TULSA, Okla. — It was a day to remember for local favorite Jason Christie.
And Saturday was a day Greg Hackney would rather forget.
Christie, from nearby Park Hill, Oklahoma, came in with another five-bass limit, this one weighing 16 pounds, 11 ounces, to take a near six-pound lead over the rest of the 55-angler field in the 46th Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees, a 44,000-acre impoundment in the northeast corner of the Sooner State.
Hackney, Louisiana’s only Classic qualifier, put together his second straight limit, but could muster only 9 pounds, 13 ounces — 25-15 total — and holds down 12th place going into Sunday’s final round.
“Just couldn’t catch a big one,” Hackney told the packed BOK Center weigh-in crowd.
Hackney remains in the hunt: Only the top 25 advanced to Sunday’s finals.
Christie was mum about his tactics, a normal practice for one so close to taking the $300,000 top prize from the $1 million Classic purse.
“My day was exactly the same as the first day,” Christie said. “Except that I didn’t find the one fish that would push me to a bigger stringer.”
He said he was worried about the decline in his catch, and said anotther down day could open the door for other anglers.
After going 42 years with only one angler to win on waters in his home state — Alabama’s Boyd Duckett on Lay Lake near Birmingham in 2007 — Christie is trying to become the third angler in three consecutive Classic to win in his home state.
He held the lead after a first-day’s 20-14 catch, and his 16-pound stringer Saturday followed the pattern that showed up earlier in the day.
Only one other angler caught more than Christie on Saturday, and Texas’ Todd Faircloth’s 16-15 catch shot him into second place with a 31-14 total.
Faircloth was more forthcoming than Christie: He said he was catching his fish on brown-and-orange jigs and crankbaits, a pattern he found in early-week practice days, and he was one a very few fishermen to improve on his second day’s catch.
“I don’t know there’s a whole lot of fish in the area,” Faircloth said. “The weather change might push more fish into the area. Going into the last day of a tournament like this, I’d like to have a decisive game plan, and I don’t have one.”
Strong southerly winds in advance of a stormy front are predicted Sunday. Most of the top anglers will welcome the change from the relatively calm conditions of the past two days, after braving much stronger winds throughout practice.
The song Faircloth was singing during Saturday’s interview ran strong through the other top anglers.
Oklahoma’s Edwin Evers holds third place at 31-4 and he, and 2014 Classic champ Randy Howell (8th place) from Alabama, were among the very few believing there was a chance to catch Christie.
“There are big fish here. We all know that, and it’s possible with the (wind) will make a big difference,” Evers said.
Howell, who came from 10th place on the final day on Lake Guntersville two years ago, said he’s a firm believer that anything can happen on the Classic’s final day.
“It’s a grind,” Howell said trying to explain the drop in second-day catch and catch weights. “A mental grind.
“The wind blew so hard for so many days that when the wind stopped and the sun came out, the fish went into something like shock and just started cruising around and not feeding,” Howell explained.
And how tough was it? Four anglers zeroed Friday and five, including four-time Classic champion Kevin VanDam, zipped Saturday.
Brandon Palaniuk provided another Classic oddity when he duplicated his first-day, four-bass, 12-7 catch.
The final day’s weigh-in will be aired via the Bassmaster website: www.bassmaster.com.