Mind games

Yesterday at weigh-in the feedback was unanimous about what to expect from these nomadic spotted bass for the remainder of the tournament.

Change is inevitable and nothing will stay the same. Locking in a pattern is risky at best. The wise man thinks like Paul Mueller, who told me this while sacking his catch.

“You have to keep an open mind, because it changes every day.”

Yesterday was a case in point.

“I had a game plan and it didn’t work, so I went back to what worked in practice and it started working,” he explained.

To me that’s where experience and forward thinking will be so valuable today. Knowing when it’s time to make a move—instead of spinning out and staying put—will separate the movers from the losers.

For Mueller it was a key lure adjustment. And also relying more on his electronic eyes to study the behavior of the spotted bass.

“The Garmin Panoptics technology was the key today, because I can see how the fish react to the bait, or not,” he said.

Mueller said the presence of spotted bass on a spot isn’t a done deal.

“They don’t always bite and that’s when I leave, man it’s hard to do that but it’s a waste of time if they don’t react to the lure.”

“You’ve got to keep rotating through areas because these spotted bass are on the move, and you must move with them,” added Chris Zaldain. “It’s a timing deal, too. You’ve got to be set up on the right place, at the right time, when they feed on those blueback herring.”

Let the mind games begin. This will be fun to watch as the day goes on and see how the anglers adapt to the changing conditions, moving baitfish and the bass.

Mullins on the board

It didn’t take long for Mullins to start his day. After about 5 minutes of casting, he’s caught his first keeper.

The fish came aboard and appears to be in that 2 1/2 to 3 pound range. It’s a good start. But more than that it gives an indication that his pattern may still be working.

That’s important, considering Jeff Gustafson started this derby in the league and he’s now headed home. There were a lot of zero to hero, hero to zero scenarios yesterday. Mullins’ fish came off the same area he caught his better fish yesterday.

So maybe things are on track.

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Combs' early bite

Keith Combs

Yesterday Keith Combs said he is already dialed into a productive morning bite, the likes of which the was catching 20 pounds or so during practice. It's too early to know if today bodes well for that pattern bur he exuded with great confidence what he expects from the pattern. 

“This morning (yesterday) I picked up four pretty quick and the cloud cover was key,” he said. “It’x a good pattern that will only get better."

Combs gets his wish again today with the clouds expected to hang around all morning before the sun breaks this afternoon. 

“I also picked up on a finesse pattern that I can switch to later in the day,” he added.

That pattern comes with a hitch. Finesse fish on a shaky head must be played out before landing. Twice Combs found that out the hard way, once on Thursday and again yesterday afternoon in the final minutes. 

“I lost a giant, had her played out and the nearer the surface she came the bigger she got.” 

Combs guesses the fish that simply spit out the bait weighed in the neighborhood of 6 pounds.

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Mullins is "One-Rod Todd"

David Mullins has defied the changing nature of Lake Lanier's spotted bass by riding one rod and one lure to the top of the Day 2 leaderboard.

"We'll ride it all the way off, whether it's a cliff or up the mountain," said Mullins, after sacking 19 pounds, 6 ounces, yesterday and taking a 3-pound, 2-ounce lead over second-place Paul Mueller.

The lure Mullins has leaned on is a Rapala DT6 crankbait. He put on a show with it yesterday morning, catching multiple keepers on consecutive casts. As an indication of how hit-and-miss the fishing can be here, Mullins almost didn't make a cast in the pocket off the main lake, even though he liked the looks of the bank.

"There was a kick-out there," said the Mt. Carmel, Tenn., pro. "If you looked at that bank, that was the only thing that would stick out, that they would stay on. I almost turned around, it was so far back there. I almost turned around and went across."

Mullins said he has some other places down the lake where he thinks he can catch some bass, especially if the wind blows, which it hasn't the first two days. But he's going to stick with what's got him a total of 37-7 over two days, until it plays out.

"I think I've got a clue of what's going on, a little better than what I did (Thursday)," he said. "I caught a 4-pounder at 2 o'clock off the same place I caught a 4-pounder about 2 o'clock yesterday."

Lanier's spots change

A leopard can't change its spots, as the expression goes. But Lake Lanier's spots do - daily, it seems. The nomadic nature of the blueback herring-chasing spotted bass was clearly evident in the shifting nature of the leaderboard from Day 1 to Day 2 in the Toyota Bassmaster Elite at Lake Lanier.

The prime example was Jeff Gustafson of Keewatin, Ontario, who was leading on Thursday with 19 pounds, 2 ounces, and missed the top 35 cut on Friday after falling to 48th place with 5-0.

On the positive side, Stetson Blaylock of Benton, Ark., jumped from 35th place (13-12) to 5th with 16-6 and a two-day total of 32-7.

Interestingly, the overall totals for the 75-man field didn't change much. Day 2 was slightly stingier, as 335 bass were weighed-in compared to 361 on Day 1. It was who caught them that changed.

"These fish move. You've just got to keep an open mind," said Paul Mueller of Naugatuck, Conn., who moved from 7th to 2nd on Day 2 with the second-biggest bag of the day - 18-4.

Mueller started the day working the same pattern that produced a limit weighing 16-11 on Day 1.

"That didn't work out," he said. "These fish move around. You can't be comfortable fishing here. You've got to grind. It's going to be one of those deals where you might have to scrap stuff and go fish fresh."

Lake Lanier forecast update

A cold front will be passing over the Lake Lanier/Gainesville area at just before or right at the morning take-off, meaning that showers will be likely to start the day but those shower chances will be diminishing through the morning. All rain should be gone prior to noon and skies will become partly to mostly cloudy. Temperatures at take-off will be in the lower 50s and will climb into the mid-60s by the afternoon hours. Winds will be out of the west at 5-10 MPH all day long. Dewpoints will be in the lower 50s and dropping to the upper 40s by the end of the day. Rainfall amounts will be very light, less than 0.10 inches from launch to 10:00 am ET. Rain chances will start off around 50% and will drop to less than 10% after the noon hour.

Unfortunately, another round of showers with some embedded heavier rainfall will be possible throughout the entire day on Sunday, but the good news is that lightning is not expected at this time. While it may not rain all day long, rain will be likely at any time during the day, especially after the later morning through the end of the fishing day. Rain chances will start off around 40% at take-off and climbing up to around 80% by the noon hour. Rainfall amounts will be around 0.25-0.50 inches during the fishing day. Highs will top out in the lower 50s after starting off in the mid-40s at take-off. Winds will be out of the east at 5-10 MPH. Dewpoints will start off in the lower 40s and rising into the mid-40s by the afternoon.

Johnston culling

We got to watch Chris Johnston cull a few minutes ago. He's in fourth with 30-11. I watched him on the St. Johns last week, when he finished second to Rick Clunn. The cull bumped him to 15-11 for the day.

As he fished an offshore hump, his brother, Cory, run by. The Canadian brothers are ones to watch in the new Elite Series.

Nearby, we watched Lee Livesay of Texas cull a fish. He has about 12 today to go with his 13-13 from yesterday. That should be enough to earn another day on the water tomorrow.

Jocumsen with a giant - finally

Australian Carl Jocumsen was as disappointed as any angler who crossed the weigh-in stage on Day 1. After having a spectacular practice, when he caught two spotted bass in the 6-pound range, Jocumsen struggled to catch a limit weighing 13-0, which left him in 42nd place.

But Jocumsen may be back on the "giants" today. He landed a 4 1/2-pounder at 11:35. It gives him four bass weighing 10-8 this morning and moves him into contention to make the top 35 cut.

Mueller with a bag of 3s

Paul Mueller took the unofficial lead at 11:15 when he put his fifth 3-pounder of the day in his livewell. He's got five bass that weigh between 3 1/4 and 3 3/4 pounds for a total of 17-8 on the day and 34-3 for the tournament.

Mueller was in a three-way tie for 7th place after Day 1 with 16-11. And he was proud of it.

"I caught bigger fish in practice, and a lot of areas they just left today," he said. "It's tough. But I found new water. You've just got to stick with it and make adjustments. It's one of those deals where you might have to scrap stuff and go fish fresh.

"These fish move around. You just have to keep an open mind. That's the name of the game - open mind. You can't be comfortable here. You've got to grind. If I didn't do that, I wouldn't have found what I found at the end of the day."

Mueller said between practice and Day 1, he'd caught fish at depths ranging from 7 feet to 45 feet.

Needles in a haystack

Sorry for the long silence. Finding anglers who are leading this event is worse than looking for needles in a haystack because the needles keep moving.

We are using the BASSTrakk map, which is supposed to show the anglers’ locations. However, the anglers tend to move before the map can update.

We pinpointed Seth Feider, who was in the top five at the time, and about the time we located the shoreline he had been fishing, he was long gone.

Same for Paul Mueller, the current Leader. It seems that the leaders all gravitated to the lower end of the lake.

We are watching Keith Combs, who is in fifth place with 10 fish and 28 pounds. In 4 1/2 hours on the water, we have not seen a single fish catch. He’s guys are catching fish, but not while we are looking.

Each of the anglers we have been following, including Combs, stops on a spot and fishes for a few minutes and quickly moves if nothing bites in that timeframe. This is stop and go fishing.