Lucas, Bertrand season review

If Justin Lucas and Josh Bertrand were to finish second and third today, like they were after Saturday’s weigh-in, Lucas would have a 9-point lead over Bertrand in Toyota Angler of the Year points going into the AOY Championship next month. Both  were in contention for the title at 12:30 p.m., so their official AOY points after today’s weigh-in aren’t likely to vary much from those unofficial ones based on the Day 3 standings.

It’s interesting to look back on their seasons and see how they’ve arrived at this point. Bertrand did it slow and steady. He hasn’t missed a Top 50 cut, and this will be his third Top 12 finish. Lucas has done it with a sprint over the last four events – all Top 12 finishes.

 Lucas started the season hot, with a 6th-place finish at Lake Martin followed by a 13th at Grand Lake. Then came his Waterloo – 73rd-place at Kentucky Lake. As you can see below, Bertrand placed 6th at Kentucky Lake, creating a lead that has taken Lucas four-straight Top 12s to erase.

Tournament             Bertrand       Lucas

Lake Martin               20th                 6th

Grand Lake                46th                 13th

Kentucky Lake           6th                   73rd

Lake Travis                26th                 48th

Sabine River              44th                 10th

Miss. River/Wis.         30th                 11th

Lake Oahe                  8th                   9th

St. Lawrence River    1st                     2nd

Thanks to Chuck

My sister Sallie and I want to give a special thanks to Chuck Harbin for all his years of hard work and dedication to this sport. Chuck has been one of the reasons we have enjoyed Marshalling these past few years and I'm sure I can speak for all the Marshals on that. Chuck shows great respect to all of us during these events and has always gone out of his way to ensure our days on the water are enjoyable and safe.

His attention to detail and honestly caring about each individual Marshal as well as the pro angler is greatly going to be missed in this sport. Chuck we all are going to miss you and wish you well in your new house and hope you get a chance to come visit us in the future and possibly even get a chance to go out and fish. I know that the town of Waddington is overly thankful to you for having such a professional run tournament of which has attracted the spectators we have seen today and in the past tournaments held in this area. So Thank you again, hope to see you in the future. 

-Marshal Terry Pike

Way too close to call

It's fitting that the most dramatic weigh-in of the 2018 Bassmaster Elite Series has been saved for the last day of the regular season. At 2:45, ahead of a 3 p.m. check-in time, BASSTrakk showed three anglers - Brandon Lester, Justin Lucas and Josh Bertrand - within 4 ounces of each other.

David Walker is 2 pounds, 4 ounces back of Lester, the unofficial leader. Remember, this is BASSTrakk, and therefore a guesstimation, at best. I've seen 2 pounds, 4 ounces be within the "margin of error" when the fish are finally put on the scales of truth.

As Julie Roumbanis, wife of Elite Series angler Fred, once said, "BASSTrakk is like a cheatin' boyfriend - nothing but lies, lies, lies."

We'll soon know had the biggest bass tales today.

Landing, not just hooking, is the key

Kevin VanDam noted before this tournament began that landing, not just hooking, the 5- and 6-pound smallmouth bass in the St. Lawrence River would be the key. If you're watching "Bassmaster LIVE," you know exactly what he's talking about. Brandon Lester lost a smallmouth that he had his hand on for a second, before it shook it's head one more time and came unhooked.

Lester, who may win this tournament anyway, put his head in his hands and said, "That was a $100,000 fish."

The stories about the ones that got away were plentiful this week. Those stories are always proceeded by the line, "Everybody loses fish, but..." Yeah, it hurts when it happens to you.

VanDam, who won here a year ago with 90 pounds, 3 ounces, put himself behind the curve with his 19-14 bag on Day 2. He finished 36th with 58-12.

"I had two giant ones get off today," VanDam said Friday. "That's the difference in me having between 23 or 24 pounds. It takes five minutes to land these big ones on spinning gear, and it feels like 30 minutes. I caught a 6-4 yesterday, and they just go and go and go and go.

"Smallmouth fishing is fun anywhere. But here, because of the current, it makes them that much stronger. These are like NFL athletes living down there. And they're ready to fight."

Lester knows that all too well.

Walker playing to the piper

David Walker is dancing to the music. He just caught another 3-pounder, which has him up to 17 pounds today and kept him in the four-horse race for the title.
Walker landed this one to the soothing sounds of  bagpipe music. It was being played by a U.S. Customs agent, standing on the shore.
"Keep it going," said Walker, as he moved back upstream for another drift.

Lester's lure and pattern

Brandon Lester is tracking a very popular pattern for smallmouth on the Tennessee River, not far from where he grew up in our mutual hometowns in Middle Tennessee. 

On the St. Lawrence River he is fishing on the up current, or front side of rocky shoals, where the current meets the rock. Favored depths are 25-40 feet. Here is what he is using for a lure setup. 

Lester is making a drop shot with a 4-inch hand poured X Zone Slammer, Mustad TitanX Wacky/Neko Rig Hook and 1/2-ounce weight. He’s relied on the rig for the past two seasons of fishing in the Northeast and Midwest, from New York to South Dakota.

Headed toward a photo finish?

This horse race appears headed toward a photo finish, based on what we're seeing now. Josh Bertrand's BASSTrakk numbers just updated and photographer Gettys Brannon confirms that Bertrand's got 18 or 19 pounds. 

Brandon Lester just added a 4 1/2-pounder to the 6-4 and 5-8 he's already got in his livewell. Justin Lucas is on one of those mid-morning flurries like he had yesterday. And David Walker has a 5-pounder to build on for a big bag.

Day 4 may end just like Day 3 - when the leader and second place were separated by only 3 ounces, in other words, a photo finish.

Walker's lure lineup

On Tuesday in the top lures gallery you can see the photo but until then here is a sneak peek of what David Walker is primarily using. 

Walker makes a drop shot using the 3.5- and 4.2-inch Z Man Trick Shotz. He rigs those to No. 1 Owner Mosquito Hooks and Gamakatsu Drop/Split Shot Hooks, with 3/8 and 1/2-ounce Reins Drop Shot Weights.

“I’m using the longer worm in low light and deeper water, then switching to the shorter version as the sun comes up,” he said.