Weigh-in times are a little different today. We have college anglers weighing in at 2:45 Central today. Then the Hooked Up show at 3:00 Central. And the 12 Elite finalists will weigh-in around 3:30 Central. Watch it all live at this link on Bassmaster.com!
Britt Myers left West Sugarloaf Creek, and we had no desire to follow him out of here. The wind is bad enough where we are. Scott Rook moved from the back of the creek out to where Myers had been, so that made our decision easy. We decided to idle over and check on his day.
"I'm struggling," Rook said. "I've got five that weigh about 11 pounds. I've lost more than I've caught."
Rook is throwing a crankbait. He said he lost a 5-pounder just a few minutes ago. He got a good look at it when it came completely out of the water and spit the bait. He said he lost another one earlier in the day that was in the 4-pound range.
With Myers out of sight and this lake getting way too rough for cameras, computers and old men, we are out of here. And we're extremely thankful we only have to ride around the bend to Sugarloaf Marina to load the boat. A boat ride back to Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock is going to be quite an adventure this afternoon.
Mid-day has been when Britt Myers caught his best fish this week, and he's got to add a couple in the 4- to 5-pound range to improve significantly from the 13- to 14-pounds he got now. He has caught plenty of fish today, just nothing of any help since he moved from East Sugarloaf Creek to West Sugarloaf.
"The wind in here suits me just fine," said Myers, who is riding the wind down the bluff-side bank, winding that crankbait, then motoring back and doing it again. "I've caught my bigger fish in the middle of the day. The numbers have come in the morning. I'm just trying to stay focused."
Myers is on the verge of his best Elite Series finish. He has been on the circuit since its inception in 2006, and had a top 20 finish every year, but only two in the top 10. A seventh-place finish on Kentucky Lake in '09 is his Elite Series best so far.
"When I first came out here, I knew I wasn't ready," Myers said. "These guys are really good. But there's no better way to learn than to get out here and get beat up a little bit."
Myers expected this to be his best year on the Elite Series, then he opened the season with a last place finish on the St. Johns River. A strong finish on Bull Shoals would be a sign that he's ready for a big year.
Assuming he's going to hold on and win, Brandon Palaniuk will become the 13th angler to go wire-to-wire in winning an Elite Series event. You don't need much of a memory to recall the last to do it. It was Ish Monroe on Lake Okeechobee just a few weeks ago.
Professional bass fishing at the highest level is not a sport of comebacks. Again, assuming Palaniuk holds on here, the Day One leader goes on to win 28.33 percent of the time; the Day Two leader goes on to win nearly half the time, and the Day Three leader wins 65 percent of the time.
It's never too early to start thinking about the 2013 Bassmaster Classic on Oklahoma's Grand Lake, especially if you're an Elite angler from Oklahoma or a pre-tournament favorite. Mike McClelland is a definite pre-Classic favorite, having won the Elite event on Grand in 2006. Right now, he's on the bubble for qualifying for the championship. He's 37th in the AOY race. A cadre of Sooner State residents are also watching their points as the season progresses. Edwin Evers (currently 4th) and Tommy Biffle (8th) are looking strong. Jeff Kriet (38th) has some work to do. Fred Roumbanis (59th) and Terry Butcher (61st) can still get there, but Kenyon Hill (96th), Dave Smith (98th) and a pair of Elite rookies —Kevin Ledoux (82nd) and Jared Miller (94th) —are already in trouble. Their chances of fishing a backyard Classic next year are slipping away.
As good as things have been for Brent Chapman this year, they've been equally tough for some perennial Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year challengers. Denny Brauer, the 1987 AOY —who always seems to struggle in Florida —is currently 85th. Davy Hite, the 1997 and 2002 AOY, is 83rd. Aaron Martens, the 2005 AOY, is 80th, and Tim Horton (2000 AOY) is 70th. Whether they're concerned or not, it's not early in the season anymore, and they're going to need to mount a comeback sooner rather than later if they want to fish the 2012 Bassmaster Classic.
Listening to Brandon Palaniuk on a phone call with Tommy Sanders and Mark Zona you got the feeling that he's had equal amounts of frustration and excitement. While on the call, he caught his limit fish, giving him about 9 1/2 pounds.
As soon as the call was over he boated a couple more keepers and he's culled up to 11 pounds and change. That pretty much sticks the fork in the hopes of these guys. Matt Herren, though, is making a run at him in a big way.
We have him with 16 1/2-pounds and it could be more. That cuts into the lead a little, but Palaniuk still has control. All he probably has to do is get back to the check-in on time. With the wind, that now seems to be gusting even stronger, that's a consideration that could come into play.
Brandon Palaniuk maybe feeling a little of the pressure that comes with leading an Elite Series event.
He doesn't have to catch much and he may have all he needs at this point with 6 1/2-pounds. But we have some reports that he's lost a fish and has now switched from his road bed to flipping a jig on boat houses. He missed one doing that. And he's battling the wind.
What has to be going through his mind is what to do next. Conventional knowledge says you stay on the dance floor that got you to the final. But the wind may change that.
He seems to be willing to stretch his wings a bit, so if he gets on one of those wind patterns he can fill out his limit and never look back. But I know from experience that Brandon wants to catch a 20-plus sack today. He knows his road bed may be the only place to do that.
It will be interesting to watch as he goes through this mental process the next couple of hours.
He's not going to win the Bull Shoals tournament, but Brent Chapman is on fire! He kicked off the 2012 season by winning the Central Open on Texas' Lewisville Lake, finished a respectable 18th at the Bassmaster Classic (he'd have done better but I jinxed him by picking him to win) and has followed it up with three straight Top 12 finishes in the Elite Series. That puts him atop the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. His best previous AOY finish was 8th in 2007.
The last anglers to have three consecutive Top 12 finishes in Elite competition were Alton Jones and Terry Scroggins, who did it last year. The record for most consecutive Top 12s belongs to Skeet Reese, who did it an amazing six times in a row between 2006 and 2007. Reese also posted five straight Top 12s in 2010. No one else has made more than four in a row.