KISSIMMEE, Fla. It didn't take much for the top two competitors to stay in the hunt for the co-angler championship on Day Two of the Sunshine Showdown, presented by Allstate Boat Insurance.
Third place going into the third and final day of competition, however, came out of nowhere as Tampa native Mary Delgado of "The Bachelor" me threw a heavyweight bag of 14 pounds, 7 ounces onto the scales with her petite frame and put herself right in the hunt for first place.
"Dirty Dozen" vets Harry Potts and Frank Mealer took sizeable leads into Day Two and hung on easily in the brutal central Florida heat.
Potts zeroed but still holds a 4-12 lead over Mealer on the strength of a mammoth 20-8 pound bag, still the heaviest of the tournament on both the professional and co-angler division. Mealer tallied just 2-1 and sits 1-5 ahead of Delgado.
"The thing about fishing is that you have to take it one day at a time. I had to do something I don't like to do today, which is flip," Potts said. "My draw and what my partner wants to do is going to go a long way in determining if I can pull this out."
Potts and Mealer seem to be employing the same basic technique of working plastic worms very slowly — and well away from their professional boatmates.
Mealer explained that his professional, Aaron Martens, had no problem following his lead and ended up with a strong limit of 13-12, putting him within striking distance of the top 12 after a miserable Day One. Martens joked with a fellow pro that he owes Mealer a steak dinner for showing him the way.
"It kind of made me feel good to help out Aaron like that. He just about caught what I caught yesterday," Mealer said. "Hopefully I'll be able to fish like I like to tomorrow. It's a great way for a co-angler to do it. You don't get in your pro's way — and if there are fish in the area, you can catch 'em."
Delgado, who made her first Elite Series co-angler cut on the Potomac River, used an entirely different technique in elbowing her way into the top three. While cagily referring to her tactic as "cranking," she was effusive in her praise of her professional partner Ben Matsubu in not only putting her on a good concentration of fish, but patiently guiding her to her best day as a co-angler.
"Today was 100 percent because of my pro. Ben gave me the bait and told me what I needed to know; and it was just my job to throw it out there and reel it in," said Delgado, who proudly showed off her first "war wound,", a sizeable scratch on her thumb that took place on stage.
"I'm a girly girl, but I'm also a tomboy. That fish just clamped down on my thumb while I was holding it up. This sport is really a lot of fun for me and it's such an honor to fish with these guys," Delgado said. "What's great is that I'm from Tampa and to do this so close to home is really special."
Live streaming video of the Sunshine Showdown's daily weigh-ins and real-time leaderboards begin Thursday through Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on ESPNOutdoors.com. Also live on ESPNOutdoors.com, "Hooked Up" with Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders airs at 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and noon ET Sunday with the full pre-weigh-in show at 3 p.m. ET, leading into the live weigh-in and real-time leaderboard at approximately 3:45 p.m.