2011 Elite Series - Evan Williams Bourbon All-Star Championship
Alabama River - Montgomery, AL, Jul 29 - 31, 2011

Evan Williams Bourbon All-Star Championship Live Blog, Day One

Day One - Alabama River

4:02 p.m.

All the boats are in with no late penalities. The weigh in starts in one hour, folliowing Hooked Up.

See you back here in the morning.

 

3:59 p.m.

Ott has checked in but Skeet, Aaron, Ike and Evers are all fishing at the check-in dock. Their casts are practically touching each others boats. They are taking it down to the last second.

One thing we can report. Our designated fish checker has the weights on some of our guys a little higher than BASSTrakk, but the individual matches are still too close to call.

-- Steve Bowman

3:53 p.m.

The minutes are almost gone.

Casey, Gerald and Scroggins are all checked in. No doubt Swindle and Scroggins feel like they have it sewed up.

They probably hated it when they saw each other at the check-in early.

Ike, who we think is way behind Ott DeFoe, is fishing at the check-in dock. Not too far from him is DeFoe. We've seen Ike cull up here two years in a row. But he's got to go big.

While he's fishing Aaron Martens is running toward check in. No eyes on Skeet or Evers yet.

-- Steve Bowman

 

3:45 p.m.

If BASSTrakk holds true, we're looking at these pairings tomorrow:

Ashley vs. Swindle (though both of their races are too close to call right now)

DeFoe vs. Evers

 

-- Ken Duke

 

3:38 p.m.

Momentum turns quickly in this sport. Just ask Casey Ashley. After winning the semifinals tournament on Lake Jordan, he's struggling to stay off the bottom of the leaderboard here on the Alabama River. If BASSTrakk is right, he's just four ounces up on Skeet Reese, and given Skeet's tendency to estimate low on his creel weights, it might be tighter than that or Reese may even have a slight lead.
It would be something if Reese could slip past Ashley in next-to-last place and get to the next round. That would mean he's advanced by the skin of his teeth two straight times. For the rest of the field, he'd be like one of those villains from a horror movie that you can never quite seem to kill -- he keeps coming back!
If they don't get Skeet soon, don't be surprised if Skeet gets them!

-- Ken Duke

3:31 p.m.

I have to respectfully disagree with my colleague Ken Duke, who mentioned the "injustices" of this match-fishing format earlier in the blog.
This is a winner-take-all event. If you can't win your match every day, what right do you have to move on to the next one? This is a sudden death elimination. There are no mulligans or best-of-sevens. $100,000 goes to the winner. Period.
I like the format. It's different. Sure, Gerald Swindle won't be happy at the end of the day if his big bag isn't enough to edge by his buddy the Big Show, but three other guys are going home unhappy today too. And only one will be going home happy.

Aside from Ott Defoe distancing himself from crowd favorite Mike Iaconelli, these matches are tight and will make for an exciting weigh-in.
-Rob Russow

3:25 p.m.

Less than an hour remains on the first day here on the Alabama River, but Casey Ashley's day is all but over. His flurry came in the morning and that last cull was a rare afternoon bite, a pleasant surprise.
"I've done all I can do," Ashley said. "I still need a 2.5-pounder, but I don't know if I have enough now. There is no way to know."
As it stands, things are pretty close in all the match-ups, but Ashley doesn't know that. Unlike some of the other anglers, who have places they think they can get a bite this late in the day, Ashley came out and told me that he had no places like that. He's just going to fish hard in the area that produced for him earlier and hope another keeper
hooks up.
-Rob Russow

 

One of the questions I'll have for the losers in this match fishing contest is "What would you have done differently in the afternoon if you had seen the leaderboard and known you were behind?"
Gerald Swindle seems to have known instinctively what to do. He headed back upriver and found some better fish.
Mike Iaconelli and some of the other anglers may have made the wrong move by staying downriver and concentrating their efforts there.

-- Ken Duke

3:20 p.m.

Precious minutes are left in this first round of the match ups. As a matter of fact, those guys who were way down river have to be on their way back.

Some are hopping from spot to spot, trying squeak out every ounce. Others like Swindle, who is upriver, are staying on one spot, since they are close enough to make it.

Swindle's pipe just keeps producing keepers. None seem to help him, but that could change any second.

Unless some last-second heroics take place, we have three matches that are too close to call. One match with Ott and Ike where we know Ott has a decent bag, and Ike, on occassion, decides to slip off the grid and not report catches.

A fun weigh in is coming.

-- Steve Bowman

3:15 p.m.

You could hardly ask for a more tightly contested match fishing event than what we have today. Except for the Ott DeFoe/Mike Iaconelli matchup -- which DeFoe is currently dominating -- all of the contestants appear to be separated by ounces rather than pounds. I saw and spoke to 7 of the 8 and all have experienced slow fishing today, but for some it's been slower than others. When I saw Terry Scroggins and he told me he had about 13 pounds, I thought he'd be safely through to the next round because Gerald Swindle only had about 8 pounds when I saw him two hours or so earlier. Now BASSTrakk has them separated by 3 ounces with Big Show behind.

-- Ken Duke

3:09 p.m.

If BASSTrakk is right, our match fishing derby is going to have several of those injustices for which this format is famous.

Gerald Swindle and Terry Scroggins are both having solid days -- second and third best of anyone in the field, respectively. But nothing is going to save the one with the lesser total. He'll be going home empty-handed despite beating most of the anglers in the finals.

At the other end of the spectrum are Casey Ashley and Skeet Reese, bringing up the rear but paired against each other. In their case, the second worst performance of the day moves on to the next round only because that angler was paired against exactly the right person.

-- Ken Duke

2:58 p.m.

BASSTrakk update:

Seed Angler Fish Weight
1 Casey Ashley 5 7-09
8 Skeet Reese 5 7-05
       
2 Ott Defoe 5 12-12
7 Michael Iaconelli 5 7-12
       
3 Aaron Martens 5 8-09
6 Edwin Evers 5 9-08
       
4 Terry Scroggins 5 12-09
5 Gerald Swindle 5 12-12

-- Hank Weldon

2:56 p.m.

It's not exactly rocket science why DeFoe and Swindle have been dominating the afternoon. Both of those anglers are the only ones on the upriver side of Montgomery.

At some point this afternoon, the generators at Bouldin Dam were turned on and those guys have been reaping the rewards.

We have no report on any flow at Jones Bluff, where Skeet and Scroggins are camped. It could be rolling down there as well. I will remind you that each of them have been mostly dark for the day. But eveything tells us that this is still close on all fronts.

Ike may the only one who needs to pick up the pace. Still an hour left, though.

-- Steve Bowman

2:50 p.m.

Defoe is on a tear. A mega-tear. In the last three casts he's caught three fish. He's rocketed up to nearly 12 pounds in a matter of 120 seconds.

"I guess you've gotta fish deep on the river and shallow on Jordan; kinda opposite of what you'd think," he said. "I guess I made the right stop. There's a little patch of rough stuff down there I'm hitting. I like it when you find stuff like this in a tournament."
--David Hunter Jones

2:42 p.m.

It's hard to fathom just how close each of these four races really are, literally seperated by ounces. That makes each of them too close to call.

Every angler out there has a Marshal with him, so many of those weights are his best guess. Others are the guesses of the angler in the boat. Experience has shown us that it's seldom when BASSTrakk is dead on, but it almost aways gives us a good idea of how close things will be.

In today's case, it's scary close. The anglers are still catching fish, and if they cull it's only by ounces. I doubt a culling beam has ever been used as much as it has been today.

And every once in a while, something nice hits the deck.

-- Steve Bowman

2:34 p.m.

Ashley made a move near an area he fished earlier. After working along most of the stretch, he set the hook and startled us from our stupor. The fish was quickly swung into the boat and Ashley walked back to the livewell to see if it would cull.
The bass he caught was between 1.5 and 2 pounds and after searching through his livewell he found one he eyeballed might be smaller by "a couple of ounces."
At this point, with the races so tight, those few ounces are still very important.
The action was a brief respite in what has otherwise been a slow afternoon. In the words of his cameraman, "It was a long time coming."
-Rob Russow

2:30 p.m.

DeFoe's moves are becoming more frequent. He doesn't appear too concerned about the day, though. He is happy about the water that's moving through Bouldin dam, however. He's back throwing a deep-diving crankbait where he started his morning. It only yielded a drum before. On the way down ere he stopped and hit a few submerged trees, his
cover of choice thus far.
-- David Hunter Jones

2:25 p.m.

Bowman has talked about Swindle's flurry in the last hour. Swindle has done his damage on one spot all day. He left the spot at about 9:30. He knew there were some good fish there. They showed up when he came back at 1:00 p.m. Here is his entire catch breakdown:
7:54 a.m. - 1-04
8:22 - 1-04
8:24 - 1-04
8:29 - 1-00
8:32 - 1-00
8:37 - 1-04
9:20 - 1-12
1:01 p.m. - 2-04
1:17 - 2-12
1:22 - 1-12
1:26 - 3-04
1:48 - 1-12
2:02 - 2-08
-- Hank Weldon

2:15 p.m.

The trip to Bouldin dam didn't last too long. Defoe was worried about his boat wouldn't hold for too long and backed out.

"I was too chicken to get where I wanted," he said. He stopped a half-mile down the canal and began fishing the bank. He reared back hard and came up with a hook full of tree branch and leaves.
--David Hunter Jones

2:06 p.m.

With the lack of bumps going on in Swindle's stringer, you might think his rally has stopped.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In the last 15 minutes or so, Swindle has caught three more keepers. They just weren't big enough to help him.

And as soon as I type that, he catches another 3-pound class fish and is now at about 12 1/2 pounds or more. Ken Duke's report of Scroggins having "about 13 pounds" puts them just ounces apart and anyone's guess of who is in the lead on that one.

Both of those guys are sandbaggers. So it really boils down to who is sandbagging the most.

All of our match ups remain too close to call.

-- Steve Bowman

2:02 p.m.

We left Skeet way down the river and started the long run back to the launch and weigh- in area. Now we've stopped to check on Terry Scroggins. He's in the same area where we found him this morning and now he's throwing what looks like a small square-bill crankbait around shallow cover like blowdowns and vegetation. Things were slow this morning, but now he's got a limit that he says will go about 13 pounds.

-- Ken Duke

2:00 p.m.

It took us forever to find another angler, but we caught up with Casey Ashley back in a creek. He had a fantastic morning as we reported earlier, but things have since slowed considerably. The heat of the day is bearing down on Montgomery and not running is not fun.
For these anglers, concentration in the heat is critical. One big fish now could propel any of these guys into the next round, especially considering how tight the race is.
We are now on our way back out. Ashley is moving frequently, but not much success lately.
-Rob Russow

1:56 p.m.

We made a move and are now sitting at the base of Bouldin dam. DeFoe is struggling to hold his Nitro against the current of the one turbine that's open right now. Nothing less than 100 on his Minn Kota will hold him. However, when this place is on, it's good.

"There are some sows in here," Tindol reported. Ott's cranking along the riprap bank like he did in practice, and may go up and hit the slack water on the sides of the dam. We haven't seen any other competitors except for Gerald Swindle earlier this morning who had stopped and fished the "poop pipe." The pipe is just that, a pipe that used to spill sewage into the Alabama River. Hence its attractive name. Despite the lack of raw sewage, the smell remains.
--David Hunter Jones

1:46 p.m.

We finally tracked down Aaron Martens inside Swift Creek, not far from where Iaconelli caught that keeper in front of us a while ago. I'm sure Aaron knows the importance of Swift Creek, which gave up the winning bass to young Stanley Mitchell in the 1981 Bassmaster Classic on these waters. Mitchell was fishing the mouth of the creek, however, and Martens was inside.

He held up five fingers when he went by but shook his head when I asked if any were big ones. We followed him a short way to the mouth of a small tributary -- the same one where I watched him catch a bass or two during the postseason tournament here last August. "It's been a lot slower today than it was during practice," he told me as he worked a huge stump anchored along a deep ledge at the creek mouth. "It looks like they're finally moving a little water now, probably generating downstream. The fish ought to start biting pretty soon."

Almost immediately, Martens pulled up his troll motor and headed downriver, probably to find a spot where the current is a little stronger. I hadn't planned to go too far downriver, but I was committed to follow him. He was still running about 15 miles later, and I halfway expected to see Mobile Bay any minute. His Marshal said he has close to 8 pounds for five bass, and that he's only caught those five. "He hasn't culled today," he noted.

Martens is now working a deep ledge in front of some modular homes lining this straight section of the river. I fished the Alabama River for nearly 30 years after moving to Montgomery in the late 70s, and I've never seen anyone fish this spot. Aaron told me during Media Day yesterday that he believes there remain some hot spots on the river that people don't know about, and that he was determined to find one or two of them. I'm wondering if this may be one of the spots he was talking about. If it is, it's not showing him much today. I don't think I'll even bother to mark a waypoint here.

I take that back -- Aaron just hooked a little bass on what appears to be a drop shot rig. It looked like he was able to cull a tiny one with this fish, but he had to examine them carefully to decide which to let go.

-- Dave Precht

1:43 p.m.

BASSTrakk update:

Seed Angler Fish Weight
1 Casey Ashley 5 7-09
8 Skeet Reese 5 7-05
       
2 Ott Defoe 5 8-08
7 Michael Iaconelli 5 7-12
       
3 Aaron Martens 5 8-09
6 Edwin Evers 5 9-00
       
4 Terry Scroggins 5 12-00
5 Gerald Swindle 5 11-12

-- Hank Weldon

1:32 p.m.

The G-Man has become the Gee-Whiz Man all of the sudden. He's rolling on his rally. He just boated another 3-pounder and all of the sudden is just ounces behind Scroggins. And he's not moving any time soon.

Scroggins is still in dark land near the dam, waiting for the scheduled current release in the next 30 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, we will be offering an update soon and it seems all of matches are close enough to sweat over for each every angler in the field.

Swindle and Scroggins, ounces apart;

Ashley and Skeet, ounces apart;

Evers and Martens, ounces apart;

DeFoe and Iaconelli, ounces apart.

These matches couldn't be any closer, and the expected good fishing is still to come.

-- Steve Bowman

1:26 p.m.

The rally continues for Swindle. He just boated a 2-pounder, his third cull in half an hour, on the same pipe he started in this morning. He now has close to 10 pounds and is edging ever closer to Scroggins, who has somewhere between 12 and 13 pounds.

How long will the flurry last?

-- Steve Bowman

1:19 p.m.

As soon as I wondered about Swindle's rally, he catches a 3-pounder. He's now at 9 pounds and change and continuing to rally. Unfortunately for him, he's up against the guy with the heaviest sack of the day.

If this were a regular event, he would be in second. As it is, he's in last in his match up. But he obviously has his rally cap on. The good thing for him, he's not far from the take off.

He can sit there the rest of the day.

-- Steve Bowman

1:14 p.m.

Swindle has just culled up by boating a 2-pounder. He now has close to 8 pounds. He still has to march up quite a bit to catch Scroggins.

But he is marching up. He's actually at the pipe that was mentioned earlier, so as predicted those better bites are there and at least one of them has decided to bite. It could be the start of a rally.

-- Steve Bowman

1:08 p.m.

It's hard to say that Skeet's exorcised any of his Alabama demon's by knocking Kevin VanDam out of this event, but I'm sure it helped. If he can win $100K, it'll really help!

Skeet just caught a small bass that won't help him -- and another. The crankbait bite is on, but they're small. In fact, there's another. No shortage of bass, but the bass are short.

Skeet's got another, and this one will cull, but he's gaining ounces rather than pounds. When I asked how much weight he has, he said, "I don't know. Not much." he likely need a pound or more to catch Ashley. Fortunately, he still has plenty of time.

There aren't many other anglers on the water here, and no wonder. It's oppressively hot. Most of the locals get out early, fish for a few hours and head for the house and some sir conditioning. Of course, they're not fishing for $100,000.

-- Ken Duke

1:04 p.m.

DeFoe's bite has cooled off somewhat, but he did manage to cull once again. He's now in the ballpark of 9 pounds he guesses. However, the fish have been looking at him.
"I've seen a few great big ones," he said. "They're just hanging out down there."
The water in the Coosa is much clearer than the Alabama, so spotting spots isn't hard. It's getting them to bite that's the trick.
--David Hunter Jones

 

At some point, our BASSTrakk went a little hay wire and it reported that DeFoe's weight was 11 pounds and change. Evidentlty, that was a glitch. We expect that weight to be closer to 9 pounds. Good news for the Ike camp, not so much for the DeFoe fans.

-- Steve Bowman

1:01 p.m.

BASSTrakk update:

Seed Angler Fish Weight
1 Casey Ashley 5 7-09
8 Skeet Reese 5 7-00
       
2 Ott Defoe 5 11-12
7 Michael Iaconelli 5 7-12
       
3 Aaron Martens 5 8-09
6 Edwin Evers 5 9-00
       
4 Terry Scroggins 5 12-00
5 Gerald Swindle 5 6-12

-- Hank Weldon

12:59 p.m.

Skeet Reese is about 4 miles up from the dam, cranking a stump row or dropoff. Spectators tell us he's got a small limit -- 7 or 8 pounds. When we left Casey Ashley, very early this morning, I think he probably had a little more than that in Cooter's Pond.

-- Ken Duke

12:55 p.m.

Scroggins has continued to fish a backwater area that has plenty of open water and scattered stumps. There.was an enticing sandbar at the mouth, but without any current, Scroggins didn't even give it a second look.

Big Show is alternating between a slow drop bait and a crankbait, from the looks of it. He methodically worked his way around back there and the move paid off when he hooked up with a keeper. The size was had to pin down from our vantage point, but it was big enough to cull.
After tossing back his smallest, Scroggins kept working out from the backwater with nothing to show. By the time he made it to the main river, the current had finally started to make its way up to us, but Scroggins picked up the motor and kept heading back.
His challenger and good buddy Swindle was running down toward the dam as Scroggins started the other way. Looks like he's making sure he'll make it back on time.
-Rob Russow

12:45 p.m.

As we go through the slow part of the day waiting for the current to kick things in gear, you need to take a few moments and visit the BASSCam page. Zona and Sanders, as always, are providing us with a unique view of what is taking place with some of our anglers.

Added to that is some really good analysis by Kevin VanDam. There are some video clips in there that are definitely worth seeing.

-- Steve Bowman

12:41 p.m.

Mike Iaconelli is scrambling from creek mouth to creek mouth along the river. Unlike some of the other anglers I've seen, he's going several hundred yards inside the creeks and backwaters. Others are just concentrating on the junction of the creek and the main river, where sandbars and ledges often hold fish. He's hit at least four spots since leaving Talawassee Creek.

He caught a non-keeper out of some water willows in one no-name cut, and we just watched him pull in a measurable bass in another. He may have culled a smaller bass with it, although it's hard to tell from a distance which fish an angler lets go. The important thing is that he's still catching keepers, and it's only a matter of time, he must think, before one of the bites is a big one.
His camera boat driver, who has watched his every move all day and is uploading to BassTrakk, says he has around 7 pounds for a limit, anchored by a 2 1/2-pounder. That's just what Ike told Gerald a while ago.
-- Dave Precht

12:28 p.m.

Ott DeFoe is adding pressure on Ike. He's upgraded to 11 pounds and change, putting a little space between he and Ike in that race.

DeFoe, as has been his nature all season long, is on the extreme opposite end from every one else. His ability to go against the grain has served him well this season, and obviously it's working today.

His surge upward has added Ike to Swindle's camp, which is the one where things need to start happening soon or they will be eliminated. The other races are still close.

-- Steve Bowman

12:20 p.m.

The last 20 minutes have featured a whole lot of running and not much catching. We lost Reese but caught up to the Big Show, who was doing much the same as everyone else down here, pulling up on a spot, making a few casts and then moving along.
These guys are undoubtedly fishing the same areas, but this river is all about timing. The phrase "right place, right time" is thrown about recklessly at tournaments like this, but with good reason. Summertime means tight schools of fish that hunt for short windows and then scatter.
Knowing good places and then hitting them repeatedly or quickly is usually a successful formula. Still no sign of the current.
-Rob Russow

Our last check of the generation schedule says the current should start kicking in around 2 p.m.

-Steve Bowman

12:12 p.m.

Everyone of our matches has all of the sudden knotted up in an exciting way. The only one that isn't close is the Scroggins and Swindle match up.

Scroggins snuck away and boated somewhere between 12 and 13 pounds. That's a big start. But we will remind you of blogs long gone from this morning.

Swindle caught some of his first keepers from a pipe running into the river, where he was graphing several fish below him. That's spot is still there and so are those fish.

Locals tell us that it's one of those places that can easily serve up big fish. That's still on Swindle's resume heading into the half way part of the event. One little push of those fish and the right timing on Swindle's part and that race gets tight in a hurry.

Regardless, we have three races that are neck and neck, with one that can get there with a couple of casts.

-- Steve Bowman

 

12:07 p.m.

BASSTrakk update:

Seed Angler Fish Weight
1 Casey Ashley 5 7-09
8 Skeet Reese 5 7-00
       
2 Ott Defoe 5 8-08
7 Michael Iaconelli 5 7-00
       
3 Aaron Martens 5 8-09
6 Edwin Evers 5 9-00
       
4 Terry Scroggins 5 12-00
5 Gerald Swindle 5 6-12

-- Hank Weldon

12:01 p.m.

Terry Scroggins didn't get the "Big Show" nickname for nothing. He's been out of sight near the Jones Bluff Dam, well out of reach from BASSTrakk.

While Swindle jumped out into a big lead early, Scroggins has applied the pressure in a big way in the shadow of that dam. He now has a limit that weighs around 13 pounds, which is several pounds ahead of Swindle.

Swindle, though, still has time to make up the deficit.

Meanwhile, you have to wonder how Scroggins will approach the rest of the day. Does he lay off? Or keep putting on the pressure?

That type of sack is a little above average, but not by a whole lot. Be interesting to see how that develops. Meanwhile, Swindle needs to pick up the pace.

-- Steve Bowman

11:57 a.m.

Martens packed up and headed downriver, looking to improve on his small limit. We followed, but broke off pursuit to check on Gerald Swindle in a backwater a few miles down from Bear Creek. He's flipping' the very heavy shoreline vegetation with a soft plastic bait that looks to be green pumpkin in color.

-- Ken Duke

11:55 a.m.

We are within sight of the lower dam and Terry Scroggins and Skeet Reese. They are both on the same side of the river and each has an average limit. At this point in the day, they are waiting for noon, when the dam is supposed to open two gates and the current should start flowing.
Out here, the current is key to everything, positioning the fish and firing them (and the anglers) up. Until this point, most of what I've seen has been on the bank. Expect that to change when the water starts flowing.
Evers just zoomed by us heading down and this end of the river is finally seeing some action. Not fish-catching action, mind you, but the magic 12 o'clock hour is just moments away.
-Rob Russow

The limit by Scroggins is the first we've heard of that. That will likely put his battle with Swindle really close. Those guys at the dam have very little service. But we can see that every one of these matches is getting hot and heavy by the minute.

-- Steve Bowman

11:51 a.m.

Ken Duke has been following Aaron Martens, watching him catch his limit in the Bear Creek area on a drop shot.

It wasn't too long ago, that Martens was in the "struggle" area, now he's ounces behind Evers, in what Duke refers to a as a "dead heat." Which he adds is appropriate for the weather on the river.

With a limit, Martens is on the move and Duke, ever fond of word play, "is hot on his heels>'

-- Steve Bowman

11:47 a.m.

BASSTrakk update:

Seed Angler Fish Weight
1 Casey Ashley 5 7-09
8 Skeet Reese 5 7-00
       
2 Ott Defoe 4 7-08
7 Michael Iaconelli 5 6-08
       
3 Aaron Martens 5 8-09
6 Edwin Evers 5 9-00
       
4 Terry Scroggins 1 2-00
5 Gerald Swindle 5 6-12

-- Hank Weldon

11:39 a.m.

Still searching for Martens but I happened on to Gerald Swindle, just as he was pulling into the mouth of Tallawassee Creek. He stopped within sight -- earshot, actually -- of Michael Iaconelli. The two exchanged pleasantries, with Ike joking that he had found some bedding fish in the middle of the creek mouth. Eventually they got more serious and shared information about their catches. Ike said he had "one big one" and a limit. When Gerald pressed him on the size of the big one, he admitted that the lunker weighs about 2 1/2 pounds. "I've got two 2-pounders and some smaller ones", responded Swindle.
The pair continued to fish the ledges in and around the mouth of the creek until Swindle finally stowed his trolling motor and fired up the outboard. As he left, he told Ike: "I'm leaving. You've got too many people around you." To be fair, Swindle had three spectator boats in his trail, while Ike has four or five.
Now Ike is leaving and so are we.
-- Dave Precht

11:34 a.m.

Casey Ashley continues to cull up by ounces. In fact, he may have culled up only one ounce with his last fish, which came on a crankbait.
The action here in Cooter Pond is lively though, with ospreys diving on fish and paddlefish porpoising regularly. The paddlefish sound like someone is throwing boulders in the water.
- Steve Wright

11:32 a.m.

DeFoe just got his limit. It was a small keeper, but he should be looking at nearly 8 pounds. He's still working the same stretch of bank towards the rapids. The current is still moving pretty toward us at a good clip.

Ott just boated another keeper, which he traded for a baby (bass, not one of his new twins). He might've gained a quarter pound on that cull. If Iaconelli's BASSTrakk is accurate, Ott's got a good lead on him at the moment, and things are looking good.
--David Hunter Jones

11:27 a.m.

A lot of changes are starting to take place. Martens has all of the sudden finished his limit, giving him about 8 pounds and sitting just behind Evers. Evers seems to be struggling since he left hisbackwater area. That race his heating up.

Skeet and Ashley are still knotted up.

Swindle has his limit and Scroggins still struggles. Meanwhile, Ott DeFoe has opened up the pillow fight with Ike. He now has four fish and about 7 1/2 pounds, while Ike seems to be struggling.

Every match is still wide open. Scroggins may be struggling but you know he will or should find his limit as Martens did. And every year, we've seen Ike turn on the heat late in the day.

It's getting more fun to watch at every turn.

-- Steve Bowman

11:18 a.m.

"Yeah, that's what I'm talking about!" DeFoe hollered as he hoisted aboard a keeper which he estimates is in the 4-pound range. He's now looking at 7 1/2-pounds with four fish. Jordan Dam lies above us on the river, and it's cranking up right about now. There's good current moving through this area, and Defoe has settled down on a shady spot
that he likes. It's where he caught his last fish. He's got another 1/4 mile of river left before it turns into rapids.
-- David Hunter Jones

11:17 a.m.

More photographers have arrived and Martens is struggling, so we are going to keep moving down to find Skeet Reese. He's the farthest down the river and is locked in a tight battle with Casey Ashley.
I'm surprised that Martens isn't more dialed in. Last year, when it got really hot like this, Martens started catching them pretty well off the main river on a shaky head.
"My next spot is on the main river and then we will have to see," Martens said. "I'm getting desperate."
He's facing quite the deficit right now since Evers has an average stringer, but keep in mind that the best part of the day has yet to arrive. When the current starts up, things could change in a hurry.
They always do.
-Rob Russow

11:16 a.m.

Evers has picked up and headed downriver from his backwater. We've motored about half a mile across the river and into Bear Creek, where we find Aaron Martens and five spectator boats. As we pass a couple of fans, they tell us Martens has three small bass. That would put him substantially behind Edwin Evers in their matchup.

-- Ken Duke

11:10 a.m.

As the day progresses, it seems as if the anglers are continuing to head downriver, further away from Montgomery and closer to the areas that produced the weights last year.

That's also an area where cell service is at a premium, so blogs are coming in slower as are BASSTrakk updates. But they are coming.

It sets up a scenario where at any moment we can't be exactly sure what is taking place until those little text messages start rolling in. Already we've seen how tight some of these matches will be by day's end.

-- Steve Bowman

11:05 a.m.

We haven't moved off of Defoe. We're near downtown Wetumpka up the Coosa a good way, right before it turns into small rapids. Defoe just pulled a 1 1/2-pound spot from around an abandoned lock, which gives him roughly 3 1/2 pounds out of three fish. He was working a crankbait around the lock but hasn't given up on the Spook bite yet.
Apparently the fish will come up schooling in this area, but that's usually a morning bite.
--David Hunter Jones

10:55 a.m.

Take a look at the standings and you will see some of the drama we promised start to take shape. Casey Ashley and Skeet Reese are prime examples. Ashley jumped out to a lead early and looked like he was putting a whooping on Skeet.

But like an SEC football game, it's never over until the last second. After the first quarter, Skeet has mounted a comeback and is now just 9 ounces behind Ashley, which actually makes that closer to a tie than anything.

Ott DeFoe and Iaconellii and close. While the weights may seem like a pillow fight at this time, it's still a head-to-head match and these two are sizing each other up and one catch could change the whole complexion of that match up.

Edwn Evers is way ahead of Martens, but it's still early at this point. One big fish from Evers, though, and he might dig too deep a hole for Martens to climb out of.

That same thing is true for Swindle and Scroggins. Swindle has a 4-pound lead, which could evaporate with a Scroggins flurry when the water starts flowing. Or Swindle could put together his own and dig that hole for Scroggins.

One thing to remember, these guys have no idea what their competition has at the moment. They are all so good, that we're sure they all assume that the other guy is catching them.

Tensions may not be high yet, but some of these guys are no doubt starting to feel some of the heat.

--Steve Bowman

10:54 a.m.

Things are slow for Evers in this backwater. He's missed one bass since we caught up with him and had nothing else. A few gar are flipping back here, but it's pretty quiet otherwise.

-- Ken Duke

10:51 a.m.

Seed Angler Fish Weight
1 Casey Ashley 5 7-09
8 Skeet Reese 5 7-00
       
2 Ott Defoe 2 2-00
7 Michael Iaconelli 2 3-04
       
3 Aaron Martens 1 2-00
6 Edwin Evers 5 9-00
       
4 Terry Scroggins 1 2-00
5 Gerald Swindle 5 6-12

-- Hank Weldon

10:50 a.m.

We found Aaron Martens as he was running down the river more. Around a creek mouth he shut down and began idling around. Now Martens one of the best out there, but he sure seems to waste a lot more time than guys like KVD and Edwin Evers. It may be a part of his methodical nature, but graphing a point for 15 minutes and then not even fishing it is eating up time he needs to catch Evers.
He stops idling and starts fishing some shallower cover. Within a few casts, Martens catches a short fish. He then sits down to retie and it looks like he is changing things up because it takes him a good 5 to 10 minutes to retie.
"Smaller hook, lighter weight," said Martens. "I've had to slow down to get bit. That's lame."
Martens continues farther back and misses a fish. He's alternating between a variety of baits and fishing the abundant shoreline cover that's back here.
His next few casts net nothing and then he hooks up with another small fish, only this one will keep. I'll call it just over a pound.
By the way, it's hot out here.
-Rob Russow

10:45 a.m.

Here's a look at the playing field on the Alabama River:

The whole river:

Down river from Montgomery:

The Mid-River area:

Up river from Montgomery:

10:42 a.m.

Ashley has culled again, but he's gaining only ounces at a time. The latest fish, a 2-pounder, brings his total weight to an even 7, according to Ashley himself.
We're leaving now to search for Aaron Martens. I'm looking forward to cooling off on the ride.
-- Dave Precht

10:37 a.m.

It seems we are in a dead period at the moment, but we all expect things to start heating up.

Generation schedule is supposed to kick in at 2 p.m., which will make an impact on every one. Those who have those better fish, Evers, Scroggins and Martens may benfit the most, since their weight average per fish is a little higher at the moment.

Scroggins and Martens are behind in their matches at the moment. So the anticipation of the fireworks is keeping our attention during these slow times.

-- Steve Bowman

10:27 a.m.

DeFoe just boated another keeper. We guess that his two keepers may weigh right a t 2 pounds. We've turned off of the Alabama River and moved up into the Coosa River. Defoe is flipping into laydowns and brush along the bank with a beaver-style soft plastic. We're just about ready to go and report on someone else.
--David Hunter Jones

10:17 a.m.

Aaron is still waiting for the fish to start biting. Zona tells him: "Every time Van Dam turns on that Hydrowave Sanders goes into the ice chest and eats a granola bar."

Aaron laughs and I laugh too but the truth hurts. Then Aaron gets to set the hook on a two pounder on a flat in the middle of the creek.

-- Tommy Sanders

10:14 a.m.

BASSTrakk update:

Seed Angler Fish Weight
1 Casey Ashley 5 6-11
8 Skeet Reese 2 2-14
       
2 Ott Defoe 1 1-04
7 Michael Iaconelli 1 2-04
       
3 Aaron Martens 0 0-00
6 Edwin Evers 5 9-00
       
4 Terry Scroggins 1 2-00
5 Gerald Swindle 5 6-12

-- Hank Weldon

10:05 a.m.

Here's the scene at the launch this morning. Check out all the images from this morning's launch.

10:00 a.m.

We are heading down the river to some of the anglers who have made the long run south. Looking at BASSTrakk before I left, I was surprised to see so few anglers down there.
One main river point and leading into a backwater in particular, where KVD won last year, is conspicuously empty.
The water is higher than it was then, but many anglers are still focused on the main river this morning. That includes Aaron Martens and Edwin Evers, who are matched up today and both fishing within 5 miles of each other. Right now, BASSTrakk is showing Martens with a big zilch in the livewell and we are on our way there to provide some analysis on that matchup.
-Rob Russow

9:56 a.m.

It's been a while since Ott's seen any action, and it's heating up in a hurry. My boat driver - Kyle Tindol once again - has already hopped in the river to cool off. It should be 98 degrees today, which puts the heat index up at oh, say, the mid-160s.
--David Hunter Jones

9:53 a.m.

We're now close enough to Evers to ask about his morning. He says he has a limit that weighs about 9 pounds, but Edwin typically estimates low. Ironically, he just stopped my typing by saying that his estimate should be right on the money-- within a half pound or so.

It's all coming from a conversation we had yesterday when I told him that his weights are always low and Iaconelli's are always high. Now I have to laugh about that. Edwin's a great bass fisherman and great guy.

-- Ken Duke

9:47 a.m.

We're in a backwater just upriver from Swift Creek, and we're easing back toward Edwin Evers who we understand already has a small limit. This backwater is extremely shallow and full if stumps. I'm sure Edwin won't want us getting too close or we'll stir up his area and spook his fish. For now, he's still a couple of hundred yards away.

The water in this backwater is pretty dingy -- maybe 6 inches of visibility. The water level has supposedly fallen in the last 24-48 hours, making this an unusual choice for Evers, but he's apparently making it work. The guy is just that good.

-- Ken Duke

9:42 a.m.

All the anglers, except Aaron Martens, now have at least a keeper. Martens may be struggling or he may be in the dark, both are possible.

We have Casey ahead of Skeet;

Ike ahead of Ott, who is having some equipment issues at the moment;

Swindle is ahead of Scroggins;

And Evers is ahead of Martens.

We are fast approaching the time of day when generation schedules should start kicking in and we may see a splurge in the catch rates. When that happens we expect to see some of the drama to begin building.

Right now, it seems as if we are watching a slow moving train.

-- Steve Bowman

9:35 a.m.

DeFoe has been sidelined temporarily. He cut his transducer wire a while back when he deployed his trolling motor and is now working at replacing it. He's got a toolbox on the deck with Allen wrenches, box wrenches and zip ties. He's got a spare transducer, but isn't sure he's got all the tools necessary to make the swap. Turns out he did. After making a scary-looking web of zip ties and wires, he's back in action.
--David Hunter Jones

9:29 a.m.

Swindle's boat is sitting in 28 feet of water, a cast length away from the outlet pipe he's fishing. "There are some big ones in there," Swindle said. "They just haven't bit yet. That's alright. I'll come back and catch them later."
Swindle moved back to today's launch site at Riverfront Park, and has promptly put two more in the boat that he could cull with - one that weighed 1 3/4 and the second weighed 2 1/4.
He caught them both in the shade of the Harriott II riverboat.
- Steve Wright

9:26 a.m.

Ashley has hit a dry spell for the past 30 or 40 minutes. After a flurry in which he hooked two keepers, culled one and threw back two short fish, he hasn't had a tap. He ran out of shoreline and hopped to a small island in the middle of Cooter's Pond but was not rewarded for his efforts. He must have found fish there in practice, because he lingered longer near a thick bed of water willows, pitching and swimming a jig and buzzing the edges. He also has tried a shallow running shad colored crankbait over long points and flats at the end of the island. Now he's back where the action was, methodically working a shoreline ringed with cypress knees. He just skittered a 10-inch bass to the boat and quickly sent it back home.
The young pro from Donalds, S.C., should have around 6 1/2 pounds by now. It's a good start but not as productive as he enjoyed in practice. The water is about a foot lower today than the last time he was here, and he believes that has caused the 4-pounders he was catching earlier in the week to move elsewhere.
I shadowed Ashley through most of the final round on Lake Jordan Sunday, and he had a small limit early then, too. After I left him he boated three big fish, which put him in the lead for the semifinals and earned him the No. 1 seed for the bracket this weekend.
He just brought in another keeper, this one big enough to cull a 1-pounder. He should have at least 7, maybe a tad more.
-- Dave Precht

9:17 a.m.

Edwin Evers is quietly working on finishing a limit. He has four fish now for about 6 pounds, which puts him second overall and has Aaron Martens (still fishless) in a little bit of a hole.

Pre-tournament expectations were that this was going to be one of the more dramatic battles of the day. We expect that hold true. Evers is building and has a good start, but even he knows that Martens is dangerous when it comes to tough fisheries. He has more patience than any one in the field, and we all expect him to catch his by the end of the day.

Evers, though, is equally at home. He's no stranger to this river. He was here last year, and I still remember him at the E-50 event a few years back when he basically went in to his shoulders digging a keeper out of a beaver hut. He'll be working just as hard today, making this match up one to watch all day long.

-- Steve Bowman

9:13 a.m.

When deciding whether to fish the farthest reaches of tributary creeks or stay in the main river, one consideration has little to do with whether the fish are biting better one place or the other. It’s fish care you have to consider, according to Gerald Swindle.
Before competition began, Swindle told me that the water is so hot in the still, shallow backwaters that keeping your fish alive might be a challenge. “You get back in the creeks, and that hot water might kill them,” he pointed out. “That will play into your strategy.” Later, I spoke with Aaron Martens, who scouted in some of those backwaters, and he volunteered that the water there is markedly cooler than it was a year ago. “I checked the back ends of creeks and found water that was 88 to 90 degrees,” he revealed. “It was more like 100 last year.”
— Dave Precht

9:04 a.m.

Ott is steadily making his way upriver towards Bouldin dam, which holds back Lake Jordan. Defoe is stopping at obvious cover along the river, hitting it with either a jig or a buzzbait. He had a strike on the buzzbait back in Jackson Lake but it short-struck, then he pitched a jig in as a follow up, but nothing resulted. We're back on pad heading for the dam.
--David Hunter Jones

9:01 a.m.

KVD and company are back here now. It's interesting to see hm on the water, but not fishing. Must be a relief to the 8 competitors. If KVD was fishing the river, he'd be a big favorite to win ... again.

-- Ken Duke

8:56 a.m.

We've found Terry Scroggins working the bank between an island and the main channel, and he just caught a pretty good fish -- 2 pounds or a little better. This spot will form an oxbow one day, but for now it has access from either side of the island. Big Show is pitching a jig or worm to shoreline cover, a technique he works to perfection. Either he or his Elite Series roommate will be eliminated today in this match fishing format.

-- Ken Duke

Swindle, Scroggins' roommate, has a limit. But a 2-pound start for Scroggins' could be tough on the G-Man if that pace continues.

-- Steve Bowman

8:52 a.m.

I'm personally looking forward to seeing KVD's analysis on today's action. While he would rather be on the water going head-to-head with one of these anglers, he missed the game last week and was bumped by Skeet.

Even though he's not fishing, he's the type gentleman to agree to go on the water and provide some insight. We have a couple of those video clips on BASSCam, and there will be more.

The Alabama River is one of those places that has to be in the 4 percent non-coverage areas of most cell phones. So those videos will be filtering in all day. Be sure and check out those when you can.

KVD, Zona and Sanders will undoubtedly have a several good pieces to look at.

-- Steve Bowman

8:46 a.m.

Casey Ashley's on fire, putting on a show for Zona, Sanders and KVD. He just culled his smallest bass with a 1 1/2-pounder that hit his white buzzbait right up against the shore. So much for a quiet gallery -- Zona is cutting up, joking with Ashley as the young Elite Series angler fishes for the $100,000 top prize in the Toyota Trucks All Star competition. Ashley is tuning most of it out, but he's clearly relaxed -- as he should be with a decent limit.
--Dave Precht

8:45 a.m.

Gerald Swindle has added a sixth bass that allowed him to cull up a few ounces. It was another drop shot fish. The water treatment outlet pipe where Swindle is fishing isn't releasing water at the moment. He was counting on that to create some current in this area, and possibly turn on some bigger fish.
- Steve Wright

8:44 a.m.

We make a quick stop at the now limited out Casey Ashley. Fun to watch Van Dam watch these anglers---looking at their line and virtually setting the hook for them. He proclaims that this event could easily be won shallow---there's so much backwater that you canrun good spots all day.

--Tommy Sanders

8:41 a.m.

Casey and Swindle have their limits, but they don't weigh much. Evers now has two small keepers, Ott has his on, Ike has one and Skeet has a small keeper.

Like VanDam said in a Sanders blog earlier, the catching will come later in the day, but those guys with a little meat in the livewell are probably feeling decent. This place has always been tough.

Knowing you are going head-to-head makes every catch just seem a little bigger.

While we have Casey in the lead of the 8 angler field, he's just ahead of Skeet. Swindle is winning his match.

Ott and Ike are vitually tied, Swindle is winning his match at the moment and Evers his.

--Steve Bowman

8:38 a.m.

In the prelude to the final rounds of All Star Week competition, much was made of the value of knowing exactly where Kevin VanDam fished in previous competitions, when he wrested two consecutive Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles away from Skeet Reese. VanDam himself noted after the weigh-in in Wetumpka last weekend, when Reese bumped him out of the finals, “Skeet knows the river. He’s seen me catch them in a couple of key areas that he’ll be able to fish now that I’m not there.”
That might not be such an advantage after all, said Aaron Martens, who also competed against VanDam last summer on the Alabama River. “I checked a couple of his spots, and even though the current was running, I didn’t catch all that much,” he said. “I think maybe those spots have been beat up. There’s probably four tournaments a week on these waters, and a lot of people saw where Kevin was fishing.”
— Dave Precht

8:36 a.m.

Gerald Swindle has now caught a limit. His fourth fish came on a jig, then he went back to the drop shot for his fifth fish. But neither fish weighed much more than a pound.
- Steve Wright

8:34 a.m.

Ashley just filled his limit with a 13-inch bass he jerked out of a tangled root wad on the edge of Cooter's Pond. He's collected about five observer boats by now, indicating his growing popularity among bass fishing fans. Make that six observer boats -- Kevin VanDam just pulled up in his wrapped Nitro. He's squiring mark Zona and Tommy Sanders around today. Expect to see some BassCam videos up on the web shortly
-- Dave Precht

8:33 a.m.

If Ott hit the ground running, he's since stubbed his toe. After making two moves he's struggling to get a bite, which has been par for the course on the river this week.

He worked a shallow flat on the main river with a Spook, then cast at flipping shad with a crankbait and came up empty-handed. We're now idling back into Jackson Lake, a spot he practiced in but wasn't too thrilled about.

If I recall correctly, he was throwing a flat-sided crankbait that he made as well a flipping a Beaver-style bait. There's some standing timber and laydowns along the bank that he's targeting.
--David Hunter Jones

8:31 a.m.

If you’re betting on Gerald Swindle because he’s a home-grown Alabama fisherman, don’t. He told me during an interview during Media Day yesterday that he's not all that familiar with the Alabama River. “I grew up in Alabama, but I didn’t fish here much. It was hard to drive past Lay Lake and Mitchell to fish here,” he said. Swindle did compete in an Elite 50 tournament here in 2004 and in the 2009 postseason event. He finished in the same position both times — 11th out of 50 in 2004 and 11th out of 12 two summers ago.
The river is so different from those other Coosa River fisheries, he said. “The fish will still bite on Jordan when the current’s not moving, but here, it’s a hard-core fight to catch ’em (if the dam gates aren’t open). Jordan and Mitchell fish more like reservoirs. This is typical river fishing. This is more like the Arkansas River, without the barges,” he said.
— Dave Precht

8:30 a.m.

Skeet Reese didn't fare well here the past two postseasons, losing his AOY leads to Kevin VanDam in the process. Ashley is hoping that Reese is "cursed" here. He even considered putting a stuffed black cat in Skeet's livewell last night as an early morning surprise.

The match format brings out that sort of gamesmanship. There's also been some good-natured trash talking this week between competitors, but mostly when cameras and microphones were rolling. No one wants to give his opponent any sort of mental edge or added incentive to win.

-- Ken Duke

8:28 a.m.

Gerald Swindle lost a fish right at the boat that appearred to be a keeper. Kevin VanDam, Tommy Sanders and Mark Zona left shortly afterwards, prompting Swindle to say about KVD, "I'm glad he left. I don't like him looking over my shoulder."

Swindle then caught two more fish in short order on a drop shot, one weighing 1 1/4 pounds and the other 1 1/2 pounds, giving him three bass so far.

- Steve Wright

8:27 a.m.

We move to Ike who is main river a few miles south of Montgomery. Grabs his first keeper off a laydown as soon as we pull up. KVD says Ike is just biding his time til water starts generating. Poking around for a couple---and hoping for a big one. The numbers will come around noon.

-- Tommy Sanders

8:21 a.m.

Casey Ashley is in Cooter's Pond -- a tough place to reach when the water is low. We're working our way to him now after leaving Iaconelli, who left the takeoff area without a bass in his livewell. Ike is paired against Ott DeFoe and certainly wanted a better start against the young pro. Ashley's fishing against Skeet Reese, who was first on the water this morning -- as usual.

--Ken Duke

8:20 a.m.

There’s not much room for break dancing on the deck of Mike Iaconelli’s boat today. Ike has 12 rods neatly arranged on the deck. Each is different in some way from the others, and each is designed for a lure and technique his practice has shown him is something he’ll need during the course of the day.
In the bottom of his rod locker are 10 rod-and-reel outfits stowed in sleeves to prevent tangling. Those are his spares. Arranged in rod tubes above them are 10 more rigs that he might need. “If I reach for one of them, you know I’m in trouble,” he told me.
Why not carry fewer rods and swap baits, like most of us do? “When you have a feeling you should throw a Carolina rig,” for instance, “and you don’t have one tied on, you talk yourself out of trying that. Out here, you need to be able to try something without having to talk yourself into it.”
In case you’re counting, that’s 32 rod/reel combos, a little more than half of them casting rigs. “I use a lot of spinning,” he said. “It’s because I’m from New Jersey, where you have to use spinning.
-- Dave Precht

8:16 a.m.

Casey Ashley is bringing the heat early. I thought it interesting that the anglers acfually voted on whether to have access to the catches of their significant other, or in this case the guy they were going head to head with. They decideded not to allow because all the anglers didn't have the same technology in phones.

Skeet might be glad it didn't happen. I doubt he would be checking, but if he knew that Casey Ashley had already lapped the field twice it might put him in a funk. Either way, expect anglers to have scoreboards in their boat in the coming years.

-- Steve Bowman

8:10 a.m.

It took us a while to find him in the fog, but we've finally caught up with Casey Ashley, who made the most of the low light of early morning. Ashley, the winner of the preliminary round on Lake Jordan, already has four bass in the boat. They're all keepers, according to the cameraman recording his every cast. He is alternating between a small buzzbait and a jig, which he flips into any brushpiles collected along the shoreline. Both are working. He reportedly has two on the buzzbait and two on the jig.

Ashley is working his way down the shoreline of Cooter's pond, one of the closer prime spots to the launch site in downtown Montgomery. We'll stay with him awhile in hopes he catches a good keeper for the photogallery.

-- Dave Precht

8:01 a.m.

Swindle switches to the Jig after cranking and dropshotting. Three casts and he gets a keeper --1.5 lbs.
He says he's marking a lot of bait in here and knows there are tons of fish close.

--Tommy Sanders

8:00 a.m.

Apparently Ike's going to go after these launch bass early rather than let the rest of the field go after them in the last few minutes before check-in. Problem is the bass are not cooperating.

There's lots for the bass to like about this area. It's the outside bend of the river with plenty of deep water and lots of shade. I've even seen a couple of schoolers -- keepers -- pop up, but Ike is finding the going pretty slow. He's alternating between casting the shaky head on spinning gear and pitching a soft plastic beaver or craw on casting equipment.

--Ken Duke

7:56 a.m.

Obviously Ike and Ott came to play. They each have a keeper in the opening minutes of this match-style competition. Strangely enough, they are fishing against each other and they are our only two fish of the day at the moment,

We want to remind everyone that today's action is under a format not normally associated with bass tournaments. It's head to head, mano-a-mano, with the loser being eliminated.

The match ups are:

Ike vs. Ott DeFoe

Casey Ashley vs. Skeet Reese

Gerald Swindle vs. Terry Scroggins

Aaron Martens vs Edwin Evers

Four very interesting tournaments wrapped in one. Adding to the uniqueness of this event, we have Kevin VanDam on the water doing some on-the-water analysis You can see those on BASSCam. BASSTrakk will soon be up and of course this blog will try and sort out these four matches as they develop.

It's a day of fun.

--Steve Bowman

7:52 a.m.

We are going out today with--get this--Kevin Van Dam in the boat. First time I can recall him ever stepping into the analyst role on anything but his own fishing .

We head about 8 miles up to get to Swindle who says that his deal can fire very early. KVD says the waterlooks perfect --low and right for the bass to bunch up on certain spots. Nothing from Swindle yet as he casts toward a discharge pipe. We passed DeFoe on the way up who was set up on a jetty wall and caught one on the first cast.

--Tommy Sanders

7:51 a.m.

Ott Defoe has hit the ground running. On his first cast he caught a 1 1/4-pound bass then a few casts later he caught a short bass. He's throwing a deep-diving crankbait adjacent to a corrugated metal wall.
We just saw his version of a plug knocker as he tried unsuccessfully to retrieve his crankbait.
"Kinda cool to catch one on the first cast," Defoe said.
-David Hunter Jones

7:46 a.m.

Not much doubt about who caught the first bass in the finals. It was Mike Iaconelli, and the fish was short. Ike didn't even fire up the outboard. He just dropped the trolling motor and started throwing a shakey head worm around the seawall at the launch.

The launch crowd is drifting down behind the amphitheater as they watch Ike worm the area. He's about 1 1/4 casts off the wall, and, judging from his retrieve, he's found some brush and other debris down there that's washed in from rain and floods.

--Ken Duke

7:45 a.m.

Everyone is on their way, except Mike Iaconelli. Swindle and Ott headed upriver, everyone else headed downriver and Ike stayed put.

We expect a long boat ride before those headed down actually settle on something. We have BASSTrakk on and half dozen bloggers following. Should make for an interesting day.

-- Steve Bowman

7:25 a.m. CT

The anglers are in position. We're almost ready to get the head-to-head matches under way in the Evan Williams Bourbon All-Star Championship on the Alabama River.

On the water coverage begins now with this Live Blog, BASSTrakk, BASSCam videos and photos. Dave Mercer’s Live Video updates will air at 10 a.m.and 1 p.m. CT each day. Tommy Sanders and Mark Zona will host Hooked Up! shows at 5 p.m. each day leading into the live weigh-ins.

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