MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alton Jones and Brent Chapman stood side-by-side. They were the first two Bassmaster Elite Series pros in line to weigh in Friday, the second day of the Alabama River Charge presented by Star brite.
Jones sized up Chapman’s weigh-in bag. “I'll go first,” Jones told Chapman. “I want to lead for at least one minute.”
Jones had it right. His 20 pounds, 4 ounces earned him a fleeting look at the hot seat. Chapman’s 23 pounds, 5 ounces handily beat him. Chapman’s two-day total was 41-1 to Jones’ 36-10 — a 4-pound, 7-ounce difference.
Jones had nothing to feel bad about. Together the two squashed the hopes of the other 98 Elite pros who followed them to the scales. No one knocked them out of first and second.
The reigning Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year, Chapman of Lake Quivira, Kan., weighed five spotted bass to move up from sixth place on Day One. In his bag was the day’s largest bass, a 5-11.
Chapman rode Coosa River rapids in his bass rig to reach his fish.
“It was a fun day. Things could not have gone better for me,” Chapman said. “But it was a little nerve-wracking getting there (to his fishing spot).”
“Knowing what’s under the water is kind of scary,” he said. “If the water drops at all…” He shook his head. “There’s literally times you feel the boat go up and then feel it go down because you drop so much.”
The ride was worth it to get to a sweet spot he has going below the dam.
“I’ve got ‘a cast,’ a really neat little spot where they’re sitting up in one little eddy,” he said. “I caught a good one to start the day, and within a hour had a 20-pound bag.”
Keeping his boat positioned in the strong river current was a challenge, he said. “The whole time, your trolling motor is on high. It’s not easy, it’s very nerve-wracking because of the constant drift.”
Perfect execution was the difference between his second and first day, when he failed to boat two hook-ups of decent spotted bass, he said.
The 2008 Bassmaster Classic champion, Jones of Lorena, Texas, also hit the spotted bass of the river system for his limit. Tied at 14th place after the first day, Jones rode his 20-4 of Friday into second place.
“I’m getting about 12 bites a day, and every now and then, one of them is a really good fish,” Jones said. “Friday I was fortunate enough to get all 3-, 4- and 5-pounders.”
His final keeper almost flipped out of his boat. He swung it on board, it bumped the boat’s windshield and the bass landed in the bottom of the boat. It was about a 5-pounder.
Narrow save, and the magic of his day.
“I don’t have a magic cast or a magic spot,” Jones said. “I’m having to fight the current. I have to work to position the boat. I’d actually like it if the current slowed down a little bit.”
Chapman’s and Jones’ nearest challenger was consistent Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla. His Day One weight of 17-15 was just 3 ounces different than his Day Two bag of 17-12. With a 35-11 total, Evers rose from fifth place into third.
Paul Elias, who won the 1982 Bassmaster Classic on the Alabama River, was fourth after two strong days: 18-4 followed by 16-1 on Friday for a total of 34-5. All were spotted bass.
Fifth place was taken by Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla., who slid from fourth place with 34-3, just 2 ounces behind Elias. Lane also weighed all spotted bass. Among them was the largest spotted bass he’s ever caught, he said. It was close to 5 pounds, he estimated.
“If there’s a magical spot to find out there, Saturday would be the day to do it,” Lane said. “I’m running out of spots.”
Places and fish, he meant.
Day One leader John Murray of Phoenix, Ariz., slipped to sixth place with 32-10 over two days.
The leaderboard shuffle continued down the standings. Two of the best jumps were by Greg Vinson of Wetumpka, Ala., and Clark Reehm of Shreveport, La.
Vinson, a hometown favorite, was 38th after Day One. He brought in 17-13 Friday to rise to 10th place. Reehm bagged 17-2 Friday and popped from 83rd place to just inside the 50-cut at 45th place.
Reehm did it all on largemouth, a diversion from the norm so far in the Charge.
“I caught one big spot in practice, and they’re fun to catch, but I haven’t been getting a whole lot of bites since. I knew if I was going to make a jump, I wasn’t going to do it on spots,” Reehm said.
Elite rookie Chad Pipkens of Holt, Mich., was last man in the Top 50 cut at 25-2 over two days.
Chapman won the Livingston Leader Award, a $500 bonus for being the pro on top of the leaderboard after two days. He also became the leading contender for the Berkley Heavyweight Award with his Day Two bag of 23-5.
Kelly Jordon’s 6-4 largemouth of Day One still led the Carhartt Big Bass competition for a $1,000 bonus plus $500 if the angler was wearing Carhartt apparel at the time of the catch.
The Alabama River Charge presented by Star brite continues Saturday, when the 50 pros who survived the 50-cut advance to the third round. Only the Top 12 after Saturday will compete Sunday for the $100,000 first prize plus a berth in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic.
All Elite pros are earning points toward a Classic qualification and the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.
Fans are invited to watch the morning takeoffs in Prattville and afternoon weigh-ins in Montgomery. Anglers will start Saturday and Sunday at 6:30 a.m. CT at Cooter’s Pond Boat Ramp (1844 Cooter’s Pond Road, Prattville, AL 36066). The weigh-ins on both days will be under the Riverfront Park Union Station Train Shed (300 Water St., Montgomery, AL 36104). Starting time for the weigh-ins is 3:30 p.m. CT.
The Elite Series’ competition out of Montgomery marks a return to the birthplace of B.A.S.S., owner of the circuit. Ray Scott founded B.A.S.S. in 1968 in the Capitol City.
The local host of the event is the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, http://www.montgomerychamber.com.
Bassmaster.com will continue through Sunday with extensive coverage of the event.