Squeaking In The Cut

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — John Crews stood in the rain behind the BASS stage, staring down at his wrinkled, and now wet, weigh-in slip.

He squinted his eyes in thought as he tried to figure out if his 28 pound, 14 ounce two-day total was going to be enough to get him inside the cut.

Mike Iaconelli, who weighed in a few minutes before Crews, came walking over.

"What did you have?" Iaconelli asked as he revived his slip from a wad in his right hand. Iaconelli held out his slip beside Crews as they surveyed the situation.

"Twenty-eight, fourteen," Crews answered. "How about you?"

Iaconelli eyes lit up — not in an "I beat you" way, but more of a "you're not going to believe this."

"Twenty-eight, fifteen," he said. "We're going to be real close."

And it was. The top-12 cut was a matter of ounces at Bassmaster Memorial presented by Evan Williams Bourbon on Oneida Lake on Friday.

Iaconelli wasn't too excited coming off the stage. He had started the day in 18th and weighed more on the stage, 14-15, than he thought he had in his livewell, but in a season of mostly downs, he wasn't optimistic.

"I think I might have just enough, but with the way my season has been going, I probably won't get in," said Iaconelli, whose only top-12 came at the first event of the season on Lake Amistad.

He did squeeze in the cut, finishing ninth, and Crews was one spot behind him in 10th. And that was the story for most of the weigh-in on Friday — close calls, almosts, lost fish and mistakes all played a part of who will fish a brand new tournament (with zeroed weights) on Saturday and who will have to watch.

Rain moved into the area around noon and changed the bite for most of the Day One leaders. In fact, three of the anglers that started in the top four on Friday, Kelly Jordon (2nd), Chris Lane (3rd) and Mike McClelland (4th), finished outside the top 12.

"I just couldn't get the same bites that I got yesterday," said Lane, who spent too much time on largemouth and brought in 11-11. "If I would have known that everybody else was doing this bad, I might have changed some things, but you just never know. I thought I needed 15 pounds and it turns out I didn't."

As for McClelland, it was a much more depressing tale. For the first time in his career, the angler from Bella Vista, Ark., brought home six fish in his livewell, which meant he had to throw his largest bass out (to make the 5-fish limit). It wasn't too bad of a mistake McClelland said as he came off the stage, "it might have cost me about 11 ounces."

Figuring neither he nor his roommate and travel buddy, Jeff Kriet, were going to make the cut, McClelland started doing the math for bragging rights.

"I would have beat you by one ounce if I hadn't screwed up," McClelland joked to Kriet "just for the record."

Kriet was the last qualifier in, edging out Jordon by one ounce with a two-day total of 27-14.

Dean Rojas rulled the day with the largest bag, 17-9, and the largest total, 33-1, and he did it on a largemouth bite.

"The largemouth was my bite and it's what I feel comfortable doing," Rojas said. "There was nobody else doing what I was doing, so I had it all to myself."

Rounding out the top 12 were Steve Kennedy (2nd; 31-7), Jared Lintner (3rd; 30-9), Skeet Reese (4th; 30-3) — who made the biggest move of the day with the second biggest bag — John Murray (5th; 30-0), Peter Thliveros and Jason Quinn (tied at 6th; 29-7), Randy Howell (10th; 28-8), and Dave Wolak (11th; 28-2).

But none of that will matter as the 12 anglers launch onto Onondaga Lake at 9 a.m. ET on Saturday. The field will be cut to six on Sunday, where the anglers will fish a six-hole course mapped out by BASS. All the anglers will be looking to take home the $250,000 first-place prize for winning the year's second major.

The qualifying anglers were allowed to drive around on the lake for awhile on Friday night, but other than that, only Thliveros has been on Onondaga before.

"I spent a few hours riding around on it in practice," Thliveros said. "Maybe I have the upper hand, maybe I don't. It's hard to tell when you're not fishing."