Oklahoma's Jeff Kriet surges to lead at Bassmaster Classic with Day 2's biggest bag

Jeff Kriet reacts to learning he has moved into first place. James Overstreet

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A familiar trio danced around one another again at the top of the Bassmaster Classic leaderboard Saturday, but with a slight shuffle in the lineup. Jeff Kriet of Ardmore, Okla., who was in third place heading into Day 2, jumped to the top spot with the day's biggest bag from Lay Lake: 15 pounds, 10 ounces for a two-day total of 32 pounds, 1 ounce.

Day 1 leader Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., the 2009 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, dropped to second place with 12 pounds, 7 ounces for 31-15 overall. Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Texas, second on Friday, dropped to third Saturday with 13-12 for 31-14 overall.

Only the top 25 contenders advance to Day Three and will compete for the $500,000 top prize in the total Classic payout of $1.2 million. The top three anglers lead Sunday's "Super Six," a group that also includes 2003 Classic champ Mike Iaconelli of Pittsgrove, N.J., with 26 pounds, 12 ounces, home-state pro Russ Lane of Prattville, Ala., 25-11, and veteran Classic competitor Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Okla., 24-9.

Immediately on their heels was 2004 Bassmaster Classic winner Takahiro Omori of Emory, Texas, in seventh place with 24-5 overall.

Pam Martin-Wells of Bainbridge, Ga., the 2009 Toyota Tundra Women's Bassmaster Tour Angler of the Year, made history Saturday as the first woman to make the cut into the top 25. Martin-Wells is 21st with 16-12 overall.

"I'm extremely proud of myself if for no other reason than it's been tough," she said, "and I've been able to grind out a limit both days."

Several in the field of 51 have been fishing Beeswax Creek, within eyeshot of the daily launch site, and the top three agreed that the traffic and competition has taken a toll on Lay Lake's bass. The lake dropped 1 foot Saturday, which also contributed to Saturday's tough conditions.

Kriet's Day 2 total was nearly 2 pounds heavier than the second best total weight of the day, a 13-15 bag brought in by Matt Herren of Trussville, Ala. Herren is eighth with 23-6 overall.

Kriet was grateful that several competitors who wanted to fish the same water have instead let him have a stretch to himself.

"My fish were positioned a little different than they were yesterday, I may just have to try to move around and try to relocate them," said Kriet, who was asked if he'd gamble on fishing somewhere other than his prime spot Sunday. "The ideal thing is to let those fish rest. If I thought I could leave and come back and nobody was there, heck yeah, I have three or four other places I'd love to hit."

Faircloth added that other anglers waiting for a chance on a hot spot made it difficult to leave the most productive location he has found.

"There's so many of us sharing the same water, it's like Kriet said, if you let them rest for a little while, you can catch one or two if you go back," he said. "But if somebody's coming right behind, where you just went — the fish are just getting hammered. They're not having time to settle down. It was kind of like a circus in there today."

VanDam admitted that, right off the bat, the water level changed his game plan.

"The water falling, I think definitely hurt me," said the two-time Classic winner, who is fishing shallower than Kriet and Faircloth. "Yesterday I culled a 15-pound limit and a couple of 13-pound limits to catch what I caught. I didn't see any of those type of fish today, it was just a whole different world."

VanDam said the lake has changed a good bit in the last few days, and that the weather conditions Sunday — warmer air temperatures, an approaching front and a forecast of afternoon rain — are going to make for a completely different kind of fishing day.

"When you have conditions like that, the fish are going to be more active," he said "They're going to chase baits better. High bright skies and no wind is not easy fishing — it's part of the reason, I'm sure, it was tough today."

Iaconelli is one of the few in the Top 10 who hasn't been fishing near the launch site. He's in 3 to 10 feet of water and spending most of his time midlake, fishing hard spots in front of grass, a pattern he found in practice with a jig and a crankbait.

The 2006 AOY said he's fishing a finesse bait — an old finesse bait that has largely been forgotten. It's a bait he said he carries in his "panic box." He added, however, that his strategy for Sunday will likely be different than anything he has tried through Days 1 and 2.

"I'm going to have fun, try to fish a perfect day," Iaconelli said. "I'm going to start in a couple areas where I had success; I'm not going to die on it, though. Within an hour or two, if I don't feel it, I'm gone. Most of my fish are coming pretty shallow. That surprises a lot of people — you're finessing wintertime fish and you're still in shallow water.

"I've got to keep the faith that there are 20-pound bags to be had out here. That's what I need tomorrow to win, and it's not out of the question."

Other notable results on Day 2: 2008 Classic champ Alton Jones of Waco, Texas, had the big bass of the day at 5 pounds, 1 ounce, and finished just outside the cut at 27th with 14-1 overall. The defending Classic champ, Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., finished the Classic in 43rd with 5-0. Boyd Duckett of Demopolis, Ala., the home-state favorite and 2007 Classic winner at Lay Lake, finished 49th after two disappointing days that included engine failure on Day 1.

The public is invited to attend the finale of the Classic at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex arena to witness the crowning of the 2010 Classic champion. Doors open at 3:30 p.m. CT.

Launch is set for 7 a.m. CT Sunday at Beeswax Creek Park in Columbiana. All events are free and open to the public.

The 2010 Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick's Sporting Goods continues Sunday at the BJCC. Show hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. CT. With no admission fee, the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo offers hours of quality family fun. Exhibitors are slated to offer activities such as free games with prizes, autograph sessions with top bass pros, raffles and product giveaways.

ESPN2, www.ESPN360.com and Bassmaster.com will provide extensive coverage of the three-day competition. Click here to view the Bassmaster Classic Day 2 leaderboard.

Sponsors of the 2010 Bassmaster Classic: Toyota Trucks, Berkley, Evan Williams Bourbon, Mercury, Humminbird, Minn Kota, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha Marine.