OSAGE BEACH, Mo. – Dennis Berhorst tested shallow and deep water on day two, but in the second round of EverStart Series Central Division action on Lake of the Ozarks, the angler from Holts Summit, Mo. knew his best opportunities were swimming closer to the shoreline.
Some of that was yesterday's trial and error, but the dim, damp weather that draped the region like a wet towel also had a lot to do with it. During sunny conditions, bass often flee to deeper water where light penetration is lower. Not so today, and Berhorst spent all of his time flipping docks. The move paid off, as he sacked up 16 pounds, 2 ounces and moved into the lead with 32-15.
"I stayed shallow today because of the conditions," Berhorst said. "I knew that with the clouds those fish would stay up there instead of moving out deep. So I went ahead and stayed shallow all day.
"Those fish want to go to the bank in these conditions. They don't have eyelids, so in the cloudy conditions they can get up there and roam around on the bank and look for their food without having to worry about the sun."
The good thing about docks, Berhorst notes, is that even if the sun pops out, the fish have quick access to a shadowy solace. Even in the clouds, though, he found that reaching far back into the dock structure was most productive. Squeezing his baits between boats and docks and under boat hoists was the key to reaching quality fish.
"I caught a lot of them way up in there, but there were some on the outsides," Berhorst said. "They were outside a little more than yesterday because they felt a little more comfortable with it raining because they knew the sun wasn't going to come out."
Berhorst caught most of his fish on a Texas-rigged green pumpkin Zoom Brush Hog and a watermelon tube. A jig also produced one keeper.
"The Brush Hog has been my main bait," Berhorst said. "Every time I pick it up I catch one. I did catch one of my better ones on a black and blue jig. He bit my brush hog and I threw the jig back in there and caught (the fish)."
Lawyer makes his case for second
After sharing a three-way tie for seventh on day one, Jeremy Lawyer sacked up the heaviest pro bag of day two – second heaviest pro weight overall – and moved up to second place. Today's 18-1 added to his day-one weight of 14-13 put him a mere ounce off the lead with a tournament total of 32-14.
The Sarcoxie, Mo. pro started out trying to flip docks, but when that did not pan out, he switched to a reaction bite strategy. Running windy points in a creek, he caught a limit on a ½-ounce white buzzbait – including on that went about 5 pounds. With five in the well, Lawyer decided to go big and fish more aggressively, in hopes of upgrading.
"Later on in the day I decided I'm not here for (divisional) points – I need to catch 'em," he said. "I pulled a flipping stick out and went flipping. I caught three really good fish and culled out just about everything I had except for that big fish."
Lawyer said he flipped a mix of jigs and Texas-rigged soft plastics. Lawyer fished a range of 1-15 feet, so habitat diversity, was the determining factor for each.
"With the flipping deal, I three different rods because I had to approach different depths of water different ways," he said. "I think I figured something out that I didn't do up until today and I got a few bites. So tomorrow – rain or shine – I have something to do to catch 'em."
Tough day drops Dodson to third
He hammered 'em on day one, setting the first-round lead at 19-1, but day two found Arkansas pro Robbie Dodson struggling for bites. He managed a decent limit of 11-5, totaled 30-6 and slipped two spots to third. Yesterday, a squarebill crankbait did the job, but today he had to shift gears to scratch out a limit.
"This is just the way practice went – one day I could catch 'em, one day I couldn't," he said. "Today I didn't catch any the way I caught 'em yesterday. I didn't have a fish by noon and I just started flipping docks with a worm and luckily I caught five keepers."
Dodson used a Texas-rigged 6-inch green pumpkin Luck "E" Strike Jogger worm with its tail dipped in chartreuse dye. He fished docks for about three hours and found most of his fish on the corners of structures in about 10 feet.
"They were all on the bottom," he said. "You'd hit the bottom, you'd pick it up, they'd thump it and take off."
Gaskill goes slow for fourth
Tim Gaskill, of Edwardsville, Ill. launched his Toad Products tackle line earlier this year and what better endorsement than to earn a final-round berth on one of his products. Gaskill fished the Barrel Jig he designed with a 12-inch green pumpkin worm, sacked up a limit catch of 17-7 and improved his position from 21st to fourth. He caught his fish in 25-30 feet.
"I started off fishing main lake structure, underwater points and such like that," Gaskill said. "Then, I moved to deeper commercial docks. I was hoping for sunshine to put the fish under the docks and more on the structure. Typically, in this kind of weather they roam a little more, but today they were there and I had seven keepers.
"The key was that I really slowed down today. I took maybe three or four minutes to crawl a bait back to the boat when typically it would be much less (time) than that."
Morehead moves up to fifth
Engine trouble robbed Dan Morehead of about three hours of day-one fishing time, but with no mechanical limitations on day two, the Kettle Brand pro from Paducah, Ky. enjoyed a full session of rod bending during which he caught some 25 bass. Five of them tallied 16-5 and Morehead rose from 15th to fifth with 29-8.
Making a big run, Morehead fished in solitude the majority of his day. Flipping various shoreline cover produced his fish.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 pro leaders at the EverStart Series Lake of the Ozarks event:
6th: Guido Hibdon, of Sunrise Beach, Mo., 29-4
7th: Ray Meredith, of Smiths Grove, Ky., 27-6
8th: Andre Dickneite, of Freeburg, Mo., 27-5
9th: Tom Silber, of Labadie, Mo., 27-5
10th: Mark Wiese, of High Ridge, Mo., 27-2
Dickneite earned the Snickers Big Bass award with a 5-4.
Howard shakes things up for co-angler lead
Mark Howard, of Mesquite, Texas missed his limit by one fish, but an even 14 pounds showed he was around quality fish. His day-two weight moved him up from fourth place to first with a total weight of 23-8.
Howard caught his fish on ¼-ouce Spot Remover shaky heads with green pumpkin worms. After a slow morning start, his boater, Mike "Cowboy" Foree changed location and the adjustment played out well for Howard.
"I just did what I've done all week in practice, we just finally hit the kind of banks where I'd been catching fish," he said. "We made a move about 11 o'clock and the next 30 minutes was just unbelievable for me. I had three of my best fish in 30 minutes."
The key habitat, Howard said, was chunk rock. Here, a steady retrieve with lots of action enticed the fish.
"I just kept it bouncing, popping the tops of the rocks and they'd just load up on it," he said.
Roger Olson Jr., of Eagle River, Wisc. took second with 21-8, while day-one leader Arnold Payne, of Noblesville, Ind. slipped to third with 20-6. The comeback story of the tournament easily goes to fourth-place co-angler Jeff Risbeck, of Norwalk, Iowa who bounced back from a day-one goose egg to nab the biggest sack of the tournament. His limit catch of 20-3 included his division's Big Bass winner – a 4-14.
Jake Seifert, of Jefferson City, Mo. placed fifth with 18-7.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 co-angler leaders at the EverStart Series Lake of the Ozarks event:
7th: Garry Kincaid, of Martinsville, Ind., 14-3
8th: Bill Brinkley Jr., of Barnhart, Mo., 14-1
9th: Jeff Johnson, of Ash Flat, Ark., 13-7
10th: Mike Clark, of Ames, Iowa, 13-5
Day three of the EverStart Series Central Division tournament on Lake of the Ozarks continues at Saturday’s takeoff, scheduled to take place at 7:00 a.m. (Eastern) at Grand Glaize Recreation Area located at 711 Public Beach Rd. in Osage Beach, Mo.