With air temperatures some 30 degrees cooler than day one, things felt much more seasonable around Norris Lake on day two of the Walmart FLW Tour Invitational presented by Quaker State. A passing cold front brought misty rain and blustery west winds that tossed autumn leaves into the air like confetti. In a single day it went from summer to fall around Ol’ Rocky Top.
Just as anglers predicted, the fringes of a cold snap certainly helped the bite as the limit count went from just nine on day one to 20 on day two.
One man who felt right at home amid the sudden turn in weather was James Watson of Nixa, Mo., who is steadily carving out his niche in professional fishing as a fall guy. When things cool off, Watson’s fishing heats up. Today, he brought in 13 pounds, 4 ounces to take over the lead spot in the Invitational with a two-day total of 26 pounds, 14 ounces, carrying over a 3-pound lead into the final day.
“August to December is my time,” Watson says. “I love fall fishing; it’s when I have the most confidence.”
Also, Watson does not mince words when describes his penchant for tough tournaments.
“I’m a 12-pound-a-day guy,” laughs Watson, who is always quick with a joke. “I can catch 12 pounds a day at Guntersville or I can catch 12 pounds a day here. It’s just that catching 12 pounds a day here right now happens to pay better than catching 12 pounds a day at Guntersville in the spring.”
For two days, Watson’s one-two punch has been topwaters and jig pitching. He spends most of the morning committed to a couple of topwater baits and then begins to mix a jig pitched to docks into his program once the sun breaks out.
Watson is still hesitant to give up much detail on his topwater pattern for fear it can be duplicated. But he did allude to some generalities in what he has found.
“With the water down, there are all kinds of rocks exposed and I’m looking for a very specific combination of rocks,” Watson says. “I have settled on one 12-mile section of this lake that seems to have more of that combination than anywhere else.”
“Each day I’ve covered new water,” he continues. “Yesterday I fished water I never fished before and today I fished water I’d never fished before. The only exception is one particular 100-yard section that produced two good fish yesterday. I fished it again today and it produced another good fish.”
Watson did hint that the switch in wind direction had a lot to do with his selection of water today.
“The wind direction switched and messed up a lot of my better stretches from yesterday, so I was forced to fish new water today. Along with the rock combination, there is a perfect sort of ripple that helps the bite.”
Of his weigh-in fish today, three came from topwater and two came flipping docks.
Top 10 pros
1. James Watson – Nixa, Mo. – 26-14 (10)
2. Jason Lambert – Pickwick Dam, Tenn. – 23-12 (10)
3. Derrick Blake – Rockwood, Tenn. – 23-8 (10)
4. Tracy Adams – Wilkesboro, N.C. – 22-2 (10)
5. Wesley Strader – Spring City, Tenn. – 21-13 (10)
6. Michael Neal – Dayton, Tenn. – 19-15 (10)
7. Matt Arey – Shelby, N.C. – 19-0 (9)
8. David Williams – Maiden, N.C. – 16-13 (6)
9. Eddie Whiten Jr. – Pickens, S.C. – 16-10 (8)
10. Bill Dunn – Maynardville, Tenn. – 16-8 (8)
Format: All pros will compete for the first two days. The top 20 pros based on cumulative weight after two days of competition will advance to the third and final round, with the winner determined by the heaviest cumulative three-day weight.
Takeoff Time: 7:30 a.m. ET
Takeoff Location: Anderson County Park, 2191 Park Lane, Andersonville, Tenn. 37705
Weigh-In Time: 3 p.m. ET
Weigh-In Location: Anderson County Park