Saturday's "turf battle" with Rick Morris now looks like a blessing for Aaron Martens. Martens left the spot where Morris was crowding him early Saturday morning, after having caught one 3 1/2-pounder. As it turned out, that may have been the only bass caught from that spot Saturday. Morris eventually abandoned it around noon and finished the day with only three fish that totaled 6-8, which left him in 42nd place.
Martens started running spots he'd found in practice but hadn't yet needed in the tournament. It paid off for him; he salvaged a tough start Saturday to finish with 16-1.
BASSTrakk currently shows Martens in the lead. He's got a limit and has a lot of time to build on it.
"I've got a hundred spots," Martens said at Saturday's weigh-in.
Of course, he can't hit a 100 spots today, but he can rotate through quite a few. Smallmouth bass are notorious for being in one place one day and another place the next.
"It's possible their fish could move," Martens said of the other contenders. "My fish could move, too. But I've got a ton of spots."
The War Room just lost its Internet feed. But we are working to get it back. We will be back up as soon as possible.
After only 15 minutes in Little Sturgeon Bay, Jonathon VanDam packed it up and headed 15 miles back to the south, where he started this morning.
It reminds me of a poker player who walks away from the table, then turns around and goes all-in.
For more, check out this on-the-water video from Dennis Tietje:
Many anglers crossing the weigh-in stage Saturday expressed a sense of relief at not qualifying for today's final. Sure, they were disappointed at not finishing higher. But after two straight weeks on the water, a day off sounded more appealing than a spot in the lower half of today's Top 12.
These back-to-back events, like the Mississippi River Rumble in La Crosse last weekend and Green Bay this weekend, leave little time for rest. There are three days of practice starting Monday before the four-day events begin Thursday.
That throws an interesting aspect into the competition among the Top 4 contenders in today's finale on Lake Michigan.
The youngsters -- 24-year-old Brandon Palaniuk and 23-year-old Jonathon VanDam -- didn't make the cut after two days in La Crosse, so they got a couple days of rest before practice started Monday in Green Bay.
The veterans -- 39-year-old Aaron Martens and 37-year-old Dean Rojas -- fished all four days at La Crosse, as Martens finished fifth and Rojas eighth last Sunday.
"Fourteen straight days of fishing," Rojas said. "I'm ready for a day off."
Martens especially is known for staying in top physical condition, and Rojas always appears to be in good shape as well. It will be interesting to see if the experience of the veterans can help them overcome their own weariness and a couple of well-rested youngsters.
Just heard from Seigo Saito, our Bassmaster photographer. He tells us that it's really slow for Brandon Palaniuk at the moment. So slow that all of his spectators have abandoned him, leaving Seigo as the only boat watching the leader at the moment.
We have just talked a bit with Jonathon VanDam, and he is surprisingly calm. He is fishing very slowly with a drop shot, and he doesn't seem to be in a hurry.
He knows that finding just one school of these giant smallmouth bass can change his day in five casts.
According to BASSTrakk, Aaron Martens has closed the gap on Brandon Palaniuk this morning. After all the back and forth between Martens and Rick Morris concerning fishing spots over the past two days, it's a good bet that "The Natural" is relieved that Morris missed the cut (42nd) and isn't on the water today.
When Martens is focused on his fishing and not distracted by other things, he's as good as there is. And after finishing 84th, 58th and 58th in the first three Elite tournaments this year, he's completely turned things around. This will likely be his third Top 5 finish in the last four events. He's put himself safely in the Bassmaster Classic field for 2013 after a disastrous start.
If not for a livewell mishap on Day Two, Tommy Biffle could be at least 3 pounds closer to the lead than the 8 pounds, 11 ounces he trailed by entering Sunday. Biffle has been camped in the Fox River, just below De Pere Dam. He caught 17-1 there Thursday and had 16-10 Saturday.
The disaster occurred Friday when Biffle had a five-bass limit in his livewells before noon. That's when he noticed that an electrical short had burned a fuse in his livewell aerating system, and his three smallest bass were dead. B.A.S.S. rules call for a 4-ounce penalty on
every dead fish, and, of course, you can't cull a dead one either.
So Biffle was essentially done for the day, unless he could catch something bigger than the two good ones he had alive in his livewell.
"I thought it's stupid to fish at this point," he said. "But it's even stupider not to fish."
Biffle finished with 13-12 Thursday, which wasn't bad considering the circumstances. But it left him a deficit unlikely to be overcome today.
"I would need for the wind to blow and make it tough on those guys going north," Biffle said. "I'm not catching the 20-pound stringers they are."
But Biffle may have gotten an unexpected break from the weather today, since the wind is barely blowing at all, and that has made fishing tough to the north. Biffle and 10th-place finalist Stephen Browning are the only two anglers in the Fox River today, so they've got more room to work than they've had all week.