Arey's new landing skills

Matt Arey is no newbie when it comes to landing big bass. For 10 years he did it well on the FLW Tour. Using a dip net. Nets are permitted on the FLW Tour but not in B.A.S.S.

It’s been fun watching Arey learn the B.A.S.S. ways which are catching and landing big bass.

“For years I used to laugh and make jokes of the B.A.S.S. boys running around the boat from bow to stern, tiring out a fish,” he said on Bassmaster LIVE.

Look whose laughing now.

“I now have a lot of respect for that and it’s not so funny now. It’s a challenge. But that’s why I came over here. For that and to qualify for what I feel like is the most prestigious tournament in the sport, the Bassmaster Classic.”

Clunn on 2016 pace

When Rick Clunn won the 2016 Elite Series tournament at the St. Johns River he had a total of 62 pounds, 15 ounces, and a 6-pound lead after Day 3. Clunn has almost equaled that pace today, as BASSTrakk shows him with 20-8 so far this morning and a three-day total of 61-8.

However, equaling the 2016 pace may not be good enough to win this year. The Johnston brothers, Chris and Cory, are setting a faster gait.

Here's a look at what it has taken to win the previous four Elite Series tournaments on the St. Johns River:

201681-15Rick Clunn
201490-13Chris Lane
201275-9Alton Jones
201177-1Edwin Evers

Menendez still with one, but...

Mark Menendez still only has one keeper in his livewell. And while that seems slight or lacking, remember with yesterday’s 24-plus-pound sack, he’s only 16-5 pounds out of the lead at the time of this writing.

That means if he can duplicate—or even come close to—yesterday’s total, he’ll likely be in control.

He just said that his impressive limit yesterday came in an hour right around noon. It can happen fast and without warning.

We’ll be sticking with him to see if he can make it happen. BASSTrakk currently has him in 10th with one fish. Menendez will catch four more, at least.

He’s been around this game long enough to understand the value of being patient.

The Clunn magic

Rick Clunn is doing what he does best, and has for the past 45 years. And that is excelling in challenging and changing conditions. While others are lamenting about the wind Clunn is bearing down on his areas and using his intuitive mental strength to find the pattern within the pattern.

What’s so cool about Clunn's move into third place in BASSTrakk is his old school approach. Using a spinnerbait and plastic worm in tandem is a most unusual tactic in this day of specialized techniques and lures. The worm is another story. It is of the same style as the original Gator Tail worm made by Ditto Manufacturing in nearby San Mateo.

Time and time again, Clunn has thought outside the box to win. When Clunn won here in 2016 the wind was blowing like it’s doing now. Could more Clunn magic be on the way? My bet is yes.

Clunn’s amazing stretch pushes him into second

Rick Clunn has finally moved just up the bank to a new stretch of water, but not before putting more than 20 pounds in the boat and rising briefly into second place unofficially on BASSTrakk.

We’ve been watching from a distance, so we can’t say for sure which baits he’s using. You’ll have to check Bass LIVE to be sure.

But it’s been the same combination he’s been surprisingly open about all week - a spinnerbait of some description, a big lipless crankbait and a worm presentation.

He’s alternating nonstop between the three around shallow cover.

Livesay with a limit

Lee Livesay went into the day sitting in third. He’s not having a big-fish morning, but he has a limit in the live well for about an estimated 13 1/2 pounds. He is fishing the north edge of Lake George, and he just landed his last three fish doing the craziest thing: He’s flipping over a concrete dock and then trying to swing the bass over the structure when they bite.

He’s just Power-Poled down on one side of the dock, flipping as far as he can on the other side of the dock and whacking on them.

The last bass he landed was a over 5 pounds, and Livesay was unable to swing it over the dock. So he had to lay down and use the rod to pull the 50-pound Hi-Seas braid into reach while the bass just sort of laid there waiting.

"She just gave up,” Livesay said. "She was barely hooked, too.”

Why the unconventional approach?

“I’m a rookie,” Livesay said. “I have to do something different.”

Clunn picking up the pace

Shortly after landing his third keeper and narrowly missing a violent short strike, Rick Clunn added his fourth keeper - another fish that looked to be in the 4-pound range.

He’s one away from a limit now and squarely inside the Top 5 on BASSTrakk.

And we haven’t even reached the afternoon period when he said the bite was best yesterday.

Chris Johnston on fire

Our current leader Chris Johnston is putting on a clinic, catching bass every few minutes. He has stayed in the same area all morning and has 16-12 to show for his efforts so far. His three day total stands at 63-12 and puts him 3-8 behind his older brother Cory. Chris is 29 years old and Cory is 33. 
In the eyes of this southerner it is a cool, breezy morning. Steve Bowman and I are wearing hoodies and rain gear. Johnston, from Peterborough, Canada is fishing in a t-shirt. 

Here are the bass in Chris’ livewell and the times they were caught:
2-7 at 8:29
3-0 at 8:39
5-5 at 9:15
4-0 at 9:16
2-0 at 9:45

Clunn adds third keeper

We didn’t get a good look at it, but Clunn finally added his third keeper more than two hours after he caught his second.

He’s been working the same stretch of bank all morning with three different baits.

BASSTrakk reported his last fish at meat 4 pounds, which gives him 12-8 for the day and places him unofficially in sixth place.

Walters figuring it out

Patrick Walters may be a 24-year-old Elite Series rookie, but he has the confidence of a seasoned pro. He's one of those college fishing sensations that gets the equivalent of a decade of tournament experience along with a college degree. Walters and our own "media man of the people" Gettys Brannon teamed to win the FLW College Championship in 2015 while attending the University of South Carolina.

"We fished two college tournament on the St. Johns River two years ago," said Walters, noting his familiarity with this body of water. "I fished almost strictly in the river. But I felt like the best bag I could possible catch in the river was 15 pounds. I figured if I went to Lake George I'd have a chance at a big bite and a 20- to 30-pound bag."

That's exactly what Walters did yesterday - weighing 23-7 that included a 9-pound, 12-ounce largemouth. It moved him from 30th place on Day 1 to 11th on Day 2.

"I flipped reeds and buggy whips with a 3/8ths-ounce VMC tungsten weight, a VMC flipping hook and a Zoom Magnum Finesse Worm, watermelon red," he said. "I kept it in my hands all day."

Walters already had an adjustment in mind if the weather changed today. Whatever he's doing, it's working. BASSTrakk showed him with a 20-pound limit at 9:07 a.m.