We don't know how many bass Randy Howell has caught today, but we do know he has a fish. His Marshal sent us this photo of Howell and a small musky. After being the only All-Star unable to weigh a bass on Day One, Howell no doubt wishes this fish had a wider mouth and fewer teeth.
Mike Iaconelli had a similar encounter with a musky yesterday, but his was a trophy, at least 50 inches long. He fought long and hard to land it on 12-pound Berkley fluorocarbon line. He said he didn't want to lose his money bait, a Rapala crankbait in an "Ike's Ink" shad finish.
Even in a season as good as Ott DeFoe's had, he may have just put on the most impressive performance of his career - catching fish with Mark Zona in his boat. That just doesn't happen.
Defying the odds, DeFoe just weeded through four non-keepers to land another small keeper - all on consecutive casts with a crankbait.
There were plenty of witnesses. Possum Creek continues to pile up with spectators boats anxious to watch the Ott DeFoe show.
Note: Hank Weldon reports that Evers' Marshal accidentally entered "3" instead of "1" in BASSTrakk.
Edwin Evers began fishing before the other 11 anglers came off of plane. He was 30 yards from the launch, fishin where DeFoe ended his day yesterday. A loud whoop and holler from the 30 or so spectators along the bank announced the first keeper of the day, and he's added to it since, according to BASSTrakk. Three in the boat for nine pounds and change. The day is overcast, threatening rain and generally better feeling for fishing. Hopefully more fish will be caught today. We're on our way to catch up with Todd Faircloth, who has yet to register a keeper.
We managed to find Skeet Reese tucked into a hidden slough near the launch at Eagle Creek State Park. He's fishing parallel to emerging vegetation with a white buzzbait and just missed a good keeper. He estimated its weight at around 3 pounds.
After pausing to put on his rainsuit he went back to work, making a second tour along the banks on both sides of the cove.
Intermittent rains are predicted throughout the day. Maybe the cloud cover will improve the bite today.
Skeet's leaving for another cove now. Well stay with him for while.
After leaving the launch area to Edwin Evers and his posse, Steve Bowman and I have gone on the prowl, looking for the fourth-ranked All-Star, Skeet Reese. A flash of yellow drew us to the back of a cove, where we found Terry Scroggins raking the bank with a topwater and a square bill crankbait. We saw him catch one non-keeper.
As he passed us I asked him if he had fished the cove yesterday. He hadn't. I asked him if he was running new water today. He laughed at my ill-advised question and said, "Why would I want to go back to those places." His 1-pound, 6-ounce total for Day One doesn't give him confidence in yesterday's fishing spots.
Ott DeFoe has motored into the back of Possum Creek, where he started yesterday, and got on the scoreboard a lot quicker than he did on Day One. He landed a 1 1/2-pound largemouth at 8:10 a.m. Then he followed up with a 2-pounder at 8:17.
DeFoe entered Day Two in second place with 11 pounds, 3 ounces., almost 6 pounds better than Skeet Reese's fourth place total of 5-11. And that's what it's all about today — making the top four and advancing to the Evan Williams Bourbon All-Star Semi-Finals Saturday at Decatur Lake, where the previous two days' totals will be zeroed.
DeFoe, who won this event last year, won't need much more than he's already got now, if anything, to assure himself a spot tomorrow.
Anglers in the Toyota Trucks All-Star Week competition on Lake Shelbyville have different opinions about why the fishing has been relatively poor this week. Some blame a fall turnover. Others say it's the typical transitional malaise between summer and fall patterns. Still others say there just aren't many keepers in the lake. There's no doubt in Mike Mounce's mind that the last explanation is wrong. Mounce is the regional fisheries biologist for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in this area. "We have a good population density of bass in the lake," he said. Electrofishing surveys confirm that. The lake has experienced three consecutive years of flooding, which brought nutrients into the lake, he added, and baitfish populations are good.
So why did 11 of the 12 best bass fishermen in the world fail to catch a five-bass limit yesterday? Mounce doesn't know. "The science of why fish won't bite isn't very good," he said. He suggests the keeper bass -- 14-inchers and longer -- have plenty to eat. Whatever is killing drum and white bass right now might be stressing the bass as well. The thermocline is breaking up in places and that could affect the bite. In addition, shad have yet to migrate en masse to the backs of creeks. I'm sure the answer is a combination of all those factors. I collect excuses for not catching fish, and that conversation added a few to my repertoire.
By the way, Shelbyville regulars should be pleased to know that the bass population is just as high today as it was yesterday. Mounce said all 25 bass weighed in yesterday have been returned safe and healthy to Shelbyville.
With tough fishing like we have right now on Shelbyville, there’s opportunity to make up ground, but it won’t be easy because the fish are small. The bottom four or five anglers could have less than half the weight of the fourth place angler (the last man inside the cut), and that’s probably too much to overcome on Day 2.
By cutting all but the top four anglers, it takes focus off the top of the leaderboard — where Ott DeFoe is running away with things — and puts it squarely in the middle.
We don’t need to be paying attention to DeFoe right now. He’s cruising. It would be almost unfathomable for him not to make the top four and fish in the semifinals. The real story is in the middle — maybe fourth place through eighth place right now. That’s where things are happening and every cast counts. Faircloth, Swindle, Reese and VanDam look to be in a real battle for that fourth position. It won’t be decided today, of course, but being inside the cut position at the end of the first day will be a relief to four anglers and a real concern to eight others.
We picked up Ott DeFoe right at the ramp where he made a pass through a small cove without a bite. He's still got four in the box and though he may not know it, he's still in pretty good shape, barring a big fish or two from someone else.
We don’t know who’s going to be in the top four of the standings after today, but whoever’s in the bottom four is going to have his work cut out for him. Right now Brent Chapman, Matt Herren, Randy Howell and Terry Scroggins are bringing up the rear, and that’s a bad place to be on a tough fishery, but it could be worse.
As someone who scours the numbers of bass tournaments, I can tell you that the easiest situation in which to make up a big deficit is when the fishing’s tough but the bass are hefty. It makes sense, right? After all, if most of the field is struggling to catch fish but you have a limit and the fish are pretty big, you can make a big jump in the standings just by having a decent day.
Conversely, if the fishing’s easy (everybody has a limit) and the bass are small (you’re culling for an ounce here and an ounce there), it’s practically impossible to make up any ground, no matter what anybody else might tell you.
The situation on Lake Shelbyville is somewhere in the middle, and I’ll tell you more on that in just a moment.