Snapshot Day 3: 2005 Open Championship

  • Editor's note: The only place to see ESPN2 highlights from the Open Championship this weekend is on "BassCenter".

    PRATTVILLE, Ala. — Three days on the Alabama River system and different weather for each of them.

    After enduring a two-hour fog delay on Thursday and sub-freezing temperatures Friday, the 10 remaining anglers in the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship were greeted with cloudy skies and milder weather Saturday morning when they launched here at 6:15 a.m.

    It was anyone's guess how that would affect fishing at the Open Championship. But one thing is certain. After surviving two days of not-so-perfect weather and scratching their way past the cut, these 10 fishermen aim to continue doing the things that got them this far.

    That is if the weather allows them. There is a chance for scattered showers this afternoon and rain is also forecasted for the final day of fishing on Sunday.

    But first things first.

    At stake today is a chance to make the field of the CITGO Bassmaster Classic — the brass ring of freshwater fishing. The top five anglers today automatically earn entry to the 2006 Classic. The winner of Sunday's five-man competition will earn $80,000.

    All eyes are on Mike McClelland, who with a two-day total of 29 pounds, hopes to maintain the lead he seized on Thursday. Trailing McClelland are Virginia's Rick Morris (26-9), Arizona's John Murray (23-14), Misssouri's Chad Brauer (23-6) and Texas pro Matt Reed (21-15).

    Looking to break into the top five are Kentucky's Mark Menendez (21-1), the Alabama duo of Steve Kennedy (20-7) and Randy Howell (18-13), Canada professional Jon Bondy (18-5) and Alabama's John Pollard (17-6).

    With nearly a three-pound advantage over his nearest competitor, McClellland said a five or six pound limit today should give him a solid chance of surviving the final cut this afternoon. He's looking for heavier fish, however.

    "I think I need another 12 or 13 pound bag of fish to stay in the lead," he said. "I'm not saving anything for tomorrow."

    McClelland has been able to find strong current fishing river eddies during the first two days of action. He'll be looking for similar conditions today.

    "The stronger the current is, the more the fish are positioned and the easier it is to say the fish are going to be right there," McClelland said. "Without the current flow, it allows the fish to break up and spread out, makes them harder to find."

    Most of the remaining 10 anglers will continue to seek out strong current today. How much there is largely depends on Alabama Power which uses river water to generate electricity — a process that creates movement throughout the system.

    Reed, who sits on the bubble in fifth place, said if the current isn't there, he'll resort to fishing backwater patterns. That is not his preference.

    "My river patterns have had my bigger fish on it," Reed said. "But if they don't run current, those fish won't bite for me."

    Brauer, who is in fourth place, has fished isolated backwater areas the entire tournament. He's hoping that strategy works for him and earns him a trip to his third Classic.

    "The only reason any of us are here is to finish in the top five," Brauer said. "Finishing sixth is the same as finishing last. So you go for all or nothing. I wouldn't think that anybody would leave anything on the table today. You don't leave anything for tomorrow because tomorrow, even if you make it, is just a bonus."

    Murray, seeking his fourth consecutive trip to the Classic, agreed.

    "This is nice in that it's pretty much winner take all today," Murray said. "You go all out for top five. Once you get there, it doesn't mattter. Well, a little bit, but not as much. So this is like the final day for most of us. We're hitting our best stuff. I'm going to beat my fish as hard as I can today. And then whatever happens tomorrow is fine if I make it that far. But the Classic is the goal. You better fish hard."

    Weigh-in will begin at 2:30 p.m. today and weights carry over each day. The top five anglers after today will advance for the Open Championship title Sunday.

    Non-boaters: Good night's sleep

    Perhaps it was a monkey removed from the backs of the 10 qualifying non-boater anglers. Or it might have just been the fatiguing string of events surrounding practice and the tournament, but it seems as if everybody competing on the final day of competition all slept very well.

    "I'm feeling terrific, ecstatic this morning," bellowed Stanley Chandler from his boat. "The fish have only moved 50 to 100 feet from where they were yesterday so we should be in pretty good shape."

    Most of the non-boaters estimate their division of the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship in Prattville, Alabama will be won with total weights in the 16- to 18-pound range.

    "After the first two nights I couldn't sleep too much," said Bill Beekman, who was leading after day one and slipped into second place at the conclusion of day two. "It sure kicked in last night though and I slept like a baby."

    Most of the anglers seem very relaxed and happy to be fishing on the final day. Expectations are high, but no one expressed any pressure to win the tournament.

    "My goal is to make the top five," remarked Nathan Bourque from Gonzales, Louisiana. "I am going to go out there and do the same thing I've been doing the last two days, and of course I will have to adjust to what the boater is doing today."

    The top five finishers from today's tournament will receive three boater entries in next season's Northern or Southern Opens. The top two winners will each receive a Triton Boat and Mercury motor package. The weigh-in begins today at 2:30 at Cooter's Pond Park. — Scott Cooley