First round co-leaders Carl Svebek and Doug Garrett struggled on Friday, and both have fallen out of the top five. The big jump by Gilmore and Pace was aided by the leaders’ struggles, but their catches were the real story. Both anglers brought in 20-pound-plus limits to aid their cause. Gilmore’s 23 pound, 14 ounce limit was the biggest bag of the tournament thus far and good enough to take the lead by two pounds, six ounces over Pace.
The top five anglers are separated by a little over five pounds, leaving much of the field within striking distance of the $50,000 top prize. After two days of fishing, only the top 50 anglers will compete on the final day.
“I knew I was on some good fish going into the day. Twenty-three pounds is really hard to come by. I feel really confident about tomorrow. You have to at this level or you just shouldn’t be here,” said Gilmore, whose two day catch totals 36-2.
Gilmore keyed on shallow grass where post-spawning bass were holding. His catch included a seven-pound behemoth that he took on a crankbait.
“My area is getting pounded pretty hard,” Gilmore said. “The good news is that I’m still fishing tomorrow, and you can’t argue with that.”
On the bluebird, high pressure day, the bite was tough, and anglers had to adjust to the weather conditions. You wouldn’t know it by the bags that Pace and Gilmore brought it in, though. Pace’s 22-3 for the day propelled him into second place with a two-day total of 33-12.
“I caught a limit pretty early throwing a spinnerbait,” Pace said. “Then I slowed down a little and concentrated on the big ones, throwing a Senko. I feel good going into tomorrow. Another twenty-two pound sack should win me that trophy.”
Oklahoma’s Jeff Kriet (32-9), one of four anglers to catch a twenty-pound sack on Day Two, sits in third place directly behind Gilmore and Pace. It was the ones that Kriet missed that were on his mind after the weigh-in.
“I should have had a 25-pound bag today,” Kriet said. “I’m not getting a ton of bites because the fish are so crazy right now, but I made the ones I did catch today really count.”
Kriet started the day with a weightless plastic worm fished wacky style, but most of his quality fish came as he flipped shallow bushes. He’s made adjustments over the first two days to stay in the hunt, but they’ve all been bait-related while his locations have remained consistent.
“I feel like I have something going,” Kriet said. “I have some really productive areas I can go to tomorrow.”
Rounding out the top five are Rayburn guide Jeff Buchanan (31-11) and fellow Texan and ESPN’s Greatest Angler Debate commentator Tommy Martin (30-14).
Not making the cut, but taking home a check for $1,000 was Louisiana’s Roger Boler. That’s how much Purolator paid Boler for taking big bass honors with an eight-pound, 10-ounce fish. The lunker largemouth struck a topwater frog fished over vegetation.
On the non-boater side, Texas’s Dell Brown (26-4) leads the way after bringing in an 18-pound, two-ounce limit on Day Two. Trailing Brown are Arkansas’s Bill Gift (24-2), Texans Jeff Snyder (23-13), Dean Perkins (21-9) and Mike Lang (20-11).
Texan Joe Lee earned an extra $500 and the Purolator Big Bass award of the day on the non-boater side with his catch of a lunker weighing 8-3.
The home-lake jinx is nowhere to be found on Sam Rayburn this week. Texas anglers dominate the leaderboard on both the boater and non-boater sides. Three of the top five boaters and eight of the top 10 non-boaters hail from Texas.
“My knowledge of the lake has really helped me out here,” said 4th place boater Jeff Buchanan, who runs a guide and lodge service at Sam Rayburn. “I haven’t hit all of my spots yet, and I feel really good going into tomorrow.”
Tomorrow’s final-round weigh-in will be held at the Umphrey Family Pavilion at 3:00 p.m. in Sam Rayburn, Texas.
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