It's hard to believe that 470,000 surface acres can fish small for a 49-boat tournament, but it happens here at Okeechobee. As you can see from BASSTrakk, most of the competitors are in the same general area, and during the course of the fishing day they'll likely see each other on the water.
Long before I was a tournament manager for B.A.S.S., I was a huge fan and anxiously waited for Sunday evenings and The Bassmasters on TV. Today, technology allows us to bring the fans so much closer with this live blog and, of course, the BASSTrakk phones that instantaneously bring us “unofficial” scoring from the water. My hat's off to all the marshals that help to make that happen throughout the season. And specifically, I want to thank the Florida B.A.S.S. Nation for their efforts this week.
So how much weight does Shaye Baker need to be truly safe today? Well, a 35-pound catch is within the realm of possibility on Okeechobee -- it's happened before -- but realistically 23 or 24 pounds should do it. That would mean that Chad Morgenthaler would need 30 pounds or better to catch him, and there's only been one bag like that this week. Everyone else is at least 9 or 10 pounds back. That's going to take some real heroics -- like at least two bass over 7 pounds and three others weighing 5 or better. It can be done, but it hasn't been done this week.
Shaye Baker has left Harney Pond and moved back to the Horse Island area. Chad Morgenthaler, who entered the day in second place, is also here. Jesse Tacoronte, who was third yesterday, will probably be here at some point. Baker is punching the hyacinth mats scattered among the lily pads with a 2 1/4-ounce weight and a Bitter's Bug on a 4/0 VMC heavy duty flipping hook. Just about everyone in the top 12 is doing something similar.
There are 12 anglers left at the 2013 Bassmaster Classic Wild Card presented by Star Tron at Lake Okeechobee, but they're far from equal when it comes to their chances of winning. Shaye Baker's lead is nearly 6 pounds — far from insurmountable, but a pretty solid margin.
Photo by Charles Alley Shaye Baker has four bass in the boat now, but three of them he hopes to cull before the day is over. Baker is pitching at anything sticking out of the water. His last fish came off a single pencil reed poking a foot above the surface. James Overstreet and I are getting a little jumpy as there is some serious duck hunting taking place on Lake Okeechobee this morning - some of the shooting isn't all that far from our boat.
Photo by Rick Wilhelm