The two fishermen will lead the 12-angler field that made the cut going into Friday’s semi-final round. The top 12 after Thursday will rotate through a separate course on the Alabama River, while the pros ranked 13th and lower will continue to compete on the rest of the river for a chance to improve their standings in the Elite 50 points race that will determine who earns the lion’s share of the $1.6 million prize purse.
Biffle totaled 28-3 for two days, while Hite brought in 27-11. All weights for the top 12 are zeroed going into the course format. Biffle’s advantage as the lead angler is to pick his starting spot on Friday.
“I was wanting to ride through the weekend course so bad today, it was about killing me, but I just couldn’t do it with only four fish,” said Biffle, who never completed a five-fish limit Thursday.
Thursday took an unsettling turn for angler Stacey King and BASS photo manager Gerald Crawford, who reported to authorities that a man fired a rifle toward their boats as King was fishing a bank on the river.
“I’ve never had anything like that happen to me before,” King said. “I was just fishing down the bank, a place I’ve fished every day since I’ve been here.
“He shot across my bow and shot eight or 10 rounds and tore up the water around where Gerald was.”
Crawford contacted tournament director Trip Weldon, who called 911 and received responses from the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department, the Alabama Maritime Police Department and the Alabama Department of Fish and Game.
“This is an isolated incident,” Weldon said. “No one was injured and, with the safety all concerned top of mind, we called 911 immediately and told the authorities as many details as possible so that they could react and investigate.”
According to sheriff’s officials, Crawford and King have up to a year to file charges on a misdemeanor complaint of pointing a weapon at a person.
“I think the tournament and the authorities were right on it,” said Crawford, who has photographed BASS events for 24 years. “I talked to two or three people from the sheriff’s department and even a game warden. They were on the scene very quick.”
Despite the events, King will continue to fish tomorrow in an effort to improve his position from 22nd place to as high as 13th.
In addition to Biffle and Hite, South Carolina’s Todd Auten, Texan Dean Rojas, Florida’s Peter Thliveros, Kevin VanDam of Michigan, Alabamian Gerald Swindle, Arkansas’ Mark Davis, Florida’s Jim Bitter, Edwin Evers of Oklahoma, Louisiana’s Greg Hackney and Denny Brauer of Missouri. Brauer actually tied with his son, Chad, but earned the top 12 spot by catching nine bass over two days, while Chad caught eight.
Biffle brought in Thursday’s Purolator Big Bass of the Day, a 5-5 lunker that was his first bite of the day. Biffle will earn $1,000 from Purolator, but his fish wasn’t big enough to challenge Kelly Jordon’s day one bruiser, 6-6, which is inching closer toward becoming the Purolator Big Bass of the Tournament, a prize worth $1,000 for the Texan.
CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year Gerald Swindle proved how he earned the title in the second round, bringing in the day’s heaviest sack of fish, 16-3, and earning $1,000 for the Busch Heavyweight of the Day.
“Yesterday, I struggled but I didn’t do anything wrong,” Swindle said. “I just didn’t get the bites to make it work, so I adjusted.”
Swindle pulled all five of his spotted bass from a rocky point in the river, a spot that Biffle briefly fished but then abandoned.
Daily launches will take place at Cooters Pond at 10 a.m. Daily weigh-ins will begin at 7:15 p.m. at the Stanley-Jensen Stadium and are free to the public.
Fans can catch the third event of the Bassmaster Elite 50 series on the Alabama River in two parts, Saturday, June 12 and Saturday, June 19 at 10:30 a.m. ET/9:30 a.m. CT on ESPN2.
The Bassmaster CastingKids program sponsored by CITGO will be held in conjunction with the BASS Sponsor Expo Saturday, June 5, from 3 p.m.-6 p.m. at the Stanley-Jensen Stadium. Children between the ages of 7 and 14 can participate in the contest with the chance to earn scholarships. The event and instruction to youngsters will be facilitated by the Alabama BASS Federation.
A popular component of the CITGO Bassmaster Tour events this season is the highly interactive and family-friendly BASS Sponsor Expo area. Sponsors present interactive exhibits and provide a fun family experience for all ages. The Expos take place from 3-8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on Saturday at the Stanley-Jensen Stadium.
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass-fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Skeeter Boats, Mercury Marine, Yamaha Outboards, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.
Associate Sponsors include G3 Boats.
Local Sponsors include the Prattville Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of Prattville.
For more information, call BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit Bassmaster.com.