Ashmore with No. 3.
I just passed Trevor Fitzgerald who was 7th with 20-1 after yesterday’s action. He was headed through the Dead River on his way to Lake Dora with 15 pounds or so. Fitzgerald is an Opens Champion with his 2010 title on Lake Seminole.
Another Florida native is Garrett Rocamora. He struggled yesterday and weighed what he called his smallest tournament limit ever with five fish for 5-11. Rocamora has 15-16 pounds and is salvaging some points in the process.
Nick Hatfield narrowly missed out on a Bassmaster Elite Series qualification in his first year in the Opens in 2018. He’s looking to improve on that momentum and start 2019 strong.
He did that yesterday with 18-15 and an 8th place spot. He’s backing it up today as well. He has a limit worth 17-18 pounds. That includes a 6-7 pounder. He may not have a great shot to win, but I’d expect him to be locked into the Top 10 or so. A lot of fishing time left but Hatfield has done his work today.
His area had 6-10 boats around yesterday, but today there were 20-22 hanging around. The pressure has made him lean on specific key spots within the grass flat and it’s paid off.
Photo by Tyler Woolcott.
Whitney Stephens is making one of those gameday decisions that separate champions from runner ups. He has three fish for 12 pounds as of 11:15 a.m.
He has fished offshore grass exclusively, but ran to the mouth of the Dora Canal to try and catch two fish to fill his limit. His thought hasn’t changed; he still thinks he needs low 20’s to win today. This spot may yield fish in the four-pound range but I suspect he would love two fish in the two-pound range. That will secure a limit and allow him to stay out in the wind and push all of his offshore grass spots for all they’re worth.
He’s not laying up, but rather allowing himself the freedom to go big the rest of the day. I think it’s a smart move and it gives his areas a rest.
Ronnie Moore reports on the Championship Saturday midday conditions.
Scott Ashmore has No. 2 in the boat!
Eric Panzironi started strong on Day 1 with 20 pounds before 9 a.m. He ended up with 22-3 and was in 4th place going into today’s final day.
He’s off to another strong start this morning and has 16-17 pounds. He had 15 or so and culled a 2 pounder with what looked like a 4+. If he’s not at 17 then it probably heavy 16 right now. Pair that with his 22-3 and he is sitting in contention still. He will need a mid-20’s day if he wants to make up his 5-7 deficit to Bryan Schmitt and his 10-9 deficit to Whitney Stephens when the day started.
Panzironi has been alternating between a worm and a bladed jig in his grass patch. He crushed them on video yesterday, if you want to watch it click here.
Whitney Stephens got to his spot with no issues this morning. He was boat 37 and had a fish in the boat before boat 100 went by. It was a good start as well. It looked to be at least a 4 pounder. His co-angler Scott Quackenbush also has one in the livewell that goes 3-4 pounds as well.
Stephens is fishing offshore grass in Lake Eustis with a variety of baits. He has two boats nearby (Alex Wetherall and Austin Schroeder), but they aren’t on top of each other. Each has a few cast lengths from each other in different directions.
Word is that Bryan Schmitt has 15-16 pounds already with an 8-pound kicker. The 8-4 he weighed yesterday was a Florida Trophy Catch and was also the big bass of the day on the pro side. Hard to duplicate 8-pounders but it seems like Schmitt has.
We have two Opens champions dueling it out for another title right now. Stephens won in 2015 on Lake Erie and Schmitt won on Lake Champlain in 2016.
Stephens started the day with a 5-2 lead over Schmitt (32-12 vs 27-10) so Stephens has some padding but since it’s Florida, you have to catch another good bad if you want to win
Bassmaster LIVE analyst Ronnie Moore interviews leader Whitney Stephens about his game plan for the final day.