By BassFan Staff
The 2012 WON Bass U.S. Open has been a major struggle for most of the event's past champions – Clifford Pirch notwithstanding
The FLW Tour pro from Arizona, who won at Lake Mead in both 2007 and 2010, bolted to the top of the leaderboard with a tournament-best 13.40-pound sack that gave him a 2-day total of 24.33. Tomorrow, he'll attempt to join Aaron Martens and Mike Folkestad as the derby's only three-time winners.
He has an advantage of 12 hundredths of a pound over day-1 leader Derek Yamamoto, who sacked 10.95 today to bump his total to 24.21. Dick Watson moved up from 5th to 3rd with a 10.18 bag that gave him a 22.17 aggregate.
Mike Caruso held onto 4th place with an 8.95 stringer that improved his total to 21.82. Moses Mokuahi completed the Top 5 with a 10.83 sack for a 21.74 total.
Here's a peek at the bottom half of the Top 10:
6. Justin Kerr: 21.50
7. Jamie Shaw: 21.49
8. Dean Rojas: 21.24
9. Sean Stafford: 21.24
10. Shaun Bailey: 21.03
Weather-wise, today was altogether different from day 1. A steady morning rain gave way to powerful winds that gained in intensity as the afternoon wore on, and a strong thunderstorm moved in late in the day.
Kerr took advantage of the violent weather and hooked several quality largemouths en route to a 13.29 bag that moved him up 62 places. It would've exceeded Pirch's haul, but he lost four-tenths of a pound due to two dead fish.
Some other anglers also capitalized on the low-light conditions and pulled larger-than-average fish from the lake's normally gin-clear water. Conversely, some of those who'd laid their gameplans during the ultra-sunny practice period were thrown for a loop.
The event does not include a cut, so all 128 competitors will be back on the water tomorrow for the final day.
Bigger Bites for Pirch
> Day 2: 5, 13.40 (10, 24.33)
Pirch said his bag might be his best for a U.S. Open day – he's had several in that range in the past, but couldn't specifically recall one that was heavier.
Derek Yamamoto didn't have a fish in his livewell at 10 o'clock today, but had everything he weighed 90 minutes later.
"Today I went to another school of fish in a different area," he said. "I had eight or 10 rods on the deck and I think I caught fish on every one of them. I got one off this rock, another one off that tree and another one off that piece of grass – Mead is the ultimate junk-fishery.
"It was a real blessing to get those bigger bites today. I wasn't on anything real special – I thought I was yesterday, but the big fish didn't show up. Today I was just running."
His bag consisted entirely of largemouths and was topped by a trio of 3-pounders.
"I'm sure I'll have to do different things again tomorrow. I've got some places where I've seen some good fish – in this clear water, I can actually see them with my Typhoon sunglasses.
"I'd love to join that group (of three-time winners), but I've still got five good ones I need to catch."
2nd: Dead Morning for Yamamoto
> Day 2: 5, 10.95 (10, 24.21)
Like Pirch, Yamamoto has a distinction to pursue on the final day – he could become half of the first father-son duo to win the event (Gary Yamamoto is among the past champions).
He didn't have a fish in the well at 10 o'clock, but had everything he weighed by 11:15.
"I slowed down and fished some areas that I knew had fish, and I caught a few," he said. "Thankfully, a couple of them were good ones.
"I could not catch them well at all with reaction baits today – I got my biggest one on an Advantage spinnerbait, but the rest came on a 3/8-ounce Pepper jig. It was pretty frustrating. Everybody likes to talk about how great bass eat reaction baits when the weather's overcast and nasty, and I know some guys caught them, but it didn't happen for me."
If the sky goes back to blue tomorrow, he'll probably have to change tactics again.
"If the sun's shining, I'll catch them. I'm going to have to disappoint Clifford – he's a great angler and a great guy, but he's already won enough of these things."
3rd: Watson Excited
> Day 2: 5, 10.18 (10, 22.17)
Watson, a contractor from Southern California, led after the first day 2 years ago before finishing as the runner-up to Pirch and has three other Top 10s in the event. He relishes each time he puts himself in this position.
"Having the honor to challenge for the win on the last day almost has me shaking the whole time," he said. "It's just exhilarating to be in this position after 2 days, and now we can go out and let tomorrow decide it."
He describes himself as an "avid spinnerbaiter" and a blade has done the majority of his work thus far. He's weighed a smallmouth or two each day, but his better fish have been largemouths. Today's bag was headed up by a 2 3/4-pounder.
"I lost a 2 1/2-pounder on a buzzbait this morning, and then I had a 4-pounder nipping the spinnerbait all the way to the boat, but it wouldn't take it. The way it was biting, I thought it was a bluegill, and then when I saw it, I was just heartbroken."
He'll have a big decision to make tomorrow as to where to fish.
"I've been rotating three spots and I've got some extra water, but I'm not sure if I should stick with what's gotten me this far or gamble and try something else. I'll probably stay with what I've got because I've been catching limits by 9 o'clock.
"What makes the Open so great is trying to stay one step ahead of the fish with the conditions changing dramatically all the time. It's just a wonderful challenge to even be here."
6th: Fun Day for Kerr
> Day 2: 5, 13.29 (10, 21.50)
Kerr said he and co-angler Andrew Moreau caught about 40 fish between them en route to compiling their massive stringer (this is a shared-weight event).
"It was a really fun day," he said. "For me, the weather helped. I targeted the largemouths more today because of the storm. When the sun is high and the lake is flat, I catch more smallmouths. If it's calm tomorrow, I'll probably go back to catching smallmouths again.
"I'm going to fish for largemouths for a couple hours in the low light of the morning, then I'll fish for the smallmouths later and we'll see what happens."
He caught quality fish on a crankbait, a spinnerbait and a topwater – all Evergreen products. The biggest fish in his bag was a 4-pounder caught by Monroe.
"They were blowing up on bait in the back of a cove and he got a big bite out of the school. That's the whole deal at Lake Mead – you have to be in the right area at the right time, and then get the right bites and land them."
> For full standings, click here.