Britt Myers wished for wind to turn on the bass in Bull Shoals, but he got a little more than he asked for in East Sugarloaf Creek. When the wind picked up about an hour ago, big white caps started rolling right down the pipe.
So Myers moved over to West Sugarloaf, where we followed him for awhile Saturday. It's protected from the wind. It's still blowing here, of course, but there are no white caps in sight. Myers is continuing to throw that Rapala DT10 crankbait, and it has continued to catch fish for him, but nothing that he's been able to upgrade with. He's still stuck at 13 1/2 pounds.
Brandon Palaniuk needs this win. He was off to a terrible start in 2012 (67th at St. Johns; 90th at Okeechobee). A win at Bull Shoals will qualify him for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic after he had dug a hole that made it doubtful he would qualify on points alone. Even with the win here, Palaniuk is only going to move up to 56th in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race — still a long way out of Classic contention.
With a win at Bull Shoals following his 90th-place finish at Okeechobee, Palaniuk will have the fifth biggest "rebound" in Elite Series history. David Walker has the top mark. After finishing 98th in a field of 99 anglers on the Arkansas River last year, Walker rebounded to win the Elite finale on Wheeler Lake.
The wind has picked up with a vengeance. It's blowing in the 20 mile per hour range at the moment and shows no sign of letting up.
That will make for an uncomfortable ride in some of these stretches, but from a fish-catching perspective, it should really turn things on. These White River lakes are known as "wind" lakes. It doesn't matter what your pattern is or was, windy banks start to really matter on days like this.
A guy can sack a bag quick. In the overall scheme of things it won't make a big impact for Palaniuk if he can just add a little more. But for the the rest of the field, those who are fighting for Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year points or a better pay day, that means a possibility of making a big move.
It will certainly improve the fishing.
If Palaniuk can add to his lead, he has a chance to set a new Elite Series record for largest margin of victory. That record is currently held by Mike McClelland, who won the 2006 Grand Lake tournament by 15-9. Of course, that's just the record in Elite events. If you want to go through the annals of BASS history (as I love to do), the record for largest margin of victory belongs to the incomparable Rick Clunn, who won the 1984 Bassmaster Classic by 25-8! And that was a three-day tournament, not a four-day derby like the Elite events. The shorter the tournament, the tougher it is to run away with it like that.
Brandon Palaniuk started Day Four with the biggest lead in Bassmaster Elite Series history at 12 pounds, 15 ounces. The previous record was 11-15 by Mike McClelland on Grand Lake (site of the 2013 Bassmaster Classic) in 2006. Of course, McClelland went on to win that tournament, and it would be a shocker if Palaniuk doesn't go wire-to-wire this week at Bull Shoals.
The biggest blown lead after Day Three was 9-14. It happened in 2008 on the Harris Chain in Florida. Missouri's Brian Snowden led by nearly 10 pounds but failed to catch a bass in the final round and lost to Mike McClelland.
It's been a season of giant leads in the Elite Series. In the season opener, Alton Jones had a 7-4 lead after Day Two of the St. Johns tournament (10th biggest Day Two lead ever) and a 9-1 lead after Day Three (8th biggest ever). Then, at Okeechobee, Ish Monroe led by 8-12 after Day One (biggest Day One lead ever) and by 13-11 after Day Two (also the record). Now Palaniuk sets a record for biggest lead after Day Three.
Bull Shoals produced three bass that currently hold state records:
The biggest bass from Bull Shoals in a BASS event was an 8-14 largemouth caught on April 14, 1988 — Day 2 of the Arkansas Invitational — by H. Mark Peters. That tournament was won by Rick Clunn, who finished 21st here this week.
If you're wondering why more major tournaments haven't been held on Bull Shoals over the years, maybe it's because the fishing has traditionally been pretty bad. In the six previous B.A.S.S. events here, the average fish weighed less than 1.75 pounds. That's pretty small! To make matters worse, few of them were being caught! That's all changed this week, when the average bass has weighed 2.77 pounds — more than a pound above the historical Bull Shoals average! and almost everyone is catching a limit. The bassing average over the first three days has been a remarkable 4.96 out of a possible 5.00. Bull Shoals is better than ever — or at least the best its been since the heydays right after it was impounded in 1951.
If the Elite season ended after Day Three of the Bull Shoals event, your Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year would be ... wait for it ... drum roll please ... Brent Chapman, in a landslide! Chapman would have 285 points on the strength of three consecutive top six finishes. The runner-up would be Randy Howell with 263. Skeet Reese would be 6th and Kevin VanDam 7th.
And if the Elite season had ended after Day Two at Bull Shoals, the Bassmaster Rookie of the Year would be Brandon Card, who would rank 9th in the AOY race with 220 points.
Britt Myers has seen several indications that the fishing on Bull Shoals Lake today is going to be more like it was Thursday and Friday than on the slower day that came with the cold front Saturday.
Most importantly, he had a limit in the boat in 30 minutes this morning. But there's also the fact that Myers has noticed more activity in the water. Baitfish and gamefish are active. Myers has caught a little bit of everything already, including a heart-stopping 6-pound-plus walleye 8:30 that he initially thought was a monster bass.
"Al Lindner would be proud of me wouldn't he," Myers said. "I thought that was a nine-pound bass when it was coming in."
That walleye added another species to the list for Myers this morning, which also includes a flathead catfish and largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. He's got a 2 1/2-pound smallmouth in the livewell that's a beauty.
Myers was able to upgrade about a half-pound at 8:45 with a three-pound largemouth, which gives him about 13 1/2 pounds now.
But the best sign Myers has seen is the wind picking up.
"I've never seen wind turn on the fish like it does here," Myers said. "We've been to lakes before where it helps a little bit, but nothing like it does here."
Results from the water are rolling in. Two anglers already with limits. Britt Myers, who is sitting at number two, has 13 pounds, and is off to a fast start. Cliff Pace has 12 pounds. And our leader, Brandon Palaniuk, has four fish for 6 pounds 8 ounces.
Already we've recorded 32 fish catches for a total of 72 pounds. That number is not official. We're certain it is actually higher. Visit BASSTrakk, presented by Toyota Trucks, for regular updates.