The boats have left, and this event that was billed as the Mystery Lake has more than lived up to its billing.
Typically, in a Bassmaster Elite Series event, you have a good idea of what will take place on the final day, at the least you can whittle things down a bit. But in the case of this event, there is still a lot of mystery left to it.
During the course of the day, you will likely hear Ken Duke tell you that statistically speaking the Day Three leader goes on to win. But if this event has shown us anything, it's that statistics don't amount to a hill of beans.
Take for example, Kevin VanDam, who has some sort of other-worldly streak going with limits caught during competition on the Elite Series. Yesterday, he showed up with only three in his bag. More notable is his nephew Jonathon not only hit the scales with a limit, he had more than 20 pounds and sits in second place, on the same place KVD was fishing.
The day before yesterday, Takahiro Omori brought the heaviest bag of the event to the scales and followed that up with two keepers in the 4-pound range. Those incidents have been prevalent all week, as guys have piled on top of each other and wrecked havoc on the fish that are living in the confined area of these tournament waters.
Fish are running out, fish are moving, and productive water has decreased are all factors, heaped on the simple question of will the wind blow or not? It's produced a true Mystery Lake experience: 12 anglers spreading in every direction with their fingers crossed and hoping for the best. Not a single one of them thinks they have anything locked outside of a Top 12 finish.
We have a couple of teams on the water today trying to keep us informed, each separated by an expansive bay or river where travel time is stretched out by long idle zones, a BASSTrakk system that is hampered by extremely poor cell service and the whims of electronic gremlins.
All of that has made for an interesting tournament and final day to watch unfold. We see three things potentially taking place.
The first, the two young guns, Brandon Palaniuk and Jonathon VanDam (just 4 ounces apart) battling it out with smallmouth that have proven unpredictable for the rest of the field and downright ghostlike at times for the rest of the field.
Typically their mano-a-mano battle would be the focus. But even in the back of their minds they aren't sure their smallmouth will hold up, while the second potential lays with what takes place in the Fox River.
We've been told there is no way the Fox River can win this event. Tommy Biffle might disagree, especially after watching the falls of several leaders all week. The river has been consistent and it even produced the heavyweight bag for Omori. It bears watching, especially if the smallmouth stay unpredictable.
Then the third potential. Like we've seen all week, a school of big smallmouth will fire for one of the other anglers. With far less pressure than the rest of the week, the truly big sacks of smallmouth could finally start showing up.
Any way you look at it, it's all guesswork. The kind of mysterious guesses that really make this one of those days to watch.