JASPER, Texas — Darold Gleason of Many, La., executed a two-part game plan perfectly Friday to sack up 27 pounds, 1 ounce and take the Day 2 lead at the Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Open on Sam Rayburn Reservoir.
His two-day total of 44-4 gives him less than a 2-pound lead over Japanese angler Masayuki Matsushita, who is second with 42-15.
“I have a system and I’m just running it,” Gleason said. “I’m trying to catch what I can in the morning to get a limit. When I get a limit, no matter what it weighs, I’m locking a 3/4-ounce V&M football jig in the Gleason’s Candy color in my hand.
“I’m putting a matching V&M J-Bug on the back, and I’m running as many high percentage structure spots as I can. I’m just running offshore structure spots that I’ve marked, mostly wood, roadbeds and things like that.”
Gleason’s fishing thoroughly, but he’s not spending more than about 15 minutes on each spot. The key to this big-fish pattern is presentation — as in long-distance presentation.
“Because the lake is so pressured, I’m trying to make the longest cast possible without graphing the fish,” Gleason said. “I think that’s the key — not spooking them; sneaking up and catching them by surprise.
“I kept telling my co-angler, ‘I’m trying to catch them by surprise.’ I’m throwing that 3/4-ounce jig on 15-pound fluorocarbon line and when it hits, I feed as much line as I can. I want that jig as far away from my boat as I can get it.”
Gleason, who won the 2019 Basspro.com Central Open on Toledo Bend, placed 16th in Thursday’s first round with 17-3. Today, he adhered to Rayburn’s unwritten rule that says: To do well, you gotta have a big bite.
Gleason didn’t want to take any chances, so he caught two “ocean ponies” that went 9-7 and 8-13.
“I had 9 pounds at about 12:30, and I went to a spot and caught two 3 1/2-pounders and made two culls,” he said. “I hit another spot and caught my 8-13 and ran about 5 miles and caught the 9-pounder.
“That was all in a row. I made three stops and caught four fish that changed my day in about an hour. Both of my big fish bit on the second cast. I pulled up, boom-boom.”
To secure his early limit, Gleason targeted schools with a Carolina-rigged V&M Pork Shad and V&M Baby Swamp Hog, both in Gleason’s Candy. He backed up the C-rig with a drop shot carrying a 4 1/2-inch V&M Straight Shooter worm in the morning dawn color.
Gleason summarized his Saturday game plan, “Obviously, tomorrow will be a championship day, so I think me and that jig are going to spend a lot of time together.”
Masayuki Matsushita led Day 1 with 27-10 but slipped to second after adding 15-5 for a two-day total of 42-15. Returning to the same patterns he fished Thursday, Matsushita targeted offshore cover and breaklines and caught his fish on a jerkbait and a fluke-style bait.
“It was harder today; I think on some of my spots, the bass moved,” Matsushita said. “I fished (some of the same areas), but I got (fewer) bites.”
Matsushita again fished in 20 to 30 feet of water. On Thursday, he found his fish relating loosely to cover, but Friday, they seemed to be holding closer.
Josh Douglas of Isle, Minn., is in third with 41-15. Gaining a spot from Thursday’s performance, in which he caught 22-5, Douglas followed the same pattern and added 19-10 Friday.
“Mostly, I’m fishing brush — with a swimbait, a big worm, a jig, a drop shot and a crankbait — because I couldn’t get anything else going in practice,” Douglas said. “I idled an area up by the bridge and marked 20 brushpiles in 8 to 22 feet. I’m still figuring out which ones are good, and I’m adding different icons when I catch a fish on one.
“I was able to run a couple more spots, but I had a terrible day. I lost an 8-pounder and a 4-pounder that just killed me. But it makes me really hungry for tomorrow.”
Albert Collins of Nacogdoches, Texas, is in the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with his 9-12 largemouth.
Dusty Frank of West Point, Texas, maintained his lead in the co-angler division with a two-day total of 21-2. Fishing a green Spro frog and flipping a black/blue Strike King Menace with a 3/4-ounce tungsten weight, Frank added 5-13 to his Day 1 weight of 15-5.
William Young of Livingston, Texas, holds the Phoenix Boats Big Bass lead among co-anglers with a 9-0.
The Top 12 anglers will take off at 6:45 a.m. CT Saturday from Umphrey Family Pavilion. The weigh-in will be held back at the Pavilion at 2:45 p.m.
Fans can follow the final-day drama on Bassmaster.com by streaming Nationwide Bassmaster Opens LIVE presented by Grizzly as camera boats provide coverage of the leaders.
The tournament is being hosted by the Jasper-Lake Sam Rayburn Chamber of Commerce.