Lester goes over his Day 3 game plan

Brandon Lester goes over his game plan for Day 3.

Shryock: "Fish the moment"

Hunter Shryock explains how he plans to go for the win.

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Final day on Chick

In a wild twist and turn of events, leader John Cox and 2nd place Hunter Shryock started in the same spot today.

Both anglers are great sight fishermen and have been doing that better than anyone this week. Shryock was the Day 1 leader with 25-7 and Cox was in 5th. After Cox busted 25-7 on Day 2, he took a 3 1/2-pound lead into the final period of this tournament.

It's hard to manage sight fish when you're the only angler pressuring them, but having two of the best Opens sight fishermen sharing an area to start isn't ideal.

I was in this area on Friday when I found Shryock, but Cox had a few sight fish found as well because he just pulled up to a bed and hooked up with a good one to start. He landed one that looked to be between 3 and 4 pounds.

Just moments into Day 3 and Cox unofficially balloons his lead to 7 pounds.

Shryock talks Day 2

Hunter Shryock talks with the Bassmaster Media team after weighing 18-14 on Day 2 of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open on Lake Chickamauga. 

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Wet and windy

A little wet and windy out here!

Pro Preston Johnson (in background) and co-angler Rodrigo Cruz.

Grigsby found

Luck would have it that I would find second-place Shaw Grigsby when I met James Overstreet to hand off my first memory card of the day. Grigsby filled his limit shortly after I saw him and then he made a move to some sight fish once the sun made an appearance.

Some banks are still shady and will be until the sun sits straight up in the sky so Grigsby isn't worried about his ability to upgrade. With an 11-pound limit in the box he figures he only needs 2 or 3 more pounds to make the 12-cut at worst. He's one of the best sight fishermen in the world and he was also the last man to leave the dock so he certainly has all the time in the world.

Clouds, rain and?

The question mark defines the day ahead. 

Shad spawn? Schooling bass? Bedding bass? Transitional bass somewhere between the beds and ledges?

Choose from one or all, depending on your fishing strengths. All of the above are in play on "moving day," aka Day 2 on Lake Chickamauga. Swinging for the fences is a given on a day when all but the Top 12 leave for home. 

Shaw Grigsby, who yesterday sacked 25 pounds of mostly bedding bass, was trying to decide between targeting the schoolers or going back for more bedding bass. After yesterday, the best of those fish got picked off the bed. But maybe not. Grigsby plans to do both. At least that's what he told me this morning while eating breakfast. 

So does leader Hunter Shryock and the other leaders. Brandon Lester, 9th after Day 1, summed up how it goes in this scenario when we spoke yesterday. 

"This is the kind of place where there is so much habitat that you can do it all, especially when the bass are in all phases of the spawn. You don't have to run far to find different bites and habitat."

The layout of the lake is the key. Chickamauga fishes more like a river than a lake. That concentrates the bass habitat and makes patterning fish easier than on a sprawling lowland impoundment. 

It's highly unlikely the anglers will get much sunshine to find the bedding bass. On the flip side, the wind driving the front into the area will spark a reaction bite. 

Stay tuned. It's going to be an interesting day on the Chick. 


Josh Douglas with three early keepers

Minnesota pro Josh Douglas has been a staple on the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens for the last four years and that doesn't just include one division, but rather all three divisions most years. He's been one of the most consistent Opens pros when it's all said and done on the Opens Angler of the Year lists. Douglas has started this event great. With 24 pounds, 13 ounces on Day 1 he found himself in 3rd place overall and just 10 ounces out of the lead.

I followed him this morning as he whizzed by me. I picked up his trail and have watched him catch roughly a dozen fish so far with three of those being keepers. He's only caught one or two genuine small fish, with most falling in the 14 to 15-inch range.

There is definitely a shad spawn to consider so far as my boat is getting pounded with bait fish that usually use a hard surface to spawn. While waiting for boats to come down Lake Chickamauga I saw hundreds of shad congregated at the base of a river buoy that marks the channel. Any hard surface will do, but anglers often target rocks, rip-rap, wood, sea walls and docks to cash in on a shad spawn.

I'm not quite sure if Douglas is focused on that necessarily or if his area is just loaded with fish in general, but he is certainly doing some sorting through quantity while searching for quality. He just noted this spot is a "staging" spot where fish will move to before spawning and even when they're finished.

On Thursday, Douglas said he had a solid 16 to 17-pound limit before catching that 9-9 brute, which elevated him to his 24-13. Another fast start here may have him stress free as he looks for a kicker later.

Chickamauga produced on Day 1

You can almost tell the excellence of a fishery with how the weights stack up and layout during a tough time of the year. Although fish are doing a little bit of everything, it's not easy for anglers out there. Coming to a Toledo Bend or a Chickamauga has fishermen thinking they can catch a double-digit fish on any cast, but what you don't consider is just how many fish live in a fishery like Chickamauga.

After talking to quite a few anglers on Thursday, it wasn't uncommon to have a 50 to 100 fish day to start the event yesterday. Catching those 15-inch fish seem easy on a quality fishery, but sifting through dozens of 14 3/4-inch fish can be tedious and time consuming.

Even with the incredible numbers of small, but healthy bass, those big weights we expected to see did come across the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open scales.

To hold the lead, Hunter Shryock managed 25 pounds, 7 ounces. It took 22-6 to land in the Top 5 and that was rounded out by John Cox. The Top 12 will advance from today and fish on Saturday and that cutline was drawn at 19-4. It didn't get much easier as the Top 40 cutline to get paid was marked at 15-10.

There was over 2,954 pounds, 6 ounces weighed for both the pro and co side. I would bet that over triple that weight was caught in general yesterday.