Huff with four

We just slipped up on Mike Huff who is the unofficial leader this morning.

He has four fish in the well for 8 pounds and change. Those include a smallmouth, two largemouth and one spotted bass.

While we’ve been on him, less than 10 minutes he’s caught two short fish.

He says he’s getting a keeper bite about every 45 minutes. With plenty of time left he should be able to add to his weight, possibly cull.

Feider catches a "big one"

By the looks of this photo, Seth Feider caught a good-size bass at 10 o'clock. Feider obviously knows a bit about the magic of fish photography. However, he made one telling mistake - allowing the knuckles of his outstretched hand to show. Big knuckles means small fish. According to BASSTrakk, this was a 1-pounder, giving Feider two bass weighing a total of 2-8, which has him in 26th place unofficially.

Feider is mostly fishing for the fun of it this week. He began the tournament in 8th place in the AOY standings. He's 37 points behind leader Scott Canterbury.

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The Imelda factor

A sleeper storyline of this tournament—beyond the tough fishing—are the remnants of Tropical Depression Imelda. Southeast Texas is getting pummeled by torrential rains as the system moves slowly to the north. And the Friday forecast for Tahlequah, Okla., calls for a 70 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. The temperature will drop nearly 20 degrees to a daytime high of 79. And the wind will blow out of the southeast up to 10 mph.

Rain and cooler temperatures. There hasn’t been much of either around these parts all summer. What will that mean for the fishing on Friday? Without a doubt, it will mean a complete about-face over what’s happening now. So far, the anglers have stayed on the banks, choosing to fish topwaters around the semi-submerged buck brush to bring suspicious bass out of hiding. As the sun came up over the horizon that focus shifted to any shady spots used by the bass as ambush points and overall cover.

Without sun or the urge to hold tight to the cover, it’s a pretty good guess that we’ll see a completely different tournament on Friday, thanks to Imelda.

Junking it up

This morning when I taped BASSCam videos one thing really stood out. That was piles of rods on the front decks of the boats.

Patrick Walters had 20 rods—10 on each side of the deck—rigged and ready for action.

“For this tournament, you can never have enough rods,” he said. “It’s kind of like women’s shoes.”

Walters said he plans to catch fish shallow, deep and in between.

“The fish are feeding on small baitfish, the water is falling, and it’s really hot for September,” added Brandon Cobb. “You’ve got to move with the fish every day because the falling water is preventing them from moving up on the bank.”

As he said that I counted about 18 rods on the front deck.

“Yeah, I’m going junk fishing until I can eliminate some of these rigs.”

And yeah, with 7 pounds leading this derby at 9 a.m., it stands to reason why throwing everything you’ve got at them explains why this will be a junk fishing event. Until of course, tomorrow comes when the weather turns cloudy and rainy.

Weidler with a 3-pound smallmouth

Bill Weidler is one of the guys fishing for his 2019 Elite Series life. The Helena, Ala., angler is just outside the top 50 who will advance to next week's Toyota Angler of the Year Championship at Lake St. Clair. He entered this tournament in 53rd place in AOY points, 16 points behind 50th-place Tyler Rivet.

So, yes, Weidler was a happy fisherman when he caught this 3-pound smallmouth at 8:06 this morning.

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Palmer with a good start

Oklahoma native Luke Palmer caught a pretty good fish early in the day. From our vantage point, it looked like it could weigh close to 4 pounds—the kind of fish that will go a long way at this event.

Palmer started his day inside a creek and sorted through numerous small fish before the big one ate. He said that it was critical to capitalize on early morning bites here as the larger fish seem to be more accessible.

With the size restrictions on largemouth and smallmouth—fish below 16 inches must be immediately released—the anglers able to find quality bites early on will have a leg up on those who don’t.

That is the biggest challenge for the field this week, letting solid fish go that are inside the slot.

But for now, Palmer has a good start.

Lack of wind heating up the day

There’s likely a lot of schooling activity today, especially with the lack of wind. All over the bay we are in we see the tell-tale splashes of little fish getting eaten by bigger fish.

It keeps your head on a swivel. Every once in awhile we hear a sustained set of splashes. But it’s not gangbusters yet.

Both David Fritts and Harvey Horne are sticking to the bottom dragging or pulling their respective baits. But we all know if a big school comes up and starts really slashing everything in the boat will be cast in a frenzied fashion.

It’s fun to watch. Wish it would happen. The lack of wind is heating up the day. And anything to get things moving would be a relief.

Baitfish out, bass go in

Harvey Horne lives about two hours away from Tenkiller, and he comes here frequently when time allows at what is considered the top smallmouth fishery in Oklahoma. It’s not that right now, but just about any other time it is.

“The largemouth have been back in the creeks all summer, whereas the smallmouth are coming into the creeks,” he said to me yesterday. They are dong that as the water falls, drawing baitfish out of the vanishing shoreline cover and making them prone to being found by the bass.

Horne went on to explain the smallmouth will remain shallow through fall and then move back out. What has everything off is high water throughout the most of the year.

“They aren’t really able to be doing what they should this time of year,” he said.

He continued, “The largemouth are in a transition from the high water to normal pool. They are moving out of the buck brush and when they do that, they will suspend like they are doing now.”

Ideally, what Horne said breaks the fishing drought is when the water falls low enough for the buck brush to be on dry land.

“When that happens, it brings the baitfish out off the banks and into the creeks,” he said. “That’s when the bass move in.”

Fritts catching in the distance

Harvey Horne has yet to catch another since his first. But David Fritts, who is about 300 yards away has been catching a few.

He’s far enough away we only see him every once in a while. But in the last 10 minutes we’ve seen Fritts swing two fish into the boat.

He’s interesting to watch. Because he sits down in the chair in his deck old-school style. He doesn’t stand up to swing the fish either.

Once the fish is in the boat he switches to the passenger seat and it’s hard to see if he puts the fish in the well or back in the lake.

Regardless he’s getting bit. The old school sitting style has its merits. That’s a big thing for cranking guys in the North Carolina area. By having a fixed position in the boat, he knows he can repeat a cast or be more accurate to his target.

Since Fritts is known for his cranking ability, it obviously works. But you can see him a long way off and know exactly who it is.

Horne on the board

Harvey Horne just got on the board with a 3 pound, 5 ounce largemouth. That fish brought out a rebel yell.

“It’s got me pumped like I just won the Bassmaster Classic,” Horne said.

He’s a long way from that. But that fish could be a big factor for him this week. It certainly will today.

Tenkiller is tough right now as are all lakes in the south in September. But it could be even more so today.

It’s calm out here on the lake. Barely a breath of wind is blowing. And on a clear lake in the heat no wind typically spells really tough.

Horne, though, has a great start in an event that he needs to do really well in. He’s struggled a lot in his rookie season. He probably doesn’t have a shot of moving on to St. Clair for the AOY event. But ending the season on a high note is important in his young career.