Monti on a roll

Kyle Monti has added his second keeper of the day and the tit for tat game he had Chris Zaldain have started is now in the other court. 

Monti’s fish appeared to be a spotted bass. It was not big in stature but more than enough to retake the lead. He now has two fish for almost 4-pounds.

Monti with keeper no. 1

Kyle Monti has his first keeper of the day. It was not a giant. But it’s a solid start. 

That fish looked to be in the 2-pound range, which will be more than enough to put Monti back in the unofficial lead.  

The fishing has obviously been slow. He’s stuck off the bank fishing off shore, while many of his competitors today are sticking closer to the bank. 

Zaldain strikes

Chris Zaldain headed up the lake to fish for largemouths early, and that decision has already paid off in a big way. 
He missed a bite on a swimbait, switched to a small jig and on the first cast hooked up with what turned out to be a 3-pounder. 
That’s huge in a tough tournament like this. It jumped Zaldain into the early lead with a total of 40 pounds, 1 ounce, according to Basstrakk. 
Of course, that’s just 6 ounces ahead of Day 3 leader Kyle Monti. 
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Jocumsen's plan

Of the Top-10 boats today, only one went down the lake — the rest headed up. Carl Jocumsen is starting Championship Sunday in third place with a three-day total of 35 pounds, 3 ounces.

He told me early that he was planning to bounce around a lot today, spending 20 to 30 minutes per spot before moving on.

“The key is to keep your bait in front of as many fish as possible, and with as spread out as they are, moving a lot should be the ticket,” he said. “I’m going to need 15 to 16 pounds today to have a shot. On this lake at this time of year, a 4-pound deficit is a big gap to close.”

His first spot this morning is at the tip of a long underwater point, and he’s fishing slow and thoroughly looking for his first bite.

Conditions today are manageable, but could become challenging for offshore spots as the day goes on. Winds out of the south at 10 to 15 mph, maybe more, will make the vertical game in rough waters difficult.

Rain and storms are likely this afternoon, especially near evening, so they may dodge a weather bullet today if the weather holds off. 

More to come.

Keeping an open mind

There has been a different leader each day in the Cherokee Casino Tahlequah Bassmaster Elite at Lake Tenkiller. It was Stetson Blaylock on Day 1, Chris Zaldain on Day 2 and it’s Kyle Monti after three days.

This would be an incredible catalyst in the career of the 27-year-old Okeechobee, Fla., angler if he wins this tournament. He came into this event ranked 68th of the 75 Elite Series anglers in Toyota Angler of the Year points. This will be the last day of his 2019 Elite Series season no matter what happens today. At Saturday’s weigh-in, Monti noted that he’s continuing to pick up subtle clues about how to catch bass on his main offshore area, and he’s not closing his mind to other options.

“I went to a bank where I had caught a couple on topwater during practice, tied on a crankbait for the first time this week and caught my biggest one of the day — close to four pounds,” he said. “That’s how this lake is fishing right now. If you’re fishing the bank, it’s hit or miss and I don’t want to miss. So, I’m going to grind on that deep hole as long as I can and if I get five bites, I think I can win.”

“I think what’s there is there, and I don’t think there are more fish coming because I think that’s a summertime spot. I have to keep an open mind to the shallow bite because it could stabilize. That could go off, and I need to be able to go do that if I have to.”

Since midnight Friday, water releases from Tenkiller Dam have slowed to a trickle. A lake that dropped almost 10 feet in the 22 days prior to this tournament, suddenly has a stable water level. It was 632.58 feet above sea level at midnight Friday; it was 632.61 at 6 a.m. today.

That last part of the previous quote from Monti bear repeating: “I have to keep an open mind to the shallow bite because it could stabilize. That could go off, and I need to be able to go do that if I have to.”

From Tenn. to Okla.

Earlier this week B.A.S.S Conservation Director enlightened me about the smallmouth fishery on Tenkiller. Gene told me that native smallmouth never took hold in Tenkiller, or similar lakes that are conducive for smallmouth. 

That changed in 1981 when an Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation hatchery truck made a trip[ to Tennessee, and specifically my home lake. That is J. Percy Priest Lake, located in my hometown of Nashville. Through an agreement with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the smallmouth from Percy Priest were collected, transported back to Oklahoma and released into Tenkiller as brood stock. It is amazing to me that those fish seeded a lake that is now the best smallmouth lake in Oklahoma (next to Lake Texoma).  

“The lake smallmouth were much easier to adapt than if we’d transplanted stream-based smallmouth from our lakes in the Ozark foothills,” he explained. 

This morning I relayed that story to tournament leader Chris Zaldain, who had this to say in reply. 

“I wondered about that because these smallmouth are shaped and colored more like fish that are outside of this area. In fact, without knowing this, these smallmouth reminded me of what we caught at Fort Loudon Lake at the Classic.” 

I can personally attest that he is correct. In fact, my personal best smallmouth weighing 6 pounds came near the boat ramp where the Oklahoma truck was staged on Percy Priest. Small world. And you never know. But this is one of the wonders of nature and great fisheries management. 

(Sidebar: I caught that trophy smallie at night on a shallow, submerged road bed, on a Zorro short-armed spinnerbait with Uncle Josth 101 pork frog trailer.)

Auten continues his rapid rise

Todd Auten's best finish in his last four Elite Series tournaments has been 52nd place. That offset a solid start to his season. But Auten is in the process of rescuing that. After finishing Day 1 in 51st place with 6-1, he jumped to 16th yesterday with a limit weighing 13-10. And, according to BASSTrakk, Auten is having the best day of anyone of the 35 anglers left in this competition with a 14-pound, 8-ounce limit, which has him in fifth place.

This rally has done wonders for the 53-year-old Lake Wylie, S.C. angler's postseason prospects. He was 45th in AOY points entering this tournament. He will probably move inside the 42nd-place Bassmaster Classic qualification mark after this

Intense day on Lake Tenkiller

We got to cover Todd Auten for a few minutes. He’s had a good day. Feels good about his chances tomorrow. 

He’s spending the rest of his day practicing. During his practice stroll through a creek, we passed Drew Cook. 

Cook took the lead in the AOY yesterday. BassTrakk shows him with one dink and we assumed that was a mistake. Cook, though, verified that info. 

He indeed just has one keeper at the moment. 

With his lack of keepers and Scott Canterbury clawing for ounces.  The AOY race appears to be getting crazier by the day. 

Add all that to Chris Zaldain having another great day. And the fireworks around that title will be a lot of fun to watch. 

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Our timing is off

They say timing is everything in bass fishing. It’s that way covering this crazy sport too.

We set on Kyle Monti earlier. Watched him finish his limit. Build a good stringer.

Then we decided to run in and get a gallery ready of part of his day. Soon as we drop it off to James Overstreet, I look down and Monti has caught a 3-6. Missing fish like that happens. So we shrug it off.

Then we decide to go spend some time on Todd Auten. Before we get there, Auten lands a 3-8.

To say our timing is off is an understatement.

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Loughran on the hunt

Bassmaster Elite pro Ed Loughran has a limit for about 9 pounds. But he doesn’t feel secure yet.

He’s hoping to trade out at least one of the two squeaker spotted bass in his livewell for a largemouth.

“I’m looking for one more over,” Loughran said. “If I catch one more, I think I’ll be OK. If I don’t, I won’t.

“I could go catch all the spots I want, but that’s not going to help me.”

BASSTrakk currently has Loughran in 12th place, just more than 1 pound out of the Top 10 cut.

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