Photo by Bassmaster Marshal Bob King.
The breaking action has slowed way down for Jason Christie. A few minutes ago he was able to get his spook in front of a breaker and quickly reeled in a 2 1/2 pounder.
He never gave it another look. He just quickly unhooked it and tossed it back.
He told me earlier that he needs a 4-pounder to cull. His Marshal, who is now in the camera boat, says his largest fish was put down as a 5-pounder. But he thinks it's bigger than that.
Christi is making short hops and jumps around the pocket, hitting new places and hopefully causing enough ruckus to get the shad skittish enough to fire up the bass.
I just received this note from Tournament Director Trip Weldon.
"Interesting side bar on Jason Christie. After he tied up his boat before take off Jason walked up to his truck to get several tackle inserts (see photo above). Looked like hard baits. I asked him did he forget his tackle. His response was I have a few ideas this morning. We all know what gut instincts mean in this game."
Gut instincts make legends of mere men in this sport. And what Christie is doing right now is nothing short of legendary. He's threatening the greatest come-from-behind win in the history of the Elite Series.
Trusting your gut is one of the hardest things to do in this sport. Winning $200,000 in the last 3 months based on that gut makes it a lot easier to listen to. That's what Christie's done and it appears he aims to add another 100K today.
I just jumped in the boat with Jason Christie to run a video camera until a real cameraman showed up. Thankfully that didn't last more than an hour.
Christie is having a dream day. His plan was to flip bushes. He caught a small limit like that yesterday. He was in the pocket over from where he is now. When he moved to this pocket he said for about 400 yards the fish were schooling. He expected them to be spots. He decided he'd finish out his limit. His first four casts produced three 2 1/2 pounders.
Christie settled in, obviously. He's since caught at least 15 keepers for a total of 18 or so pounds in the Livewell.
The best is a 5-pound class fish. He caught that one swimming a grub. He's currently swimming the grub in the back of this bay, waiting for the big blacks to come up. Then he switches to topwater walking bait.
We've not see him catch one yet. But he's chasing every break he sees.
There are a lot of reasons why the Elite Series anglers have raved about fishing Bull Shoals Lake the last two years. At the top, of course, would be the fishing. While there haven't been any lunkers caught this year, there have been a lot of fish caught, even if not as many as last year.
But ranking a close second would be the scenery. Bull Shoals is both beautiful and relatively isolated. As you can see from this aerial photo I took several years ago, when the lake was higher and the trees fully-leaved, there are very few signs of civilization around this 45,000-acre lake on the White River.
The major population centers in the area all have a lake closer to them than Bull Shoals — like Table Rock in Branson and Beaver in the northwest Arkansas area.
Probably the only anglers that don't like fishing Bull Shoals are the guys that like to fish boat docks. With its 40-foot flood pool, keeping a dock on "The Bull" just isn't practical.
B.A.S.S. contributor Shaye Baker gives a thumb's up from his station in the Lowrance War Room. Check out the War Room live feed.
Well it happened. This tournament, from a coverage stand point, presents the perfect storm. We have guys stacked up in the top 12 with only a few pounds separating the field. We put cameras with the top 8 anglers and, of course, Jason Christie comes from 11th all the way to first place unofficially according to BassTrakk with only a few hours left.
Christie is unstoppable right now. Despite a 5-and-a-half-pound deficit coming into today, Christie has jumped out into a strong lead with 18-8 on the day unofficially. We just got word that the majority of his fish came on a spook throughout the morning. Right now he has culled more than any other angler has caught. This is quite impressive to say the least.
All that said, if our leaders at the start of the day, Scanlon, Prince, Pace, Scroggins, can get things going and hit their daily averages one of them will take the lead back. But everyone is due a bad day. The question remains, will their be enough bad days among the top 5 for Christie to take advantage and pull this upset off?
Cliff Prince has moved into the back end of Yocum Cove, near where he started this morning. He's solo now; we haven't seen Cliff Pace in awhile.
With a southeast breeze blowing directly in here, while not as strong as it was yesterday, it does set up the same formula for fish moving shallow like Steve Kennedy witnessed Sunday.
Prince just told us that the water temperature was 57.0 degrees when he got here this morning, and it has moved up to 58.1. We've seen a more dramatic change in the gauge on our boat, which read 52.2 earlier and now shows 55.8.
No matter which one is correct, it's definitely warming.
Kennedy said he'd managed to catch just five keepers here at noon Sunday, then the wave of fish started piling in, and he caught 20 keepers on his next pass down the bank. By the end of the day, he had 13-10, which moved him up from 32nd place to 14th, missing the cut by 4 ounces.
In other words, it's early, and the key bites will be later, as the water continues to warm. That's for everyone, not just Prince. As Brian Snowden said Sunday, "If we weighed in at 4:00 or 4:30, the weights would really be good."
Cliff Prince is enjoying the breeze filling his sails — and his livewell. He just caught his fifth fish — another smallmouth — giving him about 9 1/2 to 10 pounds.
"We've got five," Prince said. "Now it's time to go to work "
Just six pounds separated first from 12th place coming into the final round at Bull Shoals, making it one of the closest Elite events in history. And since six pounds is about the weight of a tournament big bass here, all 12 anglers have at least a puncher’s chance of pulling out the win.
If BASSTrakk is accurate, Jason Christie is leading the tournament right now. He was 11th going into the finals, and if he wins it will be the biggest Day 4 comeback in Elite Series history — by a wide, wide, wide margin.
The biggest comeback so far came on the Mississippi River in 2009. Kevin Short was sixth going into the last day and went on to win the tournament. Christie would blow that mark out of the water even though he and Short would have overcome about the same deficit in terms of pounds and ounces. Short trailed Billy McCaghren by 4-15; Christie trailed Casey Scanlon by 5-6 to start the day. What makes Christie comeback extra surprising is that he had several more anglers to leapfrog to gain the lead. Eleventh place is truly "coming out of nowhere."
The leader going into the finals has a huge advantage. After more than seven years of Elite events, the leader after Day 3 goes on to win 63 percent of the time. The first or second place angler wins 85 percent of the time. You can count on two hands the number of times an angler in third place or further back has overcome the deficit and gone on to win. So, if Christie can do it, it’s a rare thing and a big deal.