There’s no quit in Justin Lucas

We had a gorgeous sunrise here at Lake Chatuge and I had time to think about how Justin Lucas would approach today. He has the Toyota Angler of the Year crown in his hip pocket. Now that Josh Bertrand has headed home for the birth of his second child there is zero chance anyone can catch him for the title.

So will Lucas lay down his rod, order a pizza and bask in the glow of his nearly flawless season? Nope. He’s fishing today just like he did the first two days of competition on Lake Chatuge. Lucas is fishing fast and aggressively, moving often (we’ve hit seven spots in the first 40 minutes of fishing), and generally approaching today like he wants to win this three day tournament. Lucas sits in 5th place. Is that greedy? Heck no. The great ones want it all.

AOY, rookie titles, Classic berths

Justin Lucas has all but wrapped up the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title after two days on Lake Chatuge. Coming into this event, Lucas had a nine-point lead over Josh Bertrand. His goal was to finish 8th or higher and there would be no way Bertrand could catch him. Lucas is 5th after two days of this three-day tournament that concludes Sunday.

Bertrand is 43rd after two days. And he's the only angler who can catch Lucas in the 50-man field. I'm not going to take the time to do the math on the miraculous scenario it would take for Bertrand to win on the final day.

In the Rookie of the Year race, 26-year-old Jake Whitaker put some distance between him and 47-year-old Roy Hawk on Day 2. Whitaker is 9th with a total of 24-14. Hawk dropped to 41st after catching only two keepers weighing 3-1 Friday. Hawk entered this event with a four-point lead in AOY points over Whitaker. So he's got to finish within three places of Whitaker to win the rookie title. And he's got 31 anglers between him and Whitaker.

It's the "bubble" concerning those 35 guaranteed Classic berths where every fish is going to count Sunday. Two Oklahoma anglers with storied Classic histories made big moves Friday. Edwin Evers, who won it in 2016 at Grand Lake, was 35th coming into this event, dropped to 39th in the "theoretical AOY standings" based on his 36th place bag on Day 1, jumped up to 31st in the AOY standings after moving up to 17th in the tournament with 13-8 Friday. Jason Christie, who finished second at the 2016 Classic and third in 2018 - after leading both going into the final day - was 41st in AOY and moved up to 34th Friday with his 26-9 total, which has him in 7th place at Chatuge.

Remember, these AOY points updated during a tournament simply show the totals as they would be if the tournament ended that day. No AOY points are earned from anything but the final tournament standings. Below are some of the anglers trending up and down around the 35th place cutoff in automatic Classic berths. It shows here they were coming into this event, and where they are now based on the Day 2 standings:

Trending Up
Micah Frazier+8(38th to 30th)
Jason Christie+7(41st to 34th)
Chris Lane+6(45th to 38th)
Jake Whitaker+6(32nd to 26th)
Edwin Evers+4(35th to 31st)
Trending Down
Wesley Strader-11(24th to 35th)
Scott Rook-9(36th to 45th)
Roy Hawk-8(29th to 37th)
Jared Lintner-8 (34th to 42nd)
Chris Zaldain-6(23rd to 29th)

A look back at Day 2

The top was higher and the bottom was lower. That's one way to sum up Day 2 of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship on Lake Chatuge.

As for the top, four of the five biggest bags of the tournament were weighed-in Friday, including Chris Lane's 18 pounds, 5 ounces. James Elam stayed atop the standings by catching 16-pounds plus for the second straight day - 16-10 on Day 1 and 16-14 on Day 2. Jacob Wheeler (16-5) and Gerald Spohrer (16-8) also weighed 16-pound bags.

As for the bottom, only 36 five-bass limits came to the scales versus 45 on Day 1. That can probably be attributed to some guys who had little to gain with an all-out effort Friday. They're just trying to stay out of the way of the pros fighting for a title or a GEICO Bassmaster Classic berth.

Keith Poche still has the big bass of the tournament - a 5-10 on Day 1. Chris Lane got close with a 5-7 Friday.

Whitaker on the move

Jake is on the move and building up some momentum! After a slow morning Jake has quickly caught up a limit of fish that has him around 9 to 10lbs roughly. Wind is starting to move in and is only going to carry his pattern further.

Update by Trent Palmer 

Wheeler lands a largemouth

Jacob Wheeler isn’t about to concede this tournament to James Elam. And he just showed why. A 4-pound largemouth bass had him screaming and fist-pumping after he lipped it into the boat. That fish has him up to about 15 1/2 pounds. Wheeler is running-and-gunning, spending very little time on each spot, but catching a bass on about every place he stops.

Wheeler has a stellar history on blueback herring lakes. He’s showing that Lake Chatuge is no exception.

Chris Lane making a run

Chris Lane, the 2012 Bassmaster Classic champ, would love to get back in the Classic after his string of five straight appearances was snapped last year. Lane came into this tournament ranked 45th in AOY points. But he's making a charge today. BASSTrakk currently shows him in third place. A top five finish might be enough to put him in the top 35.

Right after I got here, Lane said he'd just missed a 6-pounder off a dock. BASSTrakk shows him with a 15-12 limit, and he must have four nice ones because he just culled a spot that might have gone 1 1/2 pounds. He’s just running a set of docks and banks with a topwater and a jig.

Seeing is believing at Chatuge

Lake Chatuge has a big bass reputation, both for spotted bass and largemouths. While not many crossed the weigh-in stage on Day 1, the anglers have seen plenty. It’s both encouraging as to what’s possible here, and frustrating in the difficultly to get one to bite.

Keith Poche got one to bite yesterday – the 5-pound, 10-ounce largemouth that was the big bass of the day. However, Poche was puzzled about why it was the only one he hooked.

“I’ve seen a lot of big ones,” Poche said. “They’re everywhere. Sometimes you’ll go down a bank and see one or two, then you’ll go back down that bank and they’re gone. They’re moving in and out.”

Poche said he had a “phenomenal, insane” practice, when he could have sacked a 20-pound bag one day. But that pattern didn’t carryover to Thursday.

“I’m really disappointed in my day,” he said after the Day 1 weigh-in, where he finished 10th with 12-12. “My early morning deal was just non-existent. I thought I would catch an easy 12, 13 pounds on my first stop.”

Ott DeFoe has some similar stories. He spent most of his Day 1 way up in a creek that had 65-degree water, much cooler than the low 80s main lake surface temperature.

“There’s a lot of 2- to 4-pounders – a lot of them,” DeFoe said. “I saw one that was probably 8 pounds. I’m talking about a giant. I saw some 5s too. If you take the 8 out, I still saw about a 22-pound bag.”

But seeing and catching are entirely different matters on Lake Chatuge this week.

“It’s the time of year more than anything,” DeFoe explained. “I don’t know (blueback) herring lakes very well. But from what I’ve seen, the only way you can get one to bite is when they’re feeding, while they’re chasing. And you’ve got to fish something faster than what they’re used to seeing. You’ve got to bring it to get a bite.”