The anglers are on their way to the weigh-in now. The fishing is finished for 30 of the 55 anglers competing in the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota.
Only the Top 25 will advance when the scales settle today. Jeff Gustafson will undoubtedly maintain his lead, provided he made it to check-in on time, as he almost assuredly did. He’ll hold onto the lead thanks to his impressive efforts of piecing together another five bass limit of all smallmouth over the 18- inch threshold required for them to be kept here.
Maintaining his lead is impressive for several reasons. Namely, he’s doing something that every other competitor knew he’d be doing well before the start of this event. Gussy won an Elite here in 2021 doing the same thing in some of the same places. Not many predicted he could do it again with everyone knowing his secrets. He’s proven all naysayers wrong so far, with 10 of the 15 fish he needs to take the crown already caught.
But maintaining his lead is also beyond impressive considering the onslaught of big largemouth caught shallow this afternoon. Scott Canterbury has two bass over 4 pounds. Benton has a 5- pounder and another big one from early this morning. John Cox had amassed an impressive bag of heads as well. But perhaps the only angler that could have ran Gussy down today with a few big bites failed to get them. Brandon Lester started the day just 1 pound, 1 ounce back of Gustafson. But a slow grind of day has him hauling a solid but subpar 10- pound bag to the scales.
It’s Gussy’s to lose now. Please allow me the due diligence, this one is far from over. But it may be no further than the boat ride Gussy has to make to his starting spot in the morning. If he can put together a limit of smallmouth, he’ll have 12 pounds at worst. That alone may be enough to finish this thing off.
And, he may very well end up with his best day tomorrow, having not leaned on his fish all that hard yet. He’s had most of his weight by midday the last two days. We believe he still has one solid spot he found in practice that he hasn’t even made a cast on in the tournament yet. Gussy could still blow this thing out. And it’ll take a monster bag of largemouth to stop him. Which, if one is to be caught, tomorrow looks like the day to do it with the bass continuing to push shallow and the conditions stabilizing.
Someone will win it all tomorrow. Going to be fun to watch.