Long morning for Palaniuk

Brandon Palaniuk just made a solid upgrade that may have put him into position to win AOY. Unofficially of course.

It has been cold, windy and frustrating for the Idaho pro. His first few spots yielded only one fish. And a small one at that. Like a true veteran, he's kept his chin down and made good casts, knowing things were going to change.

It all paid off when he hit a flurry and managed to upgrade once in the process.

More proof that your luck can change in an instant. If he can find a 5- to 6-pounder, this thing might be over.

But there's a lot of day left, and in this game anything can happen.

Palaniuk is on point.

Pirch culling

Clifford Pirch has a good problem to have on Mille Lacs. He is culling. In an effort to fool bigger fish into biting he upgraded to a bigger bait package. It hasn’t mattered, as he continues catching fish and sizing those up on the culling beam.

 Pirch is using a 4-inch Roboworm Special FX Sculpin, rigged to a No. 1 Hayabusa Power Wacky Hook, and a 3/8-ounce sinker.

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Close to Palaniuk

We are close enough to Palaniuk that we can hear the occasional cheer. I know Christie can hear it too.

Obviously something is going on. I understand he's limited and upgraded in the last few minutes. That will likely put a bit of pressure on Christie. He's caught a few himself but they've been small.

It's interesting because 400 yards to the south is Palaniuk with 8 or 10 boats watching. To the north is Feider with 8 or 10 boats watching him. And we are right in the middle with no spectators.

Christie on the move

Christie basically wacked on the smallmouth this morning with about two dozen solid fish.

Since that time he's been hopping around close by on some other humps. He's caught one here and one there, but nothing that will help.

He's just now moved back to his key spot from this morning. About a quarter away sits Palaniuk.

Christie is likely hoping the bigger brothers of those he caught this morning have showed up. Or maybe he just wants to catch some. But we can almost monitor both anglers from our vantage point.

We are almost wishing they'd get 50 yards apart and let us watch every cast and every catch.

Less fish registered on Day 3

BASSTrakk shows that today has been the slowest day of competition for anglers by the 10 o’clock hour registering just 231 fish.

The 50 anglers — who brought 29 limits over 20 pounds to the scales — both of the first two days of competition are showing just 5 limits over 20 pounds right now. There is a good portion of the day left and the possibility of seeing a 25-pound smallmouth limit in this tournament is present, as Mike Iaconelli is showing 24-14 and Skeet Reese registering 23-0.

The numbers caught by 10 a.m. the previous two days were, Day 1 (271) and Day 2 (239).

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Reese clinches Classic and carefree Jamaica vacation

Skeet Reese landed a 5 1/2-pounder at 9:31 a.m. that has clinched his 18th Bassmaster Classic berth and a carefree week-long vacation with his wife, Kim, next week. That fish gives Reese 23 pounds today, according to BASSTrakk, and has him in contention with Keith Combs for the $25,000 first prize in this tournament.

It has been noted Reese's vacation with Kim was never in doubt. It was the Classic berth that was on the line. Reese entered this event outside the AOY Classic cut in 42nd place. But he wasn't going to fish the Classic Bracket tournament next week if that's what he needed to qualify.

"Kim and I have had a trip to Jamaica planned for the last eight months," Reese said Friday. "This will be the first vacation - outside of a three-day trip - with my wife in many years.

"To be honest, I didn't even think about the Bracket tournament coming into this. In my mind, I thought I had to catch 22 pounds a day and that would do what I needed to do."

Reese has done a little bit better than that with a three-day total now of 68-12. He had moved up to 34th place in the AOY standings based on being 8th in the Day 2 standings. With 23 pounds today, he's accomplished his goal; the Classic berth is assured. But I'm sure he wouldn't mind an extra $25,000 to spend in Jamaica next week.

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Drop shots and more

Photographer Garrick Dixon and myself made the rounds this morning for the top lures of the week photo gallery.

Not surprisingly, drop shot rigs accounted for the majority of the top anglers. At least seven anglers have those tied on. Swimbaits and the old school leadhead jig came next.

On Tuesday, find the gallery on Bassmaster.com.

Christie's morning has been a whirlwind

Sitting on Jason Christie this morning has been a whirlwind of activity. At one point it seemed like he was catching a good fish on every cast.

He's got a good limit that I believe is heavier than what BassTrakk has for him. But I will say those watching on the Live show have had a better look at those fish than I have.

Either way, Christie is doing his part. He has all day to peel out a 5-pounder or two or three. He always lives on the final day with the creed of making everyone earn it.

That's why he has so many final day heroics. Whether we are seeing that kind of thing today is too early to tell. But at this point the day is shaping up to be interesting.

Iaconelli making a charge

Mike Iaconelli is behind the eight-ball in terms of extending his Bassmaster Classic appearances to 17 in a row. But he's doing his best to extend that streak. Iaconelli has, according to BASSTrakk, 24-5, which has him in third place at 8:45 a.m.

Iaconelli probably needs one of those elusive 26-pound bags, at least, to extend the longest current Classic appearances mark. Based on the results of the first two days, Iaconelli is 45th in the AOY point standings. In this tournament he needs to finish in the top three, probably. He's there now, but he started the day in 22nd place. A 20-place jump at Mille Lacs is possible, but he needs to continue to upgrade.

Combs' secret weapon revealed

Now that the final day is underway, Keith Combs' secret weapon on Mille Lacs Lake can be revealed. Combs has hardly had a spinning rod in his hands all week. He's using a baitcaster to throw a 1-ounce Strike King football jig paired with a 4-inch Strike King Rage Tail in Bama Craw color.

En route to his 2-pound, 10-ounce lead over his closest competitor this week, Combs has caught consecutive limits of 24 pounds, 15 ounces. That's the big bag of the tournament so far, matched by Clifford Pirch on Day 2.

"I'm throwing something pretty big," said Combs after Day 1, when he didn't want to reveal exactly what it was. "I got a clue on what to do on the very first spot I stopped on in practice. I caught two great big ones. It's not a normal pattern. It's something kind of weird."

A 1-ounce football jig isn't "weird" in a bass tournament, but it's unusual in this smallmouth-fest, where spinning rods and drop-shot lures are the typical gear. Combs discovered the pattern on Day 3 last year, when he weighed 21-15, which had been the biggest bag of smallmouth in his illustrious career until this week.

"I caught them (last year) doing what I did (Thursday) at the depth I'm focusing on," Combs said.

He's whacking 'em again today. BASSTrakk shows him with 19-12 at 8:30 a.m., as he continues to maintain the lead on Day 3.