Lucas is on fire right now

Justin Lucas took the lead, theoretically, in the Toyota Angler of the Year race yesterday. It seems he's celebrating this morning.

"This spot is firing now," screamed Lucas, after making four drifts and hooking up four times with, "Four giants! Well, they're not giants, just good ones."

Let's put it this way: Lucas has self-reported five bass weighing 19 pounds, and that appears several pounds shy of reality, I think. Whatever the case, Lucas started the day in 5th place, a little more than 3 pounds out of the lead, and he's almost assured himself of making today's Top 12 cut.

Walker has some "feel-good" fish

David Walker has taken the lead this morning with 18 pounds of "feel-good" fish, as in it feels good to catch them but they're not good enough to win.

"I'm going to cull all those," Walker said on Bassmaster LIVE. "Those are just feel-good fish."

His two biggest bass are 4-pounders. As Walker noted yesterday, five 4-pounders, or 20 pounds, "Is not a winning deal here, as weird as that sounds."

Crunch time for Elam

Oklahoma pro James Elam is one of the pros who just cleared his first of two must-do hurdles this week. First was making Championship Saturday. Next comes qualifying for Championship Sunday. One out of two are out of the way. Here’s what he had to say to me this morning about the importance of this Championship Saturday.

"This is the most important tournament day I’ll have all year,” he said. "I knew coming into this tournament that making Championship Sunday was a do or die thing for me.”

"If I did well here I would be going to the AOY championship,” he continued. “And iif I do really well I might lock myself into the Classic.”

He added, "Either way I’m looking at getting into the Classic I’m going to make up a lot of ground here.”

Elam’s goal is keeping alive his string of three consecutive Bassmaster Classics. BASSTrakk showed him briefly in third place, now he’s down to fifth. Remaining inside the cut will be a battle to the finish.

BassCam: Day 3 take off

Why is Saturday different than the rest? The Elites tell you. See them all at the BassCam page

Micheal Iaconelli, Brandon Lester, Brandon Palaniuk, Dave Lefebre, Keith Combs, David Walker, Josh Bertrand, Chris  Lane, Bobby Lane, Jesse Wiggins, Brandon Palaniuk, James Elam and Mark Daniels Jr.

Connell's morning

We started on Dustin Connell this morning because he is sitting 36th in the event and is on the AOY bubble at 46th after Day 2. He needed a solid event and thus far he is making it happen.

We got on him after he had made a few casts, and he immediately hooked up with a smaller fish and put it in the well. Soon after, he was hooked up again and he shouted over to us that it was the right kind. I estimated it as a 4-plus and he was thrilled with a good start. 

He moved around on the edge of a flat where the current plays a factor in grouping the fish up a little bit. On his last move before he was "going for a boat ride" south,  up river,  he hooked up as we were getting into position. 

He called it a "biggin" as he shook his head in disbelief. Soon after, he fired up and headed off. We will be back on him soon!

Lester unofficially over 17 pounds

According to the one and only Eric Kaffka, Bassmaster cameraman extraordinaire, Brandon Lester has 17 pounds, or a little more. 

Kaffka is in Lester’s boat with a Bassmaster LIVE camera, and said his BASSTrakk phone is pinging a Canadian tower and not registering the weights yet. 

I just watched Lester cull up for the third time this morning with a 4-pounder, which was his biggest of the day so far. Moving up one brown bass at a time. 

Interestingly, he’s drifted the same 100–yard stretch four or five times before a fish ate. He said he can see them on his electronics, but they weren’t biting at first. After catching a couple the school seems more receptive to his offering. 

A 5-pounder right now wood go a long ways, and he knows it. Lots of time to find a couple of those yet.

Ike explains the current bite

Smallmouth are very current oriented and the pros continue dialing into just how they are relating to it on the St. Lawrence River. Here, the current flows faster than anywhere else we go. Plus, the smallmouth are staging in deeper water. The best rundown on how it works came from Michael Icontelli. Take in this mini-seminar from the smallmouth expert. 

"Primarily all these big bags are coming on a summertime pattern. What I mean by that are smallmouth being caught in deep water, from 20 to 40 feet, and they are relating to structure changes. For the most part I’m talking about humps and points that provide a change in the bottom. The fish are using that structure different every day. And the reason for that is wind and current. As the wind changes, the current changes. 

I’ll give you an example. Day 1 there were calmer conditions. Most of the smallmouth on that deep structure were on the up current side. With slower current, they wanted to be on the up current side. On Day 2 there was a heavy southwest wind blowing 10-15 mph, and a west wind blowing straight down the river. It increased the current speed, and because of that, the smallmouth repositioned themselves on the leeward side, or the side with the least current. They are on deep structure, but the thing to keep in mind is they are constantly moving depending on the current.”

And there you have it. Words and wisdom you can relate to and use on your smallmouth fishing trips.

Walker has narrowed his focus

David Walker was as confident as could be after yesterday's weigh-in. He'd put 22-14 on the scales to go with his 26-8 on Day 1, which left him only 11 ounces behind leader Brandon Lester.

Walker has narrowed his focus as the week has progressed, from trying different fishing tactics on Day 1 to sticking strictly with drop-shotting on Day 2. He's stayed in one area of the river the first two days, and he's not going exploring now.

"I'm confident I've got enough places," Walker said. "I feel good about (Saturday) because I'm fishing comfortably, and I don't feel like I'm trapped somewhere. I've got a section of the river I'm staying in, and I've got enough places in that area to keep me busy."

Walker would be euphoric with a win this week. It would be redemption for an uncharacteristically sub-par season. Walker lives just outside Knoxville, Tenn., in Sevierville, and desperately wanted to qualify for the 2019 Bassmaster Classic that will be held there.

He has qualified for the Classic 12 times and finished third twice. He's won over $1 million on the B.A.S.S. circuit, which includes an Elite Series win at Wheeler Lake in 2011. But he came into this tournament ranked 91st in Toyota Angler of the Year points with no chance of qualifying for the Classic.

Walker has the early lead today with a 16-pound limit in the boat at 8:30 a.m.
"I'm pretty confident I can catch 20 pounds," Walker said. "But 20 is not a winning deal here, as weird as that sounds."

What a difference four decades make

My first visit to the St. Lawrence River was to cover the 1979 New York Invitational, based upriver from Waddington, N.Y., out of Alexandria Bay. Ranger Boats founder Forrest Wood won that three-day event with 47 pounds, 3 ounces. Two days and two hours into the Huk Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River presented by Black Velvet, David Walker has 65-9. What a difference four decades makes. 

B.A.S.S. visited the river three other times in the olden days, and the best winning weight was by Roland Martin in 1978, when he had 59-13 for nearly a 20-pound average. The top weight, though, doesn’t tell the whole story of a fishery.

The 1980 Classic here was won by Bo Dowden with 54-10, but second place went to Martin with 44-1, an average of 14-11 a day. To make the 50 cut yesterday required more than 19 pounds a day. Weights dropped off precipitously in Classic X. Guido Hibdon was 10th with 26-2, Bobby Murray was 27th with 10-5, and four of the 38 contenders didn’t weigh a single keeper in three days of fishing.

And get this — everyone at that time considered the St. Lawrence one of the hottest smallmouth fisheries in the nation. Of course, that was before zebra mussels and round gobies and “video game fishing.”

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Lester on the board

Brandon Lester just dropped his first fish of the day in the livewell. A solid 3-pounder. Wait, just now numba 2, a 2 1/2-pounder.

He’s focusing on a small spot-on-the-spot that seems to produce each time he drifts by.

Speaking of drifting, that’s been the name of the game this week. With dropshots being the offering, allowing the boat to move with the current—while occasionally slowing it down with the trolling motor—is the way to catch big smallies on the St. Lawrence River this week.

Lester is eyeballing his first win, but also making the cut to fish the annual Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship. He needs the victory on a couple fronts.

Plus, he’s got a cold and is battling that, too. But it’s not slowing him down, he’s tough and pushing through to stay on this train.

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