CORNELIUS, N.C. — A seven-hour practice and a 6-pound clue pushed Wesley Strader atop the leaderboard today in the semifinal round of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Eastern Open No. 2 at Lake Norman. Strader of Spring City, Tenn., is vying for back-to-back B.A.S.S. tournament victories after his win last week in the Berkley Bassmaster Elite at Kentucky Lake presented by Abu Garcia.
“When it’s going your way it’s going your way,” Strader said. “I’m in disbelief, I only had seven hours to practice, and I caught a 6-pound bass on the first cast.”
Strader brought a tournament-best 17 pounds, 6 ounces to the scales today, after weighing 13-13 on Thursday, which had him in sixth place.
“I’m fishing a shad spawn in a current-driven area, and I had my weight by 10 a.m. both days,” Strader said. “I could go out tomorrow and not catch one out of that area, but I feel like I have a backup plan.”
Strader is employing the same spinnerbait that he won with at Kentucky Lake.
“I caught all of my fish, but one, on my 5/8-ounce signature series Zorro Bango Blade, the exact color, and blade combination.”
Strader’s 17-6 limit, which included one spotted bass, gave him a two-day total of 31-3. Behind Strader’s momentum is fellow Elite Series pro Jared Lintner. The Arroyo Grande, Calif., angler weighed 14-6 for a two-day total of 26-1. He’s 5 pounds, 2 ounces behind Strader.
“It’s tough to beat a guy with momentum like (Strader),” Lintner said. “I only had one bass at 11:30 today.”
Though Lintner is not sight fishing, he noted that seeing the bass during the latter part of the day has been key for his pattern.
“When the sun gets directly overhead, you get a little bit of a shade line,” he said. “It’s not that I can pinpoint them. But when you get a bite, it’s a good one. I’m covering a lot of water.
“I’m going out tomorrow and grinding it out; I’m not fishing for a 7-pound limit of spotted bass.”
After having one of two 15-pound limits during the opening round, Cody Pike fell from second to third place, with 9-7.
“The bass just did not want to bite for me today,” Pike said. “I had five or six good fish follow my bait out, they just would not commit.”
Whitney Stephens of Waverly, Ohio, is in fourth place with 24-12, and Garrett Paquette of Canton, Mich., is in fifth place with 24-5.
Leading the co-angler standings is Rodney Tapp of North Augusta, S.C., with 14-15. Austin Bonjour of Templeton, Calif., is second with 14-5, and Chad Smith of Minnetonka, Minn., is third with 13-12.
The new leader of the Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award for the tournament is Allen Brooks of Canton, Ga., with a 6-pound, 5-ounce largemouth. Bonjour is tied with Paul Coburn, of Pewaukee, Wis., with a 5-pound, 5-ounce largemouth for the lead of the Phoenix Boats Big Bass on the co-angler side.
The Top 12 pro and co-anglers advance to Championship Saturday. Saturday’s 6:15 a.m. ET launch will be held at Blythe Landing, 15901 NC 73 Highway in Huntersville and will conclude with weigh-in, beginning at 3:15 p.m., at the Bass Pro Shops at 8181 Concord Mills Blvd. in Concord.
The event is being hosted by Visit Lake Norman, Visit Cabarrus and Visit Charlotte.