DECATUR, Ala. The emphasis has switched from dollars to points for most of the top anglers here in the Evan Williams Dixie Duel. Tournament Director Trip Weldon announced Sunday morning that the event would end this afternoon after the round of 50 due to the threat of more bad weather. Though storms are forecast for Sunday afternoon and evening, it's the likelihood of blustery winds that will follow them on Monday that compelled Weldon to call a halt to the proceedings. Friday's round also was called off due to high winds.
Pride of purpose will keep the top 50 focused and fishing their best game. Realistically, however, only a few of them have a shot at winning the $100,000 top prize in this, the third Elite Series tournament of the year. To do that, they must overcome Tommy Biffle, who, at 36 pounds, is ahead in the standings by more than 2 pounds over Takahiro Omori, and more than 5 pounds ahead of Bradley Hallman, in third place with 30 pounds, 14 ounces.
Biffle, who has a reputation for keying on quality bass and not quantity, has both going for him here in the last round. The Oklahoma angler told reporters Saturday that he caught about 30 keepers during the second day. Omori said he boated only six keepers Saturday, but engine trouble abbreviated his day and he expects to finish with another good stringer.
That leaves the rest of the field scrambling for some dollars, but mostly points that will elevate them in the Elite Series standings, or at least solidify their positions. Mark Menendez, who won the Toyota Trucks Diamond Drive Lake Dardanelle a couple of weeks ago, said his goal was to finish in the top 5 here. That could pose a major challenge, however, because Menendez, thinking that only the top 12 would be allowed to fish Sunday in the Dixie Duel, went for broke on Saturday and hammered his best spot to plump up his stringer. "It would have been nice to get 7 or 8 pounds out of there this morning, but I don't think that's going to happen," the Kentucky pro observed Sunday at the launch site.
"This lake has really been hard on me the last couple of years, so now I'm getting a little revenge on it," said Gary Klein, who rose from 16th in the standings on Thursday to 10th on Saturday. "If I can stay in the top 10, I'll be a happy camper. My focus is to make a good showing; I don't have the fish to win this tournament."
Likewise, Rick Morris hopes to finish in the top 12 by day's end. He slid a couple of places on Saturday, from fourth to seventh, but felt good that he could maintain his stringer average of about 14 pounds. His best pattern involves fishing channel drops with a War Eagle jig.
"I'm going conservative, just wanting to keep my points," said Morris. "If I hit 12 pounds today, I'll change patterns because I'm having to go through a ton of fish to get a decent stringer. If I hit 12, I'll go looking for a better fish."
If there is a dark horse candidate who has a chance to overtake the leaders, it's Edwin Evers, an Oklahoma pro who jumped from 25th place in the standings to eighth with 28 pounds, 12 ounces. Most of his fish came out of a creek arm on a Yum Wooly Hawgtail, a Yum swimbait and a Bass Pro Lazer Eye spinnerbait. Saturday afternoon, just before quitting time, Evers located a bed that had a 7-pound female tending it. He planned to start there Sunday morning, and then explore the backwaters for more new beds.
"If you slip up, I'll hang you," a smiling Biffle yelled to Omori Sunday morning at Ingalls Harbor. Omori, who smiled and waved at Biffle in return, is fishing near other anglers in an area near Wheeler dam. Biffle told Dixie Duel weigh-in emcee Keith Alan that he's fishing by himself.
Omori, methodical and patient, versus Biffle, as tenacious as a pit bull when the pattern suits his pitching and flipping style. Unless somebody else goes against form and discovers a trove of hefty largemouths, the event is likely to be a two-man duel. Despite Biffle's admonition, Omori isn't known to slip up. But, then, neither is Biffle.
The final weigh-in begins at 4 p.m. today at Ingalls Harbor.