That face says it all

Anglers have talked this week about weeding through throwbacks to catch keepers, but Jason Williamson is showing just how many small bass are swimming in Lake Tenkiller.

He’s been picking apart a dock-lined bank since at least noon, and he has caught numbers of bass one would think a lure would scare. They are literally potato chip-sized fish.

Williamson usually is fairly reserved, but he finally showed his frustration with a quick toss of a hand - and a facial expression that says it all.

Bass, anglers pulling out

So much for the whatever chance of rain the forecast gurus called for on Friday. Will the clearer skies mean another change in the fishing strategies? Probably.

What is a given though is the falling water. It keeps going down, oddly just one foot above summer pool. As the lake’s signature buck bush disappears from the shorelines, so are the anglers. Nearer the shore, the fish have pulled out to the next available cover. A more productive bite is evolving offshore, or at least in deeper water, where soft plastic finesse baits are in play.

The dynamics of that bite are more reliable, as those anglers can more efficiently track the movements of the fish. They are more stationary, as opposed to the gradual movement of the shoreline fish further out.

Feider staying in the mix

It doesn't take much to stay in the mix at Tenkiller this week. Seth Feider finished Day 1 in a three-way tie for 25th place after catching a limit weighing 9-11. At noon it was 71 degrees, cloudy, with occasional showers, totally different conditions from the 90 degrees and bright sun yesterday. Feider is hanging in there today with three keepers totaling 4 1/2 pounds.

The Minnesota pro has had a sensational season. He has missed only one Day 2 top 35 cut, when he placed 38th at Winyah Bay. Plus Feider is coming off his best finish of the year, 5th place at Cayuga Lake.

Timing is everything

I followed Caleb Sumrall all morning long, and photographed him catching numbers of bass. But only one small keeper. Finally making the decision to pull off and work up the photo gallery (which will be live soon), I had a feeling I would miss something.

And I did. Five minutes after leaving him, Sumrall boated a 3-pounder.

It was a key bite in a tournament that is really testing the top anglers in the world. That 3-pounder moved him into third place on BASSTrakk with a two-day total of 18-5. His daily weight is 3-12, and to show how important every ounce is this week, if he hadn’t caught that squeaker early, he would be in fifth.

Currently, Kyle Monti is in possession of the lead with 22-15, and Carl Jocumsen is in second with 18-7.

Blaylock with three

Stetson Blaylock has three bass in his livewell now, and all are pretty small. But every ounce is critical during a tough tournament, especially with the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title up for grabs.

He knows what’s on the line, and only surviving the final regular-season event won’t be enough.

He needs to win it.

With Canterbury having a difficult tournament, the door may be wide open for Blaylock to swoop in and win it. It’s a very tight race.

If I were better at math, I’d crunch some numbers to find out exactly what needs to happen for any of the top four or five in AOY standings to win. But since I’m a writer and not a math guy, I’ll save myself the embarrassment.

Just know we’re in for an exciting few days of fishing.

Weird weather

Everyone wanted cloudy skies. Some wind. Rain. Two out of three’s not bad. But where’s the rain? It’s to the east of Tenkiller. Yesterday, forecasters called for anywhere from a 50 to 80 percent chance for Friday. The National Weather Service still says 80 percent. And it’ll come but not likely until weigh-in time or later on tonight.

Meanwhile, the Saturday and Sunday outlook was for the rain chances to diminish as the revenants of Imelda pushed north. Now, it’s slowed down and the rain chances up. That includes an 80 percent chance with a breezy south wind around 10 mph. Championship Sunday is looking to be a rainy day.

What does all that mean for the fishing? Like the weather forecast, we can’t count on knowing until weigh-in time. But the weather might not really matter at all, according to the current BASSTrakk scoreboard. Everyone is struggling. It’s a grind. And the only change we do know that is coming is that everyone will be wearing a rainout later on today.

Perspective on Tenkiller's falling water

On one hand, it might not sound like much, Lake Tenkiller's falling water level of half-a-foot per day. But the consistency of that puts into perspective what the Elite Series anglers are dealing with this week: The lake level has dropped 10 feet in 22 days.

On August 29, the lake level was 642.36 feet above sea level. Today at 7 a.m. it was 632.93. To be precise, that's a drop of 9.43 feet. It's getting close, but it's still not down to the conservation pool level of 632.00. It's unusual for a lake in this part of the U.S. to still be releasing flood pool water in September, after the dog days of August. But that's the way it is on Sept. 20, 2019, at Lake Tenkiller.

Sumrall in a run-and-gun pattern

Bassmaster Elite Series sophomore Caleb Sumrall hasn’t had a problem catching bass. He’s had a problem catching the right bass.

He’s in a run-and-gun pattern, covering lots of water and hopping from spot to spot on the upper end of Lake Tenkiller.

He’s caught about 10 bass, most of which he didn’t even measure before releasing. And he’s had a couple of 15-inch bass that have broken his heart.

The only bass riding in his live well is a 12-ouncer he would love to trade in.

Cherry catching big numbers, 1 keeper

Hank Cherry trolled by the "media headquarters" of at 9:30, close enough for a brief conversation. After landing and releasing yet another short bass, Cherry said, "I must have caught 80 this morning. Everything is 14 to 15 1/2 inches. And it doesn't seem to matter what I throw."

Cherry listed a wide variety of baits he's caught fish on today - from topwater to shallow-running to deep - all of which have produced fish - mostly short. He said he's got one small keeper. The 16-inch minimum length limit on largemouth and smallmouth bass for this tournament makes for lots of short fish.

Cherry has none of the extra incentive that many have in this event, like the AOY Championship, or AOY top 50 or Bassmaster Classic qualification. He's clinched a Classic spot, ranking 20th in AOY points prior to this tournament. He wouldn't mind taking a paycheck home from Tenkiller, but he's got work to do. Cherry was 55th on Day 1 with 3 bass weighing 5-0.

Blaylock on the move

After giving his first spot plenty of time, Stetson Blaylock moved to a long point with big rocks on it. He hooked up twice in four casts but didn’t land either fish—most likely smallmouth.

Still no keepers yet.

We plan on sticking with Blaylock for the morning at least.

(Editor note) Word from Bassmaster TV headquarters out of Little Rock, Ark., is due to a widespread power outage, the Bassmaster LIVE feed is currently down.

We’ll do our best to keep the blog updated in its stead.