Mother Nature came calling on Barnett Reservoir Friday during the second round of the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite Series tournament, and she was vicious. (Click here for the story on Day 1)
After a calm launch and take off, the 109 bass fishermen had only a short window of opportunity to catch fish in reasonable conditions. By 9 a.m., winds were blowing a steady 15 to 20 miles per hour, with gusts upwards of 30, and turned The Rez into a tempest with huge white-capped waves.
What’s worse, the winds are supposed to increase for Saturday’s third round, with a forecast of 25-30 mph winds gusting north of 40.
That doesn’t concern rookie pro Dustin Connell of Clanton, Ala., who jumped from sixth place on Thursday to the lead on Friday with a total of 36-pounds, 7 ounces. He backed up a 19-12 on Thursday with a 16-11 on Friday and is confident going into Saturday’s third round.
“The wind won’t affect my fishing spots, but it will affect my travel time to and from where I’ll be spending my day,” Connell said. “What’s concerning me is that the water level is rising and getting muddier.
“I feel like the bass are holding tighter to the structure, which is requiring repetitive casts to the same spot. I have a lot of locations where I know I can catch fish, and I’m confident the fish are big enough for me to stay in the lead. But, if the wind gets worse, making it back to weigh-in will be my biggest concern.
“It’s important for me to keep my focus and fish smart, and not worry about who’s going to win. Tomorrow, I’m just going fishing.”
Kentucky angler Mark Menendez jumped to second place by weighing in 17-11 for a total of 34-11. Unlike the leader, Menendez is concerned about how the winds will affect his game.
“To be honest, I’m not sure how well my pattern will hold up tomorrow,” he said. “But I know that if I focus on making the best cast possible, as often as possible, I will catch fish. The forecasted winds tomorrow will have an impact on my spots; I’m just hoping I can continue to be consistent.”
Menendez is not worried about how the conditions will affect the fish.
“Ross Barnett bass are used to wind and mud; they’ll still bite,” he said.
First day leader Brandon Card of Knoxville, Tenn., who managed 11 pounds on Friday, fell into a tie for third with Dave Lefebre at 33-14, while Bobby Lane is fifth at 32-8.
After four fishermen topped 20 pounds on Thursday, Friday’s best catch was 18-5, and only one other angler topped 18. Sixth-place angler Mark Davis, the popular veteran from Mt. Ida., Ark., was one angler who struggled in the wind.
“Different ballgame today, totally different,” Davis said, after following an opening day five-fish limit and 20-11 pounds with an 11-4 limit to fall from the top 3 at 31-14. “I had to change everything I was doing, from how I was fishing to what I was fishing. I told y’all (yesterday) that I was depending on finesse to catch fish in crowded water, and that was impossible today. It shows, too. I had over 20 and today just over 11.”
Mississippi had only one angler to make the cut. Brock Mosley of Collinsville started the day 20th and ended it 21st after posting 12 pounds, 3 ounces for a two-day total of 26-13. He is looking to move up into the top 12 Saturday to qualify for the Sunday’s final round, and the wind could actually help him.
“How and where I’m fishing, the wind doesn’t really impact me that much,” Mosley said. “I’m power fishing with frogs, buzzbaits and spinnerbaits — you know, the typical Barnett Reservoir stuff. There’s no finesse to it and that’s a good thing.”
Cliff Pace of Petal caught 17 pounds Friday but finished 75th with just 18-13. Laurel’s Paul Elias added just 5-14 on Friday and finished 97th with a total of 14-7.