Three of the top five anglers in the BASS Masters Classic are having good results in the upper reaches of the Chester River. But after two days of competition, the tournament is being won by Zell Rowland in the lower Susquehanna.
Rowland, of Montgomery, Texas, retained the lead with a catch of 6 pounds, 15 ounces yesterday.
Randall Romig of Spring City, Pa., moved up from fourth place to second with a catch of 8 pounds, 13 ounces.
"I am in an area with an awful lot of fish, and I pretty much have the area to myself," said Rowland. "I feel that based on the quality of the fish, if I can catch five [today], I will have another 12 pounds."
If Rowland gets a limit of those fish, he will be hard to beat.
But only 3 pounds, 3 ounces -- the equivalent of one good fish -- separates first place from 10th.
"I have felt all along that this would be one of the tightest Classics in some time," said Rick Clunn, who is in 10th place. "And traditionally, the biggest stringer has come on the last day."
Romig, third place Woo Daves of Chester, Va., and fourth-place Mark Davis of Mount Ida, Ark., all are fishing the upper Chester River.
Ken Cook of Meers, Okla., is tied for fourth, 1 pound, 6 ounces back, and would not say what area he is fishing.
"I have felt all along," Cook said, "that if I could be within 2 or 3 pounds of the lead come Saturday, I could be trouble."
Yesterday, conditions were light and fishing fell off a little from Thursday's first round, when the top eight fishermen caught more than 10 pounds each. Only four brought in more than 10 pounds yesterday, including Gary Brown, one of five amateur anglers in the Classic, who caught the biggest fish of the day (4 pounds, 12 ounces) and the second-largest stringer (11-14). Ron Shuffield of Bismarck, Ark., brought in 12 pounds, 1 ounce.
Romig, who has more experience in these waters than anyone else in the tournament, said, "Today, the tide didn't run very good, and I don't know whether that is because there will be a full moon on Monday or what, but when the tide doesn't run, the fish don't bite."
There were 17 fewer fish caught on Day 2, a difference of 57 pounds, 14 ounces.
"I didn't see any difference, weather-wise," Clunn said. "But I had half the bites I had Thursday."
Romig said he expects the wind to be from the east today, which would accentuate the falling tide in the upper Chester and might produce some big stringers.
Only 16 limits of five fish were brought in yesterday, and fishermen again questioned whether the area -- the upper bay and its tributaries -- can support a tournament such as this.
Romig feels that based on the types of the fish he is encountering in the Chester, that in three or four years it will be a prime area.
"The stocking program here has put plenty of fish in the area," Romig said, "but you can judge the year classes by size, and I'd say that many of the fish around are only 3 or 4 years old.
"Give this place a couple of more years and those will be big fish, tournament fish."
Asked to rate the tournament waters, Clunn said that on a scale of 1 to 10, he would give them a 6 or 7.
"I would rate it higher, but it just doesn't seem to have the quantity of bass to warrant it."
Part of Clunn's days have been spent in the Middle River, where he said yesterday that he had a bad day with five fish for 6 pounds.
"All lakes have those days when you can't catch a fish," Clunn said. "But this is a three-day deal, and today everybody is going to have to commit to catching big fish."
Last year, entering the final day of competition in the Classic, Clunn also was in 10th place, and he caught more than 18 pounds to win going away.
"Everybody here is capable of bringing in 14 or 15 pounds of fish," Romig said. "I think this is going to come down to a real shootout."