RIDGELAND, Miss. — Ross Barnett was in a stingy mood today, but the right combination of persistence and adjustment allowed Bassmaster Elite Series pro Lee Livesay to take over the Day 2 lead at the St. Croix Bassmaster Central Open at Ross Barnett Reservoir presented by Mossy Oak Fishing with a total of 36 pounds.
After trailing Day 1 leader Neal Gilmore by 13 ounces going into the day, Livesay now holds a 3-pound, 4-ounce advantage over Nick LeBrun of Bossier City, La. The Longview, Texas, pro added a limit of 10-4 to the 25-12 he caught on Day 1.
“They weren’t there; I think I caught them all,” Livesay said of his decreased productivity. “Some people caught fish around me and I had three or four in there. I got to my spot, got where I wanted to be, and just didn’t catch them.”
Livesay returned to the same main-lake area where he did his Day 1 work. The general area is a staging flat with a mix of dollar pads, pepper grass and hydrilla, but Livesay’s main target was the point of a drain with a little hard spot.
Mirroring his Day 1 positioning and making the same casts with a Carolina-rigged Netbait 6-inch lizard in junebug, he found the opportunity significantly lower Friday. Livesay suspects it could be a seasonal movement.
“I saw something happen today — I saw some guys catch them on the bank,” he said. “They shut the floodgates and the lake stabilized. I think a lot of those fish went up (to spawning positions).”
Following this hunch, Livesay left his main spot late in the day, moved shallow and caught his fifth keeper on a white Snagproof Bobby’s Perfect Frog. He would later cull that bass with one he caught on a Carolina-rigged Netbait C-Mac worm outside a marina near the takeoff site.
“Nobody caught anything (on my starting area) for three or four hours,” Livesay said. “I saw the same thing yesterday; they started biting again around 2. But I had some stuff in my head. I came over here and fished a big hole by the marina.”
With only a 10-boat field on Championship Saturday, Livesay believes less fishing pressure will allow his main spot to reload and offer better opportunity.
“If I’m going to win, it’s going to be there, within 200 yards on either side,” he said. “After 10 o’clock, I’m going to go up on the bank and throw a frog and then jump back out to some other sections.”
LeBrun, who weighed 15-3 on Day 1, added 17-9 — one of the second round’s better bags — and tallied a second-place total of 32-12.
“The key today was I didn’t lose any,” LeBrun said. “Yesterday, I had the bites to have about 17. I didn’t make any mistakes, sometimes they just come off. Today, I boated every key fish that bit.
“I’m excited to go out tomorrow. I think I have some fish coming to me.”
LeBrun caught most of his bass in what he believes were spawning positions. He mostly threw moving baits to cover water and locate unseen bed fish. He caught one of his keepers with a Carolina rig on a shallow offshore spot.
Hailing from Magnolia, Texas, Gilmore set the Day 1 mark at 26-9 but had a challenging second day that yielded only three keepers that went 4-13. He sits in third with 31-6.
Gilmore had planned on returning to the main-lake community hole flat where he caught his opening limit. He made it to that spot, but a mechanical issue at takeoff limited his speed and prevented him from making any adjustments.
“We were boat 214 today, so by the time we got to the spot, there were about 34 boats in a couple hundred yards,” Gilmore said. “It’s a good area, but there are only a few good spots within that area. I think we got on one for the first time at 11:30.”
Gilmore was trying to target what he described as the flat’s sweet spots — basically, hard-bottom staging areas interspersed amid the vegetation. He’s using a particular bait in what he called a dragging technique.
“I’m dragging really slow-moving baits,” Gilmore said. “I think the bait is still pretty critical and the technique is important.”
Gilmore leads the Phoenix Boats Big Bass standings with the 8-12 he caught on Day 1.
Ricky Fulk of Shenandoah, Va., won the co-angler division with a two-day total of 18-11. After catching a Day 1 limit of 7-5, he added another limit of 11-6 Friday and took home the top prize of $23,687.
Making his Bassmaster Opens debut, Fulk also met Ross Barnett for the first time. He caught all of his bass on a Texas-rigged Zoom Ultravibe Speed Worm. The key, he said, was a technique tip from his Day 1 pro, Justin Hymel.
“Justin put me on the fish and showed me a technique, so I took my knowledge of fishing and I slowed down,” Fulk said. “I drug it so slow that it was barely moving at all.
“Today, I fished with Chad Murray and if it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have caught what I caught today. He actually went to the spot I wanted to fish.”
Fulk’s Day 2 spot comprised lily pads and hydrilla with adjacent shell bottom. This staging scenario attracted prespawn and postspawn fish.
“Today, I slowed down even more, because with the wind blowing, I knew I needed to stay in contact with the bottom,” Fulk said. “I was throwing three different worm colors — junebug, black and red and black and blue. I was just showing them different looks.”
Clayton Stoerning of Waterville, Minn., won the $250 Phoenix Boats Big Bass award among co-anglers for his 6-5.
Saturday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6 a.m. CT at Madison Landing. The weigh-in will be held back at the landing at 2 p.m. Coverage is available on Bassmaster.com.
The tournament is being hosted by the Ridgeland Tourism Commission.
-day total of 36 pounds. More to come!