Roll the dice

Bill Lowen, unable to get the six pounder he’s been calling for this afternoon, has made a generous amount of headway today if you’ve followed Bassmaster Live and BASSTrakk. Heading into Championship Sunday in 10th place, the Xpress Yamaha Pro knew he’d need to roll the dice a little in order to move up the board today.

After a slow start to the morning, we found Lowen out in the river doing what he does best.

This morning, we noted Lowen’s reputation for being a grinder. I asked him about that and he agreed but added that he’d like to have an “easy day” ever once in a while.

With Championship Sunday winding down and the wind seemingly picking up, Lowen told us he’s likely to start the trek back to the ramp a little sooner than yesterday. “I gave myself 40 minutes yesterday and it almost wasn’t enough,” remarked Lowen. “I’ll probably leave a little earlier today.”

We will too! We don’t want to miss out on today’s exciting weigh in and see someone’s dream realized when they hoist that blue trophy.

Palaniuk fills limit at 2:39

He had to work all day to do it, but Brandon Palaniuk filled his five-bass limit at 2:39 with a 2 1/2-pounder. It gives him an estimated 18-4 on BASSTrakk. I'd guess that he's actually got 20 pounds, which is exactly what both he and Carl Jocumsen predicted it would take to win this tournament today.

Palaniuk adds “huge” no. 4

It wasn't a big bass, although probably bigger than the 2 1/2 pounds Brandon Palaniuk called it. But in terms of this tournament, it was huge. Palaniuk flipped his fourth keeper in the boat at 1:20 p.m. It puts him neck-and-neck with his cousin-in-law Carl Jocumsen for the lead on BASSTrakk.

"I'm still shaking," said Palaniuk after boating his first bass in almost four hours. "I almost didn't flip there. You can miss them by so close."

Both men have four keepers. As Jocumsen predicted yesterday, this one may be decided on one angler's last cast of the day.

Rapid fire Bill Lowen

In a sequence of about a half an hour, Lowen has filled his limit, culled three times, fished through a rain shower and had his PFD inflate. It’s all good because the Hoosier State angler is slowly climbing the leaderboard with each cull. 
 
Sitting on roughly 13 pounds at the moment, Lowen has changed his presentation to what he called an “Ohio River Special” homemade spinnerbait and he’s able to get that presentation in some hard to reach places. 
 
After his latest cull, Lowen looked over at us and said, “I’m shaking so bad I can’t hardly tie this thing on.”
Lowen continues to work what he calls his best stretch and we’re going to ride it out with him. 

When it rains it pours

“When it rains, it pours,” laughed Lowen when the recent rain shower caused his PFD to auto inflate in the boat.

On the brighter side, the sun’s back out, Lowen just made a slight upgrade to his catch and he’s fishing what he calls his best afternoon stuff. 

Bernie’s on the board

Bernie Schultz just added a second keeper to his livewell, bringing his BASSTrakk total to 11 pounds, 7 ounces. What might seem insignificant in the big scheme of the leaderboard are the points he continues gaining in Bassmaster Angler of the Year. Schultz is currently in 37th place, or just three spots above the cut line. However, he's also got a spread of 30 points more than 39th place. Schultz is fishing for his 10th Classic. 

Right now, Schultz is methodically fishing a weightless wacky rig, skipping it beneath cypress tree limbs and allowing the bait to fall vertically into the stumps. 
He is using a 5-inch Yamamoto Senko, rigged on a 2/0 VMC Ike Approved Weedless Neko Hook. Key to the setup is a saddle sleeve, or flat O ring, so the bait can be rotated in different directions based on preferred hook placement. 
 
Alternatively, Schultz is using a prototype buzzbait that he designed for Hildebrandt Lures. The lightweight, all-tin lure is ideal for slow retrieves and is called the SqueakEasy. Schultz rotated between 1/4- and 1/2-ounce sizes. 

Punching preferences

Carl Jocumsen’s Bassmaster Elite profile lists boxing among his hobbies. It’s no surprise, the Australian standout knows how to throw a punch — both in the pugilistic and piscatorial sense. 

The latter is the second part of a 2-stage game plan by which Jocumsen intends to win his second Elite title. Having claimed his first blue trophy last year on Oklahomas Lake Tenkiller, hes leading Championship Sunday and placing a lot of emphasis on punching mats in Lake Marions upper end. 

Having secured three final-round keepers on his starting spot — a grassy depression — Jocumsen hopes to bolster his chances of closing the deal with these technique points:

Habitat: Hyacinths mixed with salvinia and punctuated with cypress trees is money.

Depth: “It cant be too deep or too shallow. If Im in 4 feet, I cant get bit; if my trolling motors kicking up mud, I cant get bit. It needs to be about 2 feet under the mats.

Bait: Jocumsens punching a black and blue Molix SV Craw rigged on a 4/0 Owner Jungle hook and a 1 1/4-ounce green pumpkin Woo Tungsten weight. He believes the contrasting weight color is key, as it breaks up the bait profile.

Technique: While punching typically delivers bites on the fall, Jocumsen has caught the majority of his fish by dropping his bait through the mat and immediately pulling it to the underside. Wiggling the bait against the mat resembles a feeding bream. 

If all of these elements come together, Jocumsen may have his shot at landing the knock-out punch.

Lowen and Hudnall

As we enter the morning break from Live on Championship Sunday, we’ve had the opportunity to spend some time with Derek Hudnall and Bill Lowen, 9th and 10th respectively, to begin our day. 

We rolled the dice and started on Lowen who got off to a slow start hitting isolated pads with a buzzbait. Once we left the Mossy Oak Pro, he put three fish in the boat for roughly seven pounds and we’ve rejoined Lowen for the second half of the day and he’s in his comfort zone...cruising the riverbank and junk fishing with a flipping stick. 

Full transparency here, I’ve taken some additional pleasure in covering Lowen today as the Hoosier native is the lone survivor of my fantasy fishing team at Bassmaster.com 

Hudnall, who made a last minute decision to skip on his original starting spot, made the turn in the river to an area where he’s done the majority of his damage this week. The Louisiana native found an area in practice that admittedly reminds him of home and he’s settled in flipping cypress trees. 

He’s got an assortment of Missile Baits tied up on the deck of his Skeeter and he’s working his plan. 

One note for Hudnall in the afternoon will be the wind. The wind hasn’t been his friend this week and he’s concerned about the potential of a rough ride back to the ramp in the afternoon. 

Depending on what his livewell looks like after lunch, he noted that he may head back early in an effort to ensure he’s on time and safe.

Cousin-in-laws battling it out

It's been a family affair the previous three days at Santee Cooper, and it's especially so this morning. Carl Jocumsen, who is married to Brandon Palaniuk's first cousin, Kayla, has led two of the previous three days. He's at the top of the leaderboard at the noon hour today with four bass weighing an estimated 14-4. 

Palaniuk, the leader on Day 2, has 3 bass weighing an estimated 12-12. "Estimated" is the key word there. Palaniuk caught a "6-pounder" at 9:37 that looks to be closer to 8 pounds. If so, they'd be virtually tied with 64 pounds-plus.

But both have some work to do to reach that 20-pound goal for the day. 

"I feel like the winner today is going to have 20 pounds," Jocumsen said. "I'm one big bite away from getting it done."

Palaniuk said, "Two more 4-pound bites and I feel like I've got a really good shot at this today."

Third-place Cory Johnston is 7-2 behind Jocumsen, according to BASSTrakk. Of course, no one is out of it on Santee Cooper, where a 9-pound, 7-ounce bass has been caught in this tournament along with multiple 7-pounds-plus fish.

Eagles collide

There is an abundance of wildlife on the Santee Cooper lakes, and here is some evidence. 

Photographer Andy Crawford observed this Bald and Golden eagle competing over the same meal. Each eagle took a swipe at the catch, which was an amazing thing to see.  

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