WADDINGTON, N.Y. —
In dramatic Bassmaster fashion, a new leader took the helm during the second round of official competition at the Huk Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River presented by Black Velvet.
The fishing slowed down overall during the second day of the derby, but a staggering 52 limits exceeding 20 pounds on Day 1 will be hard to top. However, 34 limits were produced on Friday that also surpassed the 20-pound mark.
Thanks to a giant five-bass limit of smallmouth bass that tipped the scales at 25 pounds, 13 ounces, Brandon Lester of Fayetteville, Tenn., took charge going into Saturday’s semi-final round.
Lester’s two-day total is now 50-1.
The 107-angler field has been cut to the Top 50, and the 30-year-old Lester is looking to claim the $100,000 first-place prize money and notch his first Bassmaster Elite Series title with two days to go.
“Today was a lot of fun, and I’m super thankful for the big bass I was able to bring to the scales,” he said. “But it was a tougher bite. I caught a lot more little bass, which tells me there aren’t as many dominant, big smallmouth bass on each spot as there were yesterday.”
While still confident, Lester expects the weights to continue to decrease as the event continues — a regular occurrence during multi-day bass tournaments.
“It’s no secret that almost everybody is catching bass on a dropshot, but I’m doing something a little bit differently with my presentation, which seems to be getting more attention from the larger bass,” Lester said.
“My plan won’t change much, and I’m confident the right fish are still using the spots I’m focusing on,” he said. “I’m excited to get back out there and hopefully catch another 20 pounds or more tomorrow.”
With this event being the final regular-season Elite Series tournament, the race for valuable Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points is tightening up. Only the Top 50 pros in season points will advance on to the AOY championship on Georgia’s Lake Chatuge in mid-September.
Fellow Tennessee pro David Walker pushed his two-day total to 49-6, thanks to a hefty 22-14 limit on Friday, which currently has him in second place.
Unfortunately, he won’t be competing in the AOY Championship after a relatively tough season. But he’s in great position to potentially take home his second Elite Series title.
“It’s been a long time since I won one of these, and I really want to win this one,” Walker said. “I’m on the right fish, and I’m dialed into how they are using the current to feed. I have enough spots that are continuing to produce for me that I feel very confident in catching another heavy limit tomorrow.”
Arizona’s Josh Bertrand caught five bass today that weighed 22-14 for third place and a two-day total of 48-9.
Bertrand is in a tight race for Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year. He trails the frontrunner, Justin Lucas of Guntersville, Ala., who has 713 AOY points to Bertrand’s 705. Bradley Roy of Lancaster, Ky., who led the race going into this event, dropped to third with 657 points.
“I do my best to not focus on AOY, but it’s impossible to ignore,” Bertrand said. “It’s not affecting my fishing on the St. Lawrence River, though. My first priority is to win this event, and I feel like I’ve got a good shot at it.”
Rounding out the Top 5 are two Alabama pros: Jesse Wiggins with 47-4 and Lucas with 46-12.
Brett Hite of Phoenix, Ariz., is still leading the Phoenix Boats Big Bass competition thanks to a hefty 6-12 smallmouth bass he caught during Thursday’s opening round of competition. If the big bass holds through Championship Sunday, Hite will win a $1,500 bonus paycheck.
Competition will resume Saturday morning with take-off beginning at 6:15 a.m. ET at Whittaker Park in Waddington, N.Y., and weigh-in will begin at 3 p.m. at the same location.