This photo was taken by Dave Mercer right out side the door of the War Room. It's actually in the off-limits area of the lake. And that's Aaron Martens with his kids and Brent Chapman's daughter Makayla. He was having some success teaching them how to drop shot.
While he was there, Randy Howell wasn't too far away doing the same with his sons.
And an hour or two earlier, Todd Faircloth was standing on the bank with his sons as they fished, trying to catch a big one.
Nice to see these guys never really take a day off, even better to see them do it with their children.
If Cliff Pace wins this tournament, it'll be the first time since 2010 that an angler took the first round lead, lost it and regained it in the final round. Skeet Reese did it on Guntersville in 2010, and it's happened three other times.
Pace led after Day 1 here at Toledo Bend, slipped to third on Day 2, fell to fourth yesterday and is apparently having another big day today. If he wins, it'll be his first Elite title and first B.A.S.S. win since the 2004 Central Open on the Atchafalaya Basin.
We all took a jump back when we saw BASSTrakk roll Cliff Pace's weight up to about 25 pounds, then keep going to over 27 pounds.
That would have given him a pretty solid lead. Unfortunately, through electronic error or hitting the wrong button on the unit, that's no where near where Pace's real total is at the moment.
We were finally able to get in touch with his cameraman, James Massey, who told us that Pace actually has around 18 pounds.
That puts him about 3 pounds behind Brent Chapman.
For those who were in the Chapman camp and might have fainted, cried or cussed, all is good.
For those in the Pace camp who might have fainted, jumped and yelled, time to take all that back for now.
Pace could still pull this off as could anyone down the list. The bite for the bigger fish has been good in the afternoon. It would only take a giant or even two (both possible) to really shake things up.
In the middle of this perceived Pace jump, I was reminded of last season when Gerald Swindle made a big run at the end of the day and fell short by an ounce.
If it can happen, it will happen on Toledo Bend.
Cliff Pace is have a strong tournament, here's more about the young Mississippi pro.
Pace entered the Elite Series in 2007, though he wasn't technically a rookie, and finished 16th in the AOY standings that year. He was eighth in 2009 and sixth in 2010. No one doubts that this guy has the skills to win big. In 2011, though, he stumbled and finished 50th.
Pace is 32 years old and, although he's won a couple of Opens (in 2003 and 2004), his biggest claim to fame is a runner-up finish to Alton Jones at the 2008 Bassmaster Classic.
Pace has fished in the Elite finals seven times before today. His best finish was second place behind Kevin Short at Pickwick in 2010.
Here's a statistical shocker for you — but only because Pace tends to fly under the radar. Out of all the Elite pros, he ranks fourth in Top 50 finishes. Only Kevin VanDam, Skeet Reese and Todd Faircloth cash checks a higher percentage of the time. Pace has a 73.47 percent success rate when it comes to finishing in the money, and he made checks in 11 straight events between 2010 and 2011.
We had a brief discussion with Brent Chapman before James Overstreet and I headed for Cypress Bend Park. Chapman has a 2-pounder in his livewell that he'd like to cull out. Replacing it with a 3-pounder would give him an even 20 pounds.
Of course, he'd like to do better than that in the final hours today. Few other Elite Series anglers in the 12-man final could have maximized their fishing time more than Chapman today. He's burned very little gas and caught enough bass in his primary area to keep him from making a major move.
Chapman just motored back across the boat trail to the place where he caught that 6-pounder this morning.
"I'm going to stay here because this is where I caught my best fish today," Chapman said.
So what do you know about Brent Chapman? I'll bet you didn't know this.
He's looking for his eighth Top 5 finish in Elite Series history. Only five anglers have more. Kevin VanDam leads the way with 18.
Chapman posted three consecutive Top 5 finishes earlier this year, grabbing the AOY lead before he stumbled at Douglas Lake, finishing 68th.
He finishes in the money in more than 70 percent of all Elite events — that's 10th-best overall.
He turns 40 in less than a month (July 6, to be exact).
Chapman has fished 11 Classics. His best finish was fifth place, and he did that back-to-back in 2010 and 2011.
He's finished in the Top 25 of the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race six times. His best finish was eighth in 2007, but he has his sights set much higher this year.
Brent Chapman is right up there with 2012 Bassmaster Classic champ Chris Lane when it comes to the hottest anglers of this year. Chapman won the Central Open on Lake Lewisville in February, and he is leading the AOY race. And he just might have won the Classic, too, had I not put him on my Fantasy Fishing team and written a story for Bassmaster Magazine saying he was the pre-tournament favorite to win the championship.
Forgive me, Brent!
OK, you've seen that Toledo Bend ranks last among 2012 Elite venues in bassing average and right in the middle when it comes to average bass weight. Those are two pretty useful stats when it comes to evaluating a fishery's production during a tournament, but there's one more stat that does a better job of showing the big picture — average daily catch.
Average daily catch (the average weight brought to the scales each day by an Elite angler) basically sums up the other two stats — bassing average and average bass weight. It's probably the best single way to assess production during a tournament.
Here's the average catch weight for the five Elite tournaments so far this year. Toledo Bend's total is not final since we have the last weigh-in yet to come, but with only 12 anglers on the water it's not going to impact the number significantly. If anything, Toledo Bend's average catch weight will go up very slightly after the final weigh in, but not nearly enough to move it out of fourth place.
1. Bull Shoals 13.7315
2. Okeechobee 13.3820
3. Douglas 12.3993
4. Toledo Bend 11.8107
5. St. Johns 11.3077
In case you're wondering, the average catch weight from Falcon Lake in 2008 was an eye-popping 24.3254 pounds! To win, Paul Elias averaged 33.125 pounds per day.
As noted earlier, Toledo Bend ranks last in bassing average among the 2012 Elite Series venues. So, how does it do on average bass weight?
It's right in the middle, though the overall numbers here might surprise you.
The average bass weighed in at Toledo Bend this week was 2.6922 pounds (about 2-11). That's third among 2012 venues.
The top mark — believe it or not — belongs to Bull Shoals at 2.7676 (a little better than 2-12). Second is Okeechobee at 2.7461. Fourth is Douglas at 2.5505, and last is the St. Johns at 2.3922. As you can see, they're pretty closely grouped, but I bet would few fans would have predicted Bull Shoals to lead the way. It just goes to show that timing can be everything, and a good prespawn tournament will put up the best weights of the year.
Historically, the best average bass weight in Elite (or B.A.S.S.) history came in 2008 on Falcon Lake. There, the average fish brought to the scales weighed a whopping 4.9142 pounds (almost 4-15). Paul Elias (fishing today) won with 20 bass weighing 132-8 — still a record.
I've got one more Toledo Bend stat for you. Stay tuned.
We believe Cliff Pace's numbers in BASSTrakk are off.
Brent Chapman keeps the lead. His pattern has changed predominantly to a jig bite instead of the big flutter spoon. Rotation of these two key baits has been a critical part of Chapman's offshore tactics.
Fish catch intervals are becoming more abundant as the bite is increasing with conditions starting to clear off and become stable like the previous days of competition.
Chapman currently has a 4-pound, 9-ounce lead over Marty Robinson.
1. Brent Chapman-79-2
2. Marty Robinson- 74-9
3. Cliff Pace- 73-14
4. Greg Hackney- 70-3
5. Timmy Horton- 68-11
6. Cliff Prince- 67-9
7. Mark Davis- 65-0
8. Casey Ashley- 59-6
9. Yusuke Miyazaki- 58-1
10. Paul Elias- 55-6
11. Chris Zaldain- 54-3
12. Matt Herren- NO REPORT