GILBERTSVILLE, Ky. — Not to diminish the seriousness or sacrifices made by Western Allied forces on June 6, 1944, today is D-Day at Kentucky Lake. Saturday marks the day when multiple tournament anglers will be attacking the bass on this 160,000-acre impoundment on the Tennessee River.
The invasion began at 6 a.m. local time (CT), when two other major tournaments launched. After two days of competition, the top 50 Bassmaster Elites Series anglers launched from Kentucky Dam Marina at 8 a.m. (CT) on Day Three of the Bluegrass Brawl presented by Diehard Platinum Marine Batteries.
Friday's weigh-in ended in pouring rain, thunder and lightning. Saturday began with overcast skies and temperatures in the low 70s, though skies are expected to clear by the 6 p.m. ET weigh-in. Light north winds are predicted for today with a high of 86 degrees.
Kevin VanDam, the 40-year-old "king" of bass fishing, leads Rick Clunn, the 61-year-old "former king," by 2 pounds, 10 ounces going into Saturday's semifinals. The top 12 anglers after today's weigh-in will compete for Sunday's $100,000 first-place check.
The obvious question is: Will there be any battles on the water today?
Several Elite Series pros have complained about the other tournaments' anglers marking waypoints on their GPS units while the Bluegrass Brawl competitors were catching fish the first two days.
"I think there's about a 10 to 20 percent chance I'll get my spot where I caught (21-7) yesterday," said Texan Kelly Jordon, who moved up the standings 40-plus places Friday. "There were a couple of guys circling it."
However, Jordon's approach to D-Day is to roll with the punches and not to throw any.
"I might get close and say, 'Do you mind if I come in?" said Jordon, tied for 14th with a two-day total of 34-5. "Some of them might get out of your way. You never know until you ask.
"But it's public water. That's just part of the game. It's still fishing. We all knew what was going to happen coming in here."
Jordon explained it's not his style to try to bully his way into a fishing hole, even if he did find it first. He's got other "back-up plans" to explore and it's almost certain he'll have some time to fish his top spot later in the day.
"They're going to have already been there for a couple of hours this morning," Jordon said of the earlier starting times for other tournaments. "But, at the same time, we can get our spots after they've got to go in this afternoon.
"And it doesn't take but five casts to catch them, if you pull up and (the bass) are there."
Clunn, the only four-time Bassmaster Classic champion, clearly stated Friday today will be the key day in this four-day event.
"I think the guy who wins this tournament will be the one who manages the (boat) traffic best," Clunn said. "If I can survive (Saturday), hopefully I'll have a shot at winning."
VanDam, the two-time Bassmaster Classic champion and three-time Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, has led the tournament from the start. His 24-13 limit Thursday remains the Berkley Big Bag of the tournament, but Clunn got close on Friday with 24-0.
VanDam lost by a mere 8 ounces to Jeremy Starks last Sunday in the finals of the Elite Series event on Alabama's Wheeler Lake in what was basically a two-man shootout.
If VanDam and Clunn could survive Saturday, it would produce a shootout of historic proportions, considering their past accomplishments in the sport of tournament bass fishing. And many of those honors were earned by doing just what both are doing on Kentucky Lake: casting crankbaits around rock ledges.
Although both are using some other lures, VanDam has relied mainly on a Strike King Sexy Shad Series crankbait and Clunn has weighed all but two of his bass on a Lucky Craft RC 3.5 DD crankbait.
Should either angler falter today, Mike McClelland of Bella Vista, Ark., with 39-7, Bradley Hallman of Norman, Okla., with 38-11 and Paul Elias of Laurel, Miss., with 37-4, are best positioned to move up.
Although many are predicting overall bag limits will be lighter today with the additional tournament pressure on the waters of both Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley (the latter also open to the Elite Series pros), the weights went up Friday.
Local favorite Mark Menendez of Paducah, Ky., shared the 50th spot on Day One with 15-0. He caught 15-2 Friday, but fell to 53rd place, missing the top 50 cut by 4 ounces.
The Bluegrass Brawl weigh-in begins at 6 p.m. ET at Kentucky Dam Marina.