Wadkins scorched Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort's Raven Golf Club for nine birdies in a bogey-free round, collecting six of those birdies during one eight-hole stretch.
His 62 wasn't an 18-hole tournament record -- Isao Aoki and Craig Stadler have carded 60s at the Moors Golf Club -- but it was good enough for a four-shot lead over Curtis Strange and Don Pooley.
That is the largest lead after 18 holes on the Champions Tour since Tom Purtzer led by the same margin at the Toshiba Classic in 2004.
'You've got to have a great round on Friday on the Champions Tour,' said Wadkins. 'It keeps you in the ball game the rest of the week. No matter what happens tomorrow, I'll still be there.'
The 62 was also a low score for Wadkins since he posted a 9-under 61 in the second round of this event at the Moors in 2003. His previous best score this season was a 5-under 66 in the final round of the Toshiba Classic in March, where he finished tied for second.
Wadkins was the clubhouse leader at the Toshiba, but Bart Bryant passed him for the win. Wadkins is still seeking his second Champions Tour victory after breaking through at the 2001 Long Island Classic.
'I let one get away at the Toshiba,' said Wadkins. 'Brad won, but I let it get away.'
Wadkins birdied two of his first four holes, making a 4-foot putt at the par-4 second and a 15-footer at the par-3 fourth. But he really started pulling away with a dynamite eight-hole stretch that began at No. 7, where he birdied the par-5 after knocking a wedge within 3 feet.
After making it back-to-back birdies at the eighth, Wadkins went on to birdie the 10th when he stuck his wedge within inches. He carded three straight birdies from the 12th -- setting up all three with either a 9-iron or a wedge -- then reached 9 under with a birdie at the par-5 17th.
'It was a good time to be on the course,' said Wadkins, who also chipped in for par at the par-5 third. 'I putted good and didn't miss a green after No. 5.'
Strange and Pooley had just one bogey apiece on the way to their 5-under-par 66s. Mitch Adcock and Mike McCullough were one shot further back in fourth place at minus-4, with Raymond Floyd laying another stroke adrift in sixth.
Leading a group of six players knotted in seventh place at 2 under was Loren Roberts, who is already a three-time winner this season.