Feider abides by the 'stache

Seth Feider admits being, "superstitious as hell." And because his growing a moustache coincides with his rise among the contenders on the Elite Series, the 'stache ain't going away anytime soon, not even at the request of his future wife.

"I've got to keep it, yeah," Feider said Thursday after finishing 10th with 22-8. "There's no turning back from something like that. I'm getting married in two weeks, and (Dayton Reinke) is not too happy about it."

Reinke's thoughts on the matter: "Goodness, well, I love him so I deal with it."

On the weigh-in stage Thursday, Feider said, "It's like a Chia Pet at this point. It just keeps sprouting and sprouting."

As does Feider's status on the Elite Series. Near the end of last season, he was all but dead in the water before finishing second on the Mississippi River at La Crosse, Wis., then winning the AOY Championship at Mille Lacs. From La Crosse until now, Feider has won just short of $125,000 on the Elite Series and qualified for his first Bassmaster Classic berth.

BASSTrakk currently shows Feider in 14th place with a limit weighing 16-4 today

Wheeler dials in

Jacob Wheeler is 23 points out of first place for Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year. That makes the AOY race even tighter, considering his offshore smallmouth angling skills. He is proving the point with a current third place ranking in BASSTrakk. Jason Christie is 17th and Brandon Palaniuk 27th in the tournament standings.

Wheeler is doing what he does best. That is totally dialing into smallmouth (and sometimes largemouth) on the offshore bite. He won doing that at Cherokee Lake and nearly won at Lake Champlain.

So don’t count him out of this AOY race. If nothing else he is going to bring on the heat. That happened already this morning.

“It went down this morning,” he noted.

Indeed it did. Wheeler caught a limit within minutes of arriving at his first spot of the day. BASSTrakk shows him with a  weight of 22 pounds, 5 ounces. Most of it came during that early morning flurry that was seen on Bassmaster LIVE.

Wheeler explained during nighttime that smallmouth rise to the shallows and stage on top of shallow flats and bars to feed. They stay there until daybreak, when another early morning flurry happens under the low light conditions.

“That’s when the magic happens,” added Wheeler.

Being on spot in such areas at the right time is critical. Look for that to happen again with Wheeler on Sunday morning.

“Smallmouth are sight feeders, so they favor staging near open areas of vast grass beds,” he continued.

Sweetening the areas are funnel spots. Those provide the smallmouth with a quick route back to deeper water. The combination of a funnel area bordered by grass makes the spots even better.

Wheeler “left them biting” this morning. Those are dangerous words from a skilled angler who always fishes for the win. This time, it might be two of them in the same tournament.

The stakes are high for Ike

We've pulled off leader Keith Combs, who will likely stay close to the top of the leaderboard. He has about 23 pounds. And outside of winning the derby is pretty well locked into the Classic.

We've moved over to Iaconelli, who is actually fighting for his Classic life in this event. He likely has to win to even have a shot. And he needs to stay on pace to get another shot in next week's Classic Bracket.

For Ike, the stakes are high. Just like Skeet, he doesn't want to have get in through the Bracket. That will likely turn into a true knife fight next week. And there are likely more folks hoping they don't have to go head to head with Ike. But every angler would rather get it done this week.

At the moment all we've seen him do is bob up and down in this rough lake. You know it's rough when Ike has his seat out on the front deck and is sitting down to fish.

And now he's moving. We are headed back into the teeth of this rocking giant.

Christie gets his wish

Jason Christie knew yesterday that a weather change was his best chance to catch Brandon Palaniuk in the AOY race. Christie lost ground on Day 1 when Palaniuk finished in 19th place with 21-4 and Christie was 26th with 20-8.

"I had about as good a day as I can have," Christie said about his limit of 4-pounders. "Even if I'd caught two 5-pounders, I've got 22 pounds. I need it to be tough on other people to fish.

"I've got a way to catch 'em if it gets nasty - cloudy, rainy or windy. I'm hoping we get that one day, where it boogers a lot of people up. It's more about him than it is about me now."

Christie's wish has been granted. It's overcast and a 9-mile-an-hour northeast wind, gusting to 14, has put some heavy chop on Mille Lacs Lake. According to BASSTrakk, Christie has a 17-pound limit and Palaniuk is "boogered up" with only three small bass weighing a total of 8 pounds.

Bumpy on the pond

We've just completed about the longest boat ride you can have on Mille Lacs.

Combs started in the Southeast section of the lake. We are now closer to the Southwest. But to get here we ran straight north. Then West and then south, basically a big circle. That's how rough it is in the middle of this lake.

We just set down from that long run, made in a walleye boat thank goodness, and our 72-inch shaft trolling motor is rolling out of the water in the big waves.

It's bumpy on the pond today. Combs, though, is now on the west side and I dearly hope he's not wanting to cross this puppy again.

Classic qualifying 101

Hardcore fans know the breakdown of how anglers qualify for the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. For everyone else here is how the qualifiers make the cut.

2017 Classic champion (1)
Bassmaster Classic Bracket champion (1)
Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest champion (1)
Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Opens (3)
Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Opens (3)
Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Opens (3)
Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Bracket champion (1)
Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship champion (1)
B.A.S.S. Nation Championship qualifiers (top 3 overall finishers) (3)

Bassmaster Elite Series AOY qualifiers (top 35)

All of the above is the qualifying template, but there are contingencies within the categories.

Jordan Lee will qualify for the Classic on his own. He is currently first in the standings for Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year. Therefore, the complementary berth for the defending champion goes unused.

The same applies for the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest champion. Current AOY leader Brandon Palaniuk claimed that spot.

The Opens season is winding down and already one spot will go unclaimed. Ott DeFoe, who won last week on Douglas Lake, didn’t compete in the first two Northern Opens. So that leaves another spot open for the Bassmaster Elite Series pros.

The final events of the season for the Central and Southern Opens happen in the next two weeks. Elite Series anglers will use one or more spots should one the Opens winners not have competed in all three mandatory events by region.

The other two events yet to be held are the Nation Championship, in mid-October and Team Championship, set for early December. 

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No relax at Mille Lacs for Combs

Unlike last year, when Keith Combs had an outside chance to catch Gerald Swindle in the AOY race, he had no such incentive this year. Combs came into this event in 13th place in the AOY standings. He just needed to catch one 14-inch keeper to gain the points that would secure his Bassmaster Classic berth.
"I told my wife (Jennifer) that I was just going to go have a good time and relax," Combs said Thursday. "She said, 'Do that for a change.' I can't. I practiced from daylight until dark."
The practice is paying off, maybe to the tune of a $25,000 winner's check on Sunday. BASSTrakk shows Combs in the lead with 22 pounds today. Combined with his first-place weight of 24-15 yesterday, Combs is closing in on 50 pounds.

Palaniuk's Day 2 much tougher than Day 1

The big weather change will surely help some of the field. But at this point, Palaniuk's day has been much tougher than yesterday. He currently has only two fish.

There's plenty of time, and the fish on Mille Lacs typically fire up in the afternoon. He's far from in trouble, however, Jason Christie and Jacob Wheeler aren't going to just let BP have it. Things are tight, and an average day for BP will keep the door wide open.

A big day for Palaniuk and he could put this thing away. But just a limit will keep the AOY race interesting for another day.

He's battling 3- to 4-foot waves, and that makes executing a finesse presentation difficult. Dramatically different weather today has changed the pattern, at least made less cooperative for Palaniuk.

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Classic bid in hand and a cold one in the sand

A Classic bid in hand and a cold one in the sand. That seems to be what 17-time GEICO Bassmaster Classic qualifier, Skeet Reese is going for. Before the tournament began, Skeet explained the importance of his family and making up for time spent on the road. This year the Reese family has scheduled a vacation in Jamaica. The only problem is, the travel date is set during the Classic Bracket next week on Pokegama Lake.

“I won’t be going, spending time with my wife and family is more important, we’ve had this vacation scheduled for 8 months,” said Reese, who began the tournament outside the Classic cut.

That answer did not mean he did not value a Classic berth, but perhaps motivated the veteran, that and of course Gerald Swindle’s “sammich bag” message. Reese caught 21-10 on Day 1 and is displaying a clinic on Bassmaster LIVE this morning. Right now, Skeet is estimated at 23-0, and with that weight he will be within the Classic cut. Unofficially, Reese sits in third place and shows no sign of slowing down.

Combs back where he started

Combs is back where we first started. After catching a big one on his second spot and moving around in that area for almost an hour, he pulled up stakes and is now where we didn't see him catch his initial 19-pound limit.

Obviously good fish live here. And with 22 pounds in the box, it's likely he will poke around between these two places for a while.