Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla., squeaked into first place Saturday in the Bassmaster Classic, taking a one-ounce lead over first-day leader Randall Tharp, formerly of Gardendale, Ala., and now of Port St. Joe, Florida, with a total weight of 47 pounds 6 ounces for the two days completed.
The championship, with a $300,000 top prize, winds up Sunday on Lake Guntersville in Birmingham, Ala.
Evers caught his big fish of the day, a 7-11, with a single crankbait hook that lodged in the fish’s tail.
“I actually thought it was a drum or a catfish until it was right at the boat,” Evers said. “It fought too hard to be a bass — but tail-hooking will do that.”
Under the rules of B.A.S.S. competition, fish hooked outside the mouth accidentally can be entered in the competition.
Tharp said the rain raised the water level and created a flow too strong for prime fishing, and being the Day 1 leader brought an enormous fleet of spectator boats out to follow him, also contributing to difficult fishing.
“I had over 100 boats following me much of the day,” Tharp said. “That absolutely has an effect on the fish, but on the other hand I truly appreciate the fan support.”
He was still able to turn in a second day bag of 19 pounds, 13 ounces.
Ott DeFoe of Knoxville, Tenn., is third with 43-5 for the two days of competition, and Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., is fourth with 42-14.
Paul Mueller of Southbury, Conn., who was far down the standings on Day 1 with a weight of just 9-10, leaped to fifth on the strength of a remarkable 32-3 catch, by far the largest of the tournament to date.
In fact, according to B.A.S.S. statistician Ken Duke, Mueller’s catch is the heaviest five-fish limit ever weighed in during a Classic anywhere. Mueller’s bag was anchored by an 8-2, which he said was the largest bass he ever caught.
The Classic continues Sunday with the top 25 anglers leaving the docks at Guntersville Harbor at 7 a.m. Weigh-in begins at 4 p.m. at BJCC in Birmingham.
• Anglers who fish for bass on Lake Okeechobee are invited to two open house meetings Wednesday and Thursday in Hendry and Okeechobee counties. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists will discuss current regulations and conservation efforts for largemouth bass and how those might change with an ongoing review.
The FWC conducted surveys and informal meetings with anglers around the state last year, and next week’s sessions are a continuation of that process. Anglers who want to make suggestions about the fishery may attend sessions Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at John Boy Auditorium in Clewiston or Thursday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the city library in Okeechobee.