Jasper, Ala. – BASS anglers beware. Three-time CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year and 2001 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion Kevin VanDam is in a groove. VanDam, who won the Bassmaster Elite 50 Series points championship last year, is picking up right where he left off in 2004. He leads the Smith Lake event after two days.

VanDam’s second limit in as many days weighed an even 11 pounds – a far cry from the 20-pound string he had on the first day, but more than enough to hold onto the top spot. With a two-day total of 31-2, he’s more than two pounds ahead of another former Angler of the Year and Classic champion, Arkansas’ Mark Davis.

“Things have been going my way lately as far as execution goes,” VanDam said. “I had a real good tournament at Table Rock until the end, and I’m doing well here. I just feel like I’m fishing well.”

The only drawback to the day for VanDam is that all weights are zeroed for the weekend, putting qualifying anglers on even ground. The 12 semifinalists will be confined to a six-hole course and a set rotation for the final rounds.

VanDam was upbeat about the fresh start despite losing the lead he’s built over the first two days.

“When you’re in the lead position, you certainly don’t like the zeroing,” he said, “but I’m looking forward to the six-hole course tomorrow because I feel like it suits my style.”

Notorious for his fast-paced running and gunning style, VanDam has had to slow down a little on Smith Lake this week.

“The fish aren’t chasing much out here,” said VanDam. “You just have to take what the lake gives you.”

The leader is keying on a 15-mile stretch of bank, looking for points and pockets and focusing on post-spawn fish. He’s been throwing a variety of jigs and soft plastics to catch his bass.

Following VanDam and surviving the cut are two-time Angler of the Year and 1995 Classic champion Mark Davis (28-13), Illinois’ Chad Morgenthaler (25-1), Oklahoma’s Jeff Kriet (24-8), Texas’ Kelly Jordon (23-15), 2002 Angler of the Year and 2001 Classic champion Jay Yelas (23-13), Kentucky’s Kevin Wirth (23-9), Texas’ Zell Rowland (23-8), 2003 Classic champion Mike Iaconelli of New Jersey (22-13), California’s Skeet Reese (22-11), 1983 Classic champion Larry Nixon of Arkansas (21-14) and 1999 Classic Champion Davy Hite of South Carolina (21-12).

Davis, who was recently named the 10th greatest angler of all-time in the ESPN Outdoors Greatest Angler Debate presented by John Deere, is one of the most decorated anglers in BASS history. His Day Two limit at Smith Lake tipped the scales at 12-1. He’s been fishing soft plastics in spawning pockets and around flooded bushes.

Like VanDam, Davis is looking forward to the six-hole fishing course and the semifinals.

“A lot of stuff I’ve been doing will work well on that course,” Davis said. “I like these Elite-50s because it just feels more relaxed, and I really like the later start time.”

Tommy Biffle has also been fishing flooded bushes, but as fans of the sport know, Biffle is a flipper and pitcher, so he’s fishing differently from Davis. Biffle was flipping a jig in bushes, and, despite catching only three fish on the day, his weight of 13-7 was good enough for the Busch Heavyweight catch of the day and an extra $1,000. Biffle’s big bag included a 5-13 lunker that took the Purolator Big Bass Award and another $1,000 check.

Fishing in his first Elite-50 and in third place after two days, Chad Morgenthaler caught four fish on Day Two – all spotted bass – for a total of 9-15. Morgenthaler has been focusing on the main lake and post-spawn fish. As he tells it, his day could have been even better.

“I lost a couple of fish today,” Morgenthaler said. “These Alabama spots have some serious attitude!”

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