Pulling it out of their hats

HIGH ROCK LAKE, N.C. — The overwhelming talk of the Bassmaster American presented by Advance Auto Parts was the stunning turnaround of High Rock Lake in terms of productivity. If and how it will repeat was paramount in anglers' thoughts Friday morning as they prepared for blast-off on the final day at High Rock.

"Yesterday the fish bit real well. Who knows what today is going to be like," said Shaw Grigsby, reportedly fishing deep in securing sixth place with 16 pounds, 1 ounce. "We tend to fish so fast in practice that it's hard for anybody to really know what they've got. I think it's gonna be tough today."

Just as prevalent in backstage and after-hours conversations was the popular theory that a whole lot of sandbagging was going on leading up to the first day, a charge eighth-place Skeet Reese (15-10) adamantly denies.

"Absolutely not. I know some guys were catching them OK, but the rest of us schmucks were catching one, two fish a day out there," Reese said. "It's like a really good magic show. There's a trick that just makes you think 'What just happened here'."

The forecasted wind —10-20 mph out of the north — hadn't materialized at quite that strenth at the launch, setting up a good scenario for guys like Gerald Swindle (fifth place, 17-02). He indicated that a topwater pattern will likely play a significant role in his quest to get in the top 12, where the tournament will essentially start over on Lake Townsend with zeroed weights.

"Yesterday was the first time since I've been here that I didn't see shad spawning. A lot of times those fish will be right behind the shad and not up on the banks. It seems like they were back up on the banks yesterday," Swindle said.

"I caught fish on topwater yesterday and I hadn't caught any that way all week. And I'm gonna throw it a lot more today."

Clear skies are also in the forecast, something that one might equate to a negative for fast fishermen like Kevin Van Dam. But Van Dam (11th place, 14-15) says the severe clear could be a good thing for those anglers who are locked on to some fish.

"Whether it's docks or rock points, the sun will keep the fish from roaming around too much. They'll relate next to objects and make them more catchable," Van Dam said.