Strader with No. 2

Wesley Strader just caught his second keeper, this bass was a little over 2 pounds, caught on a spinnerbait. That gives him between 5 and a half and 6 pounds, moving him into third place in BASSTrakk.

His talking picked up noticeably after getting two fish in the livewell.

Lane's lure lineup

On Wednesday check back to see all of the lures used by the top finishers at Kentucky Lake. Photographer Garrick Dixon and myself got the details this morning. Here are the details about the lures used by Bobby Lane Jr., who BASSTrakk shows in third place.

A 4-inch Berkley Powerbait Maxscent Creature Hawg, with a 5/0 Lazer Trokar Big Nasty Flippin Hook, and 3/8-ounce 3/8-ounce Flat Out Tungsten Flipping Weight is a top choice. So is a 3/8-ounce 4x4 Bobby Lane Signature Series Jerkbait. A Dual Hardcore Jerkbait is another choice.

DeFoe one ounce shy - again

In the three Elite Series tournaments this year, Ott DeFoe already has finished 13th twice, missing the Top 12 cut by one ounce each time. He also was 13th at Lake Martin.

Granted, if you make the Top 12 cut, you've got a chance to move up on the final day, although only a slim chance to win. The payout difference in 12th place and 13th place is only $500 ($10,500 vs. $10,000). So 13th feels lucky compared to finishing 51st on Day 2.

That's what happened to both Dean Rojas and Brandon Lester this week. Jake Whitaker took the 50th spot and earned $10,000 with a two-day total of 29-11. Rojas and Lester got nothing for finishing with 29-10. Over two days and a one-ounce difference between $10,000 and zero? That can be maddening.

Strader with 3 1/2-pounder

At 7:45 a.m. Wesley Strader is on the board, catching a 3 1/2-pounder throwing a buzz bait up shallow.

The Tennessee angler started fast yesterday, but it took him four stops and an hour and 45 minutes to catch his first keeper today. There’s plenty of time left in the day and it’s clear this veteran angler with 22 years of professional fishing experience doesn’t get rattled easily.

Strader with a carp and a catfish

Our Day 3 leader has caught two fish this morning but they are the wrong brand. The first was a carp and the second was a catfish.

His first location was in a pocket near an old submerged bridge. Then he moved near the main channel fishing near shore at two different spots.

We just saw Skeet Reese fly by with an armada of spectator boats chasing him. Reese is showing two fish for 9 pounds in BASSTrakk and has unofficially moved into the lead.

Shortly after, Strader picked up and headed south about three miles. He’s now fishing docks in a calm pocket. We have four spectator boats that made the run with us.

All 12 have a slugger's chance

This Top 12 Elite Series final has a completely different feel than the one held a week ago on Grand Lake, besides the obvious - Grand finished on a Sunday.

At Grand Lake, Kevin VanDam, arguably the best closer in B.A.S.S. history, had a 3-pounds-plus lead over his closest competitor and the field was separated by almost 12 pounds.

Today, Wesley Strader has a 13-ounce lead over Skeet Reese and only 7 pounds, 2 ounces separates first from 12th. This on a lake where 7-pound bass have been brought to the scales each day.

The other factor in this one is the "swimbait sluggers." Especially on Day 4, when the worst they can do is finish 12th, guys like Boyd Duckett and Fred Roumbanis are going to sling those high risk/high reward swimbaits all day long, hoping for a home run.

Chris Zaldain, who led on Day 1 with 24-3, is the prime example of what a swimbait can produce on Kentucky Lake. And he said he caught a 30-pound limit in practice on a swimbait, before the tournament began.

This should be fun.

Roumbanis' patience pays off - finally

If you're going to throw a swimbait, you've got to be patient. Fred Roumbanis has remained amazingly calm all day, despite having only two fish in the livewell. Finally, at 2 p.m., it paid off.

"I worked all day for that fish! All day long!" Roumbanis yelled after putting another 5-pounder in the boat.

He's got three bass weighing approximately 14 or 15 pounds, which puts him back among the leaders, in 3rd place on BASSTrakk.

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Wesley Strader with an upgrade

Tennessee Elite Wesley Strader just landed a 2 and a half pound bass and culled up a half pound. He’s sitting in second in BASSTrakk with 18-9 today.

A little earlier we spent about 30 minutes with him fishing up shallow. “That’s the way this bush deal is,” he said. “You do it for two hours and you get one bite.”

Strader guesstimated he has fished 15 tournaments on Kentucky Lake. “It’s different this year. Normally you catch a bunch of non-keepers in the bushes. This year it’s either a keeper or nothing.”


Christie's lesson for Menendez

The home field curse is well known in tournament bass fishing, and especially in spring when the playing field is leveled. When bass are in the spawning phases there are no secret spots or community holes where a “local” pro can leverage to his advantage.

Last week, that was exactly what happened to some of the locals fishing Grand Lake. Count Oklahoman Jason Christie among that group. Christie finished 97th out of the 108 pros on what is considered his home lake.

Ironically, on Bassmaster LIVE, Christie lamented over what he should have avoided, which was fishing history and embracing familiarity. Mark Menendez took that message to Kentucky Lake, his lifelong home waters.

“Jason warned against the danger of locking into the mindset of running familiar water and becoming oblivious to what really is working,” said Menendez. “Doing that burned him last week and it really stuck in my mind on the drive back home."

Menendez ditched familiarity, and it wasn’t easy, in favor of fishing his home water like an unfamiliar, strange lake.

“I have been to places where I’ve never been in my life, no history of fishing whatsoever,” he said. “I am fishing this as if I’m a visitor.”

So far so good. BASSTrakk showed Menendez in fourth place at 11:30 am. Waging mental combat with avoiding familiarity was likely made easier by not having fished on Kentucky Lake since 2016.

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Grigsby tops his expectations

Shaw Grigsby had the unique bag of the day for sure, probably for the tournament and maybe for the year on Day 2 when his 20-pound, 13-ounce limit included both the big bass of the day - a 7-11 - and one of the smallest of the day - a 1-12. The small bass illustrated how Grigsby felt about his continuing opportunities to catch fish off spawning beds this week.

"I can't guarantee I'm going to catch one doing that tomorrow," said the Florida native, who will celebrate his 62nd birthday on May 11. "The water has come down. They're real antsy, real jittery. The ones you do catch are really tough.

"So I've got to figure out something else, and right now I really don't have a clue. I've caught 'em for two days, but I'm clueless. I can't guarantee I'm going to catch 5 pounds tomorrow."

Grigsby, who started the day in 3rd place with 40-9, has exceeded his low expectations. And he did it with one fish - a 5-1 at 9:25. Added to a 2-pounder he caught earlier, Grigsby is still within striking distance, in 12th place on BASSTrakk.