May 31, 2008 by David A. Brown
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Normally, it's tough to maintain a lead when you catch less than half of your previous day's weight. For Kim Carver, still leading the Wal-Mart BFL All-American presented by Chevy, a strong opening-round effort plus mostly meager performances across the board on day two enabled him to do just that. Hailing from Milledgeville, Ga., Carver led the Boater Division on day one with a limit weighing 11 pounds, 6 ounces. Like many competitors, he struggled on day two, but managed to bag a limit weighing 5-7. In stark contrast to the light breezes and mostly overcast conditions of day one, anglers faced sunny skies and winds of up to 15 mph on day two. Not surprisingly, a lot of fish displaced and a lot of productive patterns turned into glorified casting practice. No doubt, a superstingy Lake Hamilton hurt a lot of feelings today, but everyone played on the same wet field. Some just found their way to the right fish, while others faltered. On the boater side, the total fish count was down to 187 from 225 on day one, and total weight dropped from 292 pounds, 10 ounces to 224-3. Co-angler numbers were also down: 125 total fish weighing 148-14 compared to 143 weighing 170-10 on day one. Carver caught most of his day-one fish in shallow water on a shad-colored Zara Spook. The different complexion of day two required adaptation. "The (changing conditions) slowed the topwater bite down, and I had to go to other measures." One of his limit fish came on a topwater, another hit a crankbait while three fell for a 4-inch worm fished on a 1/32-ounce jighead in 70 feet of water. Carver said the free-fall finesse presentation is highly effective on picky bass during a tough bite. All things being relative, Carver said he knows that victory's fruit hangs within reach of several competitors. Three pounds, 6 ounces separates the first- and 10th-place spots, so fortunes could turn with good bites converted into catches or fish lost at boatside. "Any of us (in the top 10) are in a position to win," Carver noted. "One good fish by any of us could clinch the whole tournament. Could that be me? Who knows? But do I feel like I can go out and catch a good stringer tomorrow? Yes, I do." Carver said he would feel confident with 8 pounds on day three. He said he'll start the final round by trying to re-create a promising scenario he saw on day two: "I started off on top today. I caught one of my keepers on top, and there were three other keepers with it. I had another keeper follow (the topwater bait) later in the day. "Tomorrow, we're going to start off with topwater again - same bank, same place," Carver said. "We're going to try to get a couple good bites early." Much ado has been made over A) Carver's potential to win his second BFL All-American title and B) again doing so during his birthday week. Carver won his first All-American title on May 27, 1998, in La Crosse, Wis. That win came three days before his 43rd birthday. Carver celebrated his 53rd birthday today, so do the math. Now, ask Carver about any extra motivation, and he'll tell you he doesn't need it: "If I didn't feel like I could win, I wouldn't be here. Just because it's my birthday doesn't mean anything." Berlo bounces into second After taking fifth on day one with an 8-pound, 10-ounce bag that included the Boater Division's big bass, Vienna, Va., angler Shayne Berlo posted 7-7 on day two. His 16-1 total, just 12 ounces out of the lead, moved him into second place for the final round. Berlo said a late-day rally kept him in the hunt: "With an hour and a half to go, I had one fish. I just went crazy, fishing as fast as I could. I put the trolling motor on high speed and hit some of my key docks. They just started biting the last hour." Stating that he had to burn through a lot of his spots on day two, Berlo said he would fish all new water during the final round. "It's going to be tough, especially with all the weekend boat traffic." Best of the rest In third place, Terry McWilliams of Greenfield, Ind., had 15 pounds, 3 ounces, while Ray Griffin of Henderson, N.C., placed fourth with 14-8. Mike Brueggen of Cashton, Wis., took fifth at 14-2. Rounding out the top 10 boaters at the BFL All-American event: 6th: Greg Rikard of Leesville, S.C., 14-0 7th: Kevin Snider of Elizabethtown, Ky., 13-14 8th: Michael Conley of Bainbridge, Ga., 13-10 9th: Chris Martinkovic of Liberty Township, Ohio, 13-8 10th: Brett Sellers, Denham Springs, La., 13-7 Eddie Herlong Sr. of Prosperity, S.C., won the Snickers Big Bass award for his 3-14. Wilson overtakes co-angler lead Improving on his third-place effort on day one, Blake Wilson of Prattsville, Ark., caught a limit weighing 5 pounds, 8 ounces to lead the Co-angler Division with a 13-11 total. Fishing around docks and steep rock banks, he caught most of his fish on Texas-rigged worms. Best of the rest Michael Roy of Ivy, Va., made a huge leap from 29th to second by totaling 11-14. His day-two weight of 9-pounds, 2-ounces was the heaviest stringer of the entire weigh-in. In third place, Allan Williams of Moncks Corner, S.C., caught a limit weighing 8 pounds, 2 ounces and improved 20 spots with 11-12. He anchored his total with the day's biggest bass, a 4-pound, 5-ounce largemouth. Robert Crosnoe of Inverness, Fla., placed fourth with 11-11, while Billy Cain of Jackson, Ga., was fifth at 10-13. Rounding out the top 10 co-angler leaders at the BFL All-American event: 6th: Brett Wysock of Wilmington, Ill., 10-11 7th: Leavitt Hamilton of Prairieville, La., 10-7 8th: Chuck Rounds of Benton, Ky., 10-4 9th: Kenneth Hunnicutt of Jacksonville, Fla., 9-10 10th: Chris Dozier of Collinsville, Miss., 8-10 Day two of BFL All-American action on Lake Hamilton continues at Saturday's takeoff, scheduled to take place at 7 a.m. CDT at Fish Hatchery Ramp located at 350 Fish Hatchery Road in Hot Springs. Saturday's final weigh-ins start at 4 p.m. at Summit Arena located at 134 Convention Blvd. in Hot Springs.