Grigsby counts blessings — early

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Shaw Grigsby is beginning to feel like this is his week to shine.

First he squeaked into the top 12 by four ounces after two days of the CITGO Bassmaster Legends Tournament presented by Goodyear. Then Saturday, when the top-12 anglers started at zero, Grigsby almost matched his total from the first two days with four bass weighing 11 pounds, 5 ounces.

"I was just blessed," said the 50-year-old Gainesville, Fla., resident. "The bottom line is this whole week has been that way for me. But I could zero tomorrow."

Grigsby's week of good fortune showed itself again early Saturday morning, before the tournament started. After launching his boat, Grigsby had 10 minutes to take a brief look at the six-hole course, which the anglers were scheduled to rotate through from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. In those 10 minutes, Grigsby's attitude and game plan for the day changed completely.

"I went through part of Hole 3 then I cut across to Hole 5," Grigsby said. "That's when I went, 'Oh, my gosh.'"

During the previous two days, the six-hole course located near downtown Little Rock had been off limits to fishing for the 55-angler field. Grigsby hadn't paid much attention to the potential fish-holding structure in the course, but a cursory glance or two hadn't revealed anything to catch his eye.

That completely changed during Grigsby's 10-minute sprint before the national anthem. Grigsby was obviously secretive about what he had seen. After all there is $250,000 on the line. But the revelation charged up the pro, who minutes earlier wasn't certain what the course would hold.

"It's one of those things that just hits you," Grigsby said. "It imprints in your body. I don't get that way often. When I came back (to the takeoff site), (Gary) Klein will tell you, I was grinning like a Cheshire cat. I've got this grin from ear to ear."

Grigsby said he'd rigged 15 rods on his boat deck, planning to work through a wide variety of lures in hopes of finding a pattern that would produce a few 15-inch keepers from the Arkansas River, which has been extremely tough all week. When he got back to the launch site, Grigsby started digging through his rod box.

"I had everything out that I was planning on using," Grigsby said. "This was not one of them. The rest of those rods stayed on the deck the whole time, so I was stumbling over them. (Sunday) I won't have any rods out until I come to the hole, then I'll pull out one or two. That's probably what I'll stick with all day long."

If not for one three-pound bass that came off the hook after Grigsby set it, he might have put more distance between him and the rest of the field than anyone could overcome. As it stands, he has a 3-pound, 7-ounce lead over second place Scott Rook and 5-10 over third-place Kevin Short.

"It's Shaw's tournament to lose," said Mike McClelland, who failed to advance to the finals after catching 2-4 Saturday to finish eighth overall and earn $16,000. "Scott Rook has enough knowledge of this area to make it interesting, but it's really Shaw's tournament to lose."

Of course, on a river where Brian Snowden caught 15-8 one day to lead the tournament, then didn't catch a keeper the next two days, anything is possible.

"Obviously, Shaw's got something figured out," said Rook. "Catching 11-something, that's pretty big right now. But he could go out and not catch one.

"I'm going to remain optimistic and stay positive. I know a lot of places to fish the pattern I caught them on today."

But it would be hard to be more optimistic than Grigsby. The 10-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier has won over $1 million on the BASS tour, but it has been a long dry spell since his last win on the tournament trail. In 2000, Grigsby won the $100,000 first prize in Florida Top 150 event on Lake Kissimmee in January, then won another $100,000 in the Georgia Top 150 at Lake Seminole in February.

He could break that drought in a big way with the $250,000 first place check in the Legends final Sunday.

"I don't think I can double what I did today," Grigsby said. "Rook has the potential to catch 10 or 15 pounds. That means I still have to catch some fish.

"But I know the technique I'm going to use because it's going to produce the good fish."