Randy Howell is still twitching, jerking and popping away, but the fish aren't interested in whatever he's showing them. He makes frequent visits to his rod locker, stowing one stick and pulling out another. He still has only that one good bass in his livewell, but every time he passes us, he is smiling.
Did I mention that it's rough out here? Randy Howell keeps chasing flocks of birds and schools of bass, and every run means James Overstreet and I get drenched in spray. "I've got three rainsuits in the truck," Overstreet said just after taking a shower in Oneida Lake water. His hoodie isn't much protection. Bobbing on the front deck, trying to hold his long lens steady, he said, "I feel like Capt. Nemo on the bow of a ship in a freakin' hurricane."
Boyd Duckett didn't qualify for the 2012 Bassmaster Classic, after winning it in 2007 at Alabama's Lay Lake and qualifying the next four years. Standing on the sideline in Shreveport this year wasn't pleasant. He never wants to be in that position again. And the way he has been fishing all week, this morning included, Duckett is clearly a man on a mission.
Boyd Duckett is tops on Oneida with around 12 pounds at 8:30 a.m. ET.
Bowman, did we really have to leave bucolic Maple Bay? There I could drink coffee in between blog posts. There I could bask in the warm sun and enjoy the view. Now we're back in the rodeo. Our ride out to Scott Rook was eventful. Heavy wind from the east has kicked up a big chop on Oneida Lake. Our 15-minute ride out to Rook included a half dozen waves to the face. Here's my photo below, and Steve Bowman below me. I'm the handsome one.
Birds are working consistently in the area around Frenchman Island, where Randy Howell caught his first keeper of the day, but I think Howell is growing tired of chasing the phantom schools of smallmouth the birds are supposedly pinpointing. He's settled into motoring upwind and drifting over the same grassbeds -- adopting a tactic for coastal saltwater fishing.
Boyd Duckett just reeled in his fifth keeper. He estimated it at 2 3/4 pounds. We're thinking that gives him about 12 pounds. The only sure way Duckett will get to the Classic is to win today. Though it's still possible that a strong finish will get him there. We're heading out of calm Maple Bay to check on Scott Rook.
Boyd Duckett just caught keeper No. 4. He said this one is 1 3/4 pounds. Before today, Duckett was sharing this spot with Kelly Jordon and Jeremy Starks. We understand that Jordon and Duckett (not sure about Starks) are staying in a house on Maple Bay. Jordon said they've seen fish schooling here in the evening.
Not only has there been more at stake at Oneida than at other tournament of the Elite season — that's always true at the finale — but this has been the closest tournament of the entire year.