Auten's one-two punch

BASSTrakk shows Todd Auten in the early lead on this rainy, chilly Championship Sunday.

Yesterday he told me that he’ll make a modification to the Livetarget Yearling Baitball Jerkbait. Color choice is Blue Chartreuse Shad.

“I’m going to take a red marker and color it because the water is becoming more dingy in my area.”

Auten is also using a 3/8-ounce Zorro Baits Booza Bug with a 4-inch Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Craw.

All 10 have a chance to win

It was just a week ago today when Rick Clunn began Day 4 on Florida's St. Johns River in 8th place - 11 pounds, 13 ounces behind leader Chris Johnston. Clunn, of course, finished in first place last Sunday.

With that in mind, even 10th place looks within the realm of a winning formula today. Clent Davis of Montevallo, Ala., is only 6 pounds out of the lead in the 10th spot.

It takes a couple of big bass to make such a jump on the final day. Clunn had two 9-pounders in his Day 4 bag of 34-14 last Sunday. A 5-pounds-plus spotted bass at Lake Lanier would be the equivalent of a 9-pounds-plus largemouth at the St. Johns River. In the previous three days here, big bass honors have gone to Bill Lowen, with 6-14 largemouth on Day 1, Stetson Blaylock, with a 5-6 spotted bass on Day 2, and Brandon Card, with a 5-5 spotted bass on Day 3.

Day 3 topped previous two

It didn't produce the heaviest bag or the biggest bass of the tournament, but for overall consistency, Day 3 topped the previous two on Lake Lanier.

Only two of the 35 semifinalists failed to catch a 5-bass limit. And the average weight of the bass brought to the scales was up to 2.85 pounds, after averages of 2.74 on Day 1 and 2.67 on Day 2.

Were those better overall totals due to the weather? Or were they the result of the pros getting a bit more dialed-in? That answer will become clearer at today's weigh-in.

A 20-lb. bag today, finally?

There’s been nothing “off” about the bass fishing during the Toyota Bassmaster Elite at Lake Lanier. It just hasn’t been quite as “on” as it was for some of today’s Top 10 finalists as it was in practice. Both Chris Zaldain and Keith Combs have talked about the monster practice days earlier this week, when each could have bagged a best-five bass topping 20 pounds.

Today’s weather forecast, which includes both rain and wind, may come closer to replicating the practice conditions that produced those big days. While 20 pounds isn’t some magic number that will assure victory today, it does serve as a goal that no angler has achieved this week. David Mullins came close with 19-6 on Day 2 and took the lead that day. Separation from the field is the name of the game, particularly among the top four anglers, who are less than two pounds apart after three days.

Here’s a day-by-day look at how the top four pros got to this point:

Angler             Day 1               Day 2               Day 3               Total

Chris Zaldain              16-15 (4th)      16-6 (3rd)        18-4 (1st)        51-9

David Mullins              17-12 (2nd)     19-6 (1st)        14-2 (2nd)       51-4

Paul Mueller               16-11 (7th)      18-4 (2nd)       15-9 (3rd)        50-8

Keith Combs                16-6 (10th)      16-15 (3rd)      16-5 (4th)        49-10

90 events for a Million

Keith Combs qualified for the Bassmaster Elite Series by way of the 2010 Basspro.com Opens. After a great career on the FLW Tour, Combs started his Elite Series journey in 2011. In just 90 events with Bassmaster he eclipsed the Million dollar mark. In that span of time he has seven Geico Bassmaster Classic appearances, two Elite Series wins, 40 Top 20’s, 24 Top 10’s and has only finished outside the Top 10 in points once.

With a third place finish at Lake Lanier he became a Bassmaster Millionaire and joined that group of anglers. At 43 years old, Combs is in the thick of his peak competitive window. In a sport where you can compete in your 70’s, Keith Combs is a name we will talk about for a long time. Under hobbies on his Bassmaster bio, Combs simply stated “I love fishing, it’s all I do.”

Congrats on the achievement in a short time-span.

Card’s big spot

While most of the rest of the field is fishing deep structure with finesse baits, Brandon Card is burning the bank with a small Yo-Zuri crankbait.

When we pulled up to him for a second visit today he told us about a 5 1/2-pound spotted bass that he caught a little earlier. He is excited about having that big fish in his livewell.

He said the fish was barely hooked when he brought it in. “I was screaming and begging for it not to get off,” he said. Fortunately, it did not.

He caught a 2 1/2 pounder a few minutes after the big one, but nothing since then.

“The wind has picked up, and they should be biting better right now,” he said.

Card’s lure is picking up grass every other cast. “This grass is driving me crazy,” Card said.

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