Because Cliff Pace has run over this lake, the bass and the competition this week, it was easy to assume this morning that he’d catch a limit without much issue. Even with some evidence to the contrary (Pace himself saying he’s only getting a few bites), we thought it was a foregone conclusion.
Any thought that this might be an interesting race to the finish felt more like a pipe-dream and it usually included someone catching 25 pounds. It never included Pace not catching a limit and someone sneaking in to win with 19 pounds.
But let’s remember, this is the same lake that held a lot of the loaded Classic field to less than a limit on Saturday (18 anglers came in with less than a limit), including Kevin VanDam. Limits are tough to catch.
Palaniuk has moved to his fourth spot today, and this one looks just like the place where he caught his biggest bass yesterday afternoon. He's running a point with wind blowing straight onto it. It has baseball to softball sized rock. I've seen him throw a dark jig and a jerkbait. It seems like he's picking up the jerkbait with greater frequency over the last hour or so. One key difference between this point and yesterday's spot is that this one's a main lake point while yesterday's spot was about a mile back in a creek arm.
Ike's now just north of Duck Creek. He's looking for his limit on wind-blown main-lake points and then eases back into the small pockets that they're attacehd to. It seems that the wind is definitely a factor today. As I typed that out, he bowed up on a small keeper. He had to measure it, but it kept. That should put his limit in the 12- to 13-pound range. He needs to ditch the baby and get a kicker - or two - if he wants to make an honest run at this thing.
Iaconelli isn't the only one with trolling-motor issues. We've had our own problems this morning. Our camera boat's trolling motor spring malfunctioned, forcing photographerJerry Cunningham to hitch a ride with spectators Justin and Tom Haynes. Our driver, Aaron Stanphill, and I worked on it for several minutes (mostly without success) before another spectator provided a temporary repair that we hope will get us through the day.
We just followed Pace on what was his longest run since we've been with him. The lake is churning more than either of the prior tournament days. The spectator boats are a longer distance away than they've been before. As we idled in to get a better look, one of them warned us that Cliff had asked them to stay off the large flat-- apparently he intends to fish out a little more.
I’m going to take you inside Cliff Pace’s head at the top of every hour from now until it’s time for him to check in. This is just for fun, in case that isn’t clear, we don’t have the technology to actually get inside his head … yet.
Where did all these boats come from? I just want to fish. Maybe the bass turned into boats? No that’s ridiculous. But seriously, where are the fish?
Got to stay calm. Got to stay calm. I can’t forget that I’ve owned Grand Lake for two days. I caught two bass yesterday that would have choked King Kong. Just have to stay patient. I’ve only been getting seven bites a day all week, so why would I get more today. The afternoon is always better. Just have to stay calm.
Where’s the wind! Weathermen are so full of …
Actually, I don’t need wind. Didn’t need it yesterday. Don’t need it today. What I need, is to stay patient. I will say though, to myself, that it would be a lot easier to stay patient if a couple bass would get hungry for some plastic sometime soon. Heck, I’d eat plastic for a 5-pounder right now.
Stop. Stick to reality. You are one fish away from the Classic. Tune all this other stuff out. It’s just you and the bass. Be patient … Ah, this place is dead. Time to move.
Starting the final day in 25th place beats watching your colleagues from the dock, but at some point you have to admit that you're out of contention to win this thing.
So how do you motivate yourself if you're Tommy Biffle, who squeaked past the cut line in the 25th and final place in Sunday's round?
"You try not to end up in 25th," Biffle said. "You don't want to have to be in the show explaining why you didn't catch them. And you want to beat Ish so you can tease him the rest of the season."
That's Ish Monroe, who entered today in 24th place. Monroe said his motivation is just to have fun.
"That's what this is about," he said. "If you get stressed or bummed about being in 24th place, you have to remember there are a lot worse things you could be doing right now than fishing the last day of the Classic."
Boyd Duckett said he pondered the question last night.
"It's a hard place to be," Duckett said. "You have to figure out how to motivate yourself. But it's a good opportunity on a big stage to do what we try to do all year, and that's finish as high as you can. You fish the third day as hard as you do the first because you're a professional."
One side-effect of all of this running around is that Pace has lost some of his floating audience. Not sure if that was an express goal, but it has to please him.
We're in the back third of a pocket but we can hear the wind rustling through the trees.
Jerkbaits are probably the dominant lure of this Classic, and they're quite evident today. If you grew up in the Ozarks, like Mike McClelland and Jason Christie, you learned to throw suspending jerkbaits before suspending jerkbaits were manufactured. The original Rogues floated to the surface when they weren't being reeled.
About 40 years ago the best bass anglers in this region discovered that a suspending Smithwick Rogue was the go-to big bass lure in late winter and early spring. By drilling holes in them and filling the holes with lead, or wrapping lead wire around the hook shanks of the three trebles, they created a Rogue that could be reeled down into the middle of a cedar tree and just sit there, begging a bass to bite.
As Brent Chapman once said, "Sometimes you need to leave it long enough to eat a snack before you move it."
Jason Christie said Saturday that he's caught 95% of his fish this week on two jerkbaits - a Smithwick Rogue and a Smithwick Perfect 10 Rogue.
"My mentor, Bud Guthrie, was one of the main guys who developed (hand-altered Rogues)," Christie said. "But they make them now where they work right out of the box."
No one is eating a pack of crackers while a jerkbait suspends in a treetop this week. They're fishing them faster than that. But if you want to catch a big one, it's hard to fish a jerkbait too slow in the Ozarks.
"Yeah! In your face! DT-6 in your face!" Iaconelli shouted at the 2 1/2-pounder in his hand. The DT-6 is a Rapala crankbait, which he's throwing to a chunky bluff wall.
Marty Robinson is roughly 100 yards in front of him. He turned around when Iaconelli's crowd burst into cheers. Ike just let the rest of this pocket to Robinson and is working his way up the other side as spectators part to let him through. Ike likely has in the 13-pound range with four fish. He just seems to be getting quality bites.