APPLING, Ga. – Fifty boats will be taking off for Day 3 of Toyota Stop 2 Presented by Lowrance on Clarks Hill. In reality, most eyes will be on just one of them.
Dakota Ebare has absolutely dominated the second event of the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals through two days. After weighing in the biggest bag of the event yesterday – 23 pounds, 13 ounces – he brought in another 18-6 today to be the only angler to cross the 40-pound threshold (42-3 to be exact).
In a tournament where weights are stacked together, his 5-5 lead going into the final day is quite the cushion. Yet, as positive as today looked, he may need all of that cushion come tomorrow if things continue as they do.
You see, a day ago Ebare was beyond excited about a deep and shallow one-two punch he’d executed to near perfection on Day 1. Day 2 was an entirely different story.
“It was a struggle,” Ebare said. “I know I could’ve went and caught some spotted bass, but I wasn’t really fishing for that. And I knew the largemouth weren’t really biting good, but I said if I’m going to grind out a couple bites I’m going to try for a big bite. Well, that didn’t work out either.”
A big reason, Ebare thinks, is the weather and pressure had the fish completely turned off. He said his areas were just “dead,” as he could watch fish on his forward-facing electronics not budge or even acknowledge his offerings. He compared it to hunting in the woods and not hearing a single sound or seeing anything moving.
At around 1 p.m., Ebare had scraped together a limit of maybe 9 pounds and was contemplating going to fish for spotted bass to salvage the day. Yet, that’s when something big happened, literally.
Running brush piles, he pulled up on one and saw a massive mark sitting above it. A cast with a shaky head resulted in the biggest bass of the event – an 8-2 kicker – that culled out a 1-pounder and got him over the 16-pound mark.
That fish alone would’ve solidified his lead for tomorrow, but late in the day, he said it “was like I was on a different lake.
“I pulled into a creek and caught 20 fish in an hour,” said Ebare, which is something a number of top pros mentioned of the late bite.
As for tomorrow, he says he just going to go fishing again and watch the conditions, but with the man behind him (and the pattern he may have found), the pressure could be on Ebare early even with his big lead.
Last fall, Spencer Shuffield and Ebare dueled it out on the St. Lawrence River, with Shuffield taking the Tackle Warehouse TITLE belt and Ebare finishing runner-up.
Well, they’re set to duke it out again tomorrow, and once again, Shuffield says he has a special feeling about what he’s found.
The forward-facing sonar master brought in a solid 16-10 on Day 1 by hanging closer to weigh-in. Today, though, something told him to “get off the grid” and make the long run to the Russell Dam.
“I went up there the second day of practice and saw it had a lot of potential,” Shuffield said. “Yesterday I was catching fish and stayed down here, and today I really fought myself going up there. But now I can’t wait to get back up there. This afternoon, I really started to figure out where those giants are. There’s a 35-40-pound bag up there from what I’m seeing.”
Shuffield is not just seeing them, as he caught a 6-10 today and says he lost two more that size that would’ve given him the biggest bag of the event. Still, now that he’s dialed in on what his big fish are keying, he says he’s dying to get back out there tomorrow.
“Oh, I’m ready,” Shuffield said. “Winning the TITLE and getting a belt was awesome last year, but I want a trophy for my trophy case.”
While the Ebare-Shuffield showdown is exciting in itself, today showed that even the best bites can be fickle. Heck, it seems almost everyone’s bites have been fickle this week.
In talking with the rest of the Top 10, how they got there and the strengths of their patterns is all over the map.
Tristan McCormick is playing the offshore game like Shuffield and has found consistency, but the next few names behind him – Sean Anderson, Cal Lane and Travis Harriman – are all fishing dirt shallow above the 378 Bridge, with all mentioning their bite is almost nonexistent until late in the day. Then you have arguably the best angler in the sport, Jacob Wheeler, lurking in ninth, and John Cox in 10th sitting on a bunch of bed fish he says he found.
Thus, as much as things seem set, Clarks Hill has been a surprise all week, and we should expect nothing less come tomorrow’s weigh-in.
1. Dakota Ebare – 42 – 3 (10)
2. Spencer Shuffield– 36 – 14 (10)
3. Tristan McCormick– 35 – 4 (10)
4. Sean Anderson– 34 – 14 (10)
5. Cal Lane– 34 – 3 (10)
6. Travis Harriman– 34 – 2 (10)
7. Tom Redington– 33 – 3 (10)
8. Mark Condron– 32 – 11 (10)
9. Jacob Wheeler– 32 – 1 (10)
10. John Cox– 31 – 15 (10)