...and then all the Elite boats had launched.
It's the last day of the Elite Series season and it's ending about the way it started: cold and windy.
Only slightly windy. But we've definitely had a cold front push through. The temperature is 47 at the moment. That's not especially cold in this part of the world, but it compares to 80-plus degrees when this event started. Fall is in the air in the north country.
There's a huge bank of clouds hanging over the lake at the moment. And the wind is blowing stout enough the east side of the lake the waves are 4- and 5-footers.
On the east side where Christie and Palaniuk are fishing it's as calm as a kitten. That's the nature of Mille Lacs it has two sides and it seems to show both of them at the same time.
Either way, things are changing, or have changed this morning. Every angler knows what that could mean for AOY contenders. It will certainly hurt Combs, who is leading the event.
From those of us watching. It just creates another very interesting day
In my moments of 2017 Total Recall, I was reminded of another moment that I'll always remember. The beauty of this sport is how personal it is for every angler.
You put pride and money on the line, take advantage of amazing family support (not for granted) and sacrifice so much to pursue and achieve the dream of competing on the top level of bass fishing.
It hurts to lose, even when considering the enormity of a Top 5 or 12 against the best 109 anglers in the game.
Jamie Hartman put everything on the line to fish here, and he's had a record-breaking season with five Top-12 finishes -- several of those in the Top 5. No other rookie has accomplished that. And he could win Rookie of the Year by tomorrow afternoon.
At Toledo Bend this year, veteran John Murray won and Hartman finished third. He was on the right fish when Murray surprised the whole place. A very cool victory for a long-overdue pro angler.
As Hartman was awaiting his fate backstage knowing Murray had just weighed the winning limit, Gerald Swindle and Hank Cherry stopped by Hartman's bag of fish and shared some encouraging words.
I got lucky to shoot my favorite photo of the year. And it speaks a 1,000 words.
Hartman will have his own cabinet of blue trophies oneday. And everyone knows it.
What a season it has been for Bassmaster newcomer Jacob Wheeler. At only 26 years of age, he brings a tremendous amount of experience and dedication to the Elite Series trail.
But at such a young age -- when compared to the rest of the field -- you can understand why he started out with a pretty big target on his back.
But he didn't care.
He put on an impressive performance to eventually win his first tournament of the year on Tennessee's Cherokee Lake.
As the 2017 season comes to a close, I wanted to reminisce about a few moments of that tournament that really stand out to me: I had the opportunity to shoot photos of him during the final day, and I was an experience I'll not soon forget.
A very impressive few minutes changed the game for him.
His morning was slow, but he made an adjustment, and in very short order put together a limit that weighed 18 pounds, 3 ounces. He was catching fish, culling and making another cast as quickly as he could.
The smallmouth bass were fired up, in a literal feeding frenzy.
Wheeler capitalized and won with a four-day total of 69-13. A great way to kick of his first season with Bassmaster.
To view that gallery, click here.
One of the biggest surprises on Day 1 at Mille Lacs was Jamie Hartman's 48th place finish. He was one of only two anglers who failed to catch a limit. Hartman came into this final event with a 23-point lead over Dustin Connell for the Rookie of the Year title. The New York native cut his teeth fishing for smallmouth bass, so it seemed Hartman could salt this one away handily in what has been a back-and-forth battle between those two all season.
But Hartman didn't have any experience at Mille Lacs, and it showed both in practice and on Day 1.
"It has been brutally tough," said Hartman yesterday. "I'm missing something, but I can't figure out what it is. I left the (Rookie of the Year) door open. I realize that. It's not a good feeling."
Hartman undoubtedly is feeling better today. A 4 1/2-pounder at 2:31 gives him 23-8 today and moves him into 28th place, according to BASSTrakk. That door he left open for Connell on Thursday is getting slammed shut today.
This morning the wind cranked up just before takeoff time. Forecasted winds of 5-10 mph provided plenty of challenges for boat control and lure presentation in the open water of Mille Lacs. Not long ago the wind subsided.
Now it has twirled around the compass dial to the southeast and for a reason. Precipitation is on the way. And the barometric pressure is falling. All of that spells out change ahead for the final minutes of the competition day. And a wet weigh in.
This radar graphic shows Mille Lacs as the dark blob in the center. The rain is coming in from the south and west.
Matt Lee’s hot streak continues as the second day of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship comes to a close. Matt Lee has been prolific in the past few events, as Craig Lamb wrote in his earlier article. What does he have in his bag today?
8:44 a.m.: 4-8
9:11 a.m.: 4-8
9:25 a.m.: 5-0
11:40 a.m.: 3-8
12:39 p.m.: 5-6
This brings Lee’s total to an unofficial 22-14 and puts him in second place.
We've made the complete circuit of Mille Lacs. That's no small feat.
We've traveled somewhere around 80 miles in this circle. After sitting on Christie off of Brown's Point, which is in the middle of the lake, we switched off on Iaconelli once again.
Christie moved in that time. Then Iaconelli made a move. We stayed with him and this trek took us to the extreme southern end of the lake not far (but still a few miles away) from where we started this morning.
We've basically lapped the entire field, literally. Hopefully Iaconelli will give us a show for our troubles.
Alas, I spoke to soon. After running about 13 miles to get here, Iaconelli made less than a dozen casts and is now headed back from whence he came. Our circuit starts anew.
Christie has gone a long period of time without catching a fish, more than an hour. After watching him wack on them yesterday and then pull up on him today and see him catch one, I'd almost venture it's the longest fishless hour of this derby for him.
Meanwhile we notice Palaniuk has slowly finished his limit and like shades of yesterday seems to be doing his part on keeping the lead in the AOY race.
Christie needs to catch more and bigger if he expects to make up any ground. And just like that, as soon as I mention his fishless time period, he hooks up.
But it's a dink. Thankfully, though, the bite seems to have returned. And the wind seems to be calming down.
Iaconelli is spending a lot of time hitting spot to spot.
This isn't the day to follow someone running and gunning. He set up shop near Christie and didn't stay long. We on the other hand did stay with Christie and not long after he hooked up with a 4-pound class smallmouth that culled for him.
We spent yesterday on Christie and what he had was a mystery even with us watching him. BassTrakk has him at 17 pounds and it's my guess, just like yesterday, that he has more than that. The last fish doesn't give us many clues, but suffice to say he's continuing to catch quality smallmouth. At the current pace and with Palaniuk struggling a bit, Christie should be making up some ground. But we saw that scenario play out yesterday as well and Palaniuk still came in with a big bag.
Christie, though, is doing his part to keep the AOY race alive.