FORT WORTH, Texas — And then there were six.
A half-dozen anglers survived Saturday's final cut and will compete Sunday for a $250,000 first prize in the Bassmaster Memorial — the tour's first Major tournament.
After having their weights eliminated to start the second phase of this event, the fishermen moved to Benbrook Lake Saturday and fished a six-hole course that required them to spend at least 70 minutes in each area. Florida's Peter Thliveros fared the best of Saturday's 12 anglers, landing four fish that totaled 15 pounds, 3 ounces. Thliveros' bag was anchored by a 7-5 lunker — the second consecutive day he's brought the largest bass to the scales.
Joining Thliveros in the Super Six are Mark Menendez (13-14), Michael Iaconelli (10-12), Skeet Reese (10-9), Greg Hackney (7-10) and Edwin Evers (7-3). Each of the remaining anglers' weights will carry over to Sunday's final round.
Eliminated from the Memorial were Mike McClelland (7-0), Todd Faircloth (4-11), Dave Wolak (4-6), Randy Howell (4-2), John Crews (4-0) and Matt Reed (who didn't catch a fish Saturday.)
Thliveros, who is 9th on the all time BASS earnings list, said he set a goal before the season began to break the $1 million barrier this year and he's well on his way to doing it here in northeast Texas. Thliveros said he changed none of the tactics he used on Eagle Mountain Lake Thursday and Friday when he fished Benbrook Saturday.
"Everything is exactly the same," he said. "Different lake, but same pattern, same technique. It's all working again."
Thliveros is using a Team Supreme Ultimate Rattling Rascal jig and has been fishing it in three to 10 feet of water. He fared best on Hole Nos. 1 and 6 which abut a rock dam that produced quality bass for almost all of the anglers Saturday.
"I hit them in exactly the same time period I was catching them on the other lake," he said. "It was about 9:30 or so, my third stop. When I got to it, I caught a fish almost immediately ... When I moved to the next hole (No. 1), that's where I caught my biggest fish."
Thliveros will start in Hole No. 5 on Sunday which could allow him to reach Hole No. 1 and the rock dam at the same time of the morning. With the lead, he plans to change nothing for the final round.
"I feel like I had seven keeper bites all day today, and only had four keeper bites," he said. "I could almost feel when I was about to get a bite on that dam. It's just kind of rolling. And if it's rolling that way tomorrow, then it's my tournament to lose."
Menendez caught a five-fish limit with a lunker that weighed 4-3. Because he had never fished on Benbrook Lake before, he said it was important to let his instincts take over.
"What I learned is typical of a shallow-water reservoir any time it's hot in a post-spawn period," he said. "The fish do a couple little things. They don't get on the bottom good. That's one of my key things, not fishing the bottom."
Menendez said he thinks he picked up enough knowledge of the lake to make a run for the championship Sunday.
"To win, you've got to be completely efficient," he said. "You've got to get every bite you can and get them in the boat. And you've got to have a little luck in that one of them has to be a big fish. I had the four pounder today. You get that back and back it up with some other nice ones, you'll be hard to guard."
Iaconelli said he doesn't believe in luck when it comes to fishing.
"Luck to me in fishing is like luck in life," he said. "I'm lucky something doesn't fall from the ceiling and knock me out right now. I try to eliminate luck. I think all of us at this level, you get here on your hard work. That's what will win this tournament tomorrow — hard work, not luck. It's the guy who can make 15 more casts in a day, or the guy that will go the extra mile, the guy who will go where no one else will go or make the cast no one else will make."
Iaconelli has been finesse fishing for most of the Memorial, though he did do some power fishing Saturday on Benbrook. The leader of the Angler of the Year standings, Iaconelli caught four fish Saturday and chose to start on Hole No. 1 on Sunday. All of his keepers came from Hole Nos. 1 and 6.
"Number one was my best hole and I've got one area where I think there's a concentration of fish," he said. "All the other fish I caught today I felt like they were kind of random."
Reese also caught four fish on Saturday. He lost a 7-pounder, however, that could have put him atop the leaderboard heading into the final day.
"I'm tickled to death with what I have," Reese said. "It was tough today."
Hackney only had three bites Saturday, but boated all three — each coming on a different bait. He fished mostly in shallow water and said he has to do things differently if he is to close on Thliveros.
"A couple of holes, I'm going to have to fish deeper in," he said. "And I'm going to have to be more aggressive. There's a ton of water that's not being fished because you either have to waste half your time idling (through timber stands) or you've got to take a chance of tearing something up (in hard to reach areas) ...I'm going to have to peel it back and get up in there."
Evers is starting in Hole No. 3 Sunday. He caught three fish Saturday in three different holes.
"This is completely different," he said. "I caught all my fish at Eagle Mountain suspended under marinas and there are no marinas or docks here to fish. I caught one today Carolina rigging a rocky point, I caught one guarding fry on a crankbait and I caught one on a spinnerbait."
The Super Six anglers will launch Sunday from Benbrook Marina at 6:50 a.m. They can begin fishing at 7 a.m.