Sanders, Hite recap AOY

Tommy Sanders and Davy Hite recap the eventful Toyota Angler of the Year Championship on Mille Lacs Lake where Brandon Palaniuk won the AOY title, Dustin Connell took the Rookie of the Year title and Keith Combs won the weight battle.

The Classic Bracket competitors

Tommy Sanders and Davy Hite preview the GEICO Bassmaster Classic Bracket at Pokegama Lake in Minnesota where one angler will win at the end of the event and punch his ticket to the big dance.

Hartman running out of time

Jamie Hartman is in the second flight today, so he's got a 3:20 check-in time instead of the 3:00 first flight check-in. He's got that going for him, but not much else it appears.

Hartman is still stuck on two bass weighing a total of 4 pounds, according to BASSTrakk, which has him in 46th place. If he stays there and Rookie of the Year rival Dustin Connell finishes anywhere near his 15th-place standing now, Connell will have overcome a 23-point deficit this week to snatch the ROY title from Hartman.

Bertrand off the bubble

Josh Bertrand has been in the habit of living on the bubble for a Bassmaster Classic berth, and not just this year but every year in his Elite Series career. The 29-year-old Arizona angler made the Classic in 2014, missed in 2015, made it in 2016 and missed last year.

He came into this AOY Championship on the Classic bubble with 36th-place points. He was still there - 36th place - based on the Day 2 standings.

"It's where I live, on the bubble," Bertrand said.

It appears he's off the bubble now. Bertrand caught a 5 1/2-pounder at 2:20 that gave him an estimated 23-0 today, which has him in 14th place. His place in the 2018 Classic should be secure now - finally.

Wheeler's lure lineup

Jacob Wheeler is fishing his third Championship Sunday of the season. His lure lineup features a wacky rigged drop shot, swimbait and crankbait.

Wheeler makes the drop shot with a 4-inch green pumpkin worm, rigged to a No. 6 VMC Ike Approved Neko Hook. A 3/8-ounce VMC Ike Tungsten Drop Shot Cylinder Weight completes the rig. He also uses a swim bait rigged to a 3/8-ounce ball head jig. For cranking the choice is a Rapala DT 14. 

Classic bracket predictions

As it stands right now these are the potential first round matches for the Bassmaster Classic Bracket coming up later this week.

Steve Kennedy vs. Adrian Avena
Michael Iaconelli vs. Jacob Powroznik
Dave Lefebre vs. Kelley Jaye
Jonathon VanDam vs. Ish Monroe

Connell making a ROY run

Jamie Hartman doesn't have to catch a big bag today to hang on to his lead in the Elite Series Rookie of the Year race. But he's got to do a lot better than his has this morning. BASSTrakk shows him with two bass totaling 4 pounds.

Meanwhile, his chief rival for the title, Dustin Connell, has sacked 20 pounds already, including a 5-pounder at 11:23 a.m. In the current BASSTrakk standings at 12:30 p.m., Connell is in 13th place and Hartman is in 42nd. That's a difference of 29 points, more than enough for Connell to overcome Hartman's 23-point leading entering the AOY Championship. 

It seemed that Hartman had solved his Mille Lacs Lake problems on Day 2, when he bagged 23-10 and moved up to 36th place, after catching only 4 bass for 13-5 on Day 1, which left him in 48th place. Hartman said he made both a location and a lure change that made all the difference.

Obviously, Hartman is searching for other difference-makers now.

Christie on the run

Christie just pulled up stakes and ran to the north end of Garrison. This is where he caught his best fish on Thursday.

He knows he has to have those big fish and he suspects Brandon has caught a decent sack, simply from the crowd noise when they were sharing Brown's Point.

In this area there are no other anglers within sight. And it's a little more bumpy than where we came.

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