The top is a place that Davis is familiar with, having won three CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles and the 1995 CITGO Bassmaster Classic. In 2004, Davis captured two Elite-50 championships and is close to another one after struggling mightily during the 2005 Tour season.
“I finally feel 100 percent now,” Davis said. “I’ve come back before from shoulder problems and fished well, but I’m a little bit older now, and the recovery time is a little longer. Winning here would definitely make this year’s struggles worth it.”
The day started with a bang as rain and hail poured from the sky and delayed launch for nearly an hour. Fortunately, the storm was brief and the sun made its appearance, making the fish more vulnerable on the six-hole course to which the anglers were restricted.
A total of 10 of the 12 anglers bagged limits today and most of the fish brought to the scales were the aggressive spotted bass that are a staple in Smith Lake’s deep, clear waters. The leaderboard is extremely close with the top six separated by less than three pounds. The tournament’s $100,000 first prize is up for grabs on the final day.
Davis staked his claim to the lead by catching an early limit from the second hole on the course. He used a Strike King jerkbait, a spinnerbait and a finesse worm catch his fish.
“When you catch a limit in twenty minutes, you tend to like that hole,” Davis said. “After catching that early limit, you also feel like you’re riding a high the rest of the day.”
Following Davis and making the cut to six anglers are Kentucky’s Kevin Wirth (12-4), Illinois’ Chad Morgenthaler (12-3), Texas’s Zell Rowland (12-0) and Kelly Jordon (11-9) and Michigan’s Kevin VanDam (11-0).
Wirth trails Davis by just 18 ounces and feels confident going into the final round. He had little to say about his presentation other than that it involved light line.
Because Davis does not participate in the Busch Heavyweight program, Wirth’s 12 pound, four ounce tally earned the daily prize and the $1,000 check.
“I covered a lot of water today,” Wirth said, “but each time you get comfortable in an area, it seems like you have to leave it. Tomorrow I’m going to keep working what I’m doing, and I feel pretty good about it.”
Just as after the second day of the tournament, Chad Morgenthaler sits in third place. Morgenthaler is using spinning tackle with six pound fluorocarbon line. He struck gold with that combination in the third round, catching a three-pound, seven-ounce fish to take Purolator Big Bass honors and $1,000.
“I struggled out here with the early bad weather,” Morgenthaler said, “but when the sun starts shining, I seem to catch them. Sometimes you have to slow down, ease up and stick with the light line, and that worked for me today.”
Unfortunately for Morgenthaler, tomorrow’s forecast calls for clouds, cooler temperatures and winds approaching 30 miles per hour.
“Those spots are the first to get affected by that barometer changing, so tomorrow could be difficult,” Wirth said, “but there are a lot of fish here. I’m going to adjust if I have to.”
VanDam, who led the event at the end of two days, had the most to lose when the weights were zeroed for the third round. He barely squeaked into the top six, besting Jay Yelas by just two ounces.
Each Elite 50 angler will have a payday in the no-entry-fee event. The winner will take home a check for $100,000, and the last place finisher will earn $5,000. The total payout for each of the four Elite 50 events is $400,000.
Part One of the Bassmaster Elite 50 Series event on Smith Lake will be telecast on The CITGO Bassmasters on Saturday, April 30 at 10:00 a.m. ET on ESPN2. Part Two will air on May 7 at 10:00 a.m. ET on ESPN2.
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite 50 series, 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 Bassmaster Elite 50 Series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).
Local Sponsors include the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.