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2:22 p.m.: Scott Martin on the Largemouth Bite Too
He was left out of the last update, but he's certainly not out of the hunt to win this tournament. Scott Martin has been on a sight-fishing tear ever since he left his spotted bass schools early this morning, after picking up a 5-pounder, of course.
Martin just caught a 4-pounder that probably upgraded his limit by about 2 pounds. We're calling his weight at 16 pounds right now.
2:10 p.m.: The Race is on as the Shallow Largemouth Bite Gets Hot
Wow, where to begin … pretty much everyone is smashing them right now, but the anglers targeting largemouths are really shining. John Cox is hammering away at shallow largies with a ChatterBait. He has a 6-pounder and 5-pounder in the livewell and a total catch of about 16 pounds. He came into today in 20th place, but it sure looks like he's going to live to fish another day.
Leader Zack Birge has upgraded several times this afternoon. He has 13 to 15 pounds right now, which could be enough to hold on to his lead. He caught a 4-pounder just a minute ago to cull up once again.
Clark Wendlandt has sight-fished his way to about 14 pounds, and Drew Benton has a good limit of largemouths in the boat. Benton left the shallows to try and upgrade with some deep spotted bass, though he's almost sure to return to the banks soon.
The most noteworthy discovery today is that largemouths will lock on the bed and actively defend it when they're ready to spawn even when the temperature is below freezing. And now that the sun has been up for about six hours, the shallow largemouth bite is red-hot.
12:53 p.m.: Plenty of Pros Entering the "Teens"
Gagliardi, Cox, Arey, Wendlandt, Lefebre, Batts, Birge … all of them have weights in the low to middle teens, meaning two interesting story lines are starting to develop. First, the lead is up for grabs, though Birge is probably safe at the moment. Second, the fight for the top 10 could come down to ounces. The weights are that close.
Wendlandt is doing all he can to close the gap. He's sight-fishing and finally upgraded a limit that he put together early today. He has about 14 pounds.
The momentum is still with Arey, who really sacked them up over the last two hours. He could be fishing tomorrow. Meanwhile, Benton had a flurry of action but is still hunting his limit. He's still in a great spot thanks to a 5-pounder.
While putting together this update, Birge caught a fish that helped him cull up to about 13 pounds. That really helps his cause.
The wind is still blowing, and it's still mighty chilly out there. However, the sun is shining bright. As a result, the shallows are warming and the Expo is starting to fill up. Of course, the smell of BBQ here at the marina helps attract a crowd. Fans will get to see a pretty good show this afternoon.
Check back at FLWFishing.com in a few minutes for a midday video update.
12:15 p.m.: Birge Back on Top, Lefebre with 14
Well, that didn't take long. As soon as we declared Benton and Birge tied for the lead, Birge culled out a 12-incher with a 2 1/2 pounder. He's probably sitting with 12 or so pounds.
Also, Dave Lefebre is making a strong case toward fishing tomorrow. He has a 14-pound stringer, which is the biggest one reported thus far today. He came into the day in 12th place.
12:00 p.m.: Several Pros Jammed in at About 13 Pounds at Noon
The hottest stick on the FLW On The Water feed right now is Matt Arey, who's managed to cull up with a steady flow of 3-plus-pound fish. He's sitting at about 13 1/2 pounds, and you can see a couple of his spotted bass pigs over on the OTW feed.
Slightly behind Arey on the day is Tracy Adams, who's still on the sight bite for bedding largemouths. He just popped a 4-pounder less than an hour ago, and with the sun shining bright today, he could get stronger as the day goes on.
Andy Morgan's bite has slowed a bit, but he's transitioned from spots to largemouths, so he could be setting himself up to improve.
Precise weights are hard to come by right now, but Drew Benton and Zack Birge are about as close as can be. Benton has one better than 5 pounds, plus a 2 and a 3. He started the day 1 pound behind Birge, who does have a limit today but is sitting somewhere around 10 pounds.
John Cox has also filled out his limit. He has more than 11 pounds. We've got a reporter on the way there to get some photos, so stay tuned for that.
11:00 a.m.: Mini-Lull Slows Action Temporarily, but the Quality Bites are Steady
Since the last update about 45 minutes ago, the action slipped into a "mini-lull" without many updates from the water. But don't worry, it's already picked up again, just not at the same pace as this morning.
It seems overall the morning bite was fantastic, especially for spotted bass. Heck, Scott Martin caught a 5-pound spot on his first stop. Now we're seeing a pretty steady flow of 2- to 3-pound fish (mostly spots) being caught by Cox, Strader, Benton, Birge, Avena and others. Those fish will keep someone competitive to make the top 10. But to have a shot at Birge will take better quality fish.
Right now, Andy Morgan and Jayme Rampey are the most consistent as far as getting bites, but they're hunting and pecking through small fish. John Cox is catching slightly larger largemouths, but he hasn't reported a keeper for about an hour now.
Sight-fishing for spawning largemouths and running and gunning for spots on deep banks and around docks are the primary patterns.
The sun is out, warming up the FLW Expo site. We're all set up and ready to open the show in an hour. If you're in northern Alabama come out and check out the show.
Bonus Video from Day 2
10:10 a.m.: Three of the Top Four are Throwing Down on Giants
Zack Birge better get on his game, because the three pros behind him are gaining ground fast. Drew Benton just blasted a 5-pounder to get his day started finally. That's a potential game changer if he can lock down four decent keepers to go with it.
Clark Wendlandt in third has reached 13 pounds and was beyond confident yesterday and this morning that he was going to be able to catch a big limit again today.
Tracy Adams is playing the bed-fishing game with pretty solid success. He's at about 11 pounds now, and while he'll need more than that, the important thing is that his fish are biting despite the cold and he's around plenty of beds.
Bonus Videos from Day 2
Adrian Avena and Clark Wendlandt have both been consistent in this event, and are fishing in the top 20 today. Take a look at these videos from day two to see how they made the cut.
8:53 a.m.: Everybody's Catching Fish Early
The latest update is pretty simple: Fishing is great on Lewis Smith Lake. Everyone's catching them. The stream of reports coming in from marshals and On The Water reporters has been steady all morning.
Right now, John Cox seems to be on great quality largemouths, and Scott Martin still has the biggest fish of the day so far at 5 pounds. Andy Morgan has a limit and has culled, and Jayme Rampey has a small limit too. They're catching spots.
Zack Birge and Tracy Adams are working bedding fish. Adams has had better success so far. He has four keepers. Birge is spending quite a bit of time with his better fish, trying to figure out how to pester them to bite, but mostly he's waiting for this afternoon when the action should pick up.
Ish Monroe left his shallow pattern and has been running and gunning on deep points, while Clayton Batts has landed two spots, one of them a pretty nice fish.
The spotted bass contingent is doing work mostly with finesse baits, though several pros have reported seeing schooling fish. How cool is that on a day when the air temperature is in the mid-30s?
Finally, this morning at takeoff, Batts joked that Drew Benton had way too many rods on his deck to be sight-fishing. Benton laughed and said, "There's not going to be any sight-fishing. Those are my 'just-winging-it' rods." Maybe he is "just winging it" this morning, but if the sun stays up, and the early action is any indicator, there'll be a strong sight bite by lunchtime.
7:50 a.m.: Fast Start for Martin, Cox and Wiley
Wow, that didn’t take long. On a frosty 32-degree morning, most pros’ fingers might be cold, but the fishing is heating up fast. Scott Martin was the first to score on a keeper, and boy is it a doozey. The 5-pound spotted bass gives him a seriously strong start as he came into day three almost 6 pounds behind Zack Birge’s lead. Martin is working a school of spots that he has pegged on his depth finder.
John Cox also scored quickly on a 3-pound largemouth. We’re waiting for a report back on how he caught it, though considering Cox doesn’t even have a transducer on his boat, we can assume he’s fishing shallow. Also, Scott Wiley checked in with a 3 1/2-pounder. Expect more updates on him shortly.
About a third of the top-20 field didn’t run farther than three miles from the ramp. Most are chucking shaky heads or drop-shots for spotted bass, and it’s likely they’ll transition to largemouths later in the day once the shallows have had a chance to warm up. Andy Morgan, Wesley Strader, David Dudley, Matt Arey and several others already have their first keeper in the boat.
Right now the sun is shining, so despite the cold, the bedding bite could get good by lunchtime. This could be a very interesting day as pros try to decide whether to hedge their bets on largemouths, spots or both.