Scott Rook is culling. He just caught his sixth keeper of the day, culled quickly, and ran back to the front of the boat. We're not close enough to tell how this impacted his weight. But I can tell you one thing, Rook is living or dying on this spot. He's not moving. And he's fishing hard to take advantage of this opportunity.
James Overstreet, the multitasking photographer, boat driver and sideline reporter for War Room presented by Triton Boats on our team this morning has decided not to follow Randy Howell to the opposite end of Oneida Lake. My vote made it unanimous. This water's rough. It doesn't take much of a breeze to stir up this lake.
After giving up the chase, we pulled in beside Frenchman Island to check on Jason Quinn, who's in fourth, according to BASSTrakk, tied with Terry Scroggins at 53 even. Quinn has caught four bass, each a little more than 2 pounds, for 8-12. His camera boat driver said all were caught on crankbaits. When we arrived, Quinn had just moved to the bank and was flipping shallow weeds, probably in hopes of getting a game-changing largemouth. He didn't give that much time before heading back offshore to the same weedbeds he's been camped on all week.
As he motored by, he said, "They've got me clueless again." I can understand. As our boat drifted through the shallows, we could see good-sized bass, some 3-pounders, darting ahead of the boat. The place is loaded with fish, but they're extremely skittish.
This morning, on the initial bouncy run out here, Scott Rook's BASSTrakk unit got fried. Just taking a look at the Trakk, it shows Rook with 4 1/2 pounds. He actually has in the neighborhood of 12 pounds.
Meanwhile, Randy Howell just has 6 1/2 pounds. Duckett's weight is pretty accurate. If they were all accurate, Duckett would be at the top of the leader board, followed by Rook and then Howell. Rook just finished his limit, by moving out to a deeper section of the shoal. He quickly caught a 3-plus-pounder and is now seeing if there are any takers running with that.
We understand Howell is making a big move. He did that yesterday and caught them. Any way you boil it, at this moment we are in the middle of a three-horse race, with Duckett and Rook having to win here to be assured of a Classic berth.
Scott Rook just pulled in his fifth keeper. We estimate it is a 3 1/2-pounder. That gives him about 12 pounds for the day.
It looks like Rook will be moving up the leaderboard.
So just how many Elite anglers are going to earn berths in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic? It's actually hard to say. Twenty-eight spots are guaranteed to the Top 28 finishers in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race. Then there's the defending Classic champ, Chris Lane, who gets an automatic bid. Each of the eight Elite tournament winners is in, too. Plus, there are three Elite anglers who won Opens this year and will earn a Classic berth that way. Let's take a closer look and really figure this out.
Chris Lane was in before the season started and before he won the Classic by virtue of his victory at the first Southern Open on the Harris Chain in Florida (assuming he fishes all three Southern Opens this year). He's also qualified by virtue of being in the Top 28 of the points standings (14th as of yesterday). That makes him triple qualified, but I think it only opens up one more place in the AOY standings, bringing us down to the Top 29 in points.
Brent Chapman was in before the Elite season started because he won the Central Open on Lewisville Lake in Texas (again, assuming he fishes all three Central Opens). He's also number one in AOY points. That opens up one more place in the AOY standings, bringing us down to the Top 30 in points.
The third Elite angler who won an Open this year was Casey Scanlon, who beat the competition at the Central Open on Table Rock in Missouri. He's way down the list in AOY points, so his Opens berth is not going to create another opportunity for an Elite angler.
Now we have the Elite tournament winners and their Classic spots. Alton Jones, Ish Monroe, Brandon Palanuik, Jeremy Starks, Chapman, Todd Faircloth and Jonathon VanDam are all in by virtue of Elite wins. Only Chapman and Faircloth are in the Top 28 of the standings. The rest needed the wins to get in.
That opens the Classic door to places 31 and 32.
Of the anglers fishing today, seven are already in the Top 28 of the AOY standings: Chapman, Ott DeFoe, Terry Scroggins, Randy Howell, Nate Wellman, John Crews and Takahiro Omori. If one of them wins, that will open up place number 33 in the AOY rankings. If it's one of the other five, it will not.
But wait! Jason Quinn is currently 30th in AOY and that spot is already in by virtue of some double qualifiers, so the odds of spot number 33 getting in is a little better.
Then there are the three remaining Opens. If an Elite angler who is otherwise qualified wins one of those and has fished the previous two Opens, each such win opens up one more spot in the AOY rankings.
So, right now the Top 32 ranking anglers in the AOY race are in, plus five other Elite event winners and Casey Scanlon. As many as three other Elites could get in if the "right" guys win the Opens.
Right now, if BASSTrakk is right, Boyd Duckett is on "the bubble" with Scott Rook right behind. If Rook continues to struggle, he could fall behind Rick Clunn.
Randy Howell isn't letting grassbeds grow under his feet this morning. He said the other day that he has dozens of waypoints in his GPS units from all the tournaments he's fished on Oneida Lake in the past, and I think he's determined to hit all the ones on this end of the lake by noon. I'd love to be able to grill him about his game plan. At times, he's made fewer than a dozen casts in a spot before pulling up and racing -- bouncing -- across the waves to another hot spot. I can see him gesturing and explaining his strategy to his cameraman, Wes Miller. I'm sure it'll be enlightening to watch this episode of "The Bassmasters" on ESPN2.
He still has just two bass in his livewell. Even so, he's ahead of his pace from yesterday.
While Howell has been running and gunning, the three other finalists who are fishing within sight of Howell -- Nate Wellman, Brent Chapman and Jason Quinn -- have established residency around Frenchman Island. They're spread out and roaming some, but not burning any gasoline.
Howell has motored over to Chapman for another conference. We'll soon see whether the information convinces Howell to move yet again. If he would consult with Overstreet and me, we'd try to convince him to stay put here in the lee of this island, where it's calm and comfortable.
It's a tug-of-war between Randy Howell and Boyd Duckett today.
BASSTrakk showed Duckett in the lead for the early part of the morning until about 10 a.m. ET, when Howell took over. Now Duckett's back in the driver's seat with an upgrade that has him at 14 pounds, 9 ounces.
As far as we know, Duckett is the only angler who has a limit.
A pleasure boater just ran within about 100 yards of Scott Rook, right through the middle of several shallow water buoys. He was going full speed.
We could tell that his prop hit the shoal, which is made of rocks. This is the shoal Rook is fishing. The pleasure boater came to a stop quickly and jumped in the water to inspect his prop.
"He paid the price for being dumb and ignorant," said Steve Bowman.