BY Don shoopman
The Daily Iberian
UNION SPRINGS, New York — Arizonian Cliff Pirch’s gain was a New Iberia bass pro’s loss Friday in the SiteOne Bassmaster Elite at Cayuga Lake.
Pirch, the last of 75 Bassmaster Elites to weigh-in on Day 2, needed 11 pounds, 9 ounces, to make the Top 35 cut and fish on Semifinal Saturday. If Pirch had that weight or more with his five bass in the bag, it would knock out whoever was in 35th place.
The Payson, Arizona, bass pro’s limit weighed 33 pounds, 6 ounces, which gave him a two-day total of 33 pounds, 6 ounces, which secured 34th place and the chance to fish again Saturday at Cayuga Lake.
Unfortunately for Caleb Sumrall, a New Iberian in his second year as a Bassmaster Elite Series angler, that last bag placed on the scale at Fronenac Park, site of the weigh-in, sent him home in 36th place with 33 pounds, 3 ounces, and $5,000.
The narrow setback denied Sumrall a fourth straight Top 35 finish after finishing 18th Aug. 15-18 at the St. Lawrence River in New York State, fourth June 21-24 at Lake Guntersville in Alabama and 24th May 2-6 at Lake Fork in Texas.
There is one regular-season tournament remaining on the schedule for Sumrall and the other Bassmaster Elites. He was in 29th place after Friday in the Angler of the Year standings with 551 points going into the 2019 Cherokee Casino Tahlequah Bassmaster Elite tournament Sept. 19-22 at Fort Gibson Lake near Wagoner, Oklahoma.
Sumrall’s goal is to finish in the Top 50 in the standings to qualify for the Angler of the Year Championship scheduled for Sept. 28-Oct. 1 at Lake St. Clair in Detroit, which he prefished recently before going to the two Bassmaster Elite stops at the St. Lawrence River and Cayuga Lake.
After a fairly strong start Thursday with 17 pounds, 5 ounces, Sumrall began Day 2 with three 2-pound class bass between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. He caught two 3-pound class between 9:19 a.m.-9:30 a.m. and things were looking up. However, he went fishless for more than two hours before putting an estimated 3-pound, 5-ounce bass in the livewell at 11:50 a.m. He finished with 33-3, then waited for the suspenseful moments at the scale while Pirch weighed in his limit.
Among those still fishing this weekend on Cayuga Lake are Louisiana bass pros Brett Preuett of Monroe and Derek Hudnall of Baton Rouge. Preuett went into Semifinal Saturday with 35 pounds, 4 ounces, good enough for 20th place. Hudnall, whose 8-pound, 1-ounce bass on Thursday still holds the lead for the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the week. Going into Day 3, Hudnall was in 25th with 34 pounds, 9 ounces, after weighing in 18 pounds, 11 ounces, on Friday.
Preuett and Hudnall and the other 33 Bassmaster Elites were chasing halfway leader Jeff Gustafson of Keewatin, Ontario, Canada, whose two-day total of 49 pounds, 1 ounce, set going into Day 3. His limit Friday weighed a whopping 25 pounds, 6 ounces, the heaviest of the tournament so far.
“It was a dream day — both of the last two days were,” Gustafson told bassmaster.com. “I was expecting that to happen either day, but now the expectations are pretty high. I’ve seen what’s out there, and it’s pretty impressive.”
While much of the field has been concentrating on shallow grass, Gustafson has focused on small patches of hard bottom offshore. Since this is his first trip to Cayuga, he said he doesn’t know a lot of spots to try.
So, he’s been sticking mainly with one area, targeting largemouths and hopeful that the smallmouth that reside there turn on to make a difference.