The tragic and magic of Oneida Lake may be showing itself again. We hate to make too much of BASSTrakk totals, because there are some elements beyond anyone's control. For instance, we know from observers that Ott DeFoe has at least a 15-pound limit and is culling, while BASSTrakk currently shows him with four fish weighing about 10 pounds. We think he's out of the coverage area.
If DeFoe has 15 pounds, it would give him at least 42-10 and move him into third place now. And if Brent Chapman is stuck on four fish weighing 9 pounds, DeFoe's move up would drop Chapman back another spot to eighth.
Remember, if Chapman makes the Top 12 cut today he is the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year. But he's going in the wrong direction right now, and DeFoe is making a move up, again, if we've got reliable information at present.
This is PJ McManamen, who some have affectionately called Santa. He's Scott Rook's Marshal today. PJ is from Ruby, N.Y., which is about 50 miles south of Albany. "I'm out here to learn from the best," he said.
As Brent Chapman tightens his grip on AOY, let's take a look at the All-Star Week race. As you know, the Top 8 anglers in the AOY race get an automatic bid. If the season ended after yesterday's round, that would be Brent Chapman, Todd Faircloth, Ott DeFoe, Terry Scroggins, Randy Howell, Matt Herren, KVD and Edwin Evers -- an All-Star cast if ever there was one. Then there are four anglers who will be voted in right here on Bassmaster.com. Last year, the four who were voted in were Mike Iaconelli, Jeff Kriet, Aaron Martens and Skeet Reese. Ironically (or perhaps not), all would have to be voted in again this year. But this year they'll be up against some big names who had Top 8 AOY years in 2011, most notably Gerald Swindle. The G-Man will be tough to beat in the balloting this year.
Clark Reehm and Cliff Prince are sharing an area a half-mile off the north shore. They each have one bass. Reehm said that his catch rate is par for the course throughout this tournament. He's caught most of his bass after 1 p.m. Today, the anglers have to quit fishing about 3:30, in time to make the drive to the Great New York State Fair in Syracuse, where weigh-ins today and tomorrow will take place. "The early quit time is going to kill me," he said. Reehm has two marker buoys out. Each marks an end of a sunken ship that appears to be about 150 feet long. He said he found it by going to a website that pinpoints shipwrecks. He hasn't been able to fish it as much as he'd like because several other pros have been camped on it, and some have caught 4-pounders there.
Not far away, Prince said he's suffering from the "first-cast jinx." The bass bit on the first cast of the morning, and he hasn't had a keeper since. He calculates that he has to move up about 15 places in the standings to surpass Brandon Card and win Rookie of the Year honors. Card didn't make the cut to fish today, so it's all up to Prince. "I'll have to tighten up this afternoon to make that happen," he told us. He's happy that the wind is calming. This morning, waves were so high they were breaking over the bow of his boat and washing over his ankles as he stood at the bow.
We just caught up with Scott Rook. I wrote earlier that he has lost three nice size fish today. Rook told us that for two of the losses the line had been cut. He believes he dragged the line across zebra mussels, which sliced or weakened the line.
He has been suffering through a long, slow period, but seemed relaxed about it now. "I caught three of my best fish in the afternoon yesterday," Rook said.
Cliff Prince entered the day with the Elite Series Rookie of the Year race under his control. Brandon Card, the leader for most of the season, is done, having finished 60th at Oneida and missing the cut. Prince was in 44th place after Friday, and has "theoretically" whittled Card's lead to 14 points. (These daily AOY and ROY point totals are based on that day's standings; only the final leaderboard ultimately determines points.)
But Prince has got some work to do. He must move up at least 15 place in the standings to pass Card, who is undoubtedly watching BASSTrakk closely today.
Prince is a 42-year-old Palatka, Fla., resident who qualified for the Elite Series through the Bass Pro Shops Southern Opens last year.
Scott Rook has been in a slow spell. No fish in nearly two hours.
The wind that blew across Oneida Lake this morning, for the first time in three days, may have helped or hurt some anglers, but overall there wasn't a drastic difference in catch rates from yesterday, according to our BASSTrakk totals.
We've got one less BASSTrakk phone on the water today because there are 49 anglers left after the cut. In the first four hours yesterday, there were 127 bass caught, weighing a total of 296-3. In today's first four hours: 115 bass, 264-5.
His fortunes fading, Randy Howell has left the ZIP code. We followed him for a bit but he quickly was out of sight, and James Overstreet, who's driving as well as shooting today, elected not to follow him all the way to the east end of Oneida Lake. We circled back to the pack of anglers around the twin islands in time to chat with Jason Quinn, who's in seventh with 39-5 according to BASSTrakk. He's looking for a fifth keeper to go with the 9 or 10 pounds in his livewell. As we were visiting, a bass began chasing shad almost under our trolling motor. Quinn fired a walking bait across our bow and hurriedly twitched it back to his boat. Overstreet's eyes grew wide. He whispered to me, "There's a 3-pounder right under his bait, trailing it." The fish wouldn't close the deal. He couldn't say that loud enough for Quinn to hear and gain an advantage.
A short distance toward shore from here, a school of bass just erupted in front of Brent Chapman. He got two bites out of the flurry but neither hung on long enough for a good hook set. Clearly, a lot is happening in this spot. The wind is laying, and it won't be long before the bass around here start biting like they mean it.
Sharing this water is Nate Wellman, ranked second according to BASSTrakk, and Travis Manson. Kevin VanDam and Skeet Reese were here not long ago, but they've moved on to greener grassbeds.
I've noticed more and more anglers taking measures to protect themselves from the sun. Just think about the number of hours these Elite pros spend in the sun. One trend we're seeing is sun gloves. They're lightweight, they breathe and they protect the back of your hands from the rays. The way most anglers hold a rod and reel, the back side of the hands take a beating. I've seen Brent Chapman, Ott DeFoe and Aaron Martens wearing them this week.
In the photo, our hand model is driver Brian Eisch.