Scott Rook is culling again. By our estimate he has caught 9 keepers today. His cameraman Rick Mason believes he has at least 15 pounds in the livewell. If that's in the ballpark, Rook is making a strong move today.
That's Rick Mason filming Scott Rook for The Bassmasters TV show. He said the camera weighs 25 or 30 pounds, but by the end of the day it feels more like 40.
Takahiro Omori's 18-13 bag Saturday was quite an accomplishment.
Oneida has proven tough for most anglers all week. But to catch the second-best bag of the tournament on Day Three, after 97 Elite Series anglers have picked most of the low-hanging fruit the previous two days, is particularly impressive.
Omori, like many this week, is trying to get back to the Bassmaster Classic, an event he won in 2004. He entered the event 39th in AOY points – on the bubble.
He had two smallmouth bass in his bag Friday, when he finished in 49th place with a two-day total of 24-7. So Omori took a do-or-die attitude Saturday, targeting largemouth by flipping grass (with what, or where, he's not saying yet).
Keying his big jump into the Top 12 cut was a 5-pound, 6-ounce largemouth, the Carhartt Big Bass of the tournament so far.
"I screamed a little bit," said Omori about his reaction to landing the lunker.
He didn't get many bites Saturday, but, as the cliché goes, "they were the right bites."
"I only caught eight keepers," said an obviously relieved Omori. "I had so much pressure on me to make the Classic."
After a brief foray to the north shore, Scott Rook jetted back to his home spot, the shoal toward the middle of Oneida Lake.
You'll see the pros do this, sometimes to clear their head, and sometimes to give the fish a break. Whatever the reason, this move paid off for Rook. He caught a 3-pounder shortly after returning to his spot.
We're estimating, and BASSTrakk is as well, that he has at least 14 pounds in the livewell now.
Scott Rook unhappily recalled some key fish that came off the hook after showing themselves Saturday. He wasn't making excuses, but simply explaining the details after Saturday's weigh-in.
Rook's words provide some insight into his method for success this week at Oneida. "I'm mostly drop shotting," he said. "On 95 percent of the fish I've caught, I never felt them bite. It's almost like they're reacting to the splash [of the lure hitting the water] and following the bait down. I don't feel them hit, they're just there.
"And I don't think I've had a bite after I start reeling. I might as well just pick up and make another cast."
Rook noted that in Saturday's high winds, it was even more difficult to feel a bite. He's using spinning rods and light line, so his set-up is about as sensitive as possible. But there's still a significant margin for error when you can't initially tell when to set the hook. Obviously those difficulties haven't kept Rook from achieving success this week, when he's trying desperately for a Bassmaster Classic berth.
Not much has been written about Brent Chapman this morning, even though he's in striking distance of the lead. BASSTrakk has him in second, about 3 pounds behind Boyd Duckett. (As noted earlier, BASSTrakk isn't entirely accurate this morning, thanks to technical issues.) Wouldn't it be something for him to follow up Angler of the Year with a second Elite Series win here?
Sure enough, the one-fish weedbed paid off, as Chapman hoped it would. He quickly lands the fish -- a good-sized pickerel. Not the species he's after. "This is the first one of these I've caught this week," he said.
He soon reached the sweet spot of the weedbed, where he's pitching a soft plastic bait into openings among the milfoil patches. His handheld scales say it weighs 2 1/4, but he doesn't believe it. "I think these scales are off. They lasted me through winning Angler of the Year, but they're not working." He weighed it again, and it went 1.87. Chapman spent the next 10 minutes weighing and re-weighing each fish before culling the little smallmouth he had just caught. He held up the nice smallmouth in this photo and said, "The scales say this weighs 4 1/2, but it doesn't seem that big." Despite the inconsistency of his scales, he is confident he has 13 1/2 pounds now.
He's now making another pass through what he hopes will be his two-fish weedbed.
Scott Rook just moved from his beloved shoal where he has spent much of the tournament. He traveled about 5 minutes north and is now fishing in about 10 feet of water, 150 yards from the north shore. It's more rocky up here, with a large outcropping jutting out of the water near Rook.
The wind has calmed down, about the same time it did yesterday. I'm not sure how that will affect the bass, but it's certainly more pleasant for the human species.
As the Classic picture starts to clear up, it looks like seven Elite anglers will be heading for their first Bassmaster Classic in 2013. Fou—Nate Wellman, Yusuke Miyazaki, Brandon Card and Cliff Prince—made it through their standing in AOY points. Jeremy Starks and Jonathon VanDam are going by virtue of winning Elite events this season. Casey Scanlon is an Elite angler and will be fishing his first Classic in 2013, but he didn't get there through the Elites; Scanlon won a Central Open and will make it to the Classic through the Opens.
Boyd Duckett is digging deep — giving it everything he has to bring this one home. Winning Oneida is probably his only chance of getting to the 2013 Bassmaster Classic.
Duckett hasn't won since 2007, when he won both the Classic and Bassmaster Legends in the same year, taking home $750K from those two tournaments alone! If he doesn't win at Oneida, he'll almost certainly miss the Classic for the second year in a row.