Canadians Chris Johnston 2nd, Cory Johnston 16th & Gustafson 73rd
BASS PRESS RELEASE
|Early morning and shallow bite key to big lead. |
On Thursday, Caleb Kuphall said he was concerned he’d exhausted his Day 1 hot spot, but the area still held enough quality fish to help him maintain his lead at the Berkley Bassmaster Elite at Lake Guntersville with a two-day total of 43 pounds, 4 ounces.
Sacking up a Day 1 limit of 27-10 — the tournament’s biggest bag so far — the pro from Mukwonago, Wis., carried a lead of 6-7 into Friday’s competition. Adding 15-10, Kuphall heads into Saturday’s semifinal round with a 4-9 margin over Canadian Chris Johnston.
Starting both days on a large milfoil bed not far from takeoff, Kuphall has done most of his work in a relatively small area within this sprawling habitat. Other boats were fishing around him, but Kuphall has dialed in a particular sweet spot.
“There’s a lot of pressure in that spot; today, there was another two boats in there and another one came in later on,” Kuphall said. “There’s still a lot of fish there; I got bit pretty much up until I left around 9:30. I just don’t think I can get another two days out of it.”
Kuphall is catching his bass on a Zoom Z-Hog in the California 420 color. He’s rigging the bait on a 4/0 extra-wide gap hook with a 3/4-ounce tungsten weight.
Once his starting spot fizzled, Kuphall ran about 15 minutes uplake to fish a matted milfoil bed. This area holds scattered pads, but he said the secondary habitat isn’t factoring into his game plan.
“You have the mat line, and what I’m fishing is out from that,” he said. “It’s a little deeper water and the isolated grass clumps are key to getting my bites. I really haven’t gotten any bites fishing the line.
“I’m using the Z-Hog here too, but I’m using a 1-ounce weight. If the wind blows again tomorrow, I may have to go to an ounce and a quarter or an ounce and a half.”
On Day 1, Kuphall’s second spot yielded two sizable culls, but on Friday it afforded only a 1/4-pound upgrade. He noted that Friday’s wind impeded his efficiency on his uplake area.
“The wind was coming right up the gut and I had my trolling motor on 80 to 100% just to hold in that area,” he said. “When you’re shallow like that in the mats, I think I was spooking a lot of fish before I was getting to them.”
Assessing his day, Kuphall said he’s pleased with his position but thankful for a huge first round, which buoyed his weight. Overall, Friday proved considerably more challenging.
“One of my areas is drying up on me and the other one ... I just didn’t catch them today,” he said. “I think I’m going to have to look for something else to do because I don’t see that first spot holding up another two days.
“It was a grind today. I only caught about 10 fish today. I was hoping I’d get some bigger bites, but I didn’t get them. But tomorrow’s another day.”
Kuphall said he plans on giving his starting spot another look Saturday, but he won’t burn much time there unless he finds a big bite early.
“I have a couple of other areas that I haven’t touched yet,” he said. “They’re (mostly) keeper areas; just limit areas. If I get into trouble, I can go and get a couple of bites.”
Hailing from Peterborough, Ontario, Johnston added 19-10 to the 19-1 he caught Thursday and gained three spots from fifth with a total weight of 38-11.
Johnston caught three of his limit fish by throwing a bream-colored Spro Poppin’ Frog over pads. He caught the other two while fishing a drop shot with a Roboworm in the morning dawn color over an offshore hard spot in about 10 feet.
“I didn’t go to my frog area on Day 1 because I had two 3-pounders blow up on it in practice and I was saving it in case I needed it,” Johnston said. “Luckily, it worked out today and there were more fish there than I thought. I wasn’t expecting to get those big ones and that many.”
Luke Palmer of Coalgate, Okla., is in third with 37-3. After placing eighth on Day 1 with 17-12, Palmer added a limit of 19-7, which included a 5 1/2-pounder.
Palmer divided his day between throwing a Zara Spook in shallow water and rotating through a drop shot, jerkbait and rattlebait in deeper grass.
“I’m just mixing it up and trying to figure out what the fish want,” Palmer said. “You’re liable to go down one stretch, turn around and come back with another bait and just wreck them.”
Caleb Sumrall of New Iberia, La., is in the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with his 7-6.
Seth Feider of New Market, Minn., leads the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 612 points. Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, is in second with 557, followed by Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., with 554, Johnston with 548 and Patrick Walters of Summerville, S.C., with 541.
Bryan New of Belmont, N.C., leads the Rookie of the Year standings with 463 points.
Saturday’s takeoff is scheduled for 5:30 a.m. CT from Scottsboro's Goose Pond Colony Resort Marina. The weigh-in will be held back at Goose Pond at 2 p.m. After Saturday’s weigh-in, only the Top 10 remaining anglers will advance to Championship Sunday with a chance at the $100,000 first-place prize.