Photos by Tim Jackson
Russ Lane has stayed in contention for the Bassmaster Wild Card title this week primarily on a bait he designed — the Big Bite Baits Real Deal Craw. Jeff Kriet has relied on it, too.
Photos by Harry Holstein
After adding another fish to his livewell, Gary Clouse keeps right on fishin'!
The leaderboard shuffle is happening right now on BASSTrakk, and it's taking place between the four anglers who were within 10 pounds of the lead, as expected.
Let's take a quick look at these anglers.
Chad Morgenthaler is a 3-time Classic qualifier (2003, 2005 and 2006) who left B.A.S.S. in 2006 (he was invited to fish the Elite Series, but declined) to fish FLW. In 2013 he signed up for all nine Bassmaster Opens in an effort to get into the Elite Series. He made it by virtue of his 7th-place finish in the Southern Opens and he'll be competing against KVD, Aaron, Ike, Skeet and the rest of the best in the business in 2014. He will not be a rookie, though, because he competed on the Bassmaster Tour (the highest level of B.A.S.S. competition before the Elite Series) before 2006.
Jesse Tacoronte is the only Floridian in the field with a realistic chance to win the Wild Card. He's out of Orlando and the Sunshine State guys really respect his talents with a flippin' stick. He's only fished six B.A.S.S. events (all of the Southern Opens over the past two years), but it's more than enough to qualify for the Classic ... if he can win today. When I spoke to Jesse this morning, he had three flippin' rods on his front deck and said he wouldn't be using anything else. Smart man ... nice guy, too.
Russ Lane is well-known to B.A.S.S. fans. The Alabama pro has been to five Classics, but wants very much to fish another in his home state. In 2010, he was fourth on Lay Lake. As you might expect, he likes his chances on Guntersville. Russ had a strong first day but stumbled in the second round. He thinks he might have beaten up his fish too much in the early round. He'll be going for broke today and knows what it takes to do well in a format like this. He's the real veteran in this group.
Shaye Baker is the youngest of the four and the least experienced. He's only fished three B.A.S.S. events in his career -- the three 2013 Southern Opens -- and his best finish was 21st. He's done a lot of media work for B.A.S.S. in the past couple of years and has a real gift for video content. It's unlikely that anyone wants the win any more than Shaye. As an Alabaman, a Guntersville Classic would be a dream come true. The dream had a great start for him. On the first day he caught the biggest bass of his life (9-1) and caught his heaviest limit ever (29-8). Is he an angler of destiny this week? We'll find out soon enough.
Nothing against the rest of the field -- great talents all -- but it's really those four anglers who have anything like a realistic shot at winning this tournament.
For the first time in three days, Shaye Baker is not leading the Wild Card tournament. Of course, that's very unofficial, but it's got to be disappointing to his family and friends. Still, there's lot of fishing to be done.
Three of the top five anglers on BASSTrakk and four of the top eight are from Alabama. I think those guys may want this win more than anyone else simply because the Bassmaster Classic will be on Lake Guntersville, and they really like their chances there next February.
Can Baker make up whatever ground he's lost and get back on top? Of course he can. In fact, I had dinner with Patrick Pierce and Bernie Schultz last night. They finished 17th and 19th, respectively. Patrick believes that the bite in Baker's area (where he was also fishing) is getting later and later. If that trend is continuing, Baker's best bite is still to come.
Of course, the bite may be getting later for everyone. That means they all might improve later today.