Jeff Gustafson has had one goal since this Bassmaster Classic was announced over a year ago: catch 15 smallmouth over 18 inches. He had just caught 20 such fish in a four-day event on this fishery the previous year, to win his first Bassmaster Elite Series title. As of noon today, he had only captured 11 of those 15, with the weight of the world on his shoulders to add another.
Gussy just did that moments ago, putting an easy-keeper smallmouth straight into the livewell without even measuring it. This means the fish was easily over 3 pounds. We’re a little over two hours until the final weigh-in, Gussy has less than an hour and a half to fish since he has a long 40- minute- plus run ahead of him to make his way back from Tellico to check in near the headwaters of Fort Loudon in Knoxville.
He has no way of knowing that he may have just done all he needs to do, and he’s at least reapplied the pressure to Scott Canterbury. Canterbury is sitting in second with a limit worth 10- to 11- pounds. He’ll need to catch a 4- pounder now to cull a small keeper and leap in front of Gussy.
The next angler in line, John Cox, is 8 pounds back. But don’t count him out yet either. All the focus is on Canterbury and Gussy, who seem to be turning this into a two-horse race. Cox only has three fish in the well though, so two big bites would move him in front of both Gussy and Canterbury. Cox has caught two big bass like this on both Day 1 and Day 2. Bryan Schmitt is in an identical position to make a run at this thing, sitting an estimated ounce behind Cox with three fish as well.