So far, the two anglers who got to All-Star Week via automatic bids, Cliff Pace (Bassmaster Classic champion) and Hank Cherry (Rookie of the Year) are having a pretty good go of it. They're first and third, respectively. Of those voted in, Michael Iaconelli (currently fifth) ranks highest, and none are currently inside the cut to the top four. The other fan favorites — Gerald Swindle (11th), Brandon Palaniuk (12th) and Skeet Reese (13th) — are struggling and have a lot of ground to make up if they hope to fish Sunday. Last year, Aaron Martens was the All-Star champion, and he was elected to All-Star Week by the fans. In the only previous All-Star Week, Ott DeFoe won after qualifying on points in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race.
Never underestimate the ability of Cliff Pace when the spotlight's bright and the fishing is tough, especially if you have to grind out the bites in deeper water with a jig. Pace is a master at that. It made him the runner-up in the 2008 Bassmaster Classic and it made him the winner of the 2013 championship. He loves those kinds of tournaments — the ones where guys are giving up early and the fishing feels like work. His lead is anything but substantial and it was anchored by the biggest bass caught all day (4-14), so it might seem a little precarious, but with the weather being pretty stable and the fishing not likely to change much on Day 2, Pace is a good bet to advance.
Alton Jones nabs number 5! (Photo by Dustin Daggett.)
We caught up with Brandon Palaniuk fish close to the bank of Muskegon Lake. He's struggling, with only one 2 pounder in his livewell. Shortly after we arrive he jetted off to a new location.
Click here to watch JVD's analysis of Hank Cherry's spot!
We are halfway through the day and it appears this event will shape up just like an All Star event should.
Cherry has a really good sack that should get him to the final. The rest of the field seems to be really tight, ensuring some last-minute heroics from someone.
All of these guys want to be there, not just for the money and a chance to win. But because the fishing was so much better there in practice.
Cherry is practically giddy at the potential. The same for every guy here.
That's why these last few hours should be fun. KVD and Evers will likely do something extraordinary, Ike will likely go Ike sometime and everyone else, with the exception of Cherry, will be running this lake like their asses are on fire.
Chris Pace has found his way back to his starting place this morning.
Keith Combs spent a lot of time yesterday on the big weed-bed located on the point at Fisherman's Landing Park. He's back there today.
I saw him catch two bass Friday afternoon that allowed him to cull twice. That's what Combs needs today - a few more culls. Combs needs less than a pound to leapfrog into the magic fourth-place spot, based on current BASSTRAKK numbers.
He's working the thick matted vegetation with a black frog, exactly what he caught them on here yesterday.
Combs just now moved over to the rip-rap banks that line the channel leading back to the boat ramps, and he's throwing a jerkbait.
Though he's only four ounces out of fifth going into Day 2, I'm expecting Edwin Evers to stay in the top 4 and advance to the finals on Sunday. Evers is an All-Star regular and has been the runner up in each of the last two All-Star events (Ott DeFoe won in 2011 and Aaron Martens won last year). Something about this format really suits Evers. Maybe it plays well to his versatility. Maybe he figures things out and finds patterns faster than most. Whatever it is, he's good at this stuff, and I think he'll be fishing Sunday.