LAGRANGE, Ga. — Saturday was a rainy day in Georgia, but Tommy Biffle was not singing the blues about the West Point Lake Battle.
He managed to fill a five-fish limit after falling one bass short on both Day One and Day Two of the Battle.
Biffle of Wagoner, Okla., seized the third-day lead in the four-day Bassmaster Elite Series’ Battle with a total of 33 pounds, 9 ounces. Seventh after Thursday, he popped into third Friday before taking the hot seat Saturday.
The loss of a “good keeper” early Saturday had him wondering if he’d even weigh four bass.
“I was a little bit worried I’d only have three, because I’ve been getting (and boating) four bites a day,” he said. “Today I had six, but I didn’t catch the quality I’ve been catching. As tough as the fishing is, I was glad to catch five.”
Biffle liked Saturday’s wet, wet weather. He said he actually hoped for a thunder and lightning storm on the water to change the barometric pressure.
He got his storm. “Shortly after that, I caught two,” he said. “The fish did bite better after the storm.”
He weighed four largemouth and one spotted bass, which he said actually weighed more than one of his largemouth bass.
Biffle — a six-time Bassmaster winner, including three Elite events — said a key to his success on West Point was his realization that he should not cover the same water twice. He said he’d continue to search for new water Sunday to work the pattern he has going (and which he didn’t elaborate upon).
Nine ounces in back of Biffle was Pete Ponds of Madison, Miss., with 33 pounds even. Day Two leader Aaron Martens was third with 32-10, 15 ounces behind Biffle.
Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Texas — the winner of the Elite season’s first event — pulled off the recovery of the week with a bag of 15-9, the day’s largest. He moved from 40th place on Day One into 33rd on Day Two, and then into fourth place. He made the cut to try Sunday for the winner’s take of $100,000 and a berth in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic.
Fifth was Chris Zaldain of San Jose, Calif., with 31-15. His weight set the spread between first and fifth place at 1 pound, 10 ounces — the size of one small West Point lake spotted bass.
Ponds credited his climb from 24th place to fourth on Day Two to a clue and a lure that helped him settle into a productive pattern. He declined to even hint at the details, but said that the rain of Saturday affected it.
“I didn’t catch but two fish on that bait today,” said Ponds, who weighed 11-5 Saturday compared to 13-0 Friday and 8-11 Thursday. “With it not raining tomorrow and the sun coming out, I’m feeling pretty confident about it again.”
Ponds said he also fished a drain with current “that developed into something good.”
Early Saturday, Ponds followed his plan to go only for game-winning largemouth. At 11 a.m., he abandoned that strategy.
“I threw up the white flag with only two largemouth, and went out and got a 2-pound spot, then I went to that drain and got my other two fish,” he said.
For Keith Combs of Huntington, Texas, it’s a rainy night in Georgia (to borrow again from Brook Benson’s bluesy song). The Day One leader, Combs finished 14th, two places out of the Top 12 cut, missing by 5 ounces.
Greg Vinson, however, skirted a rerun of his soul-drenching experience at the Elite event last month on Bull Shoals Lake, where he dropped out of the cut after leading for two days. The Battle turned out better. In second place two days into a row, the pro from Wetumpka, Ala., brought in 5-2, enough to stay above the cutline in 10th place with 29-15.
Yusuke Miyazaki of Forney, Texas, boated the day’s largest bass, a 6-10. But Biffle’s 6-12 of Day One stood as the Battle’s best bass after three days. The largest bass of the event will land the Battle’s Carhartt Big Bass bonus of $1,000 plus $500 if the angler was wearing Carhartt clothing.
In the Berkley Heavyweight competition for an award of $500, Combs’ Day One bag of 15-14 was still the best after three days.
The Battle concludes Sunday. The 12 finalists will launch at 6:40 a.m. from Pyne Road Park (4481 Roanoke Road, LaGrange, GA 30240). The championship weigh-in is set to begin at 3:15 p.m. at the same location.
Fans are invited to the launch and weigh-in, as well as to the Bassmaster Elite Series Expo, which features products and activities by Elite Series sponsors; free demo rides in Nitro, Skeeter and Triton bass rigs powered by Mercury and Yamaha engines; Dixie Dock Dogs, a dog-jumping competition; and much more. See Bassmaster.com for a full list of Expo features.
At Pyne Road Park next to the weigh-in site, the Expo opens at noon Sunday. All Bassmaster events are free and open to the public.