The main body of Oneida Lake is very choppy again today, but Maple Bay is protected from the wind and is calm. Here's Boyd Duckett and Bassmaster TV camera man Marty Dashiell.
Boyd Duckett has two keepers in the livewell. His second fish is 2 1/2 pounds.
OK, an update already. Duckett just reeled in his third keeper. This one is a 2-pounder. BASSTrakk is adding that up to be 8.6 pounds. Not bad for 40 minutes of fishing.
Duckett is fishing on Maple Bay. The same spot he's been in all week. It's just a five-minute ride from launch. This morning that ride was very choppy. In fact, I need to give props to the design of Tim Horton's coffee cup. It looks like your basic carry out cup, but it must have some special qualities. This morning it went flying out of the cup holder, landed on the floor of our boat, and rolled around for a minute before I noticed it. No spillage! Which I'm very happy about.
You've just gotta root for Randy Howell, one of the nicest and most consistent anglers in the Elite Series. Howell has won just one B.A.S.S. tournament in his career, the very first Bassmaster Elite 50 (Lake Dardanelle, 2004). Because of the way that series was set up (prize money was deferred and mostly paid at the end of the season to points leaders), Howell earned just $5,500 for that victory. A win at Oneida would be worth almost 20 times that!
Randy Howell's self-described "most exciting moment of the season" occurred yesterday, and it's is a big reason why he's leading going into the final day of the Bassmaster Elite Series Ramada Championship.
Around noon Saturday, Howell made a 15-mile run to the opposite end of Oneida Lake. He'd shook off what felt like some good fish there in practice Wednesday, but hadn't been back during the tournament.
He stopped at an isolated patch of grass and made one pitch with a 1-ounce Rattleback Jig trailed with a 4-inch green pumpkin Yamamoto Craw. Boom! 4-pound largemouth.
"I was so fired up I wanted to head-butt the windshield," Howell said. "That's as excited as I've been in years out here."
That fish allowed him to cull a 1 1/2-pound smallmouth. Then he cranked his outboard motor and headed in for the day. He'll undoubtedly come back to that spot today.
Howell has never won an Elite Series tournament, so he's got a chance to reach a new level of excitement today, if he can hang on to his lead. Boyd Duckett is 2 pounds, 6 ounces back, Scott Rook trails by 2-9 and Terry Scroggins is fourth, 3-4 behind Howell.
As everyone knows, Oneida simply doesn't have enough 4- and 5-pounders that are biting this week to make up ground easily. Howell got his big bite yesterday (it actually weighed 3-11), and Duckett didn't.
Catching five 3-pound smallmouth isn't easy some days, but it has been doable. It's those one or two kicker largemouth that will probably be the difference for someone today.
"(Friday) I had two of those, and today I had none," Duckett said. "I've got to get a couple of those to catch Randy."
It won't be easy. The wind is blowing as hard as or harder than it was on Oneida yesterday, according to photographer James Overstreet, whose boat has taken a few over the bow already.
Randy Howell just got on the scoreboard with his first fish of the day. The smallmouth looks like a 3-pounder but that's hard to tell — these bronzebacks are so chunky and thick, it might weigh a tad more or less. Howell, the leader among the 12 finalists in the Ramada Championship today, appears to be fishing a jerkbait. Whatever he's using, he's working it with violent motions. I'm sure it takes a lot of action to stir up the fish and get their attention in today's conditions.
As I'm sure other bloggers have pointed out, it's rough out here. I'm amazed at the weather conditions on this lake. Forecasts yesterday and today called for 4 or 5 mph winds, but it's a good bit stiffer than that. The boat James Overstreet and I are using today — Dave Mercer's Skeeter — has taken three waves over the bow or gunnel already, and we're not even motoring. At this morning's launch, the flag was barely waving during the "Star Spangled Banner." But it's rolling out here.
The wind made us a little late getting Boyd Duckett this morning. By the time we got here, he was sitting on the deck re-tying.
In his first few casts with a swimbait, he had caught a 4 1/2-pound largemouth.
He called the fish a bonus. He's been catching mostly smallmouth early on the swimbait, then moving shallower to flip out the largemouth.
As the sun rises over Oneida Lake, the Top 12 anglers prepare for their final day of the Ramada Championship. Today's competition will determine who wins the last tournament of the 2012 Elite Series.
Can Randy Howell hang on to the lead, as he has the past two days?
Update: Read more about Chapman's triumph here.
All he had to do was make the top 12 for the final day at the Ramada Championship on Oneida Lake. And he did. Brent Chapman is your 2012 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year! We'll have much more on bassmaster.com later today.
Also, Brandon Card is the 2012 Rookie of the Year after a close finish with Cliff Prince.
We'll have more later, but here's a photo of Brent showing off the trophy to the media.
Here's a shot of the press and fans snapping pics of Brent as he won, taken by Jim Sexton.
Cade Evers, 3 years old, asked to go through the weigh in line with his dad Edwin. Cade looked in the bag and said, "What are these?" When his dad said "smallmouth bass," Cade said, "I've never seen any of those dad."