BULL SHOALS, Ark. — There were six 20-pound bags caught a year ago in the Bassmaster Elite Series event on Bull Shoals Lake. After three days this year, the heaviest five-bass limit is 16 pounds, 3 ounces, caught by Greg Vinson on Friday.
Three increasingly warmer days since a cold front moved through Thursday may have set up a grand finale for the Elite Series Bull Shoals Quest — may have.
"We still haven't caught a six-pounder in this tournament, and they're out there," said Mark Davis, who finished 43rd among the top 50 anglers who qualified for Sunday's Day Three. "I'm telling you this: Somebody is going to smash them tomorrow."
The bass here really wanted to go into the spawning mode during Tuesday's practice day. Anglers saw them forming shallow beds by the thousands. But the cold front set that back. Reproduction is a basic survival instinct – for any living species. Bass will spawn at Bull Shoals this spring. It's just a matter of the water warming enough to further the process. That might happen Monday.
"This lake is absolutely going to explode," said Matt Greenblatt, who finished 42nd with 32-8. Greenblatt said he caught 100 bass on his best day – Friday.
But, again, nobody has seen any big ones at Bull Shoals this week. At last year's tournament, which was held April 19-22, it was strictly post-spawn fishing. It's an indication of how late spring is this year, and what will happen when the water finally warms.
Steve Kennedy may have seen a sign of spring's official fishing arrival this afternoon. The lower lake cove that he and Cliff Prince have been sharing the last two days starting filling up with bass.
"About 1 o'clock, I said I was going to make one more pass," said Kennedy, who missed Monday's Top 12 by two spots, finishing 14th with 37-10. "I ended up staying there for the last hour-and-a-half. I caught 20, at least, in one pass. They were just pouring in."
Since Kennedy won't be there Monday, his observation would tend to favor Prince, who is in third place, 15 ounces behind leader Casey Scanlon's 43-14.
"Cliff is my pick to win it," Kennedy said.
But if the Bull Shoals Lake bass actually do move up, anybody could run into a wave of big ones. The last man in the 12 cut, Chris Zaldain, will enter the day with a six-pound deficit. One of those non-existent-so-far six-pounders would cure that.
Terry Scroggins is in second place with 43-2. His confidence Sunday was down considerably from the previous two days.
"It has been getting tougher by the day for me," Scroggins said. "I'm catching them out deep, and they're starting to move to the bank."
Scroggins wasn't the only top 12 qualifier who struggled Sunday. In fact, most of them mentioned the bite was "off" on a day when the wind came up after a wind-less Saturday. But these guys make a living by learning how to adjust day-to-day in tournament competition.
And catching bass that have moved shallow to spawn isn't that tough of an adjustment for them.
Jason Christie, the hottest angler in pro bass fishing, coming off an FLW win at nearby Beaver Lake last weekend, enters Monday in 11th place, 5-6 behind Scanlon. He didn't intend it as a warning to the other finalists. It was just a summation of his day, when he said on the weigh-in stage Sunday, "I kind of figured out something late."
That's late, as in when the water started warming up Sunday afternoon, moving the spawn just a little bit closer.
"If we could weigh-in at 4:00 or 4:30, the weights would really be good," said Brian Snowden, who is eighth with 39-9. "Each degree that water warms up, the shallower the fish get."
Prince, at least, has a good idea where a bunch of them are going.
"It was just unbelievable," said Kennedy. "They just poured in there."
With a high of 72 degrees predicted for Monday, it should make for an interesting day.