2011 Elite Series - Dixie Duel Wheeler Lake - Decatur, AL, Jun 16 - 19, 2011

Dixie Duel Live Blog, Day Two

 

Day Two - Lake Wheeler

4:15 p.m.

You should be watching the weigh-in by now, but in case you're not, here are a couple more galleries to check out. Click on the photos. We'll see you in the morning with the Day Three blog.

 

3:03 p.m.

Check out the first of a few On the Water galleries that will be coming in soon. Click the photo below.

 

2:52 p.m.

One thing about Day Three that I'm really looking forward to is we will have BASSTrakk in every boat on the water. That means all those other questions swirling through my head will be answered. Like, what did Chad Griffin do today? Paul Elias? Travis Manson?

Those guys were in the top six going into to today and we've not been able to lay eyes on them all day. Not having their information really skews things for us in some ways. We expect some guys to be nesteled in between the rest of these guys, but how many? And big an impact will they have on the overall top 50?

We will have a better look at that tomorrow. Meanwhile, the leaderboard has been strangely quiet.

We will bolt from blog headquarters soon and get to the weigh-in, so some changes could take place in the next 20 minutes or so. The weigh-in is fast approaching, though.

-- Steve Bowman

2:39 p.m.

Kevin VanDam may have just nailed the door shut on the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. Just a few minutes ago he got off the 1-pound fernzy and boated a 4-pounder. That gives him 26 pounds and change shoots him to a tie for 5th on our BASSTrakk list.

I never doubted him for a second. Or did I?

Meanwhile Kennedy and Evers seem to be stuck in the 8- to 9-pound range, well down the list. Mathematically it's still not over. Pragmatically, though, VanDam doesn't disappoint.

--Steve Bowman

2:33 p.m.

One thing this heavy rain might do is increase the current being pulled through Wheeler. That would be a boon for all the anglers that are fishing near the main lake and were dreaming of stronger current. Of course, it all depends on how much rain fell here and up the river on Guntersville. It may have felt like a lot being on the water, but likely won't make much of a difference on a place like this.

Current has been playing a role all week, even if it hasn't been as strong as some would like. The area we visited earlier with Wirth, Lane and Horton was keyed by the current. Out on the main lake, the current has been present too. It will be interesting to hear if the rains affected anything like that during the course of the day.

Also, the rain may have helped those anglers that were getting some of their bites shallow. With an influx of water, the fish might get positioned in run offs or just generally be more likely to bite since it is not 95 degrees. A chance of thunderstorms remains for tonight and part of tomorrow, but after that, heat will once again return to the Decatur area.

With as little as 30 minutes left, the day and season is coming down to the wire. Some last minute heroics could buy an angler another day and some valuable points.

-Rob Russow

 

2:32 p.m.

One Classic streak that appears safe this year belongs not to an angler, but to a state.
Arkansas has sent a competitor to the Classic every year since its inception in 1971, and that streak seems safe. Stephen Browning (and perhaps others from the Natural State) looks like a lock to make it.
-- Ken Duke

 

2:11 p.m.

Looking into weights and numbers a little further, if you simply double the weights from yesterday, which I don't think you can do in every instance. It does seem to be a little tougher.

12th place yesterday was 14 pounds and change. It would make sense that would be around 28 pounds But if you look at just the BASSTrakk standings there would only be about three anglers on our list who would make that.

We think it would be more like 26 pounds and change.

As for the top 50. That was 11 pounds. 22 pounds, at the moment would knock out both Kennedy and Evers and put probably around the 30th position.

Of course those are all guesses. But in that for instance, VanDam loses something like 50 points. Evers and/or Kenndy add 6- to 8-pounds and they gain some points on top of that, making it long from being over.

Now if one of those three will just catch a big one, then it would in some ways alleviate some of this misery of all the "what ifs." I'd like to see it be a race to the end, obviously.

--Steve Bowman

1:59 p.m.

I was watching the BASSTrakk a few minutes ago, just wiling it to move. My mind is screaming "someone catch something."

Evidently, I'm pyschic or something. While watching it KVD's catches rolled a bit.

He caught a keeper that upgraded him from 8-8 to 8-10.

It didn't even move him in the standings, just enough of a change for me to see it move. Obviously, my pyschic powers are under-whelming.

But I still contend that every ounce, or pound in this case, that he doesn't catch in the next hour just leaves the door a little more open for Kennedy and Evers. They just haven't had the opportunity to walk thru it.

KVD isn't exactly struggling, since he is catching them. But it's a far cry from where was yesterday. If that trend continues into tomorrow, then..who knows?

--Steve Bowman

1:47 p.m.

Right now our big bag is 16-pounds. That belongs to David Walker. We do no have a unit in the Boat with Chad Griffin. He might have loaded the boat again today. Also, as it has been stated earlier in the blog, there is a name missing in the top 15; Kevin VanDam keeps falling down the leaderboard. Maybe he is just messing with all of us. I'm sure when he is ready the bigger fish will start biting for him. This will be the last BASSTrakk update until the weigh-in.

Place Angler Fish Day Two Total
1 David Walker 5 16-00 34-02
2 Ott Defoe 5` 15-06 33-12
3 Greg Hackney 5 16-01 30-13
4 Timmy Horton 5 15-08 27-05
5 Terry Scroggins 5 12-08 26-08
6 Kelly Jordon 5 11-12 26-07
7 Bill Lowen 4 12-12 26-01
8 Takahiro Omori 3 12-12 26-00
9 Peter Thilveros 5 10-14 25-07
10 Russ Lane 5 8-08 24-14
11 Kevin Wirth 5 10-06 24-13
11 Denny Brauer 5 11-00 24-13
13 Gerald Swindle 5 12-12 24-04
14 Casey Ashley 5 13-14 24-02
14 Brent Chapman 5 12-13 24-02

-- Hank Weldon

 

1:40 p.m.

So, who's weighed in the most bass this season? Looking at leaders in that category is a lot like looking at the AOY leaderboard:
123 bass Kevin VanDam (1st in AOY)
116 bass Aaron Martens (10th)
114 bass Edwin Evers (2nd)
114 bass Alton Jones (9th)
113 bass Terry Scroggins (5th)
113 bass Gerald Swindle (7th)
110 bass Davy Hite (6th)
109 bass Casey Ashley (8th)
109 bass Ott DeFoe (4th)
109 bass Chris Lane (11th)
108 bass Steve Kennedy (3rd)
108 bass Michael Iaconelli (18th)

--Ken Duke

1:30 p.m.

We are coming down to the wire, with about less than two hours remaining in the day. That means this is the final two hours of competition of the season for about 48 anglers. Another 50 will survive to fish one more day but the painful truth is there may be some guys fishing their final Elite event.

We've concentrated on those who will be advancing to the All Star event and then the Classic, as we should. But it has to be tough on some of the others not mentioned as much who are casting their hineys off to stay alive in some way.

It's also getting to the point, where things have to start happening for several anglers. Obviously, Evers and Kennedy have been mentioned.

But others like Mark Davis, Randy Howell, Jason Quinn, Timmy Horton, Andy Montgomery _ all fighting for a spot in the Classic. The fight has been going on all year, but we are entering the final round for some of them. Be interesting to see who can catch a second wind and make it last a little longer.

--Steve Bowman

1:23 p.m.

A look at the leaderboard for today and things look very similar to yesterday. The leaders are pretty much the same and the weights are pretty much the same. That surprises me to some extent. With the cloud cover and rain, I expected to see more of that 3- to 4-pound class fish being caught, but that just hasn’t been the case. It’s Wheeler Lake, where 12-inch fish are plentiful and the key 4-pounder means the difference between fishing Sunday and going home empty handed.

Timmy Horton knows the value of the big fish bite after catching a monster this afternoon. The fish was easily 6 pounds and came in the middle of a group of dinks that were caught by Kevin Wirth and Russ Lane. There were no shortage of fish to fill out a limit. All three had somewhere between 7 and 9 pounds when the better fish started biting. For some reason, there is a good number of big fish caught early and then another charge in the afternoon, after a dry spell during the middle of the day.

The bottom line is, every angler needs to capitalize on that rare opportunity when the fish over 3 pounds bites. It’s not Guntersville, where 4-pounders are swimming everywhere. Lose one of those here and you are out of contention, left thinking about what could have been.

-Rob Russow

1:13 p.m.

I'm not trying to give anyone false hope or even trying to create any drama on this AOY race. I thought it was over hours ago when KVD got started with an 8-pound limit.

The fact he's only added ounces to that makes for some interesting scenarios. It's still in his hands, but he's not closed it out, at least to this point. He could very well do that in the next cast.

But there is still a chance (one that is growing smaller) for Evers and Kennedy to keep things alive.

KVD's 23 pounds, 10 ounce stringer will get him in the cut, but unless he adds to it, he could be on the lower end. That's just the way it works. A really good bag from Evers and/or Kennedy and they get high real fast.

-- Steve Bowman

1:03 p.m.

Watching the BASSTrakk we keep seeing Kevin VanDam make an uncharacteristic move. He's slipping in the standings. he started the day in 8th place, but is now in 16th on our list, which will put him well below that in the overall list.

He's hammering the fish. But they have all just been keepers, one after the other according to Mercer and Overstreet. But he's still stuck on 8 pounds and change.

While several folks have already written off anyone catching him, he's actually leaving the door open for Evers and Kennedy. They just don't seem to be able to put together the momentum to get through it.

Both are about 6 to 8 places below him in our standings and they need to get well above him. It could still happen. One of them jumps into the top 12 and KVD stays out, a lot of things can happen.

The thing to remember, until the size of KVD's fish start growing, he's losing points that he had gained on Day One. The other two can make up a lot of ground. It would only take one or more of those 4- to 6-pound fish that we've seen come in the last couple of hours to make this a race again.

Then again, KVD needs only to catch a 3-pounder or two to head on his way back up. That seems more likely, but this is still a fishing tourney and anything seems possible.

--Steve Bowman

12:47 p.m.

So what's it going to take to make the cut to 50 at the end of the day and fish again on Saturday? The old rule of thumb of doubling the first day's weight and subtracting 10 or 15 percent just doesn't work at the Elite level. The dropoff is negligible -- just two ounces off the average catch.

And since the 50th place angler (Dustin Wilks) had 11-3 yesterday, that puts the cut at roughly 22 pounds. It's important because the guys who miss the cut are done -- their season is over and they can't add any AOY points to their total by fishing this weekend.

For the Elite pros, it's all a matter of making cuts and earning checks. If you're not fishing, you're not winning, and if you're not winning -- or doing very well -- the sponsors might forget about you and find someone else.

You can bet that the anglers who made the most cuts and fished the most days are the ones in the AOY hunt. Consistency pays.

-- Ken Duke

12:40 p.m.

We know what rain and clouds can do for fishing. In most cases it's good, sometimes not so good.

It doesn't appear to have hurt the fishing at all.

It has had an impact on bloggers, as evidenced by Ken Duke's musings below.

--Steve Bowman

KVD doesn't go fishing because "fishing" implies the possibility of failure. KVD goes "catching."

When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks under his bed for KVD.

If Superman and Batman were to square off in a battle of superheroes, KVD would win.

KVD put Humpty Dumpty back together again!

KVD not only found Waldo, but he has him waypointed on his GPS.

KVD uses a night light -- not because he's afraid of the dark, but because the dark is afraid of KVD.

Paper beats rock, rock beats scissors and scissors beats paper, but KVD beats them all with a final round charge of 32 pounds and an 11-pound kicker.

-- Ken Duke

12:36 p.m.

After seeing that big fish catch by Horton, Russ Lane joined them on the other side of the bridge. The bite had more or less shut down by then, and Wirth decided he wanted to go back across. Almost in unison, Lane and Horton told him to wait and let the fish rest. They had been getting hammered on by the three boats all morning.

Wirth then hung up his crankbait in the rocks.

"When we were at Guntersville, this was the crankbait I was using to catch hundreds of fish each day," Wirth said. "I'm not breaking thus bait off."

After that big fish, we didn't see any more fish caught there and so we moved on up the lake.

-Rob Russow

12:31 p.m.

Since that last standings update, or more exact right in the middle of publishing it, Bill Lowen caught a 4-pounder. That gives him 12-12 on the day and moves him to 6th place in our BASSTrakk standings.

Lowen started the day in 29th in the AOY, which meant "in" but not real far into the Classic. He finished yesterday in 23rd place and should be holding steady with today's performance.

-- Steve Bowman

12:29 p.m.

Place Angler Fish Day Two Total
1 David Walker 5 16-00 34-02
2 Greg Hackney 5 16-01 30-13
3 Ott Defoe 5` 13-04 31-10
4 Timmy Horton 5 15-08 27-05
5 Terry Scroggins 5 12-08 26-08
6 Takahiro Omori 3 12-12 26-00
7 Peter Thilveros 5 10-14 25-07
8 Kevin Wirth 5 10-06 24-13
9 Denny Brauer 5 10-15 24-12
10 Gerald Swindle 5 12-12 24-04
11 Casey Ashley 5 13-14 24-02
11 Brent Chapman 5 12-13 24-02
13 Kelly Jordon 5 9-04 23-15
14 Russ Lane 5 7-08 23-14
15 Kevin VanDam 5 8-04 23-10

-- Hank Weldon

 

12:25 p.m.

Kevin VanDam has been hopscotching ledges and has now moved back to his "happy hole" where he started Day One and filled out his limit while catching a slime-covered spinning reel-and-rod on Day Two. He continues to catch fish wherever he goes, but hasn't caught an anchor fish yet. He's been culling for ounces.

Although it's still raining, it's not a downpour now and the lightning has ceased. That has brought some creative fans back on the lake to follow the six-time Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year (and soon to be seven, it appears). One boat added a "tent" to help deal with the rain. It's actually a portable bass boat restroom, called "The Bass Room."

The Bass Room is the answer to the question: What in the wide, wide world of bass fishing will they think up next?

- Steve Wright

12:20 p.m.

Check out how smart these KVD fans are bring a tent out with them to help deal with the rain. It's actually a portable bass boat restroom called the bass room. Wow these guys can go to the can while they watch KVD try put TTBAOT Number 7 in the can.

-- Dave Mercer

12:09 p.m.

Ott DeFoe is back in the mix. His BASSTrakk just updated giving him a limit that weighs around 13-4. That puts him in second behind Walker, who still has a 2-8 lead on him.

DeFoe has been off the grid for sometime. But it's obvious he's back on track, in more ways than one.

--Steve Bowman

11:59 a.m.

Casey Ashley is sitting on the hot seat in the 8th place position of the AOY rankings. That makes him the last guy in and we've seen some moves and shakes taking place that makes that a hard place to be.

Yesterday, Ashley had a below average day, finishing in 54th for the day with 10 pounds and change.

Today, he's making sure he stays in the final 8. He's boated almost 14 pounds and sits 11th in our standings. That's a giant move today and one that will likely hurt some folks feelings who were trying to take that spot away from him.

Ashley, though, doesn't seem to want to budge.

At the moment, it appears as if the only candidate that could fall out of that 8 is Davy Hite. He has about 6 pounds. But we've seen him put on late-in-the-day charges all year long.

Going into today that list looked like this:

1. KVD

2. Evers

3. Kennedy

4. DeFoe

5. Scroggins

6. HIte

7. Swindle

8. Casey Ashley

All of them are faring well enough, or had a big enough lead that their positon looks to be secure.

--Steve Bowman

11:58 a.m.

Some streaks regarding the Classic will end here at Wheeler.

Most notably, Gary Klein's streak of 10 consecutive Classic appearances (tied for second longest active streak with Mike Iaconelli and Kevin Wirth) ends here. So does Skeet Reese's streak of nine straight, Mike McClelland's run of six in a row and Boyd Duckett's string of five straight.

Of course, one of these guys could jump up and win here -- or in the Opens -- but that's the kind of thing that will have to happen for them to get to the Classic in 2012.

-- Ken Duke

11:52 a.m.

Place Angler Fish Day Two Total
1 David Walker 5 16-00 34-02
2 Greg Hackney 5 16-01 30-13
3 Timmy Horton 5 15-08 27-05
4 Terry Scroggins 5 12-08 26-08
5 Ott Defoe 3 7-10 26-00
5 Takahiro Omori 3 12-12 26-00
7 Peter Thilveros 5 10-14 25-07
8 Kevin Wirth 5 10-06 24-13
9 Denny Brauer 5 10-15 24-12
10 Gerald Swindle 5 12-12 24-04
11 Casey Ashley 5 13-14 24-02
11 Brent Chapman 5 12-13 24-02
13 Kelly Jordon 5 9-04 23-15
14 Russ Lane 5 7-08 23-14
15 Kevin VanDam 5 8-04 23-10

-- Hank Weldon

 

11:44 a.m.

If you listen carefully, you can just hear the AOY door closing on the rest of the field. KVD looks like he's going to seal up number seven, which is an incredible feat. It could just as easily be number eight. Had he not been disqualified from the Santee Cooper event in 2006 (he allowed someone else to operate his outboard during practice -- a relatively new rule that he was not aware of), KVD would have won it that year, not Mike Iaconelli.

Eight is significant because few believed anyone would ever challenge Roland Martin's record of nine. Now it looks like VanDam will take home number seven and be just two away.

--Ken Duke

11:29 a.m.

The action picked up in the last few minutes. Russ Lane hooked up with a good fish. As he was playing it around the front of his boat, it jumped across his trolling motor and the bait came flying out of it's mouth. Lane let out a shout of dismay - that one hurts.

Wirth went on a tear as well after easing past us. He caught a small fish and culled ounces and then on the very next cast, hooked up with a good one. The 3-pound plus largemouth was a big upgrade for Wirth and he was feeling pretty happy with his Classic chances.

With that one in the well, it was time for Wirth to cull. He pulled out his smallest and held the two fish up for the cameras to admire the sizeable upgrade. While he was doing that, Timmy Horton had fired out a cast and was hooked up with what appeared to be a beast.

The fish bulldogged down and Horton was pulled to the deck numerous times as Wirth cheered him on. After a few scary runs next to the boat, Horton was finally able to get his hands on it. Clark Reehm, who was idling by and stopped to watch called it a 6 or 7, Horton called it a 6 and Wirth said at least a 5.

Horton has caught 9 pounds with just two fish in the last 30 minutes and is now a player in this event.

-Rob Russow

11:35 a.m.

Timmy Horton has made a big jump. He just landed a 6-pounder, according to BASSTrakk, and now has 15-8 total. He sits in third place on our list with 27-5 total.

That will be good news to all those folks who have him on their fantasy team. He figured to be a favorite here, but was just average on Day One. Today, he's making that choice worth it.

He needs it to. He went into the day about 20 points out of the Classic. A 15 pound sack today will put him back in.

-- Steve Bowman

11:18 a.m.

We've been watching DeFoe on the tracker and wondering if his three fish are accurate. He had such a command of things after Day One that we expected him to bust them again.

But he's been stuck on three. We also know that he caught the lion's share of his weight yesterday off one ledge that he seemed to have had to himself. Today, or at least in the last couple of hours, he's been bouncing around on several spots. Currently, he's up the river.

We don't know what that means. He could be scrambling or he could be building. As soon as our rain-soaked eyes catch up to him, hopefully we will have a better idea.

-- Steve Bowman

11:06 a.m.

Here's info that blog readers should know:
The Dixie Duel will be a designated drop-off point on Saturday, June 18, and Sunday, June 19, for donations to Tackle the Storm. Any type of usable tackle will collected. The tackle will be distributed by the Decatur Convention and Visitors Bureau to children affected by the April 27 tornadoes that devastated many areas of Alabama.

-- Deb Johnson

11:04 a.m.

Kevin VanDam has moved from the spot where he filled out his limit this morning and is now on another ledge, where he has culled three times.
It continues to rain.
- Steve Wright

11:00 a.m.

Steve Kennedy has added a couple to his creel. He now has four that weigh around 5 pounds. Evers is either off the grid or having a terrible time. Meanwhile, KVD seems to be in average land. He still has a limit at 8 pounds, which slightly has the door open for one of those two to make a move. It would have to be a big one, though.

Those three have been so quiet that our AOY attention has been placed on who could make the Classic and the All Star Week.

But we're keeping one eye out to see if any noise starts on the AOY front.

-- Steve Bowman

10:50 a.m.

You want stats? We got stats -- want them or not!
The biggest jump any Elite Series pro has ever made to get into the Classic in the last event of the year came in 2009 when Jason Quinn moved from 55th place to 35th in just one event.
This year it doesn't look like anyone is going to move quite that far, but keep your eyes on Russ Lane. Unofficially. He's in about 8th place here at Wheeler. He was 50th in AOY points before the tournament started. Now he's about 39th. If he can keep his foot on the gas here, he just might make the Classic.
Peter T (44th coming in) and Kelly Jordon (45th) are both having strong tournaments and looking good for the Classic. It would be Pete's 14th and Kelly's 10th. Both are strong when the water gets hot and the fish move off the banks.

-- Ken Duke

10:43 a.m.

According to BASSTrakk, David Walker has just passed Greg Hackney for the lead. These two have had interesting seasons. Hackney's been to nine straight Classics, but was in jeopardy of losing the streak. He was 39th coming in and needed a strong (top 30) finish to seal the deal. Now he looks like he might win.
Everyone had big expectations for Walker. The longtime pro has done everything but win with B.A.S.S. and it was a big surprise when he struggled early. He was 46th coming into Wheeler and most had him thinking about next year, but he's really turned it on. Win or lose this tournament, he's put himself back in the Classic for the first time since 2006.

--Ken Duke

10:39 a.m.

Terry Scroggins has jumped into the mix. In the last 30 minutes he's boated four fish that would collectively weigh more than 10 pounds. He has a limit that totals 12-8 and sits in third on our BASSTrakk list.

It may be too little too late for Scroggins. The Arkansas River proved to be his undoing in the AOY title chase, but today's stringer should lock him well into the All Star Week.

-- Steve Bowman

10:37 a.m.

We are back on Wheeler Lake. The lightning and thunder has passed, but it is still raining.
For what maybe the first time this year Kevin VanDam is fishing with only one boat watching him. The nasty weather chased off all the spectators. It must be kind of weird for him to be fishing alone on a day that he could lock up his 7th Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year title. Pleasantly weird.

-- Steve Wright

10:32 a.m.

The storms that are rolling through Alabama today reminds us the ravaging tornadoes that have hit us so hard this year.

Don Barone writes about the Alabama tornado in the link below.

http://www.bassmaster.com/blog/field-tears-revisited

Which has created a fund for those victims.

To donate to Tackle The Storm: Cullman, Ala., you can do so through:

RCBC Outdoors Adventures

24849 County Road 222

Bremen, AL 3503

Office i(256-287-1613)

Or you can contact Don Barone at: don.barone@gmail.com

 

10:30 a.m.

Place Angler Fish Day Two Total
1 David Walker 5 14-04 32-06
2 Greg Hackney 5 16-01 30-13
3 Ott Defoe 3 7-10 26-00
4 Terry Scroggins 5 11-00 25-00
5 Gerald Swindle 5 12-12 24-04
6 Peter Thilveros 5 9-08 24-01
6 Denny Brauer 5 10-04 24-01
8 Kelly Jordon 5 9-04 23-15
9 Russ Lane 5 7-08 23-14
10 Bill Lowen 4 10-04 23-09
11 Casey Ashley 5 13-02 23-06
12 Kevin VanDam 5 7-12 23-02
13 Kevin Wirth 5 8-04 22-11
14 Takahiro Omori 3 9-04 22-08
15 Randy Howell 5 14-04 21-12

 

10:25 a.m.

Even though this tournament is far from over, there were definitely some losers yesterday. Alton Jones dropped out of the top eight out of the All Star Week field -- at least for the moment. Fred Roumbanis, who was 12th and within sight of All Star Week, is now 21st. Matt Reed fell from 19th to 31st. That should get him safely to the Classic, but he doesn't need to take any chances by having another tough day. Randy Howell is pushing things, too. He started the event in 23rd, but is now 37th. That still might get him to the Big Dance, but he'll go through the side door rather than the front one.
Two other anglers who really hurt their Classic chances yesterday were Andy Montgomery (26th coming into the tournament) and Brandon Palaniuk (27th coming in). They're now 40th and 45th, respectively, and that will not be good enough to make the Classic. If BASSTrakk is right, they're both struggling again. They've had strong rookie seasons, but to fall just short of the Classic will likely make them feel hollow.

--Ken Duke

10:20 a.m.

Gerald Swindle is making a few moves of his own. He's landed a 4 1/2 pounder and a couple of other solid fish to give him a 12-12 limit and a 5th place standing in our BASSTrakk list. He's already way ahead of where he was yesterday, which is good for him. He's fighting for a spot into the Toyota Trucks All Star Week. He was in after an average day yesterday, he could be well in with a good day today.

It would be appropriate. He and Davy Hite, also in the All Stars, have had exceptional years.

-- Steve Bowman

10:14 a.m.

David Walker just caught a 4-pounder and has moved into our unofficial lead. That gives him 14-4 for the day and 32-6 overall.

Hackney slips to second, although, we doubt he is thinking about anything but assuring the Classic berth.

Ott DeFoe is still third and stuck on three fish, one of those a 5-pounder. He could still make some moves with a solid couple of keepers. He's just 6-pounds behind Walker at the moment.

We are trying to get some eyes on Griffin to see how his day is going, but with the storms it's hard to do that.

But based purely on Walker's last fish there are some good fish still biting.

We wondered how steeply the weights might drop today. Most of the anglers we talked to yesterday said they really hammered their fish. They had to because so many guys are sharing the same water. How quickly and if those places replenish could be a big deal by the end of the day.

-- Steve Bowman

 

10:02 a.m.

Check out the photos from this morning's launch (click the photo below):

 

10:01 a.m.

We left David Walker with a solid limit and a good chance at hanging steady in a Classic spot. Our move took us to a popular bridge that must have produced yesterday since Russ Lane, Kevin Wirth and Mike Iaconelli are all here.
BASSTrakk has them with small limits, so big bites have been surprisingly hard to come by. After such a hot day yesterday, this rain should be the trigger for better-sized fish.
Wirth and Lane both are casting to the exact same spot. Wirth caught a short fish, but otherwise the action has been slow. Wirth hooks up again, another small bass that gets tossed back. Apparently as soon as I say the action has slowed, the fish reject me and start biting. Russ Lane just caught a small fish.
Oh, and I think it might be raining harder than ever.
-Rob Russow

9:58 a.m.

The moves up by Chris Lane and Keith Poche might not seem like much, especially when they need to reach the top 8 to get to All Star Week, but they're significant and looking even more so as rough weather challenges the field here at Wheeler. Another strong day by Lane and Poche -- and weak days by Alton Jones, Gerald Swindle, Davy Hite or a couple of others -- could give the two young pros a chance to fish for $100K in Montgomery. That kind of money might not be life changing for them, but it could certainly do a lot for their careers.

--Ken Duke

9:53 a.m.

Sometimes (well, always) a season finale gets lost in the hoopla of AOY, Classic berths and things like that. Allow me to contribute to that phenomena by commenting on the "winners" and losers after the first day.
The winners are the guys who moved into contention for All Star Week or a Classic spot. No one new really made a move at AOY. As expected, it's KVD's to lose, and no one ever expects to lose.
The winners in the fight to get to All Star Week were Ott DeFoe, who moved from 10th to 4th, Chris Lane (13th to 11th) and Keith Poche (15th to 12th).
More in a moment.

-- Ken Duke

9:42 a.m.

Here is a look at where all the anglers are either fishing or riding out the storm.

 

Decatur

 

Decatur Flats

Elk River

Lower end of Wheeler

 

9:36 a.m.

Duke makes a great point on Chad Griffin and the "never give up" mentality that these guys have to have. In an ordinary year, a lot of the Elite anglers would be rooting for him, unless they were in contention of winning.

But with the Classic berth, you can bet that a big part of the field is rooting for Walker or DeFoe if they don't have a shot at winning. That part of the field is that group of anglers near the bubble of making the Classic.

They know if the eventual winner of this event is already qualified on points in the Classic, it will allow the next guy in the standings to move up. With the points being really close in the standings in those 30th to 37th places, one more spot down the list could be big.

As of today, the last angler in the Classic is Kelly Jordon. And he's tied in points with Ish Monroe and Jason Quinn. Those points will change by the end of the day, but they serve to show how close those anglers are in those positions.

-- Steve Bowman

9:30 a.m.

A look at the standings tells you that Ott DeFoe came up big yesterday, but I think there's a good argument that Chad Griffin was the big winner. Griffin was in 98th place in the AOY standings going into the season finale and has given himself a chance to punch his ticket to the 2012 Bassmaster Classic … if he can seal the deal with a win here at Wheeler. BASSTrakk has him unofficially with no bass this morning, but that because we don't have a tracker on him. If Griffin wins and makes the Classic, the win-and-you're-in program will really show folks that you can't ever give up in this sport and it's never too late to turn things around. Griffin has won at the Elite level before -- and in a season finale! In 2009 he won the Champion's Choice on Oneida Lake out of New York. That tournament helped finance Griffin's career and kept him in the Elites. Wheeler would be another real shot in the arm.

-- Ken Duke

9:25 a.m.

The weather's turned nasty -- rain, thunder, and most notably, lightning -- so I'm off the water and blogging from the comforts of Holiday Inn. Rain and the iPhone don't mix, so this is much better and more conducive to productivity.

But before getting off the lake, we ran into Bobby Lane, who was worming offshore structure on Decatur Flats. When asked how his day was going, he gave us a thumbs down sign and said he was thinking about pulling out "the shallow bag." A lot of the pros will have to change gears today.

-- Ken Duke

9:20 a.m.

Van Dam has a limit, Evers has two. Kennedy has one. It's not academic yet, but the chubby lady is starting to clear her throat.

Evers and Kennedy needs a big surge, to put them back in the mix. There is obviously a lot of time left to do that. But KVD isn't making it easy on them. No one expected he would.

While it's doubtful that KVD can be bested at this point, it won't be completely sewn up for another day, unless Evers and Kennedy fail to make the top 50.

If they do, the odds will likely be aginst them. But you have to give every possible scenario a chance to work. The hole, though, just gets deeper for those two.

-- Steve Bowman

9:15 a.m.

The rain has continued unabated and the fish catching has ground to a halt. Walker made a short move and while he has set the hook a few times, he has done nothing but haul water.

He continues to fish offshore, though he is not on the main lake like many of these guys. He's around a popular release area for tournaments according to my boat driver Cal. At least it was until they started charging five bucks for parking. The high numbers of fish put in here made it a good area to fish for years, but that is starting to change.

Walker pulls up for another move.

-Rob Russow

 

9:07 a.m.

Another pleasant surprise is Randy Howell. He's having a good day. He's at 14 pounds today for 21-08 total.

That's almost a Hail Mary pass for Howell. He was on the verge of slipping out of the Classic after yesterday. But with this bigger bag, he will get back in with little trouble

--Steve Bowman

 

9:05 a.m.

For all practical purposes, Greg Hackney has made the Classic. I know his attitude has to be good. He has the lead for the moment, with Ott DeFoe in second.

DeFoe can still make up ground and fast. He has a 5-pounder in his well with two squeakers for a total of 7-pounds. So he has an anchor to build a big sack by the end of the day.

Right now the thunder is rolling and the rain has started to fall. Most of our on-the-water presence will drop off. It’s hard to make electronic equipment like cameras, computers and phones work in the rain. But we will continue to bring you as up-to-the minute information as possible.

-- Steve Bowman

 

8:59 a.m.

Hackney has put together a solid limit early on Day Two. Randy Howell is not far behind him on today's catch. Here is the leaderboard:

Place Angler Fish Day Two Total
1 Greg Hackney 5 16-01 30-13
2 David Walker 5 11-00 29-06
3 Ott Defoe 3 7-10 26-00
4 Peter Thilveros 5 9-08 24-01
5 Kelly Jordon 5 8-14 23-09
6 Russ Lane 5 7-02 23-08
7 Kevin VanDam 5 7-12 23-02
8 Kevin Wirth 5 8-04 22-11
9 Bill Lowen 4 7-04 22-09
10 Randy Howell 5 14-00 21-08
11 Brent Chapman 5 9-09 20-14
12 Marty Robinson 5 7-14 20-12
13 Stephen Browning 5 8-12 20-04
14 Denny Brauer 4 6-06 20-03
15 Chris Lane 5 7-10 20-00

--Hank Weldon

8:45 a.m.

VanDam caught two more non-keepers here - one was a moss-covered spinning
reel and rod, the other was a white bass - to go with a keeper smallmouth
and a keeper largemouth. He now has four bass in the boat.
KVD was dredging the lake bottom with a deep-diving crankbait. When he
landed the spinning rig.
We have left VanDam and the lake because of the lightning dancing all
around us. This appears to be a fast-moving storm, and we should be
launching the boat again shortly.
Steve Wright

8:41 a.m.

Ott left the spot, and he left at least one bass there. Kevin VanDam moved to his Thursday starting point at 8:15; Day One leader Ott DeFoe was gone and VanDam caught a fish on his fourth or fifth cast into this area. We’re only about a five-minute boat ride from the launch spot. We have seen lightning to the south of us and heard thunder, but this storm appears to be skirting by us. VanDam just caught another bass that was too short to go in the livewell.

--Steve Wright

8:40 a.m.

Walker's move is looking like pure genius. Not long after arriving from the short move, Walker set the hook on his best fish of the day. The 3-pound fish might have thought it was going to put up a fight, but Walker powered it right across the surface and into the boat. That was his third keeper of the day and while he hasn't seen the quality bite or two like he did a day ago, his Classic spot is looking better and better. A I was typing, Walker set the hook again and boated a 2-pounder, giving him four fish for about 9 pounds. Unlike some of the other competitors we have seen, Walker is not catching a lot of small fish. When he gets a bite, it usually makes it's way into the well. The rain has really picked up, big fat drops that seem pleasant at first as they splash around the boat, but not as much when you are soaked and trying to type on a touch screen. Walker popped another keeper, a 2 1/2-pounder that filled out his limit. He has over 11 pounds now and things are starting to heat up.

--Rob Russow

8:32 a.m.

Things are shaping up differently today. The weather's much cooler (temps had nowhere to go but down), and we've got lots of cloud cover. Thunder is rumbling in the distance, and it looks like we might get some rain. It'll be interesting to see what this does to the fish, many of which have been suspending over deep water. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the shallow bass will scatter without the sun to position them and that the deeper fish will move up a little. Of course, conventional wisdom seldom wins bass tournaments.

--Ken Duke

8:30 a.m.

We have talked about the weather being different today. Here is a look at the radar. There is no question that it is going to rain. There is a question, however, of what the fish will do and what angler will adjust to the changing conditions.

--Hank Weldon

8:26 a.m.

Not only did Ott DeFoe grab the lead here yesterday, but he also put himself in great shape to qualify for Toyota Trucks All-Star Week. The top eight anglers will qualify and four more will be voted in by the fans. If Alton Jones, who fell five places to ninth yesterday, doesn't make it, he hopes to mobilize his considerable fan base and get voted in.

--Ken Duke

8:20 a.m.

I'm shocked Walker hasn't caught them better this morning. The conditions are perfect for a school to be fired up, but it just hasn't happened yet. Often when it gets like this the fish will be more active, but they tend to move around. Walker just hasn't dialed into where they are today. He picked up a crankbait and almost immediately had a bite. Fighting the bass back to the boat, it just pulled off about 10 feet away. The bass didn't seem big, but losing fish is never a good feeling, especially after landing two big fish that were hooked in the back yesterday. On the next cast, Walker set the hook again, proving that last one might have been little since this one is only about 8 inches. Another 10 minutes without a keeper and Walker pulls up the trolling motor. He camped on this area all day yesterday, but made a move after less than an hour on Day Two.

--Rob Russow

8:18 a.m.

Morizo Shimizu is in the back of Foxes Creek. He bombed yesterday and had mechanical problems to boot. The Japanese angler with the famous smile has little to smile about this year. He needs five big mamas today!

--Ken Duke

8:17 a.m.

Fish catches are coming in like crazy. I had to resort the leaderboard three times until I could finally get a top 15 to show everyone. As I type this Randy Howell just nailed his limit for 14 pounds. That will jump him up into fourth. Here is what the leaderboard looked like before he just made his move:

Place Angler Fish Day Two Total
1 Greg Hackney 4 9-04 24-00
2 Kevin Wirth 5 7-06 21-13
3 Peter Thilveros 3 6-02 21-11
4 Russ Lane 3 3-12 21-02
5 Ott Defoe 2 2-10 21-00
6 Bill Lowen 4 7-04 20-09
7 Brent Chapman 5 8-08 19-13
8 Pat Golden 4 8-08 19-03
9 Kevin VanDam 2 3-00 18-06
9 Randy Howell 5 10-14 18-06
9 David Walker 0 0-00 18-06
12 Marty Robinson 4 5-04 18-02
13 Chad Griffin 0 0-00 18-01
13 Chris Lane 4 5-11 18-01
15 Kelly Jordon 2 3-00 17-11

--Hank Weldon

 

8:16 a.m.

Skeet Reese was the next to strike, boating a solid 2-pounder while Walker looked on. The action has been considerably slower for Walker, who has switched lures a few times. When he picked up the bait he started with, another fish bit and Walker quickly swung the 2-pounder in. He's piecing together a limit, but based on what he told me yesterday, he's going to be worried until he has enough in the boat to lock up a Classic berth. Wind is picking up and it is starting to rain hard. Walker stops to put his rain gear on. In the background Reese boats a solid keeper.
--Rob Russow

8:15 a.m.

Bernie Schultz has just caught his second small keeper in the past five minutes. They're plentiful but small here.
--Ken Duke

7:45 a.m.

Kevin VanDam already had a limit in the boat at this time Thursday, but he’s got only a 1 1/2-pounder in the livewell today. That’s at least partly due to the fact that Dixie Duel leader Ott DeFoe beat him to his spot today. As VanDam noted at the weigh-in Thursday, he’s hitting a lot of spots on Wheeler Lake, so it’s not like DeFoe took away a primary area. But VanDam did boat over a dozen fish in his first hole Thursday, including a 3-pounder.

“I didn’t get to go there,” said VanDam as photographer James Overstreet got in his boat at 7:15. VanDam caught his first fish today in an offshore spot where Marty Robinson and Bill Lowen were also fishing.

VanDam left it at 7:30 and found another spot occupied that he wanted to fish. So he went to another offshore area near the powerlines near the Decatur marina. Rookie Craig Schuff and Kotaro Kiriyama are also in this area, although everybody has plenty of room.

VanDam just caught his second fish of the day on a crankbait. It appeared to weigh about 2 pounds.

--Steve Wright

7:37 a.m.

Mark Davis has just moved into the area and caught a small keeper on a Carolina rig. The rig has been popular since Bill Dance used it to finish second in the 1973 Classic, but really gained support after Jack Chancellor used his "do nothing" rig to win the 1985 Classic. Lots of pros believe you cannot win with it, but the ones fishing these flats and ledges all seem to have one tied on. Gary Klein once told me he won't fish a C-rig in competition because he doesn't feel you can win a national event with it. Rick Clunn has said much the same thing. Peter Thliveros, of course, would disagree, and has won nearly $2 million in his BASS career -- much if it on the rig. Yesterday, in fact, he said much of his catch was textbook Carolina rigging.

--Ken Duke

7:35 a.m.

Some dreams came to an end yesterday when perennial Classic qualifiers like Gary Klein and Skeet Reese realized they're not going to win this one and not going to qualify for the 2012 Classic. In Reese's case that's got to be especially disappointing since it's going back to the Red River, where he won in 2009.

--Ken Duke

7:32 a.m.

Vinson dropped a couple of places in the standings after yesterday's performance, Eleventh to 13th might not seem like disaster, but he's fighting to qualify for Toyota Trucks All-Star Week, which will be held almost in his backyard. Vinson is from Wetumpka and has fished the All-Star Week venues all his life. He'll be a big factor there ... if he can move up a few places and qualify.

--Ken Duke

7:31 a.m.

Quick stop on the main lake not far from launch and we're out here with Derek Remitz, Greg Vinson and Bernie Schultz. Theyre all worming the stump rows near the channel. Schultz is throwing a jig.

--Ken Duke

7:30 a.m.

Skeet Reese was the first to arrive followed by Walker five minutes later. Reese was off a little ways, but close enough that Walker could yell out, "They biting yet?"

Walker didn't catch one on the first cast like he did yesterday, but told his cameraman that he was relieved no one else was fishing his spot when he arrived. Yesterday, six boats started on this spot along with Walker, today, only one.

After a few casts, Walker sets the hook and swings in a 2-pounder. Surprisingly, he's not throwing the same bait he was yesterday, at least, not to start.

If you have any questions for or about Walker, post them in the comments below.

-Rob Russow

 

7:26 a.m.

Catches are coming in at a rapid pace, but they don't seem to be updating to the BASSTrakk page. We are getting that fixed.

Meanwhile, I hit some high points.

Ott DeFoe has two for 2-10 and 21-0 overall

Kevin Wrth has four for 5-8 and 19-15

Pat Golden has four 8-8 and 19-3

Walker has yet to enter a catch

Chad Griffin doesn't have a tracker

Bill Lowen has two for 4-4 and 17-9 overall

Marty Robinson has three for 4-8 and 17-6

Greg Hackney has one at 2-10 for 17-6

Paul Elias has no tracker

Dean Rojas has a limit for 6-4 and 17-5

And it's changing too rapidly for me to keep up at the moment.

--Steve Bowman

 

7:13 a.m.

The weather forecast for Decatur. Through 1 p.m.: Showers and thunderstorms becoming more scattered around 11 a.m. Mostly cloudy with temperatures steady or slowly warming to the upper 70s. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 85 percent. Current temperature is 70, with a high today of 97.

 

7:07 a.m.

It hasn't taken long for the catching to start. Notably, VanDam. He has his first keeper in the boat at 1 pounds, 8 ounces and Ott DeFoe has one as well.

A few more catches are scattered throughout the board. Biggest move in these early hours is from Pat Golden. he has three fish that weigh 7 pounds. That's big for him. Golden spent the first few tournaments in the top 8 of the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points. But he's been in the 30s after these last two events and in danger of falling out of the Classic.

He may be fishing desperate.

-- Steve Bowman

 

7:03 a.m.

There is a lot on the line for David Walker and it all comes down to what happens today.

After finishing in second place yesterday with over 18 pounds, Walker jumped from 46th in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race into one of the 30-plus Classic berths that will be awarded. He doesn't have a lot of room to stumble though and needs to put together a good Day Two to lock up his ticket to Shreveport.

Yesterday, Walker had all of his weight in the first hour, so we are running down the lake now to get there in time to witness a similar early outburst.

Two things are wildcard factors: a crowd of boats at his spot and the overcast skies in Decatur. If he can get back on the precise area he caught them yesterday, these storms might make the early bite even better.

-Rob Russow

 

6:58 a.m.

The day has started. The biggest change is the layer of clouds that is laying over this part of Alabama.

Don't know how that will play a part into today. Obviously, low pressure is typically a better fishing condition, but it can change the fish.

It will be nicer on the anglers as well. Don't know how long it will last last, but it beats the glaring sun for the moment.

There are a lot of things going on today. KVD will be looking to find a few nails for the AOY coffin.

There's a bunch of guys hoping to do the same for the Classic or rebound enough to keep them out of the grave.

BASSTrakk will be up and running as welll as three boats chasing these guys every where they go. Stay tuned

-- Steve Bowman

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