Day Three - Lake Wheeler
Here are a couple on the water galleries to enjoy while you watch the weigh-in:
The Hooked Up show should be starting real soon, but we are also running a little late. The weather is throwing some kinks into the plans. But we should be up by 3:01. See you there
Here's a look at the storm that is headed toward the weigh-in.
The wind continues to howl. No rain yet, but the wind is enough.
Those near the check-in point say Lake Wheeler looks like the Gulf of Mexico with 5-footers rolling and crashing.
Some of the guys are having a tough time getting in. Those who are in are headed for cover, which means the bump station under a tent, which also means everyone under is helping anchor it so it doesn't blow away.
Boyd Duckett and Gary Klein are both holding onto legs. The next 30 minutes could be very interesting.
-- Steve Bowman
The weather is rapidly changing. The wind has kicked up and squall line is fast approaching the weigh-in area. It looks like we could have a wet weigh-in.
As to the anglers on the water, the wind is blowing hard enough that white caps are building. Their rides to the check-in won't be fast or easy. These little things could force late penalties because you don't plan for them.
We'll keep any eye on it.
-- Steve Bowman
Scenarios are rolling through my mind this second.
Yusuki Miyazaki had a snake crawl in his boat, read about that below. The water patrol was sent to give him a hand, since the snake lost itself in the console, after it crawled across the Marshal's arm.
A few minutes ago, BASSTrakk, which is operated by the Marshal, recorded a 377-pound catch to Miyazaki's catch. That's obviously wrong. It was followd by a 7-pound catch, not so sure about that one.
I can just imagine the Marshal still shaking after the experience and hitting the buttons too many times to get to 377.
Funny stuff. But we've yet to make contact with them.
We don't know if the snake ever escaped or if they escaped from it. Maybe the snake added teh weight of Miyazaki and the Marshal, which would be around 377 pounds and added that in.
Maybe it was a 3-7 largemouth followed by a 7-pounder. If that were the case, then Miyazaki's day is getting much better.
Watching the standings, it's interesting to see Randy Howell and Matt Herren move up the standings. They've been doing that all week.
They started the day in 16th and 17th place. Right now we have them in 13th and 14th. Both needed it.
Howell saved his Classic bid yesterday and wraps it up today. Herren has a terrible year and needed to end on a positive note.
What that does though is change the point structure a bit. It's actually pushed Peter T down the standings a notch or two. If it stays that way, Peter T will fall a notch or two in the AOY points. Pat Golden, without even making a cast today, will move up a position. That could be big.
Peter T is on the outside edge of the bubble now, if more Elite anglers win the five remaining Open events.
-- Steve Bowman
Is that Walker's slogan? I asked him about it earlier today when I saw a few signs made by his daughters pasted to the inside of one of his storage compartments.
"It is this week," Walker said. "Talk about winning a tournament, you can think about all the reasons it's not going to happen. But why not me?"
After coming so close at Toledo Bend, winning here, for the first time in his career would be huge for Walker.
"I've had a lot of those," Walker said. "Last week's crash and burn was more motivating than anything. I don't know how it would feel to win but I certainly would like to find out. Especially financially, winning it would be outstanding."
Ultimately, winning is all about family and Walker's comes first. The money is probably already being spent by his two young daughters.
"Lilly thinks if I win, we are going to get a pool."
How can you not cheer for him at this point?
-- Rob Russow
If Walker wins: Pool Party at the Walker Home July 4th. You are all in invited.
Just kidding. Just Rob and me will be invited.
-- Steve Bowman
Bradley Roy and Ish Monroe won't be adding anything to their weights today. They are both sitting at the docks, fish in hand waiting for the weigh in.
Meanwhile, VanDam has culled up a few ounces and Ott DeFoe has gone off the grid. Walker's BASSTrakk has been screwy all day but he's still plugging away.
We are pretty much into our final hour and unless something major happens, we expect to see those guys in the top five at the end of the weigh in.
Hackney and Skeet can still help themselves by upgrading. They are, no doubt, really hoping for that last-hour flurry. They each need it.
They occupy the 6th and 7th positions.
Russ Lane and Timmy Horton have been sharing water all week. They are next in line, with Lane having a 15-pound plus sack and Timmy in the 12 - to 13-pound range. Horton captures a big fish like yesterday and he could really help his cause.
-- Steve Bowman
We've been stuck in the middle of that slow period for an hour or more. There has been hardly any moves at all.
That's been the case since this event started. But what has also taken place is the last-hour flurry.
We watched KVD have one of those after his morning bite died to nothing. Then he hooked up with a 4- and two 3-pound fish that turned everything around.
We expect to see someone else have one of those afternoons anytime now. We hope to see it from Skeet and Mark Davis, both are battling for a Classic berth.
Skeet will likely have one more day to make it happen. But if something doesn't happen for Davis soon, he will be headed home.
Another angler I'm rooting for today is Bernie Schultz. He's sticking to the top 10 pretty good, which should get him in his first top 12 this season.
Schultz is one of the old dogs. He's been around a long time and is not only one of the best anglers in the country, he's one of the nicest as well.
Good to see him do so well after his poor start in Florida. There have been a couple times this year where poor decision making has just killed him. Each time, he's left the winning fish or the area where the tourney was won before they fired.
Looks like he has his timing in hs favor this week.
It was mentioned early that Bradley Roy has been in a sophomore slump during his second season on the Elite Series tour. If anything, that's an understatement. The 20-year-old from Lancaster, Ken., has made the top 50 cut only one time this season, finishing 17th at Lake Murray. He started the year on a bad note - finishing 93rd on Florida's Kissimmee Chain.
He entered the Dixie Duel in 83rd place in the AOY standings. A Classic berth for him - earned with a win at Wheeler - would be both a shocker and a season-saver for Roy, who doesn't turn 21 until November 2.
A couple of things have definitely been decided today.
The obvious is VanDam will win his 7th AOY title.
The undecided is whether or not he will win yet another Elite event.
On the decided side: Ott DeFoe will win the Rookie title; Ish will certainly make the Classic (he may have a chance to double qualify); as will Hackney (who also has a chance to double qualify).
Bradley Roy could get his first Classic berth if he were to win. And if he did that, he would hurt some folks feelings along the way, mainly those guys who are on the bubble for the Classic. They are all hoping for someone to win this event who is already in the Classic (VanDam, Walker, DeFoe, Ish, Hackney) so the list of qualifiers will deepen by one.
Still no word on our snake situation with Yusuki Miyazaki. He had one fish in the boat at the time and nothing has changed, unless they served it up as bait to get the snake out of the boat.
Last we heard the snake was lost in the console, And we've heard no reports of boats abandoned or anglers swimming.
At 12:30p.m. local time Ish Monroe idled back up to the docks at Ingalls Harbor to check in for the day. After putting over 20 pounds in the livewell, he decided to relax and take care of his fish.
When we walked over, he was waving for someone at Yamaha to bring him a sandwich. About the time it was delivered, Dave Mercer stopped by to do a report for the television show and had him hold a few of those beauties up. The footage from that can be found on the BASSCam page.
We left him eating a chicken sandwich and talking with his Marshal and some people on shore. It was a pretty good day for Ish and a pretty easy day for his Marshal.
Ish Monroe has come early. Rob Russow caught up with him at the dock. You will soon be able to see an interview with him on BassCam. Russow will also be sending a blog with an update on Ish.
You might be able to get another glimpse of him on Dave Mercer's next "live" update. He will have Gary Klein on, and no doubt Ish will be a topic.
With so much attention on VanDam, Evers, Kennedy, Walker and Skeet and others Bradley Roy kind of slipped up on us. He had a great day yesterday (18 pounds) to jump into fifth place. But as usual KVD, who was one spot below him, stole the thunder.
Roy, though, has muscled his way into contention today, and it's like a breath of fresh air. We've not had a chance to talk about him much this year. No time like the present to learn a little more about him.
Duke mentioned that he was just a pup at the age of 21. This is his second year on tour, so he probably doesn't know how to act around rookies like Lee Sisson, who is in his 60s. Last year, he was our Rookie of the Year.
To date, his best day ever was a 23 pound, 7 ounce sack he caught at the 2008 B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Southern Divisional on Santee Cooper.
That best could change after the next two days. It looks like he's come to play on Lake Wheeler.
Bradley Roy is fishing a big point with a shell bed on top of it. He's making short pitches with his spoon, letting it sink and working it back with sharp jerks of the rod tip. Naturally, his strikes are coming as the bait falls.
Bradley says he has more than 17 pounds (even though BASSTrakk has him at 16-10). There's a 2 1/2- pound fish in his livewell that he'd like to cull. If I had to guess, I'd reckon that there are 45 or so pros out here who would love to have a fish that size.
On our way back up the lake, a handful of boats came charging at us. That could only be Kevin VanDam. He had only six or seven boats with him, which is pretty light for him on the Tennessee River.
He was cranking a ledge and as many of the boats were coming off pad, he was hooking up with a fish. The bass was a puny 2-pounder, chump change after what he put in the well already. He quickly boated the fish and tossed it back.
Up from him, the Decatur Flats were looking a lot less crowded today with the reduced field.
If he wins here, Roy will be the youngest champ in Elite history, eclipsing Casey Ashley, who was 23 when he won on Smith Mountain Lake in 2007. It will also send Bradley, 21 years old, to his first Classic after a frustrating year.
When we got to Bradley Roy he immediately got behind the console and fired up the outboard. Then he yelled to us that he was just charging his batteries, so he's coming right back.
We're now down from Elk River, across from the International Paper plant. Terry Scroggins and Chad Griffin are here. Big Show is dragging a Carolina rig, and Chad appears to be working a jig. Griffin has won a season finale before
(2009 on Oneida) and needs a win here to make the Classic. Scroggins is trying to qualify for All Star Week.
Scroggins just culled with a fish he caught on his Carolina rig. He gained ounces there, not pounds.
We're headed back to this derby's unofficial leader, Bradley Roy.
Roy was Rookie of the Year last season, but has suffered a sophomore jinx this year. A strong finish here would end his season on a good note. Who knows, he might even get the win. He's just boated about a 3 pounder, and his fist pump tells us he can cull with it.
With his unofficial 22-pound bag today, Ish Monroe may have finally stabilized a season where he's been up and down like a yo-yo. Consider this string of tournament performances: 70th at Pickwick, then 12th at Toledo Bend, followed by 89th at the Harris Chain, then 3rd at Georgia's West Point Lake, followed by 91st at Lake Murray, then 4th on the Arkansas River in Little Rock last week.
That's about as up-and-down as you can get. And it shows why, despite three top 12 finishes this season, Monroe was still on the Bassmaster Classic bubble entering this week's Dixie Duel. Monroe was 35th in the AOY standings at the start of the tournament, and was still 35th theoretically when he was 34th at Wheeler Lake after Friday's weigh-in.
But with today's performance, Monroe will put some distance between himself and that AOY 37th-place cutoff point for the Classic.
The anglers fishing the windblown side of the lake right now are really getting hit hard by waves. Sometimes that helps stir the fish up, but that wasn't the case with Walker. He was in the afternoon doldrums.
Contrast that with someone like Steve Kennedy, who has been getting most of his fish in the afternoon hours. It will be an interesting few hours as guys try to catch Walker's weight. By my calculations, his 13-plus pounds has him in front of VanDam by a slim margin.
Trip Weldon just called with even more drama taking place on the water. Yusuki Myasaki who is currently in 45th place in our standings is having "one of those days."
He's not caught much in terms of bass, but a few minutes ago, according to his Marhsal, who called Trip, a "6 or 7-foot snake crawled into the boat."
That snake made it across the Marshal's arm (how does that happen?) into the floor and under the console and is now out of sight.
Neithe Marhsal or angler can find it. Trip had to give the okay for the Marshal to stay on the front deck until it departs the boat. Meanwhile, the water patrol is on their way.
They are looking for a boat with a Diawa warp all over and two folks standing in the front scared out of their wits, one of which speaks very little English and may be cussing in a foriegn language.
Out of no where Bradley Roy has taken over as the leader of this event. We didn't even think he was a factor going into today. But in the last 15 minutes he's boated two 4-pound class fish and has a 16-10 pound stringer, which edges him by VanDam by 1 pound.
Roy and Ish Monroe are practically on top of each other not too far from the dam. Both are having "lights out" days.
For the first time today KVD has vacated his spot offshore and sped to the cooling water discharge where he has spent time earlier this week as documented on Bassmaster.com. Seems to be getting a few grabs but nothing hooked.
From James Overstreet: KVD says the water has dropped but this place should be unaffected.
We've said goodbye to Walker and joined Bradley Roy, still the youngest angler in the Elite Series. Brad tells us he has four good ones and wants to cull one smaller fish. He's jigging a spoon, just like Walker. That may be the technique of choice here on the lower end of Wheeler.
Don't forget to check out Dave Mercer's live update at the top of the hour.
David Walker decided to leave and head out to his primary spot after not getting a bite the whole time he was back there.
Upon arriving we find the incomparable Ken Duke is on the scene. That's our cue to leave Walker for the big boys and head back. We will check the action up the lake and we work our way back to Ingall's Harbor.
Walker appears to be vertically jigging a spoon on top of a hump in the mouth of First Creek. Nothing so far, but he must be marking fish judging from the intensity of his stare at his electronics. The wind's blowing pretty strong out here, and there's quite a chop on the water. The blogging is tough, so I know the spooning is a challenge.
After a long pounding run, we're in First Creek in search of David Walker. He needed a good tournament here to make the Classic, but is having a great one. Just as we arrived, he's pulling out to the mouth of the creek.
Walker was a perennial Classic qualifier until he left BASS for FLW after the 2006 championship. Since Gerald Swindle won the Southern Open on the Kissimmee Chain earlier this year, Walker may rank as the best angler in the Elites never to have won a BASS event.
Overstreet is in the boat with KVD now for pictures. Says Van Dam told him if he catches two more good ones he'll head to the dock and order pizzas.
-- Tommy Sanders
No bites since Walker has moved. It produced so well for him yesterday, but not even a bite at this point.
"I could give a lot of phony advice, but I don't know why they aren't biting," Walker said. "I can tell you something about tournaments, they are biting somewhere on any given tournament day. Some days they are biting everywhere and some days only in a few spots. It would be nice to catch 19 pounds right away, but that's not reality, that's Bill Dance."
Or maybe that's just Kevin VanDam.
More Marshal updates:
Brauer looking for his first big bite.
Denny in his element moments before catching his second bass
-- Roger Mullins
Chris Lane losing a five pounder right at the boat!
-- Kelly Wombie
Ish Monroe isn't taking any chances on that Classic bid. He's jumped well into the top 5 with a 20-12 stringer. In the last hour, he has caught three 4-pound class fish and a 5-pounder to build that sack.
He's about 4-pounds away from the lead, but he may have stumbled on a honey hole. Another sack like that in the final and he could win.
Gerald Swindle noted during Friday's weigh-in that there never seems to be a single day on the Elite Series tour when the pressure to succeed let's up even a little bit. Today might well be the day when more anglers are feeling more pressure than any other day this season.
With the field being cut to the top 12 after today, many pros in Saturdays top 50 field have one last chance to make-or-break to qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic. Brent Chapman seems to be holding up well under pressure. He's 12th right now in the unofficial BASSTrakk standings. He was 38th coming into this event, just past the 37th place cutoff for Classic qualifiers.
Peter Thliveros is another who is thriving under pressure. He's 15th in the BASSTrakk standings today, with several hours left to fish. Peter T. was 14th on Day One at Wheeler and 14th again on Day Two. That theoretically put him in 38th place going into today in the AOY standings, one spot out of the Classic. He needs one of those scarce but difference-making four-pounders at Wheeler today in order to relieve some pressure.
Maybe no one is feeling more anxiety about today that Pat Golden, and he's not fishing. Golden missed the top 50 cut on a tiebreaker Friday. Golden, Mark Menendez, John Murray and Mark Davis finished yesterday with 50th-place totals of 22 pounds, 7 ounces. The field today is actually the top 51, as Davis, Menendez and Murray remained in a tie throughout the B.A.S.S. series of tiebreakers, but Golden fell in the tiebreaker system.
Golden was in 31st place in the AOY standings before the Dixie Duel. After Friday the unofficial AOY standings had Golden dropping to 39th place. He must depend on some failures by a couple of anglers in front of him to qualify for the Classic through the AOY standings.
Zona says he has been offering to help Van Dam for the last hour or so.
Zona: "I tell you what--I can pick up one of those rods and show you how to fire up the school on this Tennessee river."
KVD : "Seriously?"
Zona was going to send us a BassCam of KVD's picks for the four voted spots in Toyota Trucks All Star Week but the bit didn't happen. But he texted the names to me: Reese, Omori, Palaniuk, and Broderick
-- Tommy Sanders
You don't have to be around Bassmaster long to know two things: Mark Zona is a borderline maniac and KVD and him together are a team of maniacs.
Zona's in the boat with KVD and I'm starting to get a glimpse of what's taking place over there through Tommy Sanders. The two are getting some work done, though. Zona is asking him who woudl get his vote for the four remaining places in the All Star Week.
That should be coming shortly.
Don't forget to check out Dave Mercer's live update, coming up in a few minutes
Dan Shine is Skeet Reese's marshal. Below are texts and pictures from what he has witnessed with Skeet this morning. Dan is also within sight of Walker...
7:13am - Skeet and Walker just got to their first spot. Skeet and Walker are fishing about one hundred yards a part. Neither has set the hook.
7:34am - Both Walker and Skeet are cranking and throwing a big spoon. Steve Kennedy just joined the group. Kennedy is fishing a point close to shore within a couple hundred yards from Walker and Reese. And Walker just boated his first keeper.
8:04am - Skeet just boated his first keeper. Walker just put his first in the boat. We are too far away to tell how big it is.
8:10am - Walker is sticking with the big spoon. Just as I typed that he puts the spoon down and picks up a worm. There are nine boats watching Skeet and Walker.
8:27am - Walker just boated a big fish on the spoon. He held it up and let out a yell. It came just after two wave runners ran right between Walker and Reese.
8:44am - Jason Quinn just flew by on his way into First Creek. Another camera boat just dropped off a photographer into Walker's boat.
8:52am - Skeet just caught his second. Walker just set the hook too but it was a trot line. Next cast Walker catches his fourth keeper.
9:15am - Skeet throws a big crankbait now. Walker is still casting the spoon. He lets it hit the bottom and then pops it twice and lets it fall then repeats the process. Both Walker and Reese are rubbing rails right now.
9:33am - The wind is really starting to pick up now. It's blowing hard out of the South West. It's going to be a rough ride in.
10:02am - Walker just put his fifth fish in the boat.
Not long after Walker caught that keeper, he decided to strap the rods down and make a move back to where he caught a few good fish yesterday in the middle of the morning.
"One reason is the spot out there is really not going really well," Walker said. "Also, I can fish right in here. Out there I was real limited in where I can cast and how I can fish. Plus, it's a good spot. I'm just really surprised that no one's sitting on it with it being the weekend."
On Day One, Walker didn't come back here, just more to guard his other spot from the other tournament boats.
"Those guys let me have it and they told me they would," Walker said. "That's cool when you get along with guys like that. It's hard enough fighting with these fish."
The afternoon has been slow for Walker, but he knows he needs another good upgrade to stay on top.
"They already showed us this week, 11 pounds ain't winning fish."
Hackney's working this area over very thoroughly. He's a well-oiled machine with a flipping stick in his hands-- no wasted motion and deadly accurate. Now he's on the move and we're looking for David Walker.
We're back in water more than 2 feet deep now, and watching Greg Hackney pitch and flip a creature bait to shoreline cover. Hack's had a great tournament. When it started, we has outside the Classic cut. Now he's well inside it and gunning for a win. Hackney just culled a fish and upgraded a couple of ounces. If he wins, it will be first victory since the second Elite event in 2006.
Walker took time to answer another viewer question as well as make his case for a vote from you for Toyota Trucks All-Star Week. Both those videos can be found over on the BASSCam page.
Meanwhile, in the boat with Walker, the fish catching drought finally ended with another 2-pounder that bit a worm. Walker pulled out his two smallest fish and put them on a beam to see if he could cull. The largemouth was a hair longer but pretty skinny, so Walker threw it back.
He had a pretty interesting culling system that I haven't seen many anglers using. Instead of putting the fish directly on the beam, he has two bags and the fish are deposited in them and then weighed.
No one has helped himself more than David Walker this week. Walker has moved from 46th place in the AOY standings to 28th, well within the cut for the Bassmaster Classic. He has said from the start that making the Classic was his goal this year on the Elite Series, where he's considered a rookie.
Walker, 46, might be the most experienced rookie in history. He fished in six Bassmaster Classics before concentrating on the FLW tour, where Walker was the 1999 angler of the year.
Walker was in second place on Day One at Wheeler and moved into first yesterday with a total of 35 pounds, 3 ounces. He's looks to be backing that up with another strong showing today. If so, it would put him in position to do something he's never done in his 15 years of professional bass fishing - win.
The Sevierville, Tenn., angler caught several reporters by surprise during Friday's weigh-in when he pointed out that he has never won a major tournament on the BASS or FLW tours. Walker has recorded 32 top 10 finishes during his career.
- Steve Wright
There's not a lot being said about Skeet. He's sitting near Walker and they have been sharing water and at times actually fishing the same spot.
Skeet, though, has to be feeling the pressure. He only has two in the box while Walker has a good limit. I can only imagine what that must be like from a pressure standpoint. Skeet needs to catch them to have a shot at the Classic, but he also knows he can't infrnge too much, now that Walker is leading the event.
I would imagine it puts him in a quandry. Even though they've been together for three days, it makes for some tough decision making.
It will be interesting to see how that dynamic plays out for the rest of the day. We all know Skeet is capable of putting together legendary days. He's just had a very unlegendary year and after the last two weeks, seemed to be starting to come out of his funk. No one can argue that this wasn't a good event for him, but like all champions he won't be satisified with good.
It's still slow at present. So slow that VanDam actually takes time for a sip of water and a lucky cookie. Even gives Zona one. From Zona:"it's the first time he has ever given me one. I'll win co-host of the year seven times in a row now.". Lucky.
If I've been quiet it's because we've left Ott DeFoe and are heading back to the main lake. Ott's way back there in very little water and we have to idle a long way to get back to where we can run. It wasn't a problem for Ott, though. He stepped on it and ran all the way back to where he started fishing. You don't get many chances to win, so you have to go all out when a chance presents itself. Boats, motors, rods, reels, lines and lures are all just tools with a purpose for these pros. They use them and get the most out of them.
Zona and Sanders are waiting on KVD to get something going again, but it's been slow. Zona says that VanDam relayed to him how nice it was to get 16 or 17 pounds in 30 minutes. It makes the rest of the day relaxing.
That would imply that maybe KVD wasn't so relaxed before that. Hmmm.
KVD, though, will undoubtedly shift into gear at some point. He maybe taking a few moments to revel in his 7th AOY, but it will be my guess that he will start bearing down trying to get another win. One of the things that makes him so great is he's the most competitive guy on tour. He gives no quarter and takes none.
With a solid limit in the well Walker was reflecting back on the first bass of the morning.
"That fish I had on the first cast had me worried," Walker said. "It was barely hooked - one of those deals where there is a little flap of skin curling out and one hook just hung on. Usually, those crankbait fish like that just come off."
The missed fish versus landed fish are what puts an angler over the top and right now, everything is pointed in Walker's favor.
"That was awesome," Walker said. "Landing a fish that is just barely hooked means so much in a tournament. You can go over to those guys who didn't make the cut and they will have stories about key fish that got away."
After predicting only 20 percent chance of showers before yesterday's monsoon, looks like the weather man was wrong again with the "light winds." It's howling down here on the lower end. When Walker casts his crankbait back behind the boat he can throw it a mile at least.
Still no bites in quite some time.
Don't forget to check out Mercer's update at 10 a.m.
Ott DeFoe has moved into second on BASSTrakk. He has a limit that weighs around 12 or 13 pounds. We expect Waker to be right around him, although his BASSTrakk isn't showing up that way. A lot of times, when there is a cameraman in the boat, the Marshal has a tough time keeping up with the changes. But that will shake out.
In other news, Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders have switched over to KVD and they are giving us a little insight.
KVD is using a Strike King crankbait, Series 4 or 5, we're not certain yet, but he's backing that up with a hair jig.
The two are still waiting for another fish from KVD. Zona says the Hydrowave has definitely fired up the schools for him when he has done his damage. The graph is lit up with suspended fish
Walker's morning has started very similar to the past two days. Get an early limit first thing and boat a few decent upgrades over the course of the next few days.
"It's exactly the same and completely different," Walker said. "I caught one on the first cast and that was good. Then things slowed down and I'm really not surprised. They are learning you as much as you are learning them. I'll catch me another big one today though."
His patience with this spot has paid off all week and he hasn't done much running around all week after arriving in the morning.
"It's not worth it for me to run around the lake looking for places where they are really biting," Walker said. "Like any ledge, it's a timing thing. When that group starts feeding, you'll know it. They start looking for you instead of the other way around."
Walker sets the hook and boats a small white bass.
"Its like grabbing a porcupine," Walker said. "I call them cactus bass because everything about them is pointy. You need a tetanus shot to handle them."
Hank Weldon just pointed out an interesting scenario. VanDam wins the AOY, which by default puts him the Classic. That makes him double qualified, since he is the defending champion. If he were to win today, the Classic berth would go to him as well, which would make him triple qualified.
That would be the first time anyone has ever triple-qualified for the Classic, at least to my knowledge. I can't think of any scenario in the past 40 years that would ever even have something like that in place.
VanDam just keeps creating "firsts" in the sport of bass fishing.
-- Steve Bowman
As the Dixie Duel began this week, the cutoff mark for the Bassmaster Classic was 37th place in Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year points. Here is the group of anglers that were hovering just inside and outside that mark: 35. Ish Monroe, 36. Jason Quinn, 37. Bill Lowen, 38. Brent Chapman, 39. Greg Hackney, 40. Timmy Horton.
Several of those guys have done themselves a world of good in two days on Wheeler Lake. Hackney is now 22nd, Horton 27th, and Lowen 30th. Chapman has moved up two places to 37th, Monroe has maintained 35th place and Quinn has dropped to 42nd. But those are “theoretical points” based on Friday’s standings. All six of those guys near the cutoff point made the top 50 cut and are still fishing today, when the points become reality for all but the top 12 at the conclusion of Saturday’s weigh-in.
Making one of the biggest moves has been Kelly Jordon, who was ranked 45th in AOY points entering the Dixie Duel. Jordan is “theoretically” 36th now, based on his 11th-place ranking after Day Two.
In the early rankings from today, Hackney, Jordon, Horton and Chapman are in the top 10, so they are well on their way to jumping the Classic cutoff mark in the last regular season Elite Series event of the year.
- Steve Wright
Check out the launch photos from Day Three of the Dixie Duel (click the photo below ):
One Elite angler found success for the first time this year at Wheeler. Travis Manson made his first cut yesterday and did it in grand style. He started the day in sixth place. It's a great way to end the season.
Manson turned things around here, but two anglers finished tough seasons yesterday. Neither Brodie Broderick nor Derek Remitz made a single cut all year long. Aaron Martens made every first cut of the year ... until yesterday.
The wind is howling and some good waves are breaking at the bow of Walker's boat. That doesn't stop him from filling out a limit with another 2-pounder though. His cameraman got some awesome shots of the action and I've been getting some cool shots of both of them. It's neat to see how some of the crazy angles you see are captured on the water.
Walker also took minute to answer some of the questions you posted yesterday. Check out the BASSCam page to hear the answers and comment below if you have any more for Walker.
Both Walker and Reese are fishing the ledge now, they have been amiably sharing the water all week and it has continued today. Walker being the leader got the spot first and that has made all the difference.
A couple of the anglers I'm watching with interest this morning is Skeet Reese and Mark Davis. Both have to have lights out type of performances if they expect to make it to the Classic.
Skeet needs to win. he started teh day in third and is in position to do that. Right now, even though his BassTrakk isn't registering, he has a couple of keepers for 4 or 5 pounds. He will need to pick up the pace but he's still in position. Right now, he's still in the top 5.
Davis, needs a top 20 or better finish with some help from his friends, dropping or rising in the standings. He was one of the unfortunate to get locked out on the Arkansas River and it put him out of the Classic. He needs to find a way to catch a big sack today. He started in 49th place and is way out. But if he wants to fish the Classic he has to have a VanDam-type of day and quick.
A lot of Classic questions were answered yesterday, and some anglers went home disappointed. Ten anglers have now (unofficially) qualified for every Classic in the Elite era: Faircloth, Hackney, Iaconelli, Jordon, Kennedy, Martens, Reese (if he wins here), Scroggins, KVD and Wirth -- the cream of the Elite crop.
Here is a look at where the anglers are fishing on Day Three
The lower end of Lake Wheeler
Timmy Horton has moved to about 6 or 7 places so far. First fish came at Mallard by the ramp about a 3 or 4 pounder.
He's now at the mouth of Spring and has a 4 pounder and a 2-pound keeper. He is sharing water with Russ Lane, Kevin Wirth and Stephen Browning.
Walker said despite leading the tournament, the stress level for both him and his wife has increased every day.
"Last night she got up I don't know how many times," Walker said. "It was the same for me. The tough thing for her is that she can't do anything to help."
Catching that big fish and having four solid keepers is big for Walker at this point in the day.
"That's huge, just like the first day, it sets the tone," Walker said. "Now, I'm in with what I've got, I'm into the top 12. I'm already good for the Classic. Let's move on to what's next and that's winning this tournament. It's a little laundry list of things to do."
At 9 a.m., be sure and catch up with Dave Mercer's live update. Click the "Hooked Up" link on the front page.
This place looks like a postcard that one bass would send to another: "The water's fine. The shad are everywhere. Wish you were here!" DeFoe's stickbait is bigger than I thought. It carries at least three treble hooks. He's fishing some really thin water!
-- Ken Duke
To give you an idea of how quick VanDam put this AOY title to rest, here is a list of his catches and times for the day, remembering that he took off at 6:45 a.m. The time is listed followed by the weight of each fish.
That's 10 keepers in less than 45 minutes
This is a quick standings update, but it does not reflect the 11 pounds for Walker that Russow reported a few minutes ago.
Things are heating up for Walker and he's only been here for a little over an hour. He triggers another strike, but doesn't get a hook in it and then gets bit again on the same cast, but comes back with nothing.
A few more casts to the same area and Walker sets the hook again and this time it's solid. You can tell immediately that it's a better fish and again, Walker plays it patiently to the boat before reaching down and grabbing it. With a shout he holds it up for the cameras, the one in Reese's boat was watching too, and then turns to show the crowd. Everyone let's out a cheer when they see the 4-pound largemouth and Walker shuts it in the well and applauds. He's obviously pumped up and with four keepers for 11 pounds, he's heading in the right direction.
It's the Ott DeFoe Show here in the upper backwaters of Limestone Creek. He continues to catch bass -- small ones -- on a topwater stickbait, but is now tossing a soft plastic swimbait around some bridge pilings. It looks like a place they ought to live, but he's coming up empty. This backwater is just full of shad! It's no wonder the bass are here, but Ott needs the big ones.
The wind is really howling and about the time I started thinking it was time for these guys to get bit, Reese set the hook and battled a bass in towards the boat. This fish wasn't very big, but it was his second keeper of the day. The only problem for him right now is that the man he needs to beat for a Classic spot is fishing right in front of him and he can see that Walker's fish are a little bit bigger.
And not helping matters, Walker is still catching them. He gets another reaction strike and it is either a big one or hooked funny because he is really playing it out. Alongside the boat, the fish makes another run and Walker gets a hand on it, pulling up and smiling for the camera. Three fish for over 7 pounds and the day is playing out just right for Walker so far.
You can bet that Reese saw it happen too. His Classic dreams just got a little more fuzzy. Of course, this tournament is far from over. It's a close race that will likely come down to which of these two can get a big bite or two as the day progresses.
There was never really any doubt that VanDam would get the work done today to nail down the AOY, but even for those of us who knew it was coming, that early flurry that created 17 pounds sends a little shock wave through us.
It really does make us wonder if the guy is super natural in some way.
Yesterday, he had to wait to weigh in late with Evers and Kennedy. We set in the weigh-in line as angler after angler passed and all KVD could say about the AOY race was "I'm ready to get this over."
He said it enough that he obviously took it to heart. He's left absolutely no chance or no doubt.
Going into this morning we were thinking that there was a slight chance that KVD could slip up and by the narrowest of margins ever let someone else win the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.
Not anymore. VanDam has not only shut that door, he's slammed it shut, nailed it down and no matter how many miracles you can dream of he will be the next AOY.
While we were working up photo galleries and watching Walker, Hackney and DeFoe, VanDam quietly and very quickly has caught more than 17 pounds to not only assure an AOY victory but take the lead in this event.
Once again, KVD captures the magic and once again we can say there is no one better.
Our boat driver, Tyler Weeks, knows these waters well. We were out with his dad, Ferlin, the past two days. Without great volunteers like them, this sort of coverage would not be possible.
Just found Hackney. We thought we got there fast but quickly learn he's caught a three plus already.
Check that--Hackney says it was a solid 4 pounder plus he's had a 5 and a 6 pounder follow to the boat. Cameraman Brian Mason says he got good shots of them so we may get to see that video at weigh in time.
-- Tommy Sanders
Welcome to Day Three of the Dixie Duel on Wheeler Lake -- the day we will most likely crown the 2011 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the year.
We'll be running the blog as usual so you can keep up with the AOY race as well as the battle for the Dixie Duel championship, a spot in the Classic and $100k.