Yelas' catch all but reels in title

Texan's second-day limit makes BASS Classic lead almost insurmountable

July 27, 2002|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - It's all over but the Yelas.

On the second day of the 32nd annual BASS Masters Classic, Texan Jay Yelas continued his domination of the field with a total that will be nearly impossible to overtake in today's final.

He caught a five-fish limit of 16 pounds, 9 ounces, giving him a total of 35 pounds, 2 ounces.

David Walker charged from a 13th-place tie into the No. 2 spot with a sack that weighed 16 pounds, 5 ounces for a total of 25 pounds, 14 ounces. Walker wasn't ready to call Yelas' total insurmountable, but he acknowledged the margin was big.

"I don't know if it's a lot, but it's pretty close to it. It's probably a deal where we're fishing for second," Walker acknowledged after the field was cut from 52 anglers to 25.

When asked whether he had a weight in mind to catch Yelas, Walker smiled and said, "Thirty-seven pounds."

Yelas' showing might be called revenge. He was up all night Thursday, battling a case of food poisoning after eating a fish dinner.

But he showed no weakness on the water, fishing a deep-diving crankbait early and then moving up close to Logan Martin Dam at 10 a.m. to flip a power jig when Alabama Power began releasing water.

The flow is so strong that his trolling motor isn't always powerful enough to hold him in place.

"It's fishing in current, like for steelhead or salmon," he said.

Aaron Martens slipped from second place to third, catching 11 pounds, 2 ounces for a total of 25 pounds, 3 ounces.

He, too, seemed to be conceding the championship to Yelas.

"It's pretty safe. I'd feel pretty good if I were Jay," Martens said. "He needs 4-6 pounds to win."

Ken Christ, the top-ranked amateur, maintained his hold on fourth with a two-day total of 22 pounds, 12 ounces. And Gary Yamamoto stayed in fifth with a total of 22 pounds, 5 ounces.

The biggest surprise may have been the poor showing of defending Classic champion Kevin VanDam, who could muster only 14 pounds, 1 ounce over two days, just 1 ounce from making the cut.

Chris Price, the first Marylander to compete in the Classic, finished in 29th place, one ahead of Roland Martin, fishing his 24th Classic. Price caught a two-day total of 13 pounds, 9 ounces.

He switched tactics, abandoning his favorite shallow-water flipping in favor of a crankbait.

"I thought I might be on to something, but one thing wasn't working any better than the other," said Price, 29, fishing as an amateur and representative of the B.A.S.S. Federation.

Despite not making the cut, Price called the experience worthwhile.

"Shoot, are you kidding? Just getting here was fun. To fish with the guys I've been reading about for 10 years is unbelievable," he said.

The Classic had one near casualty when Bud Pruitt hooked himself in the chest as he landed a fish. He had to use a pair of pliers to remove the lure.

"That's just an average day on the water for me," he quipped, admitting his wound "stung a little."

It doesn't appear that anything can hurt Yelas now. Even mishaps have a happy ending.

A pontoon boat holding spectators cut between Yelas and his favorite spot on the lakeshore, yesterday, churning the water and disturbing the fish.

"I said, `It would be an act of God to catch one now,' " he recalled.

Minutes later, he caught a 6-pound, 2-ounce fish, good enough for a $1,000 bonus for biggest bass to go with his first-day check for the same feat.

Yelas said he'll stick with his winning strategy, waiting for Alabama Power to open the gates to make electricity.

"If the water doesn't move, I'm in trouble," he said. "If the good Lord's willing and the creek does rise, I'll catch them."

The final weigh-in will be at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

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