Cory Johnston hanging tough

Cory Johnston is hanging tough in the Toyota Angler of the Year race despite the self-inflicted wound he suffered last week at the St. Lawrence River. Johnston has a limit this morning, which includes this 4 1/2-pound largemouth. He moved up from 35th place on Day 1 to 14th with a 20-pound, 3-ounce bag yesterday.

In the AOY standings based on the Day 2 results, Johnston is 6th, 44 points behind leader Scott Canterbury.

AOY watch

While most eyes are focused on who is in first place or inside the Championship Sunday cut, there are two other standings worth watching.

For all but the top 35 anglers, there are only four more potential regular season competition days remaining, and all of those will be next month at Fort Gibson Lake in Oklahoma. For many anglers the remaining goal is to get inside the Top 50 cut in order to fish at the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship, the season finale.

In 51st place in the Toyota Angler of the Year rankings is Yusuke Miyazaki with 450 points. Shane Lineberger is next with 444 points, and Bill Weidler is 53rd with 439 points. Others in the hunt are Koby Kreiger, Brad Whatley, Ed Loughran, Robbie Latuso and Randy Pierson with 429 points. The point separation grows from there. The bad news for them is none are fishing today.

As it usually does, some anglers will count on fate to make it into the 50th Baassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. The luck factor will come from the Bassmaster Opens and specifically from winners that did not compete in all of the required tournaments in a given division. So far the list has moved down two spots, after David Teigen and Michael Iaconelli won Opens but did not fish the other qualifying events. There are two more chances for the list to move down two more spaces with Opens coming up next mont on Oneida Lake in New York and Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees.

Right now, the projected Classic cutline is 42nd place. Clark Wendlandt holds down that spot. Kelley Jaye, Derek Hudnall, Jay Yelas, Todd Auten and Chad Morgenthaler are next. He is 47th place with 461 points. Bernie Schultz is 48th, Jake Whitaker is next and Tyler Rivet is 50th.

Zaldain and Card sharing water

After several stops on deep ledges, Chris Zaldain pulled up to a spot where Brandon Card was already working.

They are fishing shoulder to shoulder. Less than 5 yards separate their boats.

And they have each caught a keeper. Nothing huge, but both anglers have added to their overall weights.

Zaldain is now at 51-8, slipping into fourth on BASSTrakk. Card is showing a total of 43-15, sitting in 18th on Basstrakk.

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Mullins the loner

On Thursday and Friday, much of the field piled up in the same area of the upper lake. An exception was David Mullins, who is all alone in his area. What is more, Mullins admitted that he’s got half a dozen spots all to himself.

“It’s a one cast deal, just like back home,” he said. “It’s like pulling up on a small isolated rockpile and catching one and so on.”

On Thursday all his accountable weight of 22 pounds, 1 ounce, came by 8:30 a.m. It took an hour longer on Friday to catch the 23-13 that boosted Mullins' total to 45-14, and put him in third place.

He rotates through the areas, allowing each to recharge before returning, armed and ready with his crankbait. The good news is Mullins spent the last half of both days searching to expand his area.

“I’ve got two other areas that I haven’t hit and there is nobody else around those, either,” he said. “When I’d bring one up to the boat there would be others coming up with it.”

Mullins is fishing legit schools of fish—instead of targeting individual fish—and there is a reason why.

“There is not as much grass in the lake, so they are on those isolated grass areas due to the lack of overall grass in which to relate.”

The good fortune of being a loner comes with a price.

Mullins said he caught 40 northern pike and 10 weighable bass on Thursday, and about half that many on Friday.

“Where there are pike, there are bass, because there’s not much for them to get on.”

Depth is the key to his pattern, which is why he only replied “midrange” when asked about specific depths. What else is crucial is calm water and sunshine. He’s still waiting—and hoping—for both.

BASSTrakk indicating slow start

If you recall the past two days, a lot of anglers put together early limits and lived in for big fish. But it’s also worth noting that the bite picked up in the afternoon to be as productive, if not more so, than the mornings.

Seth Feider nailed a 6-pounder, as did Gussy, late in the day. Feider said his bite was better when the sun was out, which means we should expect an uptick in action very soon.

The morning clouds finally broke a couple of minutes ago, and the sun is warming things up.

Gustafson has two for 5 pounds, and I’d expect No. 3 to eat his presentation any minute. Feider too.

Zaldain on the move

Chris Zaldain caught one 3-pounder on his starting area, where he caught many of his big bass the past two days.

But he abandoned the deep ledge barely more than an hour after his first cast. Yesterday he was getting bites on every cast, even if he didn’t hook up, but something obviously has changed.

Zaldain made several stops on the ledge to graph, but never put his trolling motor down. He’s now within sight of the launch, several hundred yards from Day 2 leader Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson and David Mullins.

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Mueller sticking with his smallmouth plan

Four of the five bass in Paul Mueller's Day 1, 10th-place bag of 20-14 were smallmouths. Mueller thought he might have found a smallmouth pattern that would keep him near the top of the standings over four days at Cayuga Lake.

Yesterday, Mueller proved there are smallies big enough to win here. He weighed-in a 5-pound, 6-ounce smallmouth. But he was frustrated by both the lack of consistency in his pattern and how hard it is to land Cayuga's smallmouth bass once you get them hooked.

"I weighed a 5-6. If I could get five of the right bites, I could make the top 10 tomorrow," said Mueller, who had only 4 keepers and fell to 32nd place with 12-12. "I've got a lot of fish coming up and looking at my bait, then going back down. It's the most frustrating pattern. I almost wish I didn't have it."

Not only are these smallmouths hard to hook, that's only half the battle.

"These are the hardest-fighting smallmouth I've ever caught," said the Naugatuck, Conn., veteran smallmouth angler. "That 5-6 I had today, took me around the boat and around the boat and around the boat. I'm like, is this thing going to give up or what?"

Mueller won the battle with this 4 1/4-pound smallmouth at 7:55 this morning, and he's got two more in his livewell. Maybe this is the day the smallies turn on.

Canterbury vs. Blaylock

Scott Canterbury and Stetson Blaylock have a working agreement to share their area. Even so, it’s man against man, and Blaylock holds the edge right now according to BASSTrakk. It shows him in fourth with 6 pounds, 12 ounces, while Canterbury is sixth with 8-4.

“We leaned on them pretty hard yesterday,” admitted Canterbury. “Hopefully there will be a few there today.”

Collectively, Blaylock and Canterbury have weighed 86 pounds from the ares.

Did Canterbury lean on them too hard? Not really. He was done “catching” by 10 o’clock on Thursday and Friday. In fact, he camped out on the spot to preserve it, even taking a long lunch break on his front deck. He even said if he could, he’d weighed his catch then.

Canterbury yesterday went practice fishing to expand on his share of the water.

“This morning (Saturday) I pulled up on a magic spot and knew it would be a long day if they didn’t fire up then and there,” said Blaylock. “But all I need are three more good bites, so we are gong to stay here and grind it out.”

Gussy hopes to mix it up

Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson came into this tournament hoping to catch a quick limit of largemouth, before switching to better quality smallmouth later in the day. That game plan hasn’t panned out, but there is hope.

“I thought the bigger fish would be smallmouth, but they have been gone the last two days,” he said. “This afternoon (Friday) I did find a little pack of them that I’m going to try again on Saturday.”

Weight is weight, and Gussy led the tournament after yesterday with 49 pounds, 1 ounce, and BASSTrakk now shows him in second place. Fortunately for him, nobody else is just smashing them.

He said the bite has been good, but it’s also been a grind to get fish into his livewell.

“My fish are relating more to structure than bait, and I’m keying on little hard spots that are in specific, tight little places,” he added.

By default, he is focusing on deeper, offshore areas.

“I don’t have experience here so I went with what I know best how to do.”