From Hero to Zero

LEESBURG, Fla. — Mike McClelland, who jumped from 11th place to fifth place on Day Two at the Harris Chain of Lakes, described it best: "This is one of those lakes where it's real easy to go from a hero to a zero," said the Elite Series pro from Bella Vista, Ark.

And that's just about what happened to Thursday's heroes at the Sunshine Showdown, presented by Advance Auto Parts. None of the Day One top five zeroed Friday — but not one of them stayed in the top five, either.

Brian Snowden of Reeds Spring, Mo., appears to be Mr. Consistency now. He was in sixth place Thursday, with 17 pounds, 3 ounces; Snowden moved to the top of the leaderboard Friday, with 20 pounds even and a two-day total of 37-3.

It was Mark Menendez and Bobby Lane who reversed course and went from zero to hero. Lane did it with the biggest bag of the tournament so far, 26-9. It moved him an incredible 82 places up the leaderboard into third place, with a total of 33-15. Menendez was right behind him in bag weight Friday with 24-9 and just ahead of Lane in the two-day standings with 34-13.

Rick Morris moved from 18th to fourth Friday, with a two-day total of 31-14. McClelland, who has won an Elite Series event each of the last two years, rounded out the new top five, with 31-1.

"Brian (Snowden) right now is by far the most consistent guy in the tournament," McClelland said. "He's definitely zeroed in on something that's working for him."

That might be an understatement. Snowden said he had his five-bass limit by 11 o'clock Friday and fished in the area around the Venetian Cove launch and weigh-in location the remainder of the day.

"I should have had 20 pounds yesterday," Snowden said. "I switched hooks and it made a big difference."

Snowden said there were several other pros in the same area Friday where he caught his fish the last two days, but it didn't seem to be a problem for him.

"There are tons of targets to throw at," Snowden said. "We are all pretty much doing the same thing. I might be fishing a little slower than a couple of the other guys."

Menendez and Day One leader Bill Lowen of North Bend, Ohio, are rooming together this week and fishing in the same place. But Lowen, who had big bag (21-10) and big bass (10-6) Thursday, had a limit that weighed only 9-4 Friday. It dropped him into sixth place with 30-14.

"I didn't fish clean today," Lowen said. "I had a shot at another 20-pound bag and it just didn't happen."

Lowen lost a big fish that he never saw, but it sure felt big before it came unhooked.

"She was bulldogging right under the boat," he said. "Then she finally pulled off. She was pulling harder than that big one I caught yesterday. That's the difference in having 10 pounds and 18 pounds."

Menendez credited Lowen and the strong southerly winds that blew throughout the overcast day for his success. He said he caught a 4 1/2-pounder on his third cast and anchored his limit with a 7-7 in the last hour of his day.

"They were positioned a certain way today," Menendez said. "Absolutely, the wind positioned them. I was fishing with the wind and being extremely quiet. I turned off my electronics and used my trolling motor as little as possible. I think that stealth mode helped me a lot."

Lowen and Menendez have had lockjaw when it comes to talking about the lure they're using.

"It's pretty obscure for this area," Menendez said. "If it wasn't for Bill, I wouldn't have caught them like I did today."

Menendez said Lowen refined the presentation technique for their secret lure with his big bag Thursday, and he was able to use those tips successfully Friday.

"If one bites it, you're going to have to get your pliers to get it out of their mouth," said Menendez in referring to how hard the bass were attacking the bait.

Lane, on the other hand, made no secret of what he did to catch the Berkley Heavyweight bag Friday. He was "chunking and winding" a chartreuse-and-white skirted, gold-bladed Ninja spinnerbait on 50-pound test, braided line along the outside edges of aquatic grass. Lane, who is a rookie on the Elite Series tour this year, spent most of the previous day flipping various soft plastics.

"I knew I needed to make some adjustments," Lane said. "I started throwing a spinnerbait around and they were just crushing it. They just stroked it all day long.

"Everything I caught today was on the outside edges of the grass. They were through spawning and had moved out."

Lane's bag included two 7-pounders — one caught at 8 a.m. and the other caught at 2 p.m.

Bobby is 15 months older than his brother, Chris, who made the top 50 cut for Saturday by taking the 50th spot. Chris, in his third season on the Elite Series, has a two-day total of 21-7; 3 ounces better than Timmy Horton's 51st place position. Those 3 ounces were worth $10,000, as Elite Series tournament purse payouts stop at 50th place.

Morris made his move from 18th to 4th by adding 18-5 to his 13-9 bag on Day One. He, too, lost a big bass in the 10-pound range, but wasn't complaining.

"I was power-fishing all day," said the Virginia Beach, Va., resident. "The wind blew and made the fish active. I hope it keeps blowing. The wind is my friend."

Jim Murray of Arabi, Ga., took the Purolator Big Bass honors Friday with a 9-8 he caught while flipping a June bug-colored Zoom Super Hawg on a half-ounce sinker. That one bass was the difference in Murray's making the cut or not, and he is in 41st place, with 22-1.

And it is big fish — like the one Murray caught and the one Lowen missed Friday — which will decide the final standings in this tournament. The field will be cut to the top 12 pros after Saturday's weigh-in, and they will compete for the $100,000 first prize on Sunday.

"That's the thing about Florida fishing," McClelland said. "You've got a chance to catch a 7-, 8-, 9-pounder on every cast you make."

Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Sunshine Showdown on the Harris Chain of Lakes, from Leesburg, Fla., March 6th–9th, 2008. Daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 4 p.m. ET. "Hooked Up" will air Sunday at 10 a.m., noon and 3:30 p.m. ET. And a reminder … Daylight Savings Time starts Sunday, so remember to set your clocks.