Following MDJ

Andy Crawford and I have reached the Concord ramp, ready to follow Mark Daniels Jr today. Anxious to see him cranking up shallow, concerned about how spectator traffic might affect his bite.

This is my third ramp in four days on the water. This is really a beautiful lake and Tennessee does a great job of giving their anglers access.

Video: National anthem at final takeoff

See the amazing crowd honor our nation at the final day takeoff of the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods. 

One set of headlights

At 5:40, Chris Zaldain is still the only angler in the boatyard, taliing excitedly and getting ready.

He said yesterday was a dream day -- no camera boat, no spectators, just Chris and his Marshal high-fiving.

That enabled him to dial in a pattern. He said he can look at a map, find a good-looking spot, and if it has four key elements he'll get bit in the first 20 yards.

"I can call my shots," he proclaimed.

He also thinks he can go behind other anglers and catch fish they miss.

He is all-in on a big fish pattern, and will start the day with just two rods on the deck of his Skeeter.

A sack and a smile

Chris Zaldain was the first angler in the boatyard, bearing a big smile and a shopping bag.

"Dream scenario," he said. "Going into the last day of the Classic and they're biting a swimbait."

The bag contains more swimbaits. Despite being generously sponsored by Megabass, he wanted to make sure he had enough in prime colors and sizes, so he went to the Expo last night and stocked up.

Spot within the spot

Adrian Avena doesn't know if he will start on the bridge he shares with Cliff Pirch yesterday. He said if he drives by and sees Pirch there he probably won't.

The area itself is limited and Avena really prefers just a small section, the riprap point where the channel hits. That is the primary highway for the bass moving in to spawn.

They played nice with each other yesterday but the bass did not cooperate. Today they will likely be cordial again, but the bass need to make a better showing.

BASSTrakk training

Dalton leading the 5 a.m. BASSTrakk training class for final day Classic marshals.

Photo and update by Bassmaster Marshal Chris Reynolds

Sunday forecast

We'll have sunny skies at take off on this final day of The Classic in Knoxville, with temperatures starting off close to the freezing mark around 33 degrees. We'll have nearly maximum sunshine throughout the fishing day with one or two passing clouds with the high topping out around 57 degrees by late afternoon. Winds will start of out of the northeast at 1-5 MPH but will shift out of the southwest to west by the afternoon at 3-7 MPH. Dewpoints will remain in the lower 20s throughout much of the day until starting to rise by weigh-in.

Marriage Proposal at Classic Expo

Talk about turning lemons into lemonade.

A.J. Ison, of Pikeville, Kentucky — a longtime Skeeter Boats customer and diehard Kentucky Wildcats fan — lost a bet to Skeeter dealer Andy Cole, who roots for the University of Tennessee. The wager — wear the other guy’s team colors.

Painful, to be sure, but Ison had a brainstorm: First, don the dreaded orange T-shirt in the Skeeter booth at the Bassmaster Classic Expo; then, turn the spectacle into an unforgettable moment for him and a special person.

See, Ison and his girlfriend, Kelli Sparks, have known one another since high school, they work together at Pikeville Medical Center and he figured it was time to make things official.

So, with family, Skeeter staff and yours truly facilitating the ruse, Ison asked Sparks to join him on the deck of a floor model — for morale support, you know. (Wink, nod).

After publicly enrobing himself with the Tennessee T-shirt, Ison parlayed a statement about the Classic’s ability to change someone’s life into his desire for a life-changing moment. Assuming the traditional kneeling position, he pulled out the ring and extended it to a now teary-eyed lady surrounded by friends and strangers applauding a most unique Bassmaster Classic moment.

Her response: “Yes!”

Lots of hugging, kissing, more tears of joy — basically, a fairy tale moment on the deck of a Skeeter bass boat.

“I had no idea,” a clearly surprised Sparks said. “We love fishing, we live on the lake, so this couldn’t have been any more perfect. This is our Superbowl; we live it, it’s a great atmosphere and (the engagement) just puts the icing on the cake.”

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