Great way to start the day

It didn’t take long for the action to start on Day 3. With a 7 o’clock take off, followed by a few minute run, the 7:13 to 7:14 window produced four quick keepers. The first of those was a 5 pound, 2 ounce lunker caught by Keith Combs.

Anyone want to bet, Combs said the words or similar “Now that’s the way to start the day.” That seems to be the universal statement after every early big fish.

Combs’ fish gave him 7 minutes of leading the Big Bass category for the day.

At 7:21, he was unseated by Cory Johnston with a 7-10, who incidentally also scored a 4-9 in the same minute. And again that’s the way to start the day.

Day 3 questions

Day 3 of this derby is underway and we will soon start getting answers that have been brewing an extra day.

Things like:

_ Is the shad spawn still a factor? It likely is but those things typically ebb and flow. The night before last it literally rained all night. So a lot of changes could have taken place. If so, what are those changes.

_ And truthfully, the only reason we bring up this line of changes is wondering what could have happened to Chad Pipkens’ magic spot.

Bringing you up to speed, Pipkens has been making a cast at a small area to catch his two-day total. A consistent topic of conversation since Friday evening has been, how much pressure will Pipkens’ spot get while the tournament takes a day off.

Keith Combs, a local was asked, “How many of these locals do you think will try to find or get on Pipkens’ spot while he’s not there?”

Combs was to the point, “All of them.”

That’s scary. Pipkens didn’t seem to be too concerned. But the rest of the field knows, that spot makes Pipkens Superman in this event. The Kryptonite for him could be a school of fish that got pounded.

Bassmaster LIVE lineup for Day 3

The top 10 anglers featured on Bassmaster LIVE for Day 3 of Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife on legendary Lake Fork. Chad Pipkens, Drew Cook, Garrett Paquette, Brandon Card, Drew Benton, Brandon Cobb, Jeff Gustafson, Chris Zaldain, Derek Hudnell and Jamie Hartman. 

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Wrapping up some thoughts

A couple of things to note as this last hour winds down.

-We spent some time talking about Drew Cook whittling away at Chad Pipkens big lead. He’s doing the same in the Toyota Angler of the Year Race. Going into today, Patrick Walters had a 14-point lead over Cook in that season-long race.

Cook, though, has jumped (currently in 2nd) five places, while Walters (currently in 27th) has dropped five places. At the moment that leaves four points between them. Walters can ill afford to drop anymore. And it would be disastrous for him if he were to fall below the cutline.

-Currently, the cutline at 35th place is Kyle Monti with 29-9. Right below that line is Brett Pruett at 29-5, Harvey Horne at 29-1, then Lee Livesay at 29-0. Livesay still only has three in the boat.

These are the situations where last-minute, save-your-life catches are made. Keep an eye on that.

-Chris Zaldain is still light one keeper in his livewell. One fish at this point in the game could mean putting him closer to a position of catching the leader. Another thing to watch as the day winds down.

-Ray Hanselman, the consistent and always competitive Texas stick, started the day in 60th place. We find him now in 33rd with 30-4, which might be enough to make the cut.

-Kyle Monti, who has the second largest fish of the day at 8-6, is actually on the bubble in 35th for making the cut. That goes to show that it’s not just about big fish. He’s got some dinks in his well, so he could have a monster and still not fish on Sunday.

-Late in the day whoppers. In the top 10 biggest bass caught today on the BassTrakk page, five of those 10 have been caught after 11:20 at this moment.

Livesay obviously struggling

Lee Livesay is obviously struggling. Even on Day 1 with 22 pounds plus he thought he was struggling. It’s obvious now.

Livesay is actually sitting in 36th place, the first man out of the cut and real peril of missing the Day 3 action.

That’s completely surprising for Livesay and all those who know him on this lake. He’s a popular guide here and he’s been an exceptional competitor in his rookie season on the Elite Series.

But at the moment, the young up-and-comer only has three in the boat for 6 pounds, 6 ounces total. He’s 5 ounces out of the cut, so if he finishes his limit he should be good. But that’s not even a given at the moment.

These things happen in big-time competition. The home field advantage haunts you and kicks you in the rear-end.

Hopefully he will turn around some things but at the moment he wouldn’t be any fun to be riding around with. It is worth noting he did catch big fish late in the day on Day 1.

Cook has nibbled another bite

Drew Cook has nibbled another bite out of the elephant lead Chad Pipkens has on him (that's Kyle Monti in the photo above, more about him later).

His last fish at 1:10 p.m., came in at 5 pounds, 7 ounces. That whittles Pipkens’ lead to 11 pounds, 4 ounces. We’ve watched him slowly chip away all day. And barring another giant from Pipkens, will obviously continue trying.

These little push forwards could turn into big deals. We’ve seen big leads melt away more than once in Elite Series competition. We still have two whole days and piece of this one left. Plus we are on Lake Fork.

I’ve asked myself, if this were the last two hours of the derby would anyone else have a shot? The answer is “probably not.” But as Dumb and Dumber made famous, “So you are saying there’s a chance.”

Looking at the fish that are showing up, definitely. Cook’s biggest two are 5-7 and 6-7. And he has a 4-pound class fish as his lightest. He hooks up with an 8 or 9, as Pipkens has, then all of the sudden that margin is reachable with the right two bites, especially with two days left.

A case in point, since I started typing this blog, Kyle Monti has boated an 8-6, Mike Huff boated a 7-11, and Paul Mueller caught a 7-7, all within a minute of each other.

Of course, Pipkens may have found the mother lode and the perfect spot so it’s not like he’s just going to stand around and let that happen. But Lake Fork certainly makes it exciting.

Lucky 7's for Zaldian

We’ve noticed that Chris Zaldain has finally connected in his constant swing for the fences.

About 30 minutes ago, he boated a 7-7 pounder, that ironically has him sitting in 7th place. That’s a whole lot of 7s all of the sudden.

Zaldain, though, only has four fish in the well. Anything over 2 pounds puts him in the top five. Anything 3-pounds or better and he’s in the top three. He’s got to catch a 6-pound or better to move into second and a lake record to take over the lead.

Keep in mind he caught two 7-pounder in quick secession on Day 1. And we’ve seen more than once, when a big fish shows up there’s usually another not far behind.

Herren is nibbling up the leaderboard

Matt Herren is nibbling up the leaderboard.

He’s no stranger to winning Texas Fest. He has a title that dates back to 2016, the last year before Bassmaster and the Texas Parks and Wildlife combined to create the event we are seeing today.

But Herren is also no stranger to catching shallow bass. He and Bill Lowen may be the best two at in the game today. So it’s no surprise to see that in the middle of the day he caught up with a 6-pounder.

The timing is good as well. It pushed him up the leaderboard. He’s now sitting in 20th, which is important at this juncture. Prior to that fish he was likely sweating the cut mark, which is expected to be in the 32-pound range.

He’s sitting at 33 pounds, 6 ounces, which doesn’t get him out of the woods yet. But he’s a got a 2-6 and a 2-7 to cull. So he’s in the right place all of the sudden.

Others chipping away

Drew Cook continues to nibble away. He’s added a 3-13 that replaces his 3-6 and is now 12 pounds, 14 ounces away from Pipkens.

It’s a steep climb but he is chipping away.

Others chipping away are Caleb Sumrall who boated the day’s second largest bass (7 pounds, 8 ounces) at 11:20. That puts him in 11th place. That’s a good sign for him, until Winyah Bay, Sumrall was struggling a bit. But it seems like he has his feet under him after these last two events.

Jeff Gustafson has jumped into 8th on the strength of a 5-4, while Seth Feider has moved into the top 15 and has yet to catch one larger than 4-14.

While all these guys are moving, we continue to watch Chris Zaldain, who is stuck on three fish, his largest a 2-12. But he remains in the top 10. He has a lot of weight to make up and a lot of positions to make it up with. We can only guess he’s swinging for the fences like he always does. It paid off tomorrow, but this might be a day where he might want to hit a few doubles and triples to stay in the game.

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