BASSTrakk is like a cheatin' boyfriend

Julie Roumbanis has tried to keep up with her husband, Fred, via BASSTrakk over the years. The sharp-witted Ms. Roumbanis once said, "BASSTrakk is like a cheatin' boyfriend. Nothing but lies, lies, lies."

There is some truth, and a lot of humor, in what she says. But the inexactness of BASSTrakk is also part of its beauty. It takes all the drama out of the weigh-in every year when the Elite Series holds a tournament where the bass are officially weighed and released immediately after they're caught. What you see on BASSTrakk then is exactly what you get at the weigh-in.

A week ago in La Crosse, Wis., there was the ultimate "Cheatin' Boyfriend" weigh-in. Jacob Powroznik appeared to be in the driver's seat on the final day, when the top six anglers began less than 1 3/4 pounds apart. After the anglers checked in, BASSTrakk showed Powroznik with 17 pounds, 5 ounces, and Ish Monroe with 12-8.

As you may remember, Powroznik's estimate was slightly high, by 9 ounces, and Monroe's was extremely low, by 3 pounds, 10 ounces. Monroe surprisingly won the tournament, by a mere 11 ounces over Powroznik.

Could we have another "BASSTrakk/Cheatin' Boyfriend" weigh-in today? It's possible, as long as Mark Daniels Jr. stays stuck on the 11 1/2 pounds he's been on for hours. The person most likely to upset him is Clifford Pirch, who has an estimated 18 1/2 pounds - "estimated" being the key word. Their totals have Daniels with a 3-pound, 15-ounce lead.

Remember, many variables go into BASSTrakk numbers, which are only intended to be estimates. It's a general snapshot of the day, not the exact picture, which only comes into focus at the weigh-in, when the cheatin' boyfriend is put to a lie-detector test, so to speak.

Drop shots dominate

This morning I interviewed the Championship Monday lineup of anglers to get their lure details. You’ll see the goods later this week in the ever popular top lures gallery.

Not surprisingly, drop shots dominate the list. In fact, all 12 anglers credited drop shots of various types and sizes for getting them to the finals.

But it’s not just the same old, same old with the plastics and hardware. Some of it is new, or about to be introduced next week at the ICAST trade show. Here are a few tidbits.

It looks like another addition is being made to the already popular lineup of Berkley PowerBait MaxScent soft plastics. Justin Lucas and Josh Bertrand are using a 4-inch Flatworm.

“It stimulates the sense of smell and when the smallmouth eat it they don’t let go,” said Lucas. “And if they do, all you have to do is just drop it back down again and they get it."

Does X mark the spot?

Mark Daniels Jr. has been in search of his next keeper for three hours, bouncing all around the highway 212 bridge area. He just returned to his primary spot after letting it rest for more than an hour. Right after settling down we looked up and saw this giant X in the sky. If Daniels would move just a couple hundred yards east he’d be right under the center of it. Is that where the real juice is for Daniels? Could X mark the spot for his winning bass?

Why Pirch is 'The Golden Ram'

Why, you may wonder, is Clifford Pirch nicknamed "The Golden Ram"? Well, mainly because if you're on the Elite Series, you get a nickname whether you want one or not. From Cliff "The Cajun Baby" Crochet to Randall "The Honey Badger" Tharp to Bobby "Big Fish" Lane, seemingly every angler has a nickname of one sort or another.

Elite Series emcee Dave Mercer dubbed Pirch "The Golden Ram" based on the following: 1) Pirch's gold jersery, and 2) the way Pirch's long locks flow from his visor on each side of his face, like, well, ram's horns. Hence, The Golden Ram.

If the nickname had anything to do with Pirch's lifestyle, he might be dubbed "The Golden Elk." Pirch is an accomplished elk hunter and guide near his Payson, Ariz., home. But "The Golden Ram" does have a better ring to it, as nonsensical as it is.

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MDJ goes shallow

Mark Daniels Jr. has gone three hours since his last keeper, the 3 pound, 4-ounce smallmouth. That’s his biggest fish of the day. About an hour ago Daniels ran north of the highway 212 bridge for the first time since we’ve been covering him, which includes Sat., Sun. and today. He fished deep for about 30 minutes, drop shotting, then moved shallow and is throwing a Whopper Plopper.

Really crazy that MDJ has spent three days drop shotting, and now he’s throwing a Whopper Plopper shallow. He told us he threw one in practice and caught about 30 smaller bass.

Daniels has a nearly 4 pound lead in BASSTrakk. But he still has two 1 pounders in his livewell. If he were able to catch a couple of two pounders Daniels could seal this deal.

Roy culling up, finally

Bradley Roy has stayed in the same area but switched sides of the lake and started culling up, according to photographer Andy Crawford. Roy just landed a 3-pounder and a 2-pounder. He's drop-shotting. Roy now has 10-10, according to BASSTrakk, and is sixth with 60 pounds, 1 ounce.

Duckett's big school not biting

Boyd Duckett is in the midst of a good news/bad news situation. The good news? He's found a school of smallmouth bass bigger than anything he's seen previously this week. The bad news? He can't get them to bite.

Photographer Gettys Brannon reports that Duckett has used seven or eight different combinations of lures and presentations to coax a bite, with no success. But he's encouraged.

"That school at some point today will eat," Duckett said. For now, he's content to keep checking back here so he doesn't miss chow time. Duckett currently has two bass weighing 4-2 in his livewell.

Big bass live north

It's an oversimplification, but heading north - sometimes way north - from the Spring Creek takeoff spot on Lake Oahe has been the best formula for success this week.

Dean Rojas is the latest example. He's been farther north than just about any other angler. He and Edwin Evers, another Top 12 finalist, have been fishing north of the Highway 212 bridge, which is about a 60-mile run from Spring Creek. And Rojas has caught a bigger bag each day, going from 25th on Day 1 with 13-0 to 13th on Day 2 with 14-10 to 7th on Day 3 with 17-6.

This morning Rojas has almost matched yesterday's total. He's got 16-10, according to BASSTrakk, after landing a 4-6 at 9:50.

Rojas and Evers zipped past the pack fishing just south of the 212 bridge yesterday morning. That group includes others who've been successful this week, like Mark Daniels Jr., Casey Ashley and Bradley Roy.

There's one more bridge over Lake Oahe to the north, at the town of symbolically named Mobridge (Missouri River bridge). It's about 105 miles from Spring Creek to Mobridge. It's the only other place anglers can get fuel on the water, besides Spring Creek, in this long, 370,000-acre lake.

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AOY race tightening

The points don't become official until after today's weigh-in, but the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race has definitely tightened this week at Lake Oahe.

Depending on where Justin Lucas, Bradley Roy and Josh Bertrand finish in today's Top 12 final, a few points will shift here and there. But the overall standings of the top four AOY leaders will not change. Bradley Roy will be the AOY leader after event No. 7 of the nine-tournament Elite Series regular season. Justin Lucas, after his third Top 12 finish in a row, will be second, followed by previous leader Brent Chapman and Josh Bertrand. Then there's almost a 50-point gap down to fifth-place Ott DeFoe.

With Chapman finishing 53rd, his string of consecutive Top 50 finishes ended. Bertrand is the only angler who has made the Top 50 cut in all seven Elite Series tournaments this year. Lucas is the only angler who has made four Top 12s this season, and he just missed another, finishing 13th at Grand Lake

The following is a look at the AOY leaders and where each has finished in the seven tournaments:

 RoyLucas Chapman Bertrand
7. Oahe 4? 9? 53 5?
6. La Crosse 26 11 23 30
5. Sabine 4 10 37 44
4. Travis 73 48 26
3. Kentucky 22 73 6
2. Grand 13 29 46
1. Martin 25 19 20
Points 619 607 602 600

Daniels needed Oahe

Lake Oahe couldn’t have come at a better time for Mark Daniels Jr. Last week at the Elite tournament on the Mississippi River Daniels finished 88th, the worst finish of his two year Elite Series career. It caused him to drop to 40th place in the Toyota Anger of the Year standings. But Lake Oahe has been very good to him. Currently holding the lead here, Daniels has moved all the way up to 26th place in AOY. And he’s one or two good fish away from earning a check for $100,000.

Daniels has had his best Elite finishes catching smallmouth bass up north. He finished 3rd at Michigan’s Lake St. Clair and 10th in Minnesota at Mille Lacs.

When asked why he has done so well on smallmouth fisheries, the Tuskegee, Ala. resident, who grew up in Northern California, expressed puzzlement. “I really don’t know,” he said. “Smallmouth are kind of random, and my style is kind of random too.”

Daniels is 36 years old, turning 37 on July 24. He has fished 25 Bassmaster tournaments, finishing 16 times in the money. He has 11 top 30 finishes, and made the 2018 Bassmaster Classic after one year on the Elites Series. Before joining Bassmaster, Daniels had a successful career with FLW.