The final stop on the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Opens is turning into a Fox hunt — Kyle Fox, that is. The young Lakeland, Fla., pro brought a five-bass limit weighing 20 pounds, 3 ounces to the scales Thursday, giving him an almost 2-pound lead over Alabama’s Randall Tharp (18-5).
In addition to first-place prize money totaling more than $35,000, the 138 professional anglers in the field are vying for two berths in the 2011 Bassmaster Classic and seven invitations to join the 2011 Bassmaster Elite Series.
Fox, who has grown up fishing BASS and began his tournament career as a Junior Bassmaster angler, worked a one-two punch of patterns to catch his fish.
“Early in the morning I had a topwater bite going,” said Fox, “and as the sun got higher, I switched over to flipping heavy cover.”
Fox’s flipping and pitching pattern was echoed by several of today’s top competitors. The bass action has been slow on Lake Seminole, and only 27 professional anglers topped double figures for the day. There were just 29 five-bass limits among the pros.
Frank Jordan, Jr., of Bainbridge, Ga. (17-14), David Kilgore of Jasper, Ala., (17-11) and Derek Allen (17-10) of Ponchatoula, La., rounded out the top five.
Adding drama to the event are the two Classic berths and seven Elite invitations at stake here. Going into the finale, Andy Montgomery of South Carolina led the Southern Open points standings. He’s 15th at Seminole after the first day.
Elite pro Bobby Lane was in second place in the Southern Open standings, but hurt his chances to double-qualify for the Classic (he’s already earned a berth through the Elite Series) after landing just two keeper bass today. If Lane can double-qualify through the Southern Opens, fellow Elite pro Jared Lintner would earn a spot in the Classic.
The angler who did himself the most good Thursday was Randall Tharp of Gardendale, Ala. Sitting in third place in the overall standings coming into this tournament, he was second place after the first day at Seminole and looks prepared not only to lock up an Elite Series invitation, but also a Bassmaster Classic berth.
David Kilgore — currently sixth in the Southern standings — also helped his chances for a Classic spot with a solid fourth-place limit weighing 17-11.
On the amateur side, Georgia’s Fred Hood leads the way with 14-10 with a three-bass co-angler limit. If he had the same catch on the pro side of the competition, he’d be comfortably in the top 10. Co-anglers are competing for a top prize of a Skeeter-Yamaha boat and motor package.
The full field of 138 professionals and 138 co-anglers will be on the water again Friday before the competition is pared to just 30 pros and 30 co-anglers for Saturday’s final round.
Check out the latest in the action on Bassmaster.com, including live, interactive video with the winner after Saturday’s final weigh-in.
The Classic seats and Elite invitations will be awarded Saturday after the weigh-in.
Morning takeoff will be from Earle May Boat Basin,100 Boat Basin Circle, Bainbridge, GA 39817, at 7:30 a.m. ET. Anglers will return with their catches to the same marina for the weigh-in, scheduled to begin each day at 3:30 p.m. ET.
The local sponsor for the event is the Bainbridge Convention and Visitors Bureau, www.VisitBainbridgeGa.com.
About BASS For more than 40 years, BASS has served as the authority on bass fishing. The organization advances the sport through advocacy, outreach and its expansive tournament structure while championing efforts to connect directly with the passionate community of bass anglers through its Bassmaster media vehicles. The Bassmaster brand and its considerable multimedia platforms are guided by a mission to serve all fishing fans. Through its industry-leading publications Bassmaster Magazine, BASS Times and Fishing Tackle Retailer; comprehensive Web properties in Bassmaster.com, BASSInsider.com, and ESPN3.com, and ESPN2 television programming, Bassmaster provides rich, leading-edge content true to the lifestyle. BASS oversees the prestigious Bassmaster Tournament Trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Opens, BASS Federation Nation and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Bassmaster Classic. BASS offers an array of services to its more than 500,000 members while spearheading progressive, positive change on issues related to conservation and water access. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.