Spohrer’s frog trick

Expect to see lots of imitation frog photos this week in the top lures gallery. What you won’t see is the cool modification made by Gerald Spohrer to his Spro Dean Rojas Bronzeye Frog. 

“John Crews gets the credit for it,” Spohrer told me this morning at the ramp. 

Credits aside, Spohrer cut a small hole in the rear end of the frog to let water drain out.

“When water gets inside it modifies the action, and the hole lets the water drain out to keep it running perfect.”

At least five of the anglers credited variations of topwater frogs as getting them to Championship Sunday.

Frustrating start

Adding to what has certainly been a frustrating start of the final day of the Bassmaster Elite Series, Louisiana’s Gerald Spohrer lost the first fish of the day when his rod shattered in the hookset. 

Spohrer missed three bites in a row after rerigging while working a frog around standing grass. 
But he just sunk the hooks in a keeper, so he’s broken the ice. 
This is Spohrer’s second-year Elite angler fishing his second Top 12, and he went into the day just 10 ounces behind leader Randall Tharp. 

Slow morning

It would be an understatement to characterize this morning as slow. While Martens only had four keepers in the well at this time, yesterday (a slow pace compared to the first two days) he was getting bites and landed a few short fish to go with his initial start. 

Today, he’s not had a keeper bite and there has been only one short fish brought to the boat. Plus Martens seems to be fishing slower and more deliberate. 

That all adds up to a super slow morning. But the afternoon bite has been the critical element all week. The last two hours of the day have been the measuring stick for who has finally got here. 

I doubt it will be much different today. But as someone watching on the water, it sure would be nice if things started picking up a bit. 

Martens has left his first spot and moved up the Black River a bit. Maybe a change of scenery will do the trick.

Locks open

After losing almost an hour waiting on the lock into Pool 7 to clear, Gerald Spohrer, Casey Ashley and Jacob Wheeler finally locked through. 

Spohrer is already fishing his first spot, while the other two anglers headed farther into Lake Onalaska. 
Another potential game-changer with which the entire Top 12 field will have to contend is even higher water levels. Pool 7 is considerably higher than yesterday, so it remains to be seen what impact that could have on the fishing. 

All rods on deck

Randall Tharp is keeping all options open today. He's got 10 rods on his boat deck, according to photographer Gettys Brannon, including a spinning rod, which is outside Tharp's comfort zone.

"We're going fishing," Tharp said. "I'm fishing on instinct all day."

Tharp made an instinctual change yesterday that put him in the lead after three days, if only by one ounce over Aaron Martens. But it was a major decision for him to bail on the area where he'd caught 'em like crazy on Day 2 and move within sight of the takeoff ramp, where he caught 'em like crazy on Day 3.

Tharp has already recorded a personal first-ever experience this morning, catching a smallmouth bass on a topwater frog. It's going to be fun watching this one play out.

Morning with Martens

We are on Aaron Martens this morning. And like yesterday he’s started in the same bend of an oxbow where a considerable amount of his bites have come this week

Yesterday he caught his first four here. Two of those came on his first two casts. Today, though, we’ve been here for 15 minutes and he’s yet to get bit.

No cause for alarm, yet. But this spot is definitely changing. The water has risen another foot at least so it’s a good bet the fish are on the move. Martens is keeping them honest throwing the flutter spoon across the sloping flat portion of the bend and following that up with shaky head.

A made-for-TV final

If a director could script the perfect scenario for the final day of a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament, this would be it: The top four anglers separated by 10 iounces, and two more anglers within 1 3/4 pounds of the lead.

Creating even more drama are the facts that: 1) bass in the Upper Mississippi River at La Crosse are changing every day due to the rising river levels, and 2) they're biting all day long. The tournament could be won in the final minute this afternoon. Tournaments are seldom this wide open after three days of competition. But we've got one of those today.

"An ounce is a place in the standings," said Day 3 leader Randall Tharp after Saturday's weigh-in. "(Sunday) it's probably going to be exactly the same. Whoever gets that big bite and gets it in the boat is going to be the guy who walks away with the trophy."

Blocked by a barge?

Anglers planning to fish Pool 7, including No. 4 Gerald Spohrer, have a problem this morning: The lock is currently filled with barge traffic - and there’s a second set of barges waiting to lock down river.

Jimmy Johnson, a La Crosse angler who fished two Bassmaster Classics through the Nation and is serving as my boat driver this week, estimates it wI’ll take another 45 minutes to clear the current set of barges.

And if the second barge gets priority, it could be 9 a.m. before the lock is clear.

The anglers just made it to the lock, and are floating around waiting to see what the lock master decides.

The question is do those anglers have backups in Pool 8?

DeFoe in the danger zone

Ott DeFoe is nearing an uncomfortably familiar place. The BASSTrakk standings have the Tennessee pro in 8th place. While that normally is great news it’s a bit unnerving if you are DeFoe. The reason why?

Three times already he’s placed just outside the Championship Sunday standings. At the season opener on Lake Martin he finished 13th, just ounces outside the cut. He did it again at Kentucky Lake and again at the Sabine River, where he finished 14th. 

Let’s hope he shakes the jinx and closes the deal to fish tomorrow.