Here at Coolray Park, where an Elite angler will be crowned Champion later today, there’s also a giant Cornhole tournament taking place. It is put on by an organization called Peachtree Cornhole. Let me tell you, these people are legit. Some of us B.A.S.S. folks think we are good at cornhole, but after watching these guys I’m now certain we are rank amateurs. These folks seem to drop the bean bags in the hole whenever they desire.
The Berkley/Abu Experience trailer is set up at Coolray Park, where the top 10 Elite anglers will weigh in today. On Sunday afternoon fishing fans arrived early to gain knowledge about how to catch more and bigger bass. Experts from Berkley and Abu Garcia taught seminars throughout the afternoon.
The Get Hooked on Fishing pond is set up here at Coolray Park in Buford, Ga., where the Championship weigh-in will take place at 4 p.m. ET. This young man proudly displays the catfish he caught. The weather is a little chilly, but come on down! This is a great opportunity to get your youngster excited about fishing.
Todd Auten hasn't fished the Elite Series lately. His last apperances were in 2008 and 2009. But he's a B.A.S.S. vereran. The 52-year-old Lake Wylie, S.C., resident, has been fishing the FLW tour for the past several years, but this is marks his 140th B.A.S.S. event. His career includes three Bassmaster Classic appearances, including a 13th-place finish in 2003 at the Louisiana Delta.
Auten has relied on a crankbait all week on Lake Lanier. At 12:30 today, his 14-pound, 15-ounce limit topped the field and moved him into fourth place after starting the day in seventh place.
Interestingly, Auten's B.A.S.S. career includes four second-place finishes, two of which came on noted spotted bass fisheries - Alabama's Smith Lake and South Carolina's Lake Murray.
While Bill Lowen didn't make today's Top 10 final, his tournament bears recounting if for nothing else than the way largemouth bass came into play for him on Lake Lanier's noted spotted bass fishery. Entering the today, Lowen still holds the lead for big bass of the tournament, by a wide margin, thanks to his 6-pound, 14-ounce largemouth caught on Day 1.
That fish and that day, when he weighed all largemouth bass caught from areas where he'd hooked spotted bass in practice, provided the first surprising clue that largemouth bass would be a factor for him. However, Lowen's five bass limit was all spotted bass on Day 2, when his 11-10 bag followed Day 1's 15-15 dropped him from 12th to 31st in the standings.
"Every day has been different," Lowen said Saturday. "That's just the way this lake is. You've got to change. I'd been catching them cranking a little flat-sided balsa bait on channel swings in about four feet of water.
"I'd been looking at these laydowns thinking the largemouth have got to show up on them. (Saturday) I tied on a big spinnerbait, and the first laydown I came to I slow-rolled it down just out of sight and one of my better largemouth ate it. I kept that spinnerbait in my hand as I went down through there and caught 20 or 25. It was one of the best spinnerbait bites I've been on in a long time."
Lowen weighed-in four largemouth bass and one spot totaling 14-8 on Day 3 and finished in 23rd place.
Keith Combs had some big days in practice earlier this week when the cloud ceiling was low and dark. Even though he hasn't gotten much of that in the previous three days of this tournament, those conditions haven't left his mind.
After dropping from third place to fourth at Saturday's weigh-in, Combs made a request, saying, "It takes dark skies. If we have dark skies, I should catch a big bag. Give me some dark skies."
It appears to be a case of ask and you shall receive. The skies are dark now and forecast to stay that way all day. So far, Combs hasn't taken advantage - with two bass weighing a total of 4-9. But don't count him out.
Chris Zaldain is faced with an east wind that is causing him to adjust his strategy. Previously, wind wasn’t a factor because conditions were relatively calm compared to the conditions in play on Championship Sunday.
“I am going to target windblown points with tight contours on the bottom,” he said. “I’ll use a swimbait to search for bass in brushpiles.”
Zaldain is honing in on long, sloping points where the spotted bass set up on the tips of the structure.
“Spots like to hunt on the tips of the points,” he explained.
Zaldain has locked into the 45 foot depth zone and in fact, highlighted thet range on his depthfinder.
His primary lure is a 3-inch Megabass Spark Shad on a 3/8-ounce jighead.
During the first hour or two of fishing on Day 4 David Mullins has not had a bite on the Rapala DT6 that has caught fish for him all week. He pulled up to our boat and said, “It’s timing for me to go jerking.” .And with that, Mullins headed south toward the dam.
Here on Lake Lanier it is dark, 45 degrees, sprinkling rain, with a breeze that cuts through several layers of clothing.
Mullins finished Day 3 in second place with 51-4. After catching 17-12 and 19-6 the first two days, he slipped a bit Saturday. But even as his game plan cooled, he still managed to catch 14-2.
“I actually caught as many Sat. as I did Fri.,” Mulllins said. “But every fish I ‘laid back on’ was a lot smaller.”
Like many other anglers in the field, Mullins admitted the Lake Lanier bass are nearly impossible to predict from one day to the next.
He told Bryan Brasher on Saturday, “It’s one of those things where you wonder, ‘Is it a cloud deal? Is it a rain deal?’ If that’s case, tomorrow I’m going to bust them. If it’s because the fish are moving out and going somewhere else, then we’re going to have to relocate them somewhere.”
This morning Mullins is indeed working to relocation the nomadic spotted bass of Lake Lanier.
Paul Mueller is a lure tinkerer and his bait choices prove the point. He favors hand-poured jig heads made from molds sold by Do-it, the longtime DIY company with 55 years in the business. Here’s the lineup.
His primary lure is a 1/2-ounce Do-It Molds Herring Head with a 3/0 Gamakatsu 111 Jig Hook in size 3/0. Mueller removes the blade from the underspin-style jig to impart just the right action for the fish he targets on the bottom. To that he added a 3.25 Reins Fat Rockvibe Shad.
Mueller is also using a 3/8-ounce Do It Molds Freestyle Jig Head with a No. 1 Mustad Hook. He adds a 3-inch Reins Bubbling Shaker to complete the rig.
Lake Lanier is capable of producing big bags of largemouth and spotted bass. Here are the best limits of the week from Lanier over the first three days of action. Someone will jump onto this list and that angler may be the one who will win this event.
Graphic by Kristen Sleboda