. The Mercury service crew was able to help me.
“I burned about 45 minutes, and I was a little worried. I felt a little rushed, but I knew that if I just settled down and (fished diligently) I could get some keeper bites.”
As fortune would have it, Patrick experienced a mid-morning flurry that delivered all of his weight in less than an hour. A 3/4-ounce football jig with a Missile Baits Chunky D trailer earned all of his bites.
“I had three small fish around 11 a.m. when I pulled into a creek near the takeoff, and in like 45 minutes, I got all my weight,” Patrick said. “Yesterday, when my jig was falling, they would really chase it. Today, they were more lethargic and they bit when I was dragging my jig across the bottom.”
Andrew Hargrove of Moody, Texas, placed third with 33-13. After placing sixth on Day 1 with 18-2, Hargrove added 15-11.
Hargrove said his first-round action followed perfectly with what he had found in practice, but Day 2 brought frustration.
“Yesterday, I didn’t lose any fish that would have helped me and everything went like it was supposed to,” he said. “Today, I lost (two good fish) that broke my line under a dock. That’s how my day started.”
After running a few more spots, Hargrove got his day turned around when a 4 1/4-pounder bit his dropshot and made it into the livewell. After that, Hargrove scratched up four more keepers to fill his limit.
Hargrove caught three of his bass on a dropshot with a Roboworm in the morning dawn color. The other two bit a 1/2-ounce finesse jig with a Zoom Speed Craw trailer.
Aaron Lorenz of Reeds Spring, Mo., won the nonboater division with a two-day total of 22-15. Lorenz led Day 1 with a limit of 13-5, which he anchored with a 5-pounder.
Adding 9-10 on Day 2 pushed Lorenz across the finish line by a margin of 4-10 over Jacob Collins of Hillsboro, Ill. Lorenz won the top prize of $13,940.
Lorenz caught his Day 1 bass on a Berkley Choppo, a Texas-rigged green pumpkin Zoom Brush Hog and a 1/2-ounce black and blue Crock-O-Gator jig with a creature bait trailer. The latter two baits produced his second-round limit.
“I caught some on docks, but I also caught some dragging out on points,” Lorenz said. “Some of my fish were super shallow and some were in 15 to 20 feet.
“It seemed like slowly dragging my baits was the key today. I made a couple of good culls with the jig about 2 o’clock this afternoon.”
Chad Stahl of Barnesville, Ga., won the $250 Phoenix Boats Big Bass title among nonboaters with a 6-3.
Sunday’s takeoff is scheduled for 7 a.m. CT at Public Beach #2 in Osage Beach with weigh-in back at the launch site at 3:15 p.m. Live coverage of Championship Sunday action will be broadcast on FS1 and streamed on Bassmaster.com beginning at 7 a.m.
The Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitor Bureau is hosting the tournament.