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Weather or Not

7/27/2007

BREWERTON, N.Y. — The forecast for the Syracuse, N.Y., area on Day Two of the Bassmaster Memorial presented by Evan Williams Bourbon calls for strong breezes, clouds throughout the day and an increasing chance of thunderstorms as …

"Just remember one thing: They lie," angler Shaw Grigsby said on the dock on Oneida Lake on Friday morning. "They lie. They don't have a clue. It was supposed to blow yesterday 10 to 15 south wind. Out of the east, northeast. It stayed pretty consistent with a good blow, then it laid off about 11, slicked out until 2:30, 3 o'clock and finally, at about 3:30, maybe even 4 o'clock it started blowing, but did it come out of the south? No, it come out of the southwest over here. They don't have a clue.

"So the majority of the day was slick calm," Grigsby continued. "Now I can tell you that in some places they've been very accurate. But here, for some reason, on Oneida, they don't even get close. Are we going to have rain? Probably. Forty percent chance, and you can look on the radar and see that we're going to have some storms come in. So it's going to cloud up and rain. Wind direction, we don't have a clue.

"What it's going to do to the fish is, they're going to bite."

There you have it — the short answer, anyway. If the rain follows through after lunchtime, or even if it doesn't, the fish will bite, somewhere, and a handful of the 51 Elite Series anglers in this Major tournament field will solve that bite.

"Yesterday should have been a terrible day — high skies, calm — and we caught trainloads of fish," said angler Kenyon Hill (48th place, 11 pounds, 8 ounces). "I really don't care (about the weather) as long as the sun comes up. If the sun doesn't come up, it's going to be a bad day."

The weather situation complicates somewhat when you take into account the tight bunching of this field — all but three anglers are within 2 pounds of the current 25-man money cut — and the largemouth vs. smallmouth decision that each of them has to make.

The smallmouth carry less weight, but they're more aggressive and abundant. Largemouth are heavier but more finicky and harder to find in quantity, making them a necessary risk for anyone trying to make a large move among similar weights. And they may react differently to changing conditions.

"It can be good or bad," said Dean Rojas (5th, 15-8). "It's just a matter of the individual fish and what they want to do."

He's hoping for a cloudier Day Two; he had targeted smallmouth, but stuck with the largemouth bite when it was strong on the morning of Day One.

"I think they'll both bite," he said. "I think the smallmouth will probably bite just a little bit better."

Depending on the morning bite, then, it will be worth watching to see at what time of day anglers who make Day Two moves catch their fish. It's unlikely that many anglers will upgrade strictly on a bag of smallmouth bass, but if a storm does come in and hamper the largemouth bite, and overall weights dip, a dedicated smallmouth fisherman could leap an angler who gets stuck fishing for largemouth who wait out a storm.

Rain "is going make it better for the smallmouth," said angler Mark Tucker (42nd, 11-13). "The smallmouth, they want to be shallow looking for crawdads, and yesterday with it being so sunny and calm — you could catch the living hell out of them, but when it's calm, the big ones just don't come up shallow.

"The largemouth, you need the sun out to put them on the little grass patches," he continued. "If not, they just get out there and roam, too."

The sun here blasts the fish in a lake so limpid it looks chlorinated.

"Any crystal-clear lake, the weather is the most influencing factor," angler Russ Lane (20th, 13-12) said. "Usually when you have a weather system, they (anglers) almost always catch 'em better on a clear lake."

Lane would prefer another day of sunshine and calm to target smallmouth with topwater baits. In case of wind and rain, though, he's prepared to fish for largemouth. When a storm rolled through Oneida during last year's Empire Chase, he said, the largemouth bite turned on.

That may be what it takes to see a great deal of shuffling among the top 12 who will fish Day Three on Lake Onondaga.

"You can catch yourself a 17-, 18-pound string out here," Grigsby said. "So you can be as far back as 36th and still make the cut."

Grigsby begins Day Two in a three-way tie for, yes, 36th.

Editor's note: Check in each day for live video of the weigh-in and the realtime leaderboard at 6 p.m. ET. There will be a special Hooked Up show at 10 a.m. ET Saturday, with tournament updates Sunday at 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and noon ET. The Hooked Up show begins at 5 p.m. Sunday and leads into the live final weigh-in.

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