Strader on lunch break

Wesley Strader is catching so many fish he needed to sit down and eat a sandwich. You don’t see many Elites taking a lunch break. This one was only three or four minutes long. But Strader is one relaxed cat. He sat down for lunch yesterday too. Strader was feeling great about his day but still thinking about the competition.

“I know if I’m catching 'em that good them other guys are catching 'em good too,” he said. “I just need one guy not to catch 'em. That’s the guy in the yellow britches.”

Little does he know how true that is. Skeet Reese currently sits in second place, 3-5 back, with only four fish in his livewell. Kelly Jaye is 8-2 back in third place.

Strader culling every five minutes

The back of West Sandy Creek has been very good to Wesley Strader. He just culled again, replacing a 3-4 with a 4 pound plus bass. I believe he has culled four times in the back of this creek in the past 40 minutes. “That should give me 20 pounds!” he yell. “Thank you Jesus!”

Strader is putting on a show for the six spectator boats following him. He told us a few minutes ago he was going to head to the spot where he caught his big fish yesterday. But then he caught another 4-pounder here. With the success he’s had in West Sandy in the past few minutes he may have trouble leaving.

Zaldain's swimbait pattern

You may have heard this morning on "Bassmaster LIVE" that Skeet Reese conversed with Chris Zaldain about his swimbait pattern yesterday, all of which is legal within the B.A.S.S. rules by the way. The two California natives are longtime friends and swimbait enthusiasts.

Zaldain opened the tournament with 24 pounds, 3 ounces, which remains the big bag of the event. Then he almost missed the cut on Day 2, finishing with two late flipping bites that gave him 3 bass weighing 7-2, enough to put him in 40th place. Zaldain came back with another good bag on Day 3 - 19-10 - and finished in 19th place.

"That swimbait thing is definitely a double-edged sword," Zaldain said. "It's very, very, very weather dependent. I admit I was real stubbon (on Day 2)."

When Zaldain saw the weather on Day 3, he knew it was going to be another good day with the swimbait, specifically an 8-inch Megabass Magdraft. Sunshine and 7 to 12 mile-per-hour winds are perfect conditions.

"I was looking for banks that were tight-contoured with rocks," he said. "The wind had to be pushing right against the bank. It creates an excellent ambush point. I was paralleling the bank. It wasn't a shad spawn deal. It was just a single big fish looking for a big meal. My biggest key was staying on the main river, and it had the clearest water."

Strader with another 4-pounder

Steve Bowman and I departed West Sandy Creek and Wesley Strader for about 30 minutes to get a camera card to James Overstreet. Just a few seconds after we got back Strader reeled in a 4 plus pounder. We thanked him for waiting on us to get back. The spectators were all buzzing about a bigger fish he lost a few minutes earlier. Strader’s cull added a pound to a pound and a half to his livewell. That gives him 17 pounds in BASSTrakk and a 1 ounce lead over Skeet Reese. This tournament looks like a two man race at this point, with Strader and Reese volleying the lead back and forth for the first six hours of the day. Keep in mind, Reese only has four fish in BASSTrakk, while Strader still has a 2-12 in his livewell. 

Strader with another

Wesley Strader just caught another 4 pound plus largemouth. Steve Bowman said it was closer to 5 pounds. To which Strader replied, “I told you I’m terrible at guessing.” This one allowed him to cull the 2-12 in his livewell and move up to 18-12 in BASSTrakk, which is 1-13 ahead of Skeet Reese now. 

Strader is fishing flooded bushes and trees in the back of West Sandy Creek now. “I could almost skip the bushes,” said Strader. “All the fish have been on trees.”

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Jaye may have found a clue

Kelley Jaye caught his fifth bass at 10:59. It gives him a limit weighing 13-4, according to BASSTrakk. While that puts him in third place, it still leaves him over 8 pounds behind leader Skeet Reese.

However, that fish may be important for another reason, according to Gettys Brannon. Jaye has noticed the bass aren't choking his him Megabass Vision 110 jerkbait like they have earlier in the tournament. Every one has been hooked on the rear treble. So he went to a slightly larger profile jerkbait - the Megabass Ito Shiner - for the fifth fish. Jaye thinks it might be the key to triggering some bigger bites.

Jones survived a Day 2 mishap

Alton Jones Jr. just completed a guest segment on "Bassmaster LIVE," but left unsaid was his near-$10,000 mistake on Day 2. Jones self-reported a penalty for making a cast with six fish in his livewell. It happens more times than you might expect on the Elite Series, in the excitement of the moment.

The penalty isn't as costly as it once was, which included culling your largest fish. Now it's simply a 2-pound penalty, and you can cull your smallest fish. But that penalty almost cost Jones a place in the Top 50 cut. He finished in a tie for 48th place with 29-14. Missing the cut would have hurt even more since it came on his first wedding anniversary.

"To just squeak into the cut after a mishap like that, I was excited to make it," Jones said Sunday. "I might have been in 48th place, but I felt like I won the tournament."

Jones caught only three bass on Day 3, but one was the biggest of the day, a 7-3 pounder, which helped him finish 43rd.

"I was skipping a swimbait under docks in a marina," Jones said. "On every cast, there were shad following my bait. That big one just choked it. I couldn't even see the bait."

The bait? "I'd rather not say, it's a secret swimbait," Jones said. "It was a big one though, a 7-inch swimbait."

Jones is having a good year. Although Angler of the Year points aren't final until after today, Jones isn't likely to move much from his current 19th place. He's made all three Top 50 cuts, finishing 23rd at Lake Martin and 38th at Grand Lake.

Strader culls up 1.5 pounds

Wesley Strader just landed his sixth keeper, a 2 and 3/4 pound bass, and culled up a pound and a half. That puts him at 15 pounds in BASSTrakk and 2-12 behind Skeet Reese. We think Strader has closer to 16 pounds, but it’s likely Reese’s weight is a little short as well.

BassCam: Alton Jones, Jr.

Alton Jones Jr. stopped by the Toyota Bassmaster Studios on his way home and got to see how some of the Top 12 did their heavy lifting at the Berkley Bassmaster Elite on Kentucky Lake presented by Abu Garcia.


Strader vaults in lead with limit

Wesley Strader just landed his fifth keeper bass, a 3 and 3/4 pounder, using a white Zoom Z-Craw, and fishing right up against the bank.

BASSTrakk has his limit at 13 pounds 12 ounces, putting him 1 pound and 13 ounces ahead of Skeet Reese. We believe his fish weigh closer to 14 and a half pounds. Though Reese’s weight may be conservative as well.

At nearly 10:00 Strader has only the second limit of the morning. Bobby Lane has five fish for 10-7.