BAINBRIDGE, Ga. — On Semifinal Saturday, Joey Cifuentes III stuck with his game plan, tallied a three-day total of 66 pounds, 11 ounces, and retained his lead in the Gamakatsu Bassmaster Elite at Lake Seminole.
The rookie from Clinton, Ark., placed sixth on Day 1 with 19-13 before taking the top spot with a Day 2 limit of 26-1 — the tournament’s heaviest bag. Cifuentes added 20-13 on Saturday and heads into Championship Sunday with a lead of 4-1 over Tyler Rivet of Raceland, La.
“I’m not going to say I can do 20 again tomorrow, but I feel like it’s there,” Cifuentes said. “I saw some really good fish today.”
Cifuentes committed his time Saturday to Spring Creek, where he fished standing timber in about 20 to 22 feet. Targeting groups of trees and large cypress stumps proved the most productive.
When his Day 2 bite slowed around noon, Cifuentes moved shallow to flip vegetation before finishing his day in the offshore timber. Today, it was all about the wood.
“I stayed in my area and my goal was to get 20 pounds; I got it and I left,” Cifuentes said. “I kinda weaseled back close and ended up catching a couple good bass, then I left around 10:30.
“I found another spot where I saw some good fish swimming around the bottom. I may hit it up tomorrow, but I’m going to start on my primary area and I’m going to try and get another 20 pounds.”
Describing his main spot and the new area, Cifuentes said he’s targeting deep timber on the edge of a spawning flat. Using his forward-facing sonar to watch for specific fish, he’s making short pitches with a drop shot.
Cifuentes is using a 1/4-ounce weight and a 6-inch hand-poured finesse worm. For snag avoidance amid the timber, he’s Texas rigging his worm on a 1/0 hook.
“I like that little hook because it’s less visible,” Cifuentes said. “I think that’s helping me get bites. I didn’t lose any fish today, I fished clean.”
Cifuentes said he feels confident his spots hold the potential winning fish. He specifically chose Spring Creek because it had the right mix of clear water, timber and spawning habitat.
He’s hopeful that his chosen spots will allow him to continue intercepting bass on their way to and from the spawning grounds.
“Today, all my fish were postspawn; yesterday, they were all prespawn,” Cifuentes said. “I think I have fish coming to me also. I learned that today, so that’s exciting.”
Rivet is in second place with 62-10. His daily weights were 17-4, 19-11 and 25-11.
Coming off his first Elite win at last week’s event at Lake Okeechobee, Rivet spent his day in the Flint River where he caught bass on a popping frog and an Xcite Baits Xtreme Stix (stickbait), which he fished Texas rigged and wacky style.
“I caught one fish on the frog — on my third cast,” Rivet said. “I threw the frog for a while, but it has to be the right scenario. It has to be a little dirty and shallow. The one I caught was on a bed, so she came out and ate it.”
Rivet said all of his bass were on beds. Turbid water prevented him from actually sight fishing, but reading the clues guided his presentations.
“I know they’re there by the way they’re acting; I can see them swirling around and chasing stuff,” he said. “It’s all about throwing in there at the right time. If you see one swell, you’ve got to put your bait in that swell.
“When they’re trying to eat something and (the bait) is in their face, they eat it.”
Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La., is in third with 61-9. After an opening limit of 14-5 put him in 44th place, Hackney caught the second-heaviest bag of Day 2 — 24-7 — and rose to third place. Adding 22-13 on Saturday, he’ll start Championship Sunday in the third-place position.
“I fished totally different today from yesterday — I had to fish a lot slower,” Hackney said. “I power fished yesterday and today I finesse fished. Yesterday, I caught them winding, today I was grinding.
“Same area, but totally different. They wouldn’t chase. I don’t know why; it was perfect weather. They never got aggressive like they did yesterday.”
Hackney caught his fish on a Texas-rigged Strike King Rage Bug in green pumpkin. He said he’s eager to take one more shot at Seminole.
“I look forward to going out there again,” he said. “It’s been fun the last couple of days. I really struggled the first day of the tournament; one got off. Other than that, I fished really clean the last couple of days.”
Kyoya Fujita of Minamitsuru, Yamanashi, Japan, earned the $1,000 daily bonus for catching the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Day with an 8-6 largemouth. That fish also leads the race for Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the tournament, which is good for a $2,000 bonus.
Cifuentes is currently in the lead for the VMC Monster Bag award with his Day 2 catch of 26-1.
Rivet leads the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 207 points. Australian Carl Jocumsen s in second with 193, followed by Cifuentes with 190, Brandon Cobb of Greenwood, S.C., with 184, and Brandon Card of Salisbury, N.C., with 184.
Cifuentes leads the Bassmaster Rookie of the Year standings with 190 points.
The Top 10 remaining anglers will take off Sunday at 7:30 a.m. ET from the Earle May Boat Basin Park. The weigh-in will be held at the park at 3:30 p.m.
FS1 will broadcast live with the leaders beginning at 8 a.m. with continuing coverage on Bassmaster.com.
The Bassmaster Elite at Lake Seminole is being hosted by the City of Bainbridge Community Development.
2023 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
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2023 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Daiwa, Garmin, Lew’s, Marathon, Triton Boats, VMC
2023 Bassmaster Conservation Partners: AFTCO, Yamaha Rightwaters
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