FLORENCE, Ala. Despite changing water levels, the threat of nasty weather and moderate boat traffic in his primary area, Kevin Short of Mayflower, Ark., made zero adjustments Friday, opting instead to keep things simple and duplicate his Thursday strategy en route to posting a two-day total of 38 pounds, 13 ounces at the Alabama Charge on Pickwick Lake, the fourth Bassmaster Elite Series of the season.
As they did after Thursday, Short and Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss., occupied the top two spots but Short was able to increase his lead to 3-plus pounds with his Friday limit of 18-10.
While some anglers are keying in on the shallows, Short has taken a different approach to his day. Each morning, he has started shallow and rounded out a decent limit. As the day progresses, Short moves deeper, settling in at a moderate depth level and working the area for all it's worth.
He is picking his areas apart slowly and thoroughly, keeping his lures -- a crankbait and a jig -- wet as often as possible on the Tennessee River impoundment. With the weather threatening to let loose Saturday, Short again planned to stick to his guns Saturday.
"I honestly don't know why they are biting," said Short, who won his first Elite Series tournament last June on the Mississippi River. "It could be my bait but whatever it is, I have something figured out that most other guys don't. I'm thrilled that I have been able to pile up this much weight."
Fishing fans can catch all the on-the-water action from the four-day event on The Bassmasters, which airs Saturday, May 9, at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN2 (re-airs Sunday, May 23, at 10 a.m. ET on ESPN2). The daily weigh-ins for all regular-season Elite events and the two postseason events will air live on ESPN3.com, ESPN's broadband sports network. Bassmaster.com will follow the Charge each day with BASSCast, BASSCam, real-time leaderboards during weigh-ins, photo galleries, daily results, and Hooked Up with ESPN Outdoors personalities Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders.
For Short, the Pickwick success is no surprise -- the season is shifting more towards Short's style. And it couldn't come at a better time -- he entered the tournament 74th in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings and was in danger of letting the season slip away from his with another subpar finish.
But Short dug in this week and has handled the changing parameters better than most, exhibiting consistency in a tournament that requires it. His bites have come in decidedly different manners as sometimes he entices the bass on his first cast while others take a significant amount of effort.
"No matter what happens with the weather, I know that there is enough fish moving out," said Short, who has strictly keyed on post-spawn largemouths this week. "I just have to figure out how to catch them if the conditions change."
There are two polarizing decisions that anglers have to make this week: stick to Pickwick or locking through to Lake Wilson. It is evident after two days that most anglers are sticking to Pickwick. Additionally, anglers have the luxury of either fishing for smallmouth, largemouth or both. And while Pace stuck to only smallmouths Thursday, he brought in a mixed bag Friday.
He is working a community hole that was so riddled with traffic, it tested Pace's patience all day. But the 29-year-old kept his cool and stayed in contention with 16 pounds Friday. He spent the first two hours of the day working smallmouth in the shallows but only was able to land three. He slide out to the outside areas later in the day and located the largemouth.
Pace, 28th in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings heading into this event, said his area is holding post-spawn fish that are gradually moving deeper. While he feels the area holds the quality to win the tournament, it has had little time to rest due to the saturation of competitors.
"When you fish a community area, it's hard to duplicate success two days in a row," said Pace, who qualified for the Bassmaster Elite Series Postseason last season. "I think I can have another good day Saturday though, if they pull the current and the clouds come out."
Moving up to third from sixth was Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., with 35-5. Martens is someone to watch as he feels right at home on Tennessee River impoundments -- last year he won an Elite event on Lake Guntersville. Moving up to fourth from a tie for 13th was Mike Iaconelli of Pittsgrove, N.J., with 34-10. Rounding out the top five was Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., with 34-6.
Both Iaconelli and Martens were in good shape in the AOY standings heading into this event and are in serious contention for the Postseason -- only the top 12 in the AOY standings at the end of the regular season qualify. Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., has a sizable lead in those standings but dropped to 14th in the event, which would be his worst finish of the season.
Again, the entire Elite Series field landed limits and some anglers took advantage of the minimal separation in the standings, making serious moves. Gary Klein of Weatherford, Texas, posted a 20-4 limit, the biggest of the tournament, and moved up 56 places. Dean Rojas of Lake Havasu, Ariz., moved up 53 places to 30th.
Other notables in the cutline were Ish Monroe of Hughson, Calif. (22nd), Brent Chapman of Lake Quivira, Kan. (37th) and Greg Vinson of Wetumpka, Ala. (43rd).