We've made it to Lane's backwater. It's 54 degrees and bordered by a levee that provides a perfect vantage point for shorebound spectators. There are a handful of spectator boats, all keeping a respectful distance away.
Lane is out toward the front, Bill Lowen is in the back and there's a third boat around the corner, possibly Matt Reed.
Greg Vinson put his first fish in the boat at 9:04 a.m. It's not much to look at, but it's a keeper. He had just moved to his primary area and hauled it in on the chartreuse and white spinnerbait. He was using a steady, medium retrieve, and pulled the fish out of a patch of pad stems in the middle of the pocket.
The pocket sets up like this: It's circular, for the most part, about 150 yards in diameter. There's a small island on the southern part of the hole, and the bank runs on the northern stretch. There are two ridges bisecting the hole with a ditch of deeper water (4 feet) in between the higher ridges. Along with pad stems, there are numerous stumps, the hole is rimmed by hyacinth and there's also some submergent vegetation, mainly hydrilla, according to one of the camera boat operators.
DeFoe has worked the length of the earthen dam at the back end of McDade without a bite. He just passed the area where Steve Kennedy saw a 6-pounder on a bed yesterday, but it must not have been home. Wilks was heading toward DeFoe, but turned around and headed back where he came from. Ott just reached in and grabbed another spinning reel.
We're heading up to Wilks, who seems to be on a different caliber of fish.
Greg Vinson arrived about 15 minutes ago, and I'm impressed with his demeanor. He very casually pulled off his heavy jacket and took his time trolling into his first spot. He seems very relaxed for a guy who's a pound off the lead in the Bassmaster Classic. And that's the kind of composure that helps anglers win tournaments.
Vinson made several casts with a chartreuse and white spinnerbait and then picked up a flipping rod to flip some sort of soft plastic to matted hyacinth along the bank. He's back with the spinnerbait now, throwing it alongside the mats as well as in between pad stems and sporadic stumps in this small pocket. I just noticed that he's also looking for beds as he retrieves the spinnerbait.
This pocket is 4 feet deep in the middle. It's about 100 yards to the back of it and roughly 30 yards across at the widest point. This is actually his secondary area. His main spot is just west of here, and he'll probably move there a little later this morning.
On another note, it looked like Keith Combs won the slow race through the stump field in front of Edwin Evers and Todd Faircloth. They're all three fishing a 400-yard stretch not far from the spots where Vinson and Bobby Lane are fishing.
We entered a beautiful little backwater pond with 54 degree water. Chris said that at normal pool you can't access this place. Unfortunately when we got inside we saw Davy Hite and Keith Poche, not Chris Lane. We're headed out to see if we can find the pond that Lane's fishing.
I made an executive decision for now. Because I don't know exactly where Evers is starting, I'm heading into the New Jungle and watching Bobby Lane for a bit. Without Trey Reid's guidance, that wouldn't have been possible. There's a reason this place is known as the jungle.
Lane makes his first cast at 8:34 a.m. CT. He was the first one through the chute leading back here. Vinson is still idling back to his spot, while two other competitors work back into another area. The temperature from where we are standing is 57.9 degrees. It's warmer than Sullivan's was yesterday morning, so either the water's been warmer here or it was a really good warm afternoon yesterday. Both should help the fishing as the day progresses.
Lane is fishing what looks like a spinnerbait way up in the old pad stems. This is a pretty small pocket that Lane has been seining, but he's covering water pretty fast this morning, likely looking for an aggressive early bite. Despite the fact that we've hammered home the point about afternoon bites dominating the event, the morning action can be the deciding factor. Bill Lowen lost multiple fish each of the last two days in the morning. That's going to hurt him. Bobby Lane could catch a solid keeper in these first few hours that could propel him into the lead.
After starting at a pretty quick pace, Lane has slowed down and made multiple casts with a spinnerbait and then flipping. He didn't drop the Power-Poles, so I'm not sure if he saw anything.
Takahiro Omori is in Sullivan's as well. He pulled up his trolling motor a minute ago and is grinding his way through the stumps. So are we -- in fact we've already gotten stuck. Chris powered us off the stump after a minute but it made me wonder two things:
They'll have to account for the lock, potential of mechanical mishaps and the chance of getting high-centered on a stump and left to watch the competition running back freely.
Our boat driver Chris runs a local tournament circuit. He said Sullivan's is so productive this time of year because of its many ridges. They provide places for the bass to stage and then transition quickly to spawning areas. He wouldn't be surprised to see a 25 lb. bag today.
We're headed into Sullivan's to find Chris Lane. Kevin Wirth is on the far outside fishing cypress trees -- the staging areas he'd told us he planned to focus on today.
McDade is a ghost town. Well, compared to the past two days it is. Ott DeFoe and Dustin Wilks are working the same areas they have been since this derby started. DeFoe caught a 1 1/4-pounder on a tiny Rapala X-Rap jerkbait. He just now put a 1-pounder in the well. Wilks is throwing the same crankbait that did all of his damage the first day.
I asked him about it on Day One, and he said that his friend doesn't want to make any except what he and Wilks can use. Wilks only has three of them, the colors are: perch, chartreuse/black and a generic shad. The shad one has been cleaning up.
DeFoe just boated a short. The little X-Rap is tearing 'em up.