LITTLE ROCK, Ark. The first half of Friday's weigh-in at the Bassmaster Legends presented by Goodyear was much like Thursday's action.
In other words, there were plenty of light bags, tales of woe and the occasional skunking.
But several of the final few anglers who came to the scales during the second day of this Major championship reversed that trend. And there were some of the sport's biggest names among them.
In the final 30 minutes of the weigh-in at the Statehouse Convention Center, five limits were posted and four of those Elite Anglers used the momentum to earn their way into the weekend cut to the top 12 fishermen. Gerald Swindle, who was one of only five anglers to reach a double-digit total on Thursday with a 10-pound, 13-ounce sack, followed with a 10-15 bag that gave him a 21-12 total and a spot alone atop the leaderboard.
Swindle is followed by hometown favorite Scott Rook, who only managed to land three keepers Friday, but was able to hang onto the second-place position he secured yesterday. Rook has a 19-5 total after two days of fishing. Hot on his heels are Kevin VanDam, who caught an 11-pound, 13-ounce limit and is in third place with an 18-15 total. Mike McClelland, who is from nearby Bella Vista, Ark., boated a limit and finds himself in fourth place at 17-8. Greg Hackney, who grew up in Star City, Ark. but now lives in south Louisiana, also caught a limit Friday and is in fifth place with 16-13.
That star-studded field will resume competition Saturday on a section of the Arkansas River that has been off limits to the anglers since this competition began. Each of the pros weights was erased after Friday's weigh-in, which means they will start from scratch as they look to land lunkers in six seperate sections of the river Saturday. The top six anglers will then move on to Sunday's final round with a top prize of $250,000 at stake.
Swindle emerged from a crowded field to claim the lead after two days of angling. Along with a few other of his fellow elite anglers, he shrugged off adverse conditions (high water temperatures, clear skies and non-existent current) to put himself among the top 12.
"The biggest key to my success is that I was in an area that would replenish," he said. "What happens on a river when it's hot like this is you may catch one of a little log today, but it's real shallow there, so they won't replenish. You have to keep searching. The area I was in had a lot of deep water so when you caught one in an area, you could go back and find another one. So I caught them in the same area today that I did yesterday."
Swindle has been running southeast on the Arkansas River to a large oxbow one lock from downtown Little Rock, but he won't be able to go there Saturday. Instead, he'll be looking at a stretch of the river that is entirely new to him.
"I never looked at it until a little while ago," he said. "I don't think I really learned any one place that you're going to catch them. But I did learn some areas not to run into because you'll tear your stuff up. You turn off that river and it gets shallow in spots, with rockpiles and holes....If nothing else, I freed my mind up a little bit to save some time in the morning. There are four or five places I can run into and save 15 minutes of idling. On a hole course, that's big."
Rook, who trailed only Snowden heading into Friday's competition, didn't land a keeper until 11 a.m. He didn't panic however, relying on his more than 20 years of knowledge of the river that flows through his hometown.
Rook said he's fishing about 30 minutes off the main river in a secluded backwater area he is familiar with from previous fishing trips. He knows he'll have to dig deeper into his wealth of knowledge if he's to move ahead of Swindle and stay in the cut to the final six.
"I fished Tuesday night tournaments out here for 15, 20 years," Rook said. "I know the river as well as anyone, but it's hard to win a hometown tournament. These other guys are going to be on fish too. Really, it's anybody's ballgame."
McClelland moved into the final 12 when he opted to throw a black neon tube lure and a War Eagle buzzbait Friday morning. By 9:30 a.m., he had five keepers. Hackney, who won a boat in a bass tournament here on the Arkansas River when he was 14 years old, threw crankbaits near the same area Swindle fished.
Snowden dropped from first to sixth after zeroing on Friday. As there was on Thursday, 11 anglers didn't catch a keeper on Friday.
There were only two limits boated Thursday, but of the five that were weighed Friday, Michael Iaconelli was the only angler to miss the cut. He was one of five anglers on Friday to weigh-in double digits, but finished 16th overall with a 10-pound, 15-ounce total.
Iaconelli was one of the anglers who zeroed on Thursday.