Bertrand's Alabama rig lies on his deck.
"They hit it so hard," Bertrand said. "You will go an hour or so without a bite and then one will hit it so hard it will knock the wind out of you. It's surprising really considering how tough the fishing is."
Bertrand has been fishing the umbrella rig a lot since he picked one up last fall. After it was made popular by dominating the first few tournaments it was thrown in, Bertrand got a few and has been using it successfully back home out west.
"It's amazing that it catches fish everywhere and I can't wait to see what it will do this spring," Bertrand said. "I've seen a lot of rimes where they will bite it in the morning and then it will get pancake calm and they won't touch it."
He clearly has confidence in it, repeatedly making casts as we work down the bank. A key to getting bit is to keep the bait banging on the rocks during the retrieve. Here the magic zone is 3 to 10 feet of water.
"A lot of times, you will feel the bait nose up on a rock and when it comes over the other side, that's when you will get bit."
As far as bait selection, Bertrand uses Pro Swimbaits 5-inch Pro Minnow and throws it on braid.
Bertrand has kept on the move. In just the last little bit, he's made a couple more moves.
He's staying pretty calm. He's hitting underwater outcroppings of rock. The bites are few and far between with the umbrella rig, but they are good ones.
The thing about this fish off is you can’t expect things to be lights out, with fish after fish hitting the two anglers’ boats.
Bertrand has caught only six keepers in the 24 hours of competition (three, 8-hour days). He caught a big sack on Day One, zeroed on Day Two, and then followed it up with an extremely key, one fish on Day Three.
Chapman has caught fish every day, but he has only seven keepers in the same amount of time. No one has been immune to the grind that Lewisville has served up the last three days.
We can only guess it’s not over. Overstreet mentioned earlier that Chapman was concerned with the lack of moving water in his discharge area.
And you have to wonder what is going through the head of Bertrand. He’s not exactly a rookie, but my guess is this is a new sort of pressure cooker.
It all adds up to one big question in the back of all our minds: Will they even catch one today to put an end to this event?
Bertrand is fishing the large dam here on Lewisville, tossing the umbrella rig almost up onto the rocks and then bringing it back in.
"The fish I had that first day bit on the first few feet of the retrieve," Bertrand said.
He caught his biggest two first thing in the morning and then the rest sporadically throughout the day, culling once.
So far, he hasn't had a bite and he's made a move down to another section of the dam, next to one of the large pumping stations on the lake. The water temperature is 3 degrees lower than it has been, maybe one reason the bite has gotten so tough.
He plans to stick with the umbrella rig for the first few hours and if that isn't producing, he's got a jerkbait tied on that might tempt some otherwise lockjawed bass. I can blame the bass, if they are as numb as my fingers, they won't be too aggressive.
A fish-off is obviously an exciting event, like overtime where every little move becomes so critical that you can’t bare to watch at times.
Bass fishing needs more of them, but of course that’s up to the fish and the scales.
The last fish-offs that I’m aware of came in 2009, both in the Central Open (what’s up with that?)
Each one of them involved an Elite Angler as well (Another, what’s up with that?)
The two were:
Edwin Evers versus Mark Smith at the Atchafalaya Basin. Evers won that contest.
James Niggemeyer versus Gerald Pringle at Toledo Bend. Niggemeyer won that contest.
While I’m sure there have been others over the course of time, the most exciting fish-off I’ve ever seen was in 1996 at the MegaBucks contest.
Ironically, it was not too far from Lewisville on White Rock Lake. Jeff MaGee and Denny Brauer had finished in a tie after seven days of fishing.
I can remember thinking, please not another day. I guess we were all in that frame of mind. Instead of bringing those anglers back for a day of fishing, they sent them back on the water for a “sudden-death” shootout.
The neat thing about it was there were several thousand spectators on the bank. Each of those anglers had a B.A.S.S. tournament director in the boat with them. I know one of those was Trip Weldon. For the life of me, I can’t remember the other director.
Each of them had a radio, and each of them gave a play-by-play of what was taking place on the water. All those spectators stood in front of the weigh-in stage and listened to what was going on out on the lake.
“Magee is trolling toward a laydown log, trying to get in a position to make a cast.”
“Denny had just pulled up to his bait, and he set the hook.”
The crowd roared as they heard that transmission. When the fish turned out to be a non-keeper, it was followed by groans.
Not long after that MaGee caught the first keeper and won his only Bassmaster event in a pretty interesting fishing career. Brauer of course kept winning all kind of things.
The crowd knew who was going to win before they ever got there, but they remained loud and racous, realizing they had been a part of one of the more amazing fishing events in a long while.
The sun peaks through the clouds as Brent Chapman is at his spot and fishing.
Chapman has been fishing a warm water discharge in the back of a creek.
Problem is, there's no flow this morning and the water temperature has dropped six degrees since yesterday. (54 degrees yesterday, 48 this morning).
The discharge also created current, but there is none this morning. He had been keying on eddies in the current to position his fish.
Chapman has only three rods on the deck, rigged with a spinnerbait, jerk bait and a worm. The worm has been his go-to bait.
The past three days when you would wake up the first thing you could hear was the wind howling outside the hotel window.
The wind chill factor made it feel like 12 degrees at launch time yesterday.
Things are different today. It was finally quiet this morning. No wind beating the hotel windows. Maybe we're finally getting a break in Texas.
For the few who were actually questioning how cold and tough it was running across this lake yesterday; hop in the bed of a pickup, speed up to about 50 miles per hour or more and have somebody throw a 5-gallon bucket of ice water on you every now and then!
Here it is, the most exciting event in professional bass fishing: a fish-off.
I can only say that I'm glad the weather has decided to favor those of us ill-prepared to sit out in the insane conditions the Top 12 faced yesterday. The cold is still an issue, of course, but that slashing, shiver-inducing wind has gone away.
Our photographer James Overstreet faced 5-footers at one point on his way back to the ramp yesterday, where every wave washing over the boat would freeze to everything from his well-manicured beard to the carpet on the front deck.
As Overstreet put to me earlier, "Even the fountain at the hotel was whitecapping."
The calm conditions this morning will favor Josh Bertrand. After busting 18 pounds on Day One, the north winds rendered his spot unfishable the past two days.
I'll be with Josh all day, taking pictures and video along with the live blog. Expect a whole lot of umbrella rigging conversation. Both those 18-pound bags were caught on it, incidentally, in the same area. Expect more on that later. If you have any questions post them here and I'll get them answered.
Until then, sit back and let's enjoy this party.
Call Brent Chapman the veteran. His opponent today, Josh Bertrand, is the rookie.
Bertrand, of Mesa, Ariz., is fishing his fourth Bassmaster event. Besides totaling 43 pounds, 13 ounces before this event, his B.A.S.S. profile is completed with zeroes, from times in the money to top 50 finishes.
Chapman, 39, of Lake Quivira, Kan., has 189 tournaments B.A.S.S. under his belt, including two victories and more than $1.1 million in winnings. He's fished in the Classic 10 times.
Yet none of that matters today as they fish five hours for the Bass Pro Shops Central Open title on Lewisville Lake.
Tying at 20 pounds, 9 ounces after three days in frigid conditions, the two face off from 7 a.m. to noon for the Open title and provisional berth into the 2013 Bassmaster Classic on Oklahoma's Grand Lake.
Stay tuned this morning as James Overstreet and Rob Russow will serve as the competitors' Marshals, all the while providing on-the-water updates. Expect blog posts, BASSCam videos and photo galleries covering every aspect of the fish-off.