Several stories unfolding

JASPER, Ala. -- With the final hours of the Southern Open No. 3 upon us, the 12 anglers competing today on Smith Lake have to be nervous.

Right? How couldn’t they be, with a possible berth in the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic on the line? There also are five Elite Series invites to hand out and the winner here is going to bring home a cash and a boat/motor prize package which is valued in the neighborhood of $50,000.

Several storylines are unfolding.

Does Jessie Wiggins have enough in the live well to maintain his lead and win yet another open tournament this season? Does Rick Morris have 2 ½ pounds more than Wiggins, which would vault him past the hometown favorite into the hot seat? Both already have secured Classic invites, so if either wins here today, Elite Series pro Steve Kennedy is first man into the 2018 Classic pool.

And what about the 10 other pros (five more Alabama residents and five guys from out of state) who would love nothing more than a come-from-behind win? For most of them, a victory here is the key to proverbial bass fishing kingdom.

Adding to the suspense is that the Smith Lake launch is an hour’s drive from today’s weigh-in site at the Bass Pro Shops in Leeds, Ala. I’ve often wondered what goes through the pros’ minds when they have to make a haul like that to reach the scales. For me, I’d be jumping out of my skin, but who knows? Maybe these guys use it as a chance to calm down before the real results take place later today.

It’s a beautiful day in north-central Alabama, so if you’re in the area, make your way to the Bass Pro Shops at 5000 Bass Pro Drive in Leeds. Whatever happens, it promises to be suspenseful.