Practice fish

James Simmons a 10.54-pound bass from practice.

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It's going to be a tight weigh-in

Just found John Cox where he started the morning and he said he upgraded the one real small keeper with a 3-pounder or so. That puts him at 19 probably, at minimum. He has three 4's and 2 3+'s. It's going to be a tight weigh-in unless someone catches a giant in the last 45 minutes.

Shryock back in the game

After leaving his starting spot with one dish, Shryock made a move south. I just found him again and it turns out a Shryock has put his name in the hat for the possible win too.

Shryock told me he has an 8- or 9-pounder to anchor his bag and then the rest of his fish are in 2 1/2 to 3 1/2-pound range.

We calculated that he is on the verge of 19 to 20 pounds. I got an update from John Cox's boat and he has added another 4 pounder and a small keeper to fill his limit. That gives him roughly 17 pounds or so. Shryock started the day 3 1/2 pounds behind and has dwindled that deficit to less than a pound unofficially.

After a 3rd place finish at the Harris Chain, Shryock would love a win here today. 

Neal in his comfort zone

Local Tennessee angler and Opens pro Michael Neal is fishing in his comfort zone this week as the Chickamauga angler is known as an offshore, ledge guru.

As expected he is doing his offshore gig this week and after two days has himself in 4th place with 41 pounds total. I've watched him rotate through a few baits after he idles over his spots and it's paid off. Neal just culled a 2 1/2 with a 3-pounder and says he has 18 to 19 pounds according to his scales.

He started the day 6-13 behind John Cox, so a 20+ bag is a must. When I left Cox he had 3 for roughly 11 1/2 to 12 pounds so that would put them even, but with Cox still having two fish to add directly to his weight.

Neal is a local and has a lot of Dayton, TN support as evident by 5 boats following him so far. It seems that any time he fishes a tournament on the Tennessee River he's in the mix on the final day.

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Tight race on Championship Sat.

As the final day of the Bass Pro Shops Southern Open No. 2 unspools before us, it’s interesting to note that three of the anglers fishing in today’s final round also made the Top-12 cut at the first Southern Open on the Harris Chain of Lakes back in January.

One member of that trio, Florida pro John Cox, entered today’s final day of competition with more than a 3-pound led on Hunter Shryock, who was another member of that trio to make the Top 12 on the Harris Chain. The others is Justin Lucas, who is in ninth place and nearly 12 pounds behind Cox, who leads the way with 47 pounds, 13 ounces.

On just about every other body of water we visit throughout the year, a 12-pound lead is about as insurmountable as it sounds. Imagine – that’s two hefty 6-pounders. Those are two bass that are going to make any angler’s day a whole lot better in a hurry.

But here on Chickamauga Lake, 6-pounders are almost routine. I know, I know. It’s almost unfair to say that a 6-pound beauty of a bass is an afterthought. But when you witness the 8, 9, 10, and even 11-pounders we’ve seen this week, it’s proof that anything can happen as the final hours of the second Southern Open of the season tick away.

If consistency in big tournaments (read: the Southern Opens) is any guide, it would stand to figure that this is a battle between Cox and Shryock (who entered second with a 44-5 total.) But when you look at the list of guys behind that duo (especially the men in third, fourth, and fifth place,) you might as well throw all theories out the window.

Shaw Grigsby Jr. entered Saturday with nearly a 5 ½ pound deficit behind Cox. If the sun shines and the seasoned Elite Series pro can find bedding bass again today, Grigsby could blow things open. So could Ish Monroe, who is another long-time Elite, who sits in fifth place with 40 pounds even.

I think the wildcard in this tournament is the hometown favorite – Michael Neal. He lives in Dayton, Tennessee, and he knows the lake better than anyone in the field. During the first two days of the tournament, it sounds like he sat offshore and waited for transitioning bass to swim to him from bank to offshore structure. Whatever he’s doing, it’s working, and Neal sits in a very comfortable fourth place with 41 pounds even.

What stands out most to me about Neal’s results so far is that he hasn’t caught anything heavier than a 5-pounder all week. If good fortune shines upon him and he can boat one of those monster bass we’ve seen cross the weigh-in stage this week, I wouldn’t be surprised if Neal is the man punching a ticket to the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.

Of course, that’s just one man’s hunch. Because like I said, this is one of those fisheries where anything can happen.

So if you can’t be at the Bass Pro Shops location in East Ridge, Tenn. at 3:45 p.m. EST today for the weigh-in, be sure you’re on to catch the action streaming straight to your computer or mobile device, wherever you may be.

It should be a fantastic finish!

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Cox catches No. 3

After sitting on this fish for 45 minutes to an hour, John Cox finally gets it to bite and he lands his 3rd keeper of the morning. It's another solid 3- to 4-pounder at least. Three solid fish for Cox. It's not the easiest thing to sight fish with cloudy conditions, but he is doing well so far. 

George's chances of moving up

Sam George talks about his chances today of moving up.

Monroe talks baits

Watch Ish Monroe talk about his baits this week.

Grigsby talks final day game plan

Shaw Grigsby talks about his final day game plan.

Cox with 2

After starting within a cast or so of Hunter Shryock, John Cox moved over to the next pocket with a solid 3 to 4 pounder in the livewell. It took about 20 minutes or so, but he hooked up and landed keeper number two. The second one looked to be roughly 3 pounds. There seems to be more spawners in this pocket as Cox turned and focused his attention to another fish about 50 feet away. He has 6 to 7 pounds right now, pair that with a 3 1/2 pound lead and he probably has 10 pounds in his favor.

Shryock recently made a move around the corner and also came in this pocket but is on the other side of the bay; a couple hundred yards away. I'm not sure if he caught the bed fish he was posted up on, but we will find out soon.