Canadians Gustafson 15th, Chris Johnston 18th & Cory Johnston 27th
BASS Press Release
Brandon Card of Salisbury, N.C., committed to a spot he called the “Hammer Hole” and nailed down a limit of 28 pounds, 1 ounce to lead Day 2 of the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Lake Fork.
Rising from third place, Card bolstered his Day 1 weight of 27-6 for a two-day total of 55-7 that leads Quentin Cappo of Prairieville, La., by 11 ounces.
Working in Little Caney Creek, Card’s key spot was a subtle point adjacent to multiple spawning pockets with a creek channel in close proximity. What’s interesting is that Card encountered this fish-laden staging area on his way to inspect other spots.
“I’m really fortunate I found this spot,” he said. “It didn’t look like much when I saw it on my side scan, but it looked like just enough to make me want to make a cast in there.
“I caught them at the mouth of Little Caney really good (during the Elite event) in 2019. I had two giant schools, so I checked that out and they weren’t there. So, I just kept going farther in there.”
With two fish over 6 pounds in his bag, Card did most of his work with a Yo-Zuri 3DB 110 jerkbait. He also caught fish on a 3DB 110 Deep, a Yo-Zuri Hardcore Crank 3+ and a 4-inch hand-poured swimbait on a 1/2-ounce lead head.
“Changing angles and trying to stay fresh on the baits was important,” he said. “I’m just thinking, ‘What else can I throw out there?’ I’ll rig up some new stuff tonight.”
Noting that he had his weight by about 9:45 a.m., Card said, “What a morning. There wasn’t much to speak of after the morning. I did catch a 4 1/2-pounder that didn’t help, but I couldn’t get on anything (productive) after I left the Hammer Hole.
“Hopefully, that place keeps reloading. It’s a pretty magical spot.”
Addressing the obvious question of why he left the Hammer Hole, Card said that his bite slowed down — possibly a casualty of meteorological disruptions from an approaching storm system that prompted B.A.S.S. to move up Friday’s weigh-in by one hour.
“Also, I didn’t want to just sit there and protect the spot, and I didn’t want to just sit there and keep fishing,” Card said of his fish-management strategy. “I didn’t want to catch a 4-pounder that didn’t help today because I might need it for tomorrow.”
Card’s largest fish — a 6-12 — bit the swimbait after he effectively retrieved the bait through a labyrinth of submerged timber off a deeper section of his point. Thinking he may be onto something, he repeated his cast, but at that point the wheels came off.
“The very next cast, I hung up,” he said. “I didn’t want to go in there and get it, so I broke it off and tied on another one. I threw back out there and, on the next cast, I got hung again and had to break that one off.
“Literally two casts later, I get hung again and break off the third swimbait. I was like, ‘What is going on?’ It’s like I couldn’t get back in there after I caught the big one. I’ll have to rig up a jighead with a weedguard tonight.”
Holding steady in second place, Cappo added 25-13 to the 28-15 he caught Thursday to keep himself in contention with 54-12. Returning to the Caney Creek areas he fished on Day 1, Cappo anchored his bag with a 7-1 shortly before 9 a.m.
“My main area was a little underwater point with a rootball from an old tree,” he said. “They stage right there coming in and out, so if you can hit that rootball with a crankbait and deflect, they’ll come out and attack it.”
Wind exposure is key to Cappo’s success, and both days he saw clear examples of how an increase in surface disturbance would trigger feeding. Also, his area holds scattered pods of big gizzard shad, so he threw sizable baits — a Strike King KVD 4.0 squarebill and a Strike King Sexy Dawg topwater.
“They were eating kind of funny today,” he said. “I could tell by the way they were grabbing my crankbait. But it’s just one of those deals where you have to keep your head down and go because you know it’s going to happen, you just don’t know when.
“I was fortunate, because with an hour (before check-in), I had three big bites (3-15, 5-11 and 6-3). You just have to let it happen, and it definitely happened today.”
Day 1 leader Patrick Walters of Summerville, S.C., saw a dramatic decline to the intense Day 1 action that produced the event’s second-heaviest bag — 32-14 (behind fourth-place Taku Ito’s Day 2 limit of 33-3). On Friday, Walters started strong with an 8-12 at 7:18, but quality bites eluded him the rest of the day and he weighed a limit of 15-7.
Having won his first Elite title on Fork last year with a four-day total of 104 pounds, 12 ounces, Walters remained committed to the game plan of hunting fish with his Garmin Panoptix LiveScope. He’s throwing jerkbaits over contour breaks for staging prespawners.
“I guess it was the weather conditions; something changed pressure-wise,” he said. “The fish are still there on all the spots I fished today. The bad thing was they would come look at your bait and almost take a nip at it. They would follow your bait for 40 feet and never commit.
“I’m going all in (tomorrow) because if I can catch them, it’s going to be a big bag. If I don’t, it’s going to be a very little bag.”
Clifford Pirch of Payson, Ariz., took the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with his 9-13 largemouth.
Seth Feider of New Market, Minn., leads the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 432 points. Walters is second with 431, followed by Kyle Welcher of Opelika, Ala., with 385, Lee Livesay of Longview, Texas, with 377 and Chris Johnston of Peterborough, Canada, with 375.
Joshua Stracner of Vandiver, Ala., leads the Rookie of the Year standings with 332 points.
Saturday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6:45 a.m. CT at Sabine River Authority (SRA) — Lake Fork. The weigh-in will be held at SRA at 3 p.m.
Only the Top 10 anglers after Saturday’s weigh-in will advance to Championship Sunday with a chance to win the $100,000 first-place prize.
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