3:23 pm EDT, Oct 4, 2014
All 12 Southern Open finalists checked in on time at Blythe Landing, and all the boats are on the trailers, prepared for the drive to Bass Pro Shops.
Here's my best guess on how things are going to shake out:
- David Williams will probably drop out of the lead. He has only 3 fish.
- Either Andy Montgomery or Rich Howes will win this tournament, and it will be close. Howes probably caught 'em better than anyone else today, but Montgomery led him by 3 pounds, 2 ounces after Friday.
- There will be a lot of movement up and down the standings below second place.
Again, this is just a guess. The weigh-in begins at 4 p.m.
2:42 pm EDT, Oct 4, 2014
We're back in the cove where the take-out site is located, Blythe Landing. Jordan Lee is fishing until the last minute. He's got two keepers.
The only person we know of who has caught a limit today is Andy Montgomery, but there's plenty of people we haven't seen.
2:27 pm EDT, Oct 4, 2014
We've had to stop for gas, then go on the great Southern Open angler search, and we've finally found one - David Williams, outside the mouth of Little Creek. If he's any indication, it's been extremely tough today. Williams has two fish.
"They've left me," he said. "I can't get bit. I guess it's just post cold front. I don't know what else it could be."
Oh, and as to an earlier blog post about watching some pro football today, during our gas stop I discovered it's Saturday, and Mississippi State is kicking Texas A&M's tails in Starkville.
The four-day, finishing-on-Sunday Elite Series format is my usual gig, so I fell into the old habit of assuming.
2:24 pm EDT, Oct 4, 2014
Jamie and Vivian of Dynamic Sponsorships are two of the hardest working people on the Bassmaster Tournament Trail. The partnership B.A.S.S shares with all our sponsors and their activation teams is what makes our events so successful.
1:45 pm EDT, Oct 4, 2014
I don’t know how much weight Elite Series pro Andy Montgomery has in his livewell, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s leading. Montgomery was my pick to win the Norman Open before the tournament began.
I picked Montgomery because he is the best dock fisherman I’ve ever seen. I once spent a few hours in his boat during a Strike King media event. Strike King is one of Montgomery’s sponsors.
That’s when I watched Montgomery fish a long row of floating docks. Each slip harbored a big houseboat or pontoon boat.
The opening between each boat and its dock was maybe 12 inches. The other targets were the low, narrow openings between the outboards and the pontoons on the pontoon boats.
Montgomery casually fished his way down the docks, skipping a chattering jig 20 feet or more under every pontoon boat and into the narrow space between the houseboats and their docks.
He never careened the bait off a dock, boat or motor, or pinged a pontoon. It was easy for him. I stopped fishing and watched him in absolute awe.
Since docks are a primary bass cover at Norman, this lake is right in Montgomery’s wheelhouse. And, today’s sunny conditions should push some of Norman’s bass far under the docks and into the darkest shade. That’s right where Montgomery wants them.
12:15 pm EDT, Oct 4, 2014
Hank Cherry just warmed my cold, cold heart by catching a 2 1/4-pound bass. It's not what he needs today, but it's encouraging.
"I've still got time, if they'll just cooperate," said Cherry, after landing the fish that was spitting up threadfin shad.
Lack of cooperation hurt Cherry just a few minutes ago when "a big one" followed his jig to the boat. Cherry dropped his lure back to the bass, which he could see had only the jig trailer in its mouth - no hook. And that was as close as he'd get to catching it.
12:12 pm EDT, Oct 4, 2014
While following Hank Cherry under the Highway 150 bridge, the derelict in me was greatly tempted by the Pinnacle Marina "Grill, Billards" sign. For those who don't know, "freelance writer" is just a fancy term for "derelict."
A couple of cold ones and some pro football, man, I'm trying not to think about it.
We're going to hang with Hank for at least one more stop. He's moved into Stumpy Creek now.
The idea of boating back down the white-capping lake in search of David Williams, Andy Montgomery or Chad Morgenthaler isn't all that appealing right now.
I try not to root for anyone in these events. It's unprofessional. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't rooting for Cherry to start catching them now, for my sake more than his. If we can just hang out here awhile longer, I might yield to my instincts.
11:40 am EDT, Oct 4, 2014
Now that his Bassmaster Classic fate is out of his hands, Cliff Prince must sit and wait for the results today from Lake Norman. He has more foes than friends in the 12-man final.
Prince is the "bubble boy" in the Elite Series points standings. If someone who has already qualified for the Classic or can't qualify for the Classic wins this tournament, Prince will be in. That list includes at least four: Andy Montgomery, Chad Morgenthaler, Cliff Pace and Ron Farrows.
Prince's foes number at least seven: David Williams, Rich Howes, Shane Lehew, Jordan Lee, Hank Cherry, Greg Vinson and Shane Lineberger.
If any of those seven win, Prince will be bumped out of the Classic.
I'm not certain about one: Drew Montgomery. I don't know whether he has fished the previous two Southern Opens.
11:29 am EDT, Oct 4, 2014
Jordan Lee's goal coming into this event was to take some gambles in hopes of winning and earning a Bassmaster Classic berth. He is already qualified for the Elite Series next season based on his second-place finish in the Central Opens.
Lee's big gamble has been running way, way up the Catawba River. Photographer Ronnie Moore, who is familiar with this lake, found out yesterday just how far up the river Lee is fishing.
Moore has been up it to the point where it's a shallow, narrow stream, where cattle can cross.
"I went past the cattle," Lee said, in describing the place where he caught the 5-pound, 14-ounce largemouth that's the biggest bass of the tournament.
There's only so far you can go before you run into the dam at Lookout Shoals.
Needless to say, we will not be on the lookout for Jordan Lee today.
And speaking of Lee, rumor has it that his brother, Matt, will qualify for the Elite Series through the Southern Opens. Matt thought he'd blown his chance Friday with a 56th-place finish here. Unofficially, the word is that he's made the top five in Southern Opens points.
11:16 am EDT, Oct 4, 2014
It's no fun at all running around Lake Norman searching for anglers now. The northwest wind that has been blowing steadily at 10-plus mph since takeoff has the white caps rolling.
We got to experience the joys of boating in these conditions as we searched for another angler. Thankfully, we've found one - Hank Cherry, but he was not particularly happy to see us. Hank's just not happy, period, because the bass aren't cooperating.
"They're just not biting," said Cherry, who has one keeper.
The sun is plenty high in the sky now, and that's when Cherry thought his bite would turn on.