We’re officially shutting this blog down for the Pride of Georgia, with pretty much no idea who is going win when the bass hit the scales. It’s been a crazy day. We devoted most the morning to VanDam, who had to be considered the favorite in second place and he has struggled. We had no one on Lintner all day and he’s one bass away from winning. Patience from our team on Ish Monroe paid off as he started catching bass late in the morning, but everyone else on the lake started making a charge at the same time. The winner in my head today went from Kennedy, to VanDam, to Ish, to Evers, and now back to Kennedy. And if I had to put $10 on it, I would take my $10 and run in the other direction. Any pick at this point is nothing but a guess. Thanks for following the blog. Thanks to all the mothers out there that keep this world from falling off a cliff. Thanks especially to my wonderful wife, Amy, who’s watching our 2-year-old today. Happy Mothers Day. It should be a fun weigh-in. --Kyle Carter
One lucky angler will get to thank his mother in person at today's weigh-in. Bobby Lane's parents made the drive up from Florida to see their son weigh in this afternoon. Including a stop at the Waffle House, the drive took them over 6 hours, but they were excited to be here. Especially when they heard he caught that big fish this morning.
Happy Mother's Day.
Nothing lately from our crew on BASSTrakk from Evers or Monroe, but that doesn’t mean nothing is happening. Since our crew doesn’t drive their boat at break-neck speed, they are on their way back in, except for Rob, who’s still sitting on Kennedy about a quarter-mile from the ramp. We’re all staring at BASSTrakk, waiting for any sign of movement, but we may have to settle this thing on the scales.
Wow, this is going to be a crazy weigh-in. After almost an hour of nothing, Kennedy hooks up on a swimbait. It appears to be a big fish and Kennedy actually does a couple laps around his boat. When he finally grabs the bass and hauls it intothe boat, you could see the intensity as he lifted the fish with two hands into the air and gave a very Steve Kennedy-like yell.
The BassTrakk weight was punched in at 3 pounds, which has him just off the lead. I would put the fish at over 4 pounds, giving him the lead. As usual, all these weights are unofficial, so hang in there until the end. This one is a horse race that is just too close to call.
As far as I know, he still has two little fish to cull. Even one 3-pounder could be the difference.
I don’t know who it was that said this was a three-man race, but that guy’s an idiot.
Jared Lintner just caught a 3-pounder that put his limit at 15-4. He’s 2 pounds out of the lead with a 2 pounder as his small fish, which makes him a 4-pounder from being right in the thick of things. Steve Kennedy’s small bass is also under 2-pounds. There haven’t been a lot of 3-pounders today. These guys are building limits with a couple big fish and a lot of 2 pounders.
It’s easy to look at a screen all day, get reports from the water and start counting people in or out, but a lot of these guys are one fish away from being in the lead. And those types of bass are all over this lake – it’s not a stretch at all to assume at least one of these guys will make a late run.
As I type that last paragraph, we get a text that Kevin boated a 4-pounder, giving him four in the livewell that go 9 pounds. He’s 6 pounds, 11 ounces out of the lead, which makes him two 4-pounders from winning. That would be unthinkable at this point after seeing Tommy and Zona’s face as they came off the water after spending the morning with KVD.
That makes the number of guys still with a legitimate shot at making a late charge at five with an hour left until they have to check in at 3:15 ET.
Watching Kennedy work this afternoon reminds me that these guys who made the top-12 cut are the most impatient patient men in the field. On one hand, you have to have the patience to stick with a pattern producing big fish, even when you are only getting a few of those bites each day.
On the other hand, you have to be impatient with the spots you are fishing. Don't stay in one spot too long and make sure you come back multiple times to the spots that look the best.
Speaking of which, I just heard Kennedy talk to another spectator about coming back to this pocket. He saw two big ones back in there that he will try again to catch. Unfortunately for Kennedy he is still one or two big bites back with a little over one hour remaining.
After the 11 a.m. to noon flurry, things have slowed down a little bit. Evers and Monroe are still pretty much locked at the top of the leaderboard, followed by Kennedy and Lintner.
VanDam is starting to make a little bit of a move. He now has three fish for 5 pounds, including a 3-pounder.
We mentioned earlier that there is a secondary battle for points between him and Alton Jones... well Jones is getting the best of VanDam so far today.
Jones has caught 22 fish and has a 5-fish limit of 12-14. That puts Jones unofficially in sixth and VanDam unofficially in ninth.
These guys have about two hours left on the water. The past three days, it’s been a productive two hours but with the warmer water. Today has been much like the first three.
We’re still parked on Kennedy, Evers and Ish, waiting for something to happened. It’s pretty much a three-man race at this point.
Ish Monroe may be in or near the lead with just two hours to go, but he's not feeling the pressure, he days. I'm having fun...catching bass ... and that's the name of the game. He is in the very back of another pocket near where he caught his latest two fish.
He's been anchored near a bed, casting over and over to the fish with different baits. Nothing's happening, though.
Residents of the area couldn't be nicer. As he entered this cove a recreational angler reeled in his bait and quit fishing. As he gave the spot to Ish, he was almost apologetic. "I didnt know you'd be fishing in here," he said.
On a dock about 40 yards from Ish's bed fish, a young father was loading his pleasure boat to take his children. To keep from spooking the fish or bothering Monroe, he spoke in whispers to his children, and when they left for the main lake, he and his wife paddled the boat well away from the pocket before firing up the engine.
Monroe has spent 40 minutes trying to catch this fish. It must be a game changer.
-- Dave Precht
1:35 P.M. BASSTrakk update
1 Edwin Evers 62-07
2 Ish Monroe 61-15
3 Steve Kennedy 60-03
4 Jared Lintner 57-13
5 Nate Wellman 54-12
6 Alton Jones 54-10
7 Bobby Lane 54-04
8 Andy Montgomery 52-14
9 Ott DeFoe 50-13
10 Kevin VanDam 48-08
11 Denny Brauer 47-13
12 Bill Lowen 43-14
The water temperature now is 72 degrees. Kennedy called that "perfect" earlier when I was talking to him. Perfect for the patterns he is running, but bigger bites are still few and far between.
Kennedy has been spending more time looking for beds lately, actually staying put for the last 20 minutes. He didn't find what he was looking for, which is an upgrade on his smaller fish, which are each between 1 and 1.5 pounds.
He moves again to the back of the adjoining pocket and his four spectator boats follow.
The wind has picked up to a nice breeze. It was flat calm this morning when we were in the helicopter. That should help as the afternoon wears on, unless it makes sight fishing harder.
-- Rob Russow
Intermittent clouds now over Kennedy as he scoots through a small pocket looking for bed fish and cruisers. On average, those fish tend to be larger and you can pick your poison, but getting them to bite isn't always easy as Kennedy has found out.
After spending 10 minutes looking Kennedy is back on the move.
At least we lost the entourage. That was getting rough. The ski boat
went in for lunch. Only three boats remain.
-- Rob Russow
Evers, who by our count is just about tied with Monroe for the lead, has changed his pattern up completely for Day Four.
The first three days he was focusing on dead wood in the water with moving baits, running from spot to spot where it had gathered up along the shoreline. But the water has been on the way up for three days and now bushes that weren’t fishable on Thursday have become key.
Overstreeet, our photographer on Evers, said he goes from one green tree to another, pitching a drop bait of some kind in the shade.
The water has come up so much it’s all been about dead wood in the water. He goes from one green tree to another. He’s pitching way up in the shade.
After missing a limit yesterday, Evers might have decided it’s time to try something new and ended up on the winning pattern.
Monroe's persistence is rewarded. The 4-pounder's companion finally hooked up -- on its second try -- and earned a spot in an increasingly crowded livewell.
Ish says it will weigh 2-4, big enough to cull another keeper and bump his total by a pound.
-- Dave Precht
The situation around Steve Kennedy is zoo-like. He just made a move and the area he left behind looks like a bathtub.
He still covering water as fast as ever. His camera boat driver reported that he didn't see what lure Kennedy caught his big one on, but he was flipping a tree. My guess is it was a jig.
Kennedy pitched the jig into trees and aggressively hops it down the limbs. He said it got him a few good bites this week, but laments the ones that came off.
For whatever reason, the fish don't come quietly into the boat.
-- Rob Russow
This is getting downright exciting! Ish just hauled a 4-pounder off that bed he's camped on.
The fish raced toward a dock but Monroe was able to turn the fish and get his hands on it. After culling, he should have nearly 14 pounds now.
What's even more, he turned immediately back to the bed and started fishing it again. If there's a bigger bass still on the nest, and he can catch it, Ish will help himself tremendously.
-- Dave Precht
Monroe has finally vacated Veasey Creek, moving to what must be a different Zip Code in the upper reaches of the Chattahoochee River. He has changed tactics entirely and has trolled into the back of a deep water cove.
After fishing docks along the way in, he has reached the back of a pocket and is anchored near what must be a bass bed. He has offered the fish a frog and now is soaking a soft plastic something in the bed.
We haven't seen him even think about setting the hook since settling here.
Ish is stuck at a limit weighing 10-12. The fish he's working on right now would raise that number, I'm confident.
-- Dave Precht
12:26 P.M. MARSHAL UPDATE:
Ryan N: "Ott DeFoe has landed number five for the day, and is starting to cull. DeFoe just lost a good keeper that would have added some pounds in the livewell."
David Kinninson: "Bobby Lane is fishing up the lake around highway 219. He is throwing a crankbait which he caught his limit on. The fifth fish was around two pounds."
Brad Sharp: "Eleven fish from the same tree. The last one was about four pounds. Alton is taking me to school..."
I’m trying to upload BASSCam video and photos from the water, but the action is happening too fast.
Steve Kennedy just nailed a 5-pounder, which unofficially puts him 4 ounces behind Evers. Considering all the variables involved, you can consider that a tie.
In the words of Hank Weldon: “Dude, these fish are eating all the sudden.”
-- Kyle Carter
The way Kennedy is fishing the Flash has been interesting to watch.
When he gets around a cypress tree, he skips it up next to the trunk, lets it sink for a few seconds and then gives it a few pulls. Kennedy said most of the time they get it on the fall or when he first pulls the bait. Around docks, he skips it around the floats and lets it free fall.
The Flash, he throws weightless on a spinning rod and it looked to be watermelon colored.
His swimbait didn't pay off in the time I was watching him, but he has caught some big fish on it all week. I couldn't tell exactly what it was, but it was a line-through with a trebel hook in the belly. Looked to be a dark color on top with a light bottom. He would throw it
around trees and skip it around docks, which was masterful to watch.
Skipping a swimbait of that size and weight is not easy, but Kennedy made it look like second nature.
The fish seem to turn on for everyone but Kennedy and he's going to need that big fish on a swimbait to make a run at the Pride of Georgia title.
-- Rob Russow
Ish Monroe's ninth fish of the day is a keeper, but not big enough to upgrade his limit. He has worked his way out of the back of the creek; he's still cranking as he trolls quickly along the bank.
Ish said the little shallow running plug is exactly the size of the shad and bluegill on which bass are feeding today.
-- Dave Precht
The cloud cover that has been around for most of the morning has probably not been helping Kennedy. This time of day, he usually starts looking around up shallow for cruising or bed fish.
"I pulled into this pocket yesterday and saw a few good ones," Kennedy said. "Then I found a 5-pounder on a bed, worked on it for a while, got it to bite and then lost it. There are fish up here, they are just so hard to make bite."
Kennedy rolled through an area with three cypress trees, but they were shallower than the others he caught fish off of. Behind the trees, close to the shore, a handful of carp were rolling in the mud. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
"Sometimes when they are rolling, you need to be looking for places like that," Kennedy said. "But here, I don't think that is the case. I had that pocket where the bass were spawning the other day and the carp killed it."
Instead of fishing any more, Kennedy idles a short distance away and begins throwing the swimbait. His main plan seems to be a combination of getting a big bite on the swimbait alternated with upgrades on the Kinami Flash.
-- Rob Russow
That dead middle of the day we’ve seen the last three days where nobody has caught anything … that’s when guys started catching things today.
Ish Monroe just added another 3-pounder to push his limit to 10-12 and give him a 1-pound lead over … Edwin Evers.
Evers just added a couple 2-pounders to bring his limit to 11-0. Kennedy is still in third with his limit. He’s officially going to need to add a kicker this afternoon.
Lintner just upgraded with a 4.3-pounder. He started the day in 7th, but he was only 3.5 pounds behind the leader Monroe. At the pace and size guys are catching them now, one more good bass from Lintner could be enough.
VanDam is still living with one in the livewell. If his charge is coming it’s going to come late and be a pretty good story. Overstreet, Zona and Sanders just came in to drop cards and we’re pulling them off VanDam. That means he’ll start catching them shortly. Rob is doing to the noon Hooked Up! with Mercer, but if things start heating up with VanDam.
This leaderboard is starting to shape up a little bit as the limits start to pour in. VanDam, Mongomery, Lowen, and Brauer are the only guys without limits.
This is getting interesting fast. I sat on the dock with Overstreet for 10 minutes trying to decide where he should go next. It’s still wide open.
The booming yell echoed off the trees: "Gotcha!" Ish Monroe yelled as he lipped a 3 1/2-pounder. The bass hit a TD Crank in the very back of Veasey Creek. It enabled him to cull a 1-pounder and pushes his total to about 10 pounds, or close to 58 for the tournament.
A half dozen casts later, Ish hooked and lost one about the same size. Shortly before catching the 3 1/2, he had lost another nice bass, causing him to stop and scold himself.
A moment ago he swung a 1-pounder inboard but it wasn't heavy enough to add to his creel. That's four bites in the last 15 minutes. I guess the cloud cover is helping!
-- Dave Precht
There’s a bit of a tournament behind the tournament happening in the Top 12 today between Alton Jones and Kevin VanDam.
Jones came into this event leading the Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year battle over Terry Scroggins by 56 points and VanDam by 114 points.
Alton Jones came into today in eighth place, Scroggins finished in 25th, and VanDam started in second place. There’s no way VanDam can catch Jones in this event, but he’s already leap-frogged Scroggins and every point counts at this point in the season.
Jones has two fish right now that go 2 pounds, 11 ounces and VanDam has one at about a pound.
But as Mercer just reminded us, “Kevin hasn’t come to the party until the afternoon.”
The second half of his day has been better than the first all week.
It's been a long dry spell for the Ish Monroe detail.
He boated a 15-incher about 20 minutes ago, but that was a catfish and would only have slimed his livewell.
About 100 yards down the bank, Monroe started pitching a creature bait toward a fallen log and a 1 1/2-pounder, maybe a 2, engulfed it. That should give him in the neighborhood of 8 pounds at this point. He'll have to bring out the culling beam on the next keeper.
Our estimates are about as unofficial as you can get, but if we're in the ballpark, Ish should have a total for the tournament of 53 to 54 pounds. He's setting the bar steadily higher for the others in the Elite 12 today. The California angler has reached the very back of Veasey Creek and is fancasting the shallow, muddy flat that covers the wide spot at the end of the creek.
By the way, I've heard several pros complain that spawning carp are muddying the water in the shallows and making it difficult to spot beds. I can now see that they aren't exaggerating. This place is a love nest for big carp. In their spawning ritual, they swim up into inches of water and thrash the water wildly, like 10-pound eggbeaters churning up mud. It must be distracting for fishermen trying to spot bass movement.
-- Dave Precht
Brian Morris: "Lintner with a three and a half pounder and culling". (That puts Lintner unofficially in second place.)
Phillip Johnson: "Bill Lowen caught several short fish this morning. He lost a three pounder at the boat. He finally caught a keeper spot in the one pound range. Tough morning"
David Kinninson: "Bobby Lane with another keeper off of wood using a crankbait."
-- Hank Weldon
I’m going to do my best to explain how this is breaking down.
Steve Kennedy has been leading by a couple pounds all morning with a limit that goes 10 pounds even, but there’s no way that holds up. Jared Lintner – the only other limit on the water – just added a 3-pounder to pull into second. He has a limit of about 10-11 pounds.
Monroe has four fish for 6 pounds, 8 ounces, but he seems to be scrambling a little. Evers has 3 fish for 7 pounds, which includes a 4.5 pounder. VanDam is stuck on one small bass.
Monroe, VanDam, Evers – they have plenty of room in their livewell to make up spots on the leaderboard, but as Evers proved yesterday with a 4-fish effort, limits are not guaranteed.
So, it’s hard to say that Kennedy’s limit and lead are fool’s gold, but they’re something close. We’ll call it silver – looks good for the moment but the stock could plummet any time.
But every second that goes by, Kennedy’s limit looks a little better. And if he adds a kicker to the pile – like the one Rob said Kennedy was looking at earlier – he could start to put this thing away.
Kennedy has been switching between a big jig and a swimbait on deeper trees.
"These postspawn fish are looking for some place to go up shallow befor they move deep," Kennedy said. "And they are so healthy right now. I had two big fish on Day Two that ran at the boat, then started pulling so hard they just came off."
After a few more casts it's trolling motor up and on to the next spot.
This cypress tree is a place Kennedy caught a big fish earlier in the tournament. On his first cast with a Flash, Kennedy notices a fish start to swim off with his bait. Instead of setting the hook right away, he lets the bass swim almost to the boat, a good 10 feet.
"Usually, when a fish does that, it is a big one," Kennedy said. "Also, you don't want to set the hook when they are running right at you. That's just a bad idea."
When he does finally set the hook, the bass is almost to the boat, but the battle is just beginning. Kennedy is careful with light line and let's the spotted bass play itself out before he swigs it aboard.
The spot is close to 1.5 pounds, but the hook is down in its throat and Kennedy doesn't want to risk the fish dying. Besides, it is the same size as the spotted bass he already has.
-- Rob Russow
VanDam has one in the boat, but it’s about a pound.
He just missed a big one that blew up on his popper. He’s further into a creek near the dam and thinks that the deck of clouds now should make things perfect, but we’re still waiting.
VanDam made a quick couple of casts with the jerkbait and got nothing. The breeze is more persistent now and Overstreet, who is the boat, says VanDam knows it is helping someone.
Kennedy has moved back onto the creek and found a row of docks that were lining one bank.
"I've seen some bigger fish suspending on those deeper trees, so maybe there is one on these docks."
The first dock he fishes with the Flash, he gets a bite. After waiting a second for the fish to take the bait, he set the hook, but the fish was small and came off at the boat.
"I just saw my line move and felt a tap, tap, tap," Kennedy said. "The big ones will bite it like that so you can't go by the bite, but I felt the head shake of a little fish so I knew it wasn't big."
A surprise came when Kennedy admitted he didn't even know the creek went back this far. He is fishing new water, trusting his instincts. A voice in his head is telling him he should be throwing the swimbait in the deeper trees, but he knows that an angler can get burned sticking with that.
Instead, he changes the subject to Mother's Day.
"Are you blogging on that thing?" Kennedy asked. "If so, I want to say 'Happy Mother's Day' to my mom and Julia."""
-- Rob Russow
Ish just added another pound to his weight with his fourth keeper of the morning. It was short enough to require measuring.
Looking through his telephoto lens, David Hunter Jones guessed the fish at a pound, maybe 15 ounces.
Ish is still cranking shallow cover, working slowly back into the creek. We think he has about 5 1/2 pounds so far.
-- Dave Precht
Ish just about doubled his weight with his third keeper of the morning. The bass was about 2 pounds, maybe a tad over that. He should have 4 pounds for three fish so far.
He's fishing a shallow running crankbait along clay banks, working his way toward the back of the creek he's spent much of the morning in. The clay bank is a little undercut with scattered tree limbs and debris along it. I can see now that the lure is a chartreuse squarebill model.
We watched him scrape a single log on four consecutive casts, until he finally hung the bait. The next cast went into a tree limb in the water. As Monroe jerked the bait, it flew back and pegged him in the leg. Fortunately, the hooks didn't penetrate anything.
Monroe told David Hunter Jones in a video interview earlier this morning that he has a lot of confidence in this creek system. He hasn't seen many other Elite Anglers in this area, and the lack of pressure should work in his favor. Other competitors in the Pride of Georgia have complained that the same stretches of cover and riverbank are being pounded by other pros. In the upper Chattahoochee yesterday, I watched four different anglers fish the same point and adjacent bank within a 2-hour period.
Monroe is still fishing along the bank, but slower now, after boating the 2-pounder. He just hooked and released a 10-incher that wouldn't have helped him much even if it had been legal size. Maybe things are picking up.
-- Dave Precht
Kennedy is now right across from the ramp and I hopped on the boat with him to ask him a few questions about his day. He may be doing well but his morning didn't start off great.
"I went to a place to look for some bed fishing early this morning and the carp were spawning back there," Kennedy said. "They were kicking up mud and the area was trashed."
Three hours have elapsed and even with the wind and clouds, Kennedy hasn't caught one since we first pulled up on him.
"This has been the worse time of the day for me all week," Kennedy said. "You can catch them early and then they are dead until around 11. You can't see them and they just don't bite."
Kennedy swings through a pocket fishing the Flash and a big swimbait as he looks for potential beds. As we grind through the mud up shallow, Kennedy spots a monster bass right under the boat. It looked to be holding on a stick that Kennedy has cast to numerous times.
"There are so many big fish in here that I just can't catch."
He will be back later to check and see if the fish is still there though.
-- Rob Russow
Two and a half hours after setting out this morning, final-round leader Ish Monroe still has only two small fish in the well. He has moved into a shallow pocket in a feeder creek on West Point and is scouring the shoreline with a popper. He just missed a fish that erupted on the bait but didn't hook up.
Isn't it amazing that bass can viciously attack a plug with two sets of treble hooks and fail to get stuck? I'm sure Ish is wondering the same thing. As I was writing this, he snagged a very small bass, skiied it to the boat and tossed it back into the water.
He still has about 10 boats following him, all giving him a wide berth. It's only 4 feet dep where we are in the middle of the cove, and it appears to be only inches where he's casting. The bank has a few stumps and small stickups here and there.
Monroe is targeting select bits of cover but I can't discern a pattern. He's making long casts and working the popper back quickly, trying to generate strikes by surprising or aggravating any fish prowling the shallows.
The anglers in the Pride of Georgia who have survived so far have gotten used to a routine in which the bass bite fairly well very early, go dormant through the middle of the day, then pick up again right before closing time. Steve Kennedy caught a 5-pounder just minutes before he had to quit fishing yesterday, and Alton Jones bagged a 6 1/2 pounder with a half hour to go on Friday. Keeping a positive mindset through the doldrums of midday must be a challenge for these anglers. They have to remain alert constantly -- with bites coming along so infrequently, they can't afford to miss a fish because of inattention.
-- Dave Precht
Two and a half hours are gone on the Final Day of the Pride of Georgia Elite Series. Nine of the Top 12 are recording at least one keeper or higher. Steve Kennedy has the only limit in the boat right now weighing in at an estimated 10-5. Bobby Lane has big fish honors with the five-pounder you saw ealier in the blog. KVD, Evers, and Lowen are still showing a "goose egg" on the scoreboard right now.
Here's a look at where everyone is currently fishing:
-- Hank Weldon
The areas Kennedy has been fishing are small humps and ridges or points with cypress trees on them. There can't be more than a foot or two of water on them, although the water has been rising a bit. He's fishing a swimbait and a Kinami Flash.
After a minute he sets the hook on a good fish on the Flash and spends a good deal of time fighting the fish into the boat as it makes a huge leap before he finally corrals it. The bass weighs 3 pounds and gives him the first limit of the day. Kennedy quickly moves to a tree and tosses the swimbait.
"I've been saying I want some wind and some clouds and now I've got it, so why do I do?" Kennedy said.
After one cast he is back moving down the lake.
"I fish a spot and leave and every time I come back later, someone is on it," Kennedy says, regarding the weekend crowd.
-- Rob Russow
One of the more outgoing guys on the Elite Series tour, Michigan's Nate Wellman stands in fifth with 45 pounds, 8 ounces.
Visiting with him early this morning, I had to ask him about a small silhouette of a mermaid pasted on the inside of a gunwale.
"My daughter asked me to put that on my boat," Wellman said.
When she was younger, Alexis Wellman (now 9), was the founder and president of "The Mermaid's Club -- no boys allowed."
That has been a running joke in the family, and Wellman added a mermaid to his boat decor to remind him of his daughter. The mermaid has brought him luck so far. This is his second trip to an Elite Series finals in this, his rookie year on the trail.
-- Dave Precht
9 A.M. MARSHAL UPDATE
Dewberry: "How lucky do you think I am today?!"
Brad Sharp: "Alton Jones is on the board. Fishing new water may pay off."
Brian Morris: "Jared Lintner is on the board with a two pound spot. He lost one close to three pounds right at the boat."
-- Hank Weldon
Now on his fourth stop, each following a 5-minute run, Ish Monroe is back at the bridge where he began the day.
He started on a point near the bridge and hooked a small bass on a topwater plug, but the bass wouldn't keep. He has gone back to the riprap along the roadway and is apparently fishing a jig among the rocks.
The sky has become a little overcast at this point, which must be a welcome relief to the pros who endured bluebird skies yesterday. Perhaps the bass will bite a little better today. If that's true, Monroe's success doesn't confirm it.
-- Dave Precht
I had a nice chat with Denny Brauer before launch this morning. He's ecstatic to be in the Top 12 after his poor showing in the Florida events.
"I never do well in Florida," he said. "I just can't fish that slow."
Brauer had a dozen rods on deck, each adorned with a very different bait. Yesterday, he caught two bass on a ChatterBait, one on a Strike King Spittin' King, another on a jig and a fifth on something else.
"That's the definition of junk fishing," I offered. "No," he corrected me, "that's the definition of my not knowing what they're hitting."
It's a similar story to those of the other anglers, most of whom are fishing a diverse selection of lures, from topwaters to crankbaits to jigs and spinnerbaits.
Steve Kennedy, in fourth after three days, said he has weighed in bass he caught on 12 different lures. Kennedy, from nearby Auburn, Ala., isn't surprised. He and other experts on this lake say it's extremely hard to define a "pattern" that will consistently catch fish.
Kennedy's plan this morning was to catch a few bass chasing spawning shad by fishing flashy topwater baits.
"That only lasts about 15 minutes, and when the sun is up, it's over," Kennedy said. Next he planned to pitch jigs and maybe throw swimbaits to bedding bass.
"I had a big one chase my swimbait yesterday, but it wouldn't bite," he revealed.
Kennedy said the bass where he's fishing are in the height of the spawn. Most other competitors believe the bass are in the postspawn phase.
-- Dave Precht
I'm about to start following Steve Kennedy around but before I do, I wanted to share a few observations from my time up on the helicopter this morning.
First, everyone is moving around a lot. You knew that. We've been saying it all week. Until you get up in the air and see it happening right under your feet, it's hard to understand how crazy it is. At a normal tournament, there are a few guys that will normally move around like that, typically Ike. This week, everyone is doing it.
I hope the BASSCams I was able to take will do it justice.
Also, the topwater bite was dominating this morning. I saw Ish Monroe, Bobby Lane, Nate Wellman and KVD throwing one, either a popper or a walker, and I promise they aren't the only ones. How long that bite will last though is the question.
On to Steve Kennedy then and a day full or moving and moving and moving. He having a better morning though. We saw him catch one from the chopper on what looked to be a swimbait off a ridge with cypress trees. Should be fun.
-- Rob Russow
Bassmaster Emcee Dave Mercer is sitting in the communications trailer and said he felt like the dock was a lot quieter this morning.
“Usually there are three or four guys that don’t have a chance just having a good time,” Mercer said. “Everybody was focused and rigging things up this morning.”
Bassmaster television producer Billy Chapman just walked in here and asked us who we thought would win and got 6 different answers.
Not to hammer it home, but that’s the kind of day it is – anything can happen.
There’s not much more movement on BASSTrakk at the moment, so Steve Kennedy is still in the lead.
David Hunter Jones has returned to the boat after photographing Ish Monroe along the bridge and shooting a BassCam interview with him. Check out the interview later this morning (as soon as we can get a cell signal and upload it).
Monroe has two small bass, which he caught right off the bat on a shallow-running TD Crank crankbait.
We've followed him to another bridge/riprap system. After one quick pass, he's firing up for another run. This time Monroe has headed into yet another creek and is fishing a flat about 75 yards from any bank.
His observer, Wayne Pittman, said he's cranking through and around a stumpfield. Monroe has his life jacket on still, so I suspect he won't stay here long. It's hard to blog when following a runner-and-gunner like Monroe; there's isn't much downtime.
-- Dave Precht
Tommy Sanders reports two more moves, and a trip back to the ramp for more batteries, and still no fish for VanDam. It’s slow, but the locals say the switch could go at any moment. He’s moved to the dam area and is working his way back toward the marina.
This isn’t a good sign for KVD. The early bite has been really important this week, and he’s getting on the back end of when things have been good. But that warm night could have changed everything and nobody is better at adjusting to the latest conditions as VanDam.
But some guys are catching them. If he doesn’t catch something in the next hour, it could start to look grim. Then again, he did catch 9 pounds in about 20 minutes yesterday afternoon.
There are so many scenarios today, I’m not even sure where to begin.
Of course there’s VanDam, who is always a threat and sits in second, although Ish pointed out this morning on the dock that when he won on Amistad in 2006 VanDam was trying to chase him from behind.
Ish also said VanDam is getting “older and slower” to which VanDam responded “you shouldn’t poke the bear.”
A correction on the earlier blog: VanDam said he’ll need “at least 15 pounds.” I agree with that. I think one of these guys in the back end of the top 12 are going to bring in an 18-20-pound bag to push the leaders.
Ish is one of the few guys who isn’t running around in circles today. He’s caught almost all of his fish in one area. He has actually already left that spot this morning.
Yesterday he caught most of his stringer there and stayed until 11 a.m. Apparently, it wasn’t feeling right this morning. We don’t really know what his plan B is because he hasn’t needed it this week.
Kennedy came into this event as the favorite, had a “tough” Day One and caught over 20 pounds. He barely practiced for this event because he grew up fishing the lake. He’s definitely the dark horse today. He already is one fish short of a limit.
Andy Montgomery struggled all day yesterday, but added a kicker fish in the last 20 minutes that kept him in the race. He still hasn’t had everything come together for a day. If that happens today, he might win his first Elite. Montgomery has one small one right now that goes a pound and a half.
-- Kyle Carter
7:58 A.M. MARSHAL UPDATE
Didn't believe Bobby Lane caught a 5? Well here it is. Perspective looks a tad odd.
Ah, Bobby's just leaning back.
-- Hank Weldon
David Hunter Jones and I got the lucky draw this morning. We've been assigned to stick tight to final round leader Ish Monroe. We didn't see him at first but could tell something was going on here in the back of a tributary creek on the west side of the lake.
A gaggle of more than a dozen spectator boats are queued up on the lake side of a small bridge, and one of the onlookers advised us not to go near the bridge, as Monroe is on the other side and asked everyone to stay back.
The group is about 75 yards from the bridge and Monroe is mostly out of sight. Undaunted, Jones grabbed his camera and I trolled over to a long point to let him out. He's now walked to the bridge and is shooting photos of Monroe working the shoreline. We haven't heard any Ike-like screams, so I assume Monroe hasn't caught a big one yet. He went nuts yesterday when he caught one of the bigger bass that propelled him into the lead after Day 3.
It's impressive that the gallery is so polite and cooperative. This section of the country -- on the Alabama-Georgia line -- is bass nation. You can tell by the enormous crowds at the weigh-ins as well as the number of fishermen who have spent the past four days following their favorites on the water and burning $4/gallon gasolinen to do so.
-- Dave Precht
As mad as VanDam is at these fish, he’s still yet to put one in the boat.
Sanders says VanDam thinks the rising water may have scattered them. He’s using a Yellow Magic popper and a Strike King Shad-A-Licious swimbait.
Zona mentioned it in his earlier, but this morning is quite a bit warmer than the last three mornings – by about 10 or 15 degrees.
And the anglers already seem to be reaping the benefits of a warmer night. Bobby Lane’s Marshall just reported that he has two fish for 7 pounds already, anchored by a 5-pounder. He started the day in 11th place, 7 pounds behind Ish.
Steve Kennedy already has four fish for 7 pounds that he caught in the span of 6 minutes. That puts him in the unofficial lead for the moment.
VanDam is telling Zona that he needs 15 pounds to win this event. Zona said VanDam is mad at the bass today. This could get interesting fast.
Once again Zona, Overstreet and I, plus a cameo from Zona Sr., will start out as a part of the VanDam traveling show.
Three casts and jump is the order of the day so we’ll do the best we can.
As soon as we get to VanDam, he gets up and leaves – shocker. But Zona is in the boat and says that Kevin loves the warmer air and water plus a slight breeze. He’s feeling it early.
We can see Zona and he confirms that there is a lot more fish activity this morning.
-- Tommy Sanders
7:15 A.M. MARSHAL UPDATE
David Kinninson : Bobby Lane with his first fish of the morning. A nice 2-plus spotted bass off some riprap.
WOW, right after, after only fishing for about 10 mins, he got hooked up with a good one that is pushing 5. He's pumped.
-- Hank Weldon
Brad Sharp: Alton Jones says he is feeling frisky this morning.
-- Hank Weldon
I can’t remember a final day of an Elite Series that started this wide open going.
Just over 3 pounds separates Jared Lintner in seventh from Ish Monroe in first. And a few of the names in between are about as formidable as they get: Steve Kennedy, Edwin Evers and Kevin VanDam.
To add to the drama, they are fishing on a lake that has shown a 23-pound bag but for the most part has stuck it to the anglers. Big bag on Day Three didn’t make 15 pounds. That means, literally, all 12 of these guys has a legitimate shot at winning. That’s incredibly rare.
Yesterday, I thought for sure that BASSTrakk was off because the weights were so low, but it ended up pretty spot on, which means we should have a really good idea of what’s happening on the water all day today.
We have two teams on the water and one in the air this morning. Tommy Sanders, James Overstreet and Mark Zona are going to start on VanDam while Dave Precht and David Hunter Jones will start on Monroe. Rob Russow is flying around the lake in a helicopter shooting photos and BASSCam and then he’ll be on the water for the second half of the day.
It’s not a large lake, BASSTrakk is pretty accurate and we have seven guys on the water giving us the latest…it should be a fun day. Follow along.
With about 15 minutes left before the first flight checks in, we are going to shut down the live blog for Day Three. That should keep a little suspense going into the weigh-in and truthfully, all our eyes on the water are now in getting ready for the weigh-in (or in my case, eating Pecan Shortbread cookies.
That being said, there is still time for some late-hour heroics. Unlike many of the other stops on the Elite Series, a 4- or 5-pound bite here on West Point is as good as gold. The reason for that is because there is a big disparity between the little, just-keeper-sized spotted bass and the grown-up bigger largemouth. With a limit of spots in the well, an angler's day can take a turn for the better with one last cast that nets one of those big ‘uns.
On a whole, Day Three appears to be tougher than the days before. I would be surprised to see a 20-pound bag weighed in today. The potential is still there. Ish Monroe had two big fish early and has been looking to cull a squeeker ever since. Should he upgrade, he could be looking at the lead headed into tomorrow’s final round. KVD can run into another flurry like he did earlier and upgrade his catch some more. Every ounce he can put between himself and Edwin Evers will be huge.
One angler who has quietly snuck into yet another top 12 is Alton Jones. He has been a beast all year and hasn’t slowed down. With KVD hot on his heels (along with Terry “Big Show” Scroggins), making the 12 cut this week could limit the damage done by VanDam’s onslaught.
All in all, expect an exciting conclusion to the Pride of Geogia and follow the blow-by-blow account right here again tomorrow.
-- Rob Russow
It continues to look like a tough day all around. It’s rare to have a lake this small where we have this kind of service, so it’s hard to tell how serious to take BASSTrakk.
Typically there are a lot of anglers out of service and unreachable, but most of the dots on the BASSTrakk are green right now, which means they are submitting. But I find it hard to believe the weights are these low.
Then again, the weights today are more in line with what the anglers were predicting early in the week, so it could be right. Either way, it will give us a better idea of how much we should trust BASSTrakk tomorrow when the top-12 compete for the title.
The late flurry might be under way.
According to his Marshal Matt Riggs, Bill Lowen was working his way back to the ramp looking to round out his limit and ran into a 4-pounder.
It will be interesting to see how many of these guys find that kicker fish on their way in. The first flight is due back in less than an hour at 3:15 p.m.
News of VanDam’s late charge may be spreading – or it may just be that he’s Kevin VanDam – because he has 25 to 30 spectator boats following him around.
That’s hard enough when you’re staying in one spot, but when you’re moving the way VanDam is moving around today, it can become a real problem.
Overstreet, our photographer who was following VanDam earlier in the day, just came into the media trailer and said it’s hard to describe the scene when 25 boats fire up and try to follow one guy at one time.
Of course, this is nothing new for him. He may be as good at managing that kind of crowd as he is at catching bass.
Andy Montgomery is finally fishing docks.
Arguably one of the best dock anglers on tour, Montgomery has lamented numerous times on stage the lack of docks thus far this year.
West Point may have them but they are not what he is looking for. Montgomery has 8 pounds today, a far cry from what got him into the cut.
With time ticking down on Day Three all these guys we talk to are searching for one last big bite to give themselves a chance at the 12-cut. With the fluctuations we've seen this week in the weights, they all still have a chance.
-- Rob Russow
David Walker just left for points not disclosed. He's disappionted that the water has risen 18 inches since yesterday and moved his fish. We caught up with him as he fished the back end of a pocket with a variety of topwaters baits.
Now, we're bar- and point-hopping our way back to the launch ramp at Pyne Road Park -- that is, we're stopping at every sandbar and clay point we can find with an Elite Series angler fishing it. It seems that most of 50-angler semifinal field is along this stretch of river. We checked on Edwin Evers, who remains stuck on four fish and 9 pounds or so.
Across the river, Matt Reed as three small fish, a spot and two largemouths. He's fishing the shoreline cover, despite the fact that each stickup and tree has been hit repeatedly by anglers at some point over the past three days. Reed was in 37th with about 21 pounds as the day began, so his 3 pounds won't help much. He'll get a headstart toward the next stop, Lake Murray, if things don't pick up immediately.
-- Dave Precht
12:30 P.M. MARSHAL UPDATE:
Blake Ayers: "Marty Robinson just had one about 5 pounds come off right at the boat! Bummer."
Craig Monnin: "Terry Butcher just caught another small keeper. He's only culling ounces, not pounds. He's still looking/hoping for that kicker fish."
Butcher just made his first move of the day. After starting in a creek up river, he's now fisihng the main river looking for a kicker in the current breaks."
JJ Pitts: "Peter T. just put number two in the box. Roll Tide."
Phillip Johnson: "Keith Poche just put a 1 pounder in the boat. He's slowly working his way to a limit."
Scott Adkins: "Looks like the fish may be moving toward the docks. This may be a good sign for Denny. With 5 in the boat, it's time to get that big bite. The water color may have changed slightly. This has Denny looking at some new water."
Bryant Freeman: "Wilks just caught his second keeper."
Roger Mullins: "Niggemeyer culling @ 1:00pm CST"
Bill Lowen is fishing back in the creek from where we left Nate Wellman. He's actually fishing some offshore structure with a jig or Carolina rig.
"I wish I could tell him to go right over there where I caught a 5-pounder on practice," Crochet said.
He can't though. We are content to watch as Lowen continues to seine the area.
We were headed back to find Andy Montgomery, but stopped on Lowen before we got that far.
The sun has come out and it seems to be the first real hot afternoon we have had. The report from Lowen is that his day has been horrible aside from those few minutes in the morning when he caught the 5-pounder.
"I pulled up and caught two spots and that big one," Lowen said. "After that it has been horrible. I'm going to go back to the spot I caught them on Day One."
The water temperature here is the warmest I've seen at 74 degrees.
-- Rob Russow
Earlier I talked about a late bite that VanDam has taken advantage of both the first two days … well that bite is coming a little earlier today. VanDam just caught five 2-pounders in about a 5-minute stretch, improving his limit on BASSTrakk to 10 pounds even and putting him in the lead.
I’m guessing that limit is more like 12 or 13 pounds and it looks like he is starting to dial it in. I don’t know how he catches fish in bunches like that, but it seems to happen a lot. That goes against everything the anglers have been saying this week. They’ve been saying fish come one at a time and don’t always replenish.
Obviously VanDam is experiencing something else on the water right now.
Scott Rook and Russ Lane just left this point near the Moody Bridge and their wakes had barely settled when the distinctive yellow and black
Stratos of Skeet Reese showed up. Reese is junk fishing the shoreline here, oblivious that two other good fishermen have just seined it. "I'd love to see him set the hook on a big one," mused Shaye Baker, our boat driver. For a moment he tensed up as if to set the hook but the moment passed with nothing to show for it. Reese has about 6 pounds, according to a spectator who has followed him all day.
Like everyone we've seen today, Reese is paralleling the bank, keeping his baits in the strike zone from start to finish. It's a great way to fish, unless you're in the back of the boat. That's one good thing about the Marshal observer program -- the pro doesn't have to worry about giving his boatmate a fair shot at fishing spots.
Scott Rook just roared by. I started counting about an hour and a half ago, and this is the fifth time he has raced past us. He's not the only one burning up $4 a gallon gasoline today. Pros and their spectator galleries are driving by almost constantly. Apparently none of them have found the glory hole yet. Earlier, Scott DeFoe told us the boat wakes are muddying the clay shorelines, hurting the bite he had been counting on.
-- Dave Precht
For a change of scenery we've moved downstream a couple of miles and are now looking at the backside of Scott Rook, who reportedly has the heaviest catch of the day, about 15 pounds. He caught his limit on crankbaits, but he's too busy trying to catch a few more to chat with us. (I don't blame him.) A few minutes ago he was working his way around a point, unaware that Russ Lane was working toward him from the other side. They spotted each other as they were both casting to the tip of the point. The two Elite anglers passed each other, content to fish each other's used water for a while.
Our boat driver and color commentator is Shaye Baker, an outstanding college angler who graduated from Auburn University in December. Shaye is so nuts about fishing that he only saw the Auburn Tigers football team play four games in four years, only twice during his school's National Championship season. Now on his own, Baker has gone pro, fishing FLW Everstart tournaments. Auburn's Heisman winning quarterback, Cam Newton, has gone pro as well, but he's destined to make several million more next year than Baker can hope to earn.
That's Okay with Baker. "I never cared much for partying or football," he told me. "I just love to fish."
-- Dave Precht
Ben Parker is also back here with Wellman. Parker just boater a 5-pounder but it was only his second keeper of the day. We shot a BASSCam video as he fished by us and then he picked up his trolling motor to move to the other side of the marina.
Both anglers are finesse fishing in this heavily pressured area.
"Two or three people I talked to before this tournament told me this is a well-known area," Crochet said. "I think this is a release area. It looks the same as everything else except these docks."
Wellman has been gathering a following on the docks as people watch him fish right under their feet.
"This place has been good for one big fish every day," Wellman said.
I didn't tell him Parker just caught it.
The biggest bag on BASSTrakk today is 15 pounds from Scott Rook, anchored with a 4 1/2- and a 5-pounder. Rook also had the big bass yesterday at 6-8.
He’s catching the bass everyone on this lake is looking for but it’s his other fish that are causing him problems.
It feels like a slow day on BASSTrakk, but I have to believe the weights are going to be higher at the weigh-in. It seems to always end up that way. When you start to add up the information not being punched into the phone plus what’s caught in the last hour, I bet today will shape up a lot like yesterday when they put the fish on the scale.
Ott DeFoe, who started the day in 21st place, is curious where he stands currently with about 11 pounds for five bass. I'm not sure if we can give him the information so we dodge the question. His Marshal's reports apparently are not uploading to B.A.S.S. Central, so BASSTrakk has him down in 38th place. We have him at 37-10 thus far in the tournament, which might be enough for him to extend his stay in LaGrange. I'll try not to repeat much of what DeFoe said on the BASSCam video David Jones just shot (be sure to check it out), but he did elaborate on his day up to this point. He has caught eight bass, five on a spinnerbait early, culled two with swim jigs and then added a 3 1/2-pounder on a ChatterBait.
A minute ago he got a bite on a Chatterbait but missed. He pitched in with a jig and hooked it twice, but the second time it broke his jig. Lucky fish. DeFote is saturating the spot with casts now, hoping the fish will hit again. Fourth time's not the charm, though.
-- Dave Precht
I've picked up Cliff Crochet and we are headed back out. He didn't make the cut so his reward is to come spend the afternoon with me.
We are looking for Nate Wellman and as we idle under a bridge, he is coming out the other way. Wellman has been doing well all week and is in position to make his second 12-cut of the year.
"I've got a limit around 10 or 11 pounds," Wellman said. "Right now I'm just searching for that bigger bite. Let's see if I can go finesse one up."
We follow him to a marina not too far away. He's working around back in behind some docks and there is a lot of activity.
"I want to take a picture of that bird," Crochet said. "That's a giveaway right there bud. He ain't there to mess around."
The bird is an indicator of bait, which in turn attracts the bass. His only bite so far was a little bass he quickly turned loose.
Our photographer/BASSCam videographer on this three-person reporting team, David Hunter Jones, is struggling. Every couple of minutes, it seems, he has to pull up the trolling motor on Shaye Baker's Ranger. That's because our target, Edwin Evers, keeps fishing 30-yard stretches, then pulling up and hopping to the next point or pocket and fishing again. We've made nine moves in the last 30 minutes. As Evers drove past us just now, Jones complained, "You're wearing us out, Edwin."
"The fish are wearing me out," Evers replied. That is, he's finding nothing in spots they ought to be. Even though he's in the lead, unofficially, he knows he has to catch a couple of "picture fish" to hold on. We just passed another Nitro pro along the shoreline, Ott DeFoe. He doesn't seem to be moving as often, so Jones wants to camp on him for awhile and take a break. We leave just as Evers takes off again.
Imagine competing while your head pounds and the pains in your gut make you moan out loud –- especially when your head is hanging over the gunnels.
That’s what Aaron Martens has been going through for the past two Bassmaster Elite Series events.
Three weeks ago on Toledo Bend in Louisiana, Martens was feverish and queasy for days, but he finished in ninth place.
He kicked whatever bug he had, but turned up again with flulike symptoms in Georgia.
“It’s what you don’t want to get in a fishing tournament,” Martens said after two days in the Pride of Georgia competition on West Point Lake. “I hurt so bad (Thursday) that I had to lay down. I missed about five hours of fishing.”
Still, he managed 27th after two days.
“Just think how much better I could have done if I’d felt better,” said Martens, who seemed to be recovering Friday afternoon. Just off the water, he repeatedly asked his wife if they had time to pick up some sushi before the Top 50 cut meeting.
“You have to keep going, you have no choice,” said Martens. “There are no sick days in tournaments. You couldn’t give up the points and risk not qualifying for the Classic.”
-- Deb Johnson
11:48 a.m. MARSHAL UPDATE
Craig Monnin: "Terry Butcher just picked up three fish in three consecutive casts. The first two were short largemouth, and the third one was a keeper spotted bass. Terry said it's the first spotted bass he's caught up here all week. As I type this he just culls the spotted bass. He has his Power-Pole down."
Scott Adkins: "Quality bites are proving to be hard to come by. The little white Pure Poison has been good to Brauer. He just boated three fish quickly, one was a keeper."
Phillip Johnson: "Keith Poche is finally on the board with a 4-pounder."
Roger Mullins: "Niggemeyer with his third keeper."
Matt Riggs: "Wrong species! Pickeral maybe. Lowen has caught only one short fish since this morning."
-- Hank Weldon
We’d be wrong if we made it through an entire blog on the day where the horses in Kentucky will be running for the roses and not mention Kevin Wirth.
In 1981, Wirth rode Mythical Ruler to a 17th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
Saturday, on the 30th anniversary of his Churchill Downs ride, Wirth took the wheel of a bass boat in the Pride of Georgia for another run at glory.
Wirth, born and raised in the racing world and now living in Crestwood, Ky., keeps up with it through family and friends, and through his equine dentist practice, which he restarted last fall. He recently worked on the teeth of a 2011 Derby entrant, Shackleford.
The Run for the Roses in Lexington, Ky., will happen early Saturday evening, so Wirth can catch it if he hustles from the tournament site to the nearest TV or radio. The estimated post time for the "fastest two minutes in sports” is 6:24 p.m. ET; the Pride of Georgia weigh-in will begin at 3:15 p.m. ET.
He admits to feeling a bit left out of the celebrations at home.
“I’d like to be a part of it, maybe at least a couple of mint juleps or something,” he joked.
His racing family and friends raised an eyebrow when he decided years ago to try fishing professionally.
“They thought I was absolutely insane, and didn’t give me much respect at first,” Wirth said. “But now you can go anywhere across the country, to any race track where they’re running, and talk to trainers, owners, jockeys -- most anyone -- and 95 percent of them would say they know me. They follow fishing just because of me.”
Things, as they typically do, are slowing down in the middle of the day.
We have teams on Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year leader Alton Jones and tournament leader Edwin Evers. Neither are doing much, although, as Precht reported, Evers just put his fourth in the boat.
The bite this week has been early and late. VanDam said he saved his Day One with a 5-pounder on basically his last cast during the last 15 minutes of his day.
The last hour of today will have as much action as the first hour did. Right now it’s just a matter of grinding it out for these guys.
At long last, Evers has another keeper. His fourth bass hit a small squarebill crankbank along a point at the mouth of a tributary on the upper part of the Chattahoochee. The fish looked like it weighed a pound, maybe a tad more, but it was long enough to earn a ride in Evers' livewell.
After boating that one and making a dozen casts, he fired up his engine and scooted across the creek to the next point, which looks just like the one he just left. Nothing on this one, though, so he's behind the wheel again, hopscotching to the next good looking bank.
Edwin Evers is stuck in high gear this late morning as he tries to fill his limit and upgrade his estimated catch of 8 pounds for the day. That's enough to keep him in the lead, for now, but isn't likely to hold up through weigh-in time.
The Oklahoma pro is "junk fishing," moving from pocket to point to pocket, flipping and pitching and shallow cranking, according to whatever cover is before him. He's concentrating on fairly deep pockets along the Chattahoochee River channel upstream from the main lake. The water here is bordering on murky, so sight fishing is out of the question. The bank has stretches of chunk rock interspersed among clay with an occasional fallen tree or rootwad. He's fishing it all, but not willy-nilly.
After a few minutes of bank-running, he hauls up the troll motor and races to another spot one or two pockets upstream. He's in a hurry. He's on the bow as the boat is still settling down (after the engine is shut off, of course), and is lowering the troller while winding up for a cast at the same time.
Evers has three fish for 8 pounds with a 4-pounder as a kicker. He’s technically in the lead, but it would be a toss-up between him and Monroe. Dave Precht is heading toward Evers right now and Rob Russow just left Ish to run in some BASSCam videos and photos.
If Ish would have boated either of the two bass Rob said he lost recently, he’d be leading.
Monroe’s only two wins with B.A.S.S. came in 2006.
We are idling away from Ish Monroe, who is still far back on the creek. Monroe is one quality bite from significantly cutting into the lead and a cull away from taking it over. Check for some cool photographs from his day when we get back.
The wind has picked up quite a bit. It was glassy calm this morning, but the breeze should help this afternoon.
Surprisingly, the water has only warmed up one or two degrees. Some unseasonably cool nights have kept the water down around 70 degrees here, even back in the stained water.
Another weird thing out here is the time zone issue. It has yet to bite any of the anglers this week, but it is weird to have your phone jumping back and forth an hour near the state line. The lake is split between Central and Eastern time, with the launch in the Eastern zone.
10:45 a.m. PHOTO GALLERY
Check out James Overstreet's photo gallery from earlier today at the Pride of Georgia Day Three launch on West Point Lake. More photos from the water coming up soon.
Vinson has moved to the very back of a shady pocket where the bottom slopes gently and bass are apt to scrape out nests. He's found a fish guarding fry but she's playing hard to get.
The angler is being as quiet as he can, slowly changing from one rigged rod to another. He tried a wacky worm for a while before switching to a small craw. Neither paid dividends.
Frustrated, he has finally given up and is fishing along the shore. He said the spawning area has become muddy -- making sight fishing difficult -- because carp have moved in to spawn in the same place. Carp are much more rambunctious in their mating ritual than bass are, and the commotion has ruined the neighborhood.
(I've heard lots of excuses for not catching fish but this one is new to me. I've filed it away for future use.)
10:30 a.m. MARSHAL UPDATE
Roger Mullins: "Niggemeyer's first keeper - nice spot."
BASSTrakk currently has Jared Lintner in the lead with four fish that go 11 pounds, 4 ounces.
The more official (but still very unofficial) BASSTrakk we’re looking at right now has him off the grid, so we can’t get a feel right now for how accurate that weight is. We’ve had trouble getting a hold of the Marshal in that boat, so at the moment, off the grid is looking a little more likely.
Tommy Sanders said Andy Montgomery has moved pretty far up the river and the water is 7 degrees cooler and much dingier. It took a while for the fog to burn off up there so some anglers may be heading that way now to try something new on what’s been a fairly slow morning compared to the last two. Of course, they might show up, leave, show back up and leave again before we can track them down.
Sanders said one of Montgomery’s keys is definitely shade on this clear, sunny day. Montgomery caught another small keeper working down a boulder-strewn bank on the Chattahoochee. He currently has three fish that go 3 pounds, 10 ounces.
If you’re not watching the hourly updates, now would be a good time to start. They’re getting footage in from on the water and it’s pretty telling. Evers was fishing a spot and trying to talk himself into the fact that there were still fish swimming around.
“I can’t be the first person to fish this. I have to stay positive about this area no matter how many boats I’m behind.”
A few minutes later, he caught a nice one. These anglers have a lot going through their head when they pull up to spot.
After a great morning, West Point syndrome finally struck Ish Monroe.
Many guys have reported lost fish, but the last one by Monroe was a heartbreaker. He had worked his way back very shallow and reached a big tree laying into the water. After he made a few casts his rod loaded up with a large fish. As he tried to finesse it free, the fish just came off.
Monroe was distraught. He yelled in dismay and doubled over. That fish would have given him a real good shot at taking over the lead.
He moved back deeper and lost another fish. From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, like the LA Lakers, Monroe needs to turn this around now.
Montgomery is hitting about 10 different spots every 20 minutes -- main lake laydowns, docks in little coves.
He’s using spinnerbaits and undisclosed plastics but hasn’t had much luck on either. He still just has one fish and is dealing with a lot of local traffic.
KVD has hopped to another main lake pocket. We counted 22 boats following him -- at a polite distance, thankfully. Now it's 21; we have moved upriver, passing a railroad bridge, and stumbled onto Greg Vinson again. He's fishing steeper clay banks than the one where he started, and bass are here, too.
He just missed a 3-pounder that came unbuttoned on the way to the boat. That fish would have helped him!
Things started to get quiet for Monroe until he got back to a straight, shallow bank. His rod loaded up under the weight of a good fish. Monroe played it carefully to the boat and ran back to the passenger seat to rope it in.
With a yell (or two) Monroe holds up a bass close to 5 pounds. That fish was his fourth and pushes him to about 13 pounds with four fish.
"If I could stop shaking I'd be able to retie," Monroe said. "I still think it was because of the lunch lady's sandwiches. I took a couple of bites of that and I usually catch another fish."
The water is getting even shallower back here. Everyone has trimmed their big engines up and Monroe just asked everyone to make sure their trolling motors were on low. With a dozen boats following him, the water can get stirred up if they get too close.
I hate to keep hammering this into the ground but these guys are running so much, it’s hard for our guys on the water to keep up.
We’re running into the same problem as the anglers. Sanders and Zona pull off of VanDam and not 5 minutes later, Dave Precht and David Hunter Jones pull up on him. Sanders and Zona are now on Andy Montgomery who has one 2-pounder in the boat. Even BASSTrakk only updates every 5 to 10 minutes, so we get calls from our guys on the water asking about location and we can’t hardly give them anything definite.
They’re running spots and we’re running anglers. Between the anglers, the spectators and out crew running in circles, it sounds like a mad house out on the water.
9:29 a.m. MARSHAL UPDATE
Travis Hays: "The fog has finally burned off for Takahiro Omori on the North end."
Craig Monnin: "Terry Butcher just ran into some quick bites by changing over to a shaky head. He caught one keeper and two short fish in the last 15 minutes. We are up on the North end of the Chattahoochee river; it is dead calm and not a cloud in the sky. All the fog has burned off. Butcher is now throwing a lipless crankbait on a flat. He quickly catches a short fish. Maybe the bite will heat up for him now."
Scott Adkins: "We just moved to the sun side of the riprap. I'm wondering how that will affect the bite. The main lake here is still foggy. Denny Brauer is now starting to move a little bit faster. We just made another move which puts us on our fourth section of riprap. He is now back to throwing the Pure Poison."
Bryant Freeman: "I am with Dustin Wilks. He is calling his shots right now. Unfortunately they are all non-keepers. He has caught four in the last 30 minutes."
Matt Riggs: "Lowen's topwater bite suddenly quit. He is now flipping a waterfall where he caught a 5-pounder in practice."
-- Hank Weldon
Ish Monroe has moved across to the other side of the creek. This bank looks a little deeper and has a few laydowns, so I'm shocked that he hasn't caught one yet.
As he went by, he said he has three fish for about 9 pounds including that 6-pounder.
He's alternating between three baits spending a little extra time on the laydowns with nothing to show for it. Now he rounds a point into a pocket and hooks up with a fish. After carefully playing it to the boat, he swings aboard a 5-pound catfish.
"Anyone hungry?" Monroe asks.
We had planned to follow Greg Vinson to his next spot but couldn't pass up Kevin VanDam fishing along a shoreline. It was easy to spot him -- the 16 boats following him on the water are a dead giveaway. VanDam was second going into the start of Day Three. We haven't gotten close enough to ask how he's doing this morning -- his trolling motor is on high-36 and we can't catch up to him. He's using all the power it provides as he fires a topwater plug ahead of the boat and parallel to the shore. He's working the bait incredibly fast -- so fast we can't even decide whether he's got a popper or a walking bait on. VanDam appears to be trying to get a fish to show itself with his superfast retrieve but it hasn't worked since we pulled up on him 15 minutes ago. One of the specators drifting nearby said he has caught two small fish, totaling under 3 pounds.
KVD amazed everyone yesterday by hauling a 23-pound limit to the weigh-in stage. He has two goals this week -- to win, of course, but also to gain ground on Alton Jones, the front-runner in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race.
We hope to find Jones later in the day and see how he's doing. Jones is doing all he can to protect his lead over VanDam and Terry Scroggins, and he was getting nervous late yesterday afternoon. "I caught a 6 1/2-pounder at 2:30," he said. The last-minute fish was "huge," he said, not only in weight but also in its ability to move him up to eighth in the standings on Day Two. If he can stay near the top of the list here at West Point, he’ll control the TTBAOY race.
It's all moving baits for Ish. He's way back up in this creek and the water is the dirtiest I've seen on the lake. The south end has good visibility, midlake has a greenish stain, but back in the creeks the water is dingy, perfect for a shallow presentation like Ish is employing.
One of the spectators following him confirmed that he just caught a 6-pounder, to go with a 3-, 2- and 1- that just measured, putting him between 12 and 13 pounds with four fish, a great start to the day.
Ish just gave a yell. It appeared he had one strike right at the boat and come off. He's not fishing anything in particular, just working down the bank. There are some stick ups here and there but no bites since the miss.
Two hours of fishing has elapsed. 31 anglers are recording at least one keeper or higher. Mark Menendez and Greg Vinson are the only anglers with limits. Ish Monroe has the largest fish right now at an estimated 6 pounds. The Top Five as of now sits like this:
Alabama angler Greg Vinson has his five-bass limit already this morning, and it appears to be heavy enough to move him up from 11th to second in unofficial standings. But he's not satisfied. "I need this big one," he told us as we eased toward the shoreline he's fishing. Vinson has found a 5-pounder on a bed in the back of a pocket off the main lake and is trying to get her to cooperate. "I couldn't catcher yesterday, either," he said.
"I can't see it very well right now," he complained. That should change shortly as the sun reaches a higher angle in the sky and enables him to peer through the stained water. Vinson is pitching what appears to be a NetBait Salt Lick, a soft plastic stickbait, to the fish. At least it had better be a NetBait product -- the company is his boat wrap sponsor.
Now, he's raised his twin Power-Poles and is working his way slowly down the bank. "I don't see her," he said. "She may still be there but I don't see her." No doubt he'll revisit the spot later in the day.
Vinson caught his limit early on topwaters, he said.
VanDam is still moving, averaging about eight casts per stop. The average distance between spots has been about three-quarters of a mile. It feels like a UPS route.
All these anglers are playing it so close to the vest. As near as I can tell, they are cutting the lake up into a grid and as many squares as you can run a bait through, the better, with big fish being the difference.
VanDam caught his second keeper at his seventh stop.
On the advice of Hank Weldon, who is watching over BASSTrakk, we moved way into the back of a creek arm looking for Ish Monroe, who just reported in with a 6-pounder.
We stopped briefly on a flotilla of boats that turned out to be following KVD. He was halfway to Ish and we've got Zona, Sanders and Overstreet on him so we kept going back to find Ish.
A crowd of boats around a bridge indicated we were in the right area. Monroe has worked around the bridge itself and it moving back farther into the pocket here. I'm actually standing on the bridge, which offers an interesting view of the man who entered the day in third place.
Like a lot of the contenders in the Pride of Georgia Elite, Skeet Reese wishes the tournament had been scheduled about two weeks earlier. That would have placed it dead center in the spawn, plus the lake level was at full pool about then.
Local angler and tournament pro Bobby Padgett was surprised that the U.S, Army Corps of Engineers started lowering the lake a week prior to the tournament. At full pool, the lake’s bigger bass would have been prowling newly flooded shorelines and would have been easy to catch.
“This lake is full of standing timber in deep water,” noted Reese. “All they have to do is pull off over deeper water and suspend in the trees.” Catching those suspended bass would have been an exercise in frustration, so Reese (in 39th with 21-12) said he is “swinging for the fences” today.
With the exception of an occasional tree or dock, the bank here on West Point is mostly barren and clay. For those that don't live in the area, this is the bright orange clay that is as hard as a rock.
Without much cover, these fish scatter along the bank after they finish spawning, forcing the anglers to cover water when they get in a likely area. Key focus points are points and the banks leading back in to spawning pockets.
We "lost" Kennedy willingly when we saw Mark Menendez on a bank not far away. Menendez won a tournament out here and entered today in 20th place. Like everyone else, Menendez is moving around a lot and alternating presentations, just a little more laid back then Kennedy.
Menendez heads to a secondary point and works quickly back into a pocket. We are just off the main lake but it's still fairly shallow back here and the water temperature is 70 degrees.
Just like that, Kennedy is back. Quickly hitting a dock before moving again. His 10 boat pack doesn't even put the trolling motor down.
Menendez has four fish so far but no big ones yet. He estimates them at a little over 6 pounds.
We knew these guys were fishing fast, but that brings on a whole new set of problems when you have 25 boats following your every move.
Every 11 minutes it’s like an old fashioned shotgun start with KVD and his spectators. The fog makes it even more fun. He doesn’t have any more fish in the boat, but VanDam told Zona that these fish aren’t smart like the Clarks Hill bass. All moving baits so far.
8:05 a.m. MARSHAL UPDATE
With the new site brings even more coverage. Our Marshals on the water aren't only operating BASSTrakk, they are now taking pictures with their phone and texting information as it happens. We will be passing along this info every hour for you to read:
Travis Hays: I am with Takahiro Omori. The north end of the lake is thick fog. Running 50 feels like 100! These guys have nerves of steel.
Scott Adkins: Denny Brauer just caught two little ones on a white Pure Poison. He is fishing riprap right now. This bait is working very well for him right now. He is still fishing the same riprap, but now with a little square-billed crankbait. He's really working this area hard.
Matt Rigs: Lowen boats his first keeper.
Joe Bolder: After hitting eight different spots, the G-Man (Gerald Swindle) quote of the day is: "They won't our hussle or think us today!"
-- Hank Weldon
Florida pro Bobby Lane is concerned, as is everybody else, about the inconsistency in daily weights. Many of the leaders have had one heavy limit in the first two days of fishing but were held back by mediocre results the other day.
The “postspawn funk” is part of the reason. In addition, West Point bass seem to be in a variety of stages. A few are spawning -- Lane caught a good one off a bed Friday -- while others are guarding fry and still others are already in postspawn. The bigger strings so far have incorporated at least some fish in one of the spawn phases. Lane is 18th with 27-15, just under 10 pounds behind the leader, and is hoping to put together a 20-pound sack today.
Out of 50 boats, we have two phones that aren’t sending in data to BASSTrakk -– that’s a great sign in terms of cell service on West Point Lake.
We should be getting some pretty accurate updates from BASSTrakk throughout the day, which is a nice change of pace.
Greg Vinson already has a limit of five fish, for 8-5, which puts him in second place behind VanDam, who still has just the one keeper.
The best way to describe the most common technique this week is frantic running. This is power fishing on a sugar high. I've never seen Steve Kennedy fish this fast. He's moving from spot to spot, hitting docks, points and any other cover that he knows could hold a fish.
Kennedy reports one small spotted bass in the well and maybe a few more bumps but this morning has not started off according to plan. Yesterday he had a limit in 15 minutes.
In the time it has taken me to type this with my fingers of fury, he has fished four different areas, working away from the launch at Pyne Road Park.
Yep, he's moving again. Here we go.
In the space of 10 minutes Van Dam has made two more moves: first to the back of another pocket, then to a main lake point. From Zona: He's working a very specific pattern which he's not divulging yet. He's surprised at the good weights here.
We find KVD with 25 spectator boats -- working his way back in the pocket from a small point -- casting at wood on this clay bank. The water is clear, it's 72 degrees and he has one bass for 2-pounds.
-- Tommy Sanders
Terry Butcher arrived to his first spot and said it looked like the water had raised over a foot last night. The rise and fall of water has been a big deal for the anglers this week, with the general idea of the higher the water, the better the fishing. Some of that has to do with the lack of cover. These guys are running around hitting the same stumps because they’re the only cover in the area. Rising water should add cover.
According to his Marshal, Denny Brauer put a 3-pounder in the boat shortly after pulling up to his first spot. This early bite should be pretty fast and furious. Speaking of fast and furious, I’m going out on a limb and predicting the bite this morning will be better than Fast Five.
-- Kyle Carter
We had some fog this morning, but not the kind to delay the launch. This is the stuff that Kennedy hopes will help extend his out of this world morning bite for more than 15 minutes.
The temperatures in the morning and afternoon are going up, which means these fish are getting more active. Keith Poche has been looking for shallow bass and has seen some cruising around. The warmer water is actually pulling more fish up onto that area. Yesterday afternoon was setting up perfectly.
The biggest problem is lost fish. Bites from 4- and 5-pound class largemouth are hard to come by and this tournament has dealt a lot of heartbreak with lost fish.
Each day, someone has emerged with a big bag. It's time to find out who will have a great Day Three.
-- Rob Russow
Our plan is to follow VanDam as best we can. Zona will jump in the boat with him and Overstreet and I will catch up. All the anglers stress the early bite/shad spawn -- hopefully we will have something soon.
-- Tommy Sanders
If Day Three of the Pride of Georgia holds serve with the rest of this event, it should be interesting if not confusing.
VanDam stuck to his claim this morning that he might not catch a fish today. Obviously that’s not going to be the case but it’s a glimpse into the range of success these guys are experiencing on the lake. Kevin Wirth said he was running a pattern on Thursday and not having much success. He eventually figured out that Edwin Evers was running the same pattern right in front of him.
Steve Kennedy had everything fall apart on Thursday and caught 20 pounds. Kennedy said Friday morning was incredible but he missed a couple fish and ended up with 10 pounds. Nothing is a given on this body of water, so it should be interesting. It feels like any of these 50 anglers are two good days from winning it.
We’ll have BASSTrakk running plus three teams on the water blogging, shooting photos and sending BASSCam, with hourly Toyota Hooked Up! updates to fill in the gaps.
Let us know in the comments section if you have any questions and we’ll get you anwers.
Welcome to Day Three of the Pride of Georgia.
-- Kyle Carter