Williams struggling with quality vs. quantity

They can keep five, but as of 2 o’clock, Branden Hollingshead held the only limit among the Top 12 pro finalists.

The Azle, Texas, angler came into Championship Saturday 6 pounds, 4 ounces behind Day 2 leader Tommy Williams and only an ounce behind second-place Brandon Dillard, who led Day 1.

According to BASSTrakk, Hollingshead’s five weigh (unofficially) 10-3. A modest average, but in the tough fall even, five is an accomplishment. 

On the other hand, Dillard has one for 3-5, while Williams had been stuck on two keepers for 6-12 most of the day. Better averages, but just not enough of those big bites. 

The highlight of the day was Brian Clark, who entered the final round in eighth place. He has improved his position to by a lot, thanks to a four-fish bag estimated at 15-6. Anchoring his effort is an 8-pound-class fish.

Williams added his third keeper around 1:56 and pushed his tally to an estimated 8 pounds. About 15 min prior, he missed one of the ones that he really needed.

“That fished boiled on my spinnerbait, so I threw back in there with my Brush Hog,” Williams said. “He thumped it and I just missed him — twice. It’s just not my day."

Smelly water

"It smiles like shad."

That's how Andy Crawford described the water being shared earlier this morning by Tommy Williams and Keith Combs. He's got one keeper and Williams caught three from the spot.

Williams told Combs that he was leaving to let the spot rest, and coincidentally, Combs said the same thing. So expect them both back this afternoon.

This morning at the boat ramp, Combs showed a Strike King Sexy Frog and 1.5 squarebill for the top lures gallery. Willliams is using 1/4-ounce homemade spinnerbaits.

Brandon Dillard's biggest fan

Outside his immediate family, no one is any bigger fan of current leader Brandon Dillard than Keith Combs. 

Combs is 43rd in the points standings of Bassmaster Angler of the Year. That race ended two weeks ago at the final 2020 Bassmaster Elite Series event on Lake Fork. 

Of course, the AOY points determine who from the Elite Series qualifies for the 2021 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk. However, there are contingencies for anglers outside the cutline to get in the Classic. 

Which brings us back to Dillard. He did not fish the other three Central Opens, meaning he gave up his automatic invitation to the Classic should he win this tournament. If that happens, the Classic invite goes to the first Elite Series angler outside the cut. 

That man is Combs. 

Quote of the tournament

Greg Hackney has only one goal today that connects with a larger objective. Hackney is doing what he does best, which is attack shallow cover with a flipping stick and heavy tackle.

He told Andy Crawford he's laying off his main area, letting it rest until the sun comes out. He paused from fishing and shared this quote with Andy. 

"My goal today is to just catch a limit, and if I do, I will make the Elites," he said. "My biggest goal is to be back fishing the Bassmaster Elite Series next February." 

Hackney has three keepers in the livewell, so he is only two more from achieving all the above.  

Hackney on the board

It's not much but it counts. Actually, correction. It's a good start. 

The fish held by Greg Hackney weighs about 2 1/2 pounds in a tournament where quality will be key in order to catch up to current leader Brandon Dillard. 

The skies are still overcast but the light is improving, which could certainly help reposition Hackney's fish tight to the isolated woody shoreline cover that are his flipping targets. 

Meanwhile, BASSTrakk shows second-place angler Tommy Williams with 18 pounds, 8 ounces, but still nothing in his livewell. Should Hackney's catch weigh the 2 1/2 pounds then he moves into second, or about 5 pounds behind current leader Brandon Dillard. 

On Thursday, Dillard depended on the strength of an early shallow bite. Then, he capitalized on an offshore bite where he caught the 8-1 largemouth anchoring is limit weighing 24-9. 

There is a lot of fishing remaining, and when the sun does shine, so might Dillard. Or, Hackney may light it up doing what he does best. 

The other prize

On Championship Saturday the winner will be determined for the Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Open. Today the first four Opens anglers to potentially receive invitations to the 2021 Bassmaster Elite Series will be known. It's all unofficial, though, until B.A.S.S. officials do the math and double check everything. 

Here is the possible lineup for the Bassmaster Central Opens, based on their points ranking from the top down. 

1. Greg Hackney
2. Jason Christie
3. Kenta Kimura
4. Darold Gleason

Based on pure speculation, Hackney and Christie might accept the invitation as pros desiring to move over from the other league. Kimura, an Opens angler since 2013, would be another logical angler to accept the invite, given his sponsors and longtime track record,  

Of everyone on the prospect list, nobody wants to get in more than Gleason. I spent time with him yesterday after the weigh-in working on other content projects, and he was clearly obsessed with getting in. He won't get in easy, nor is he a shoo-in for the invite. 

The only other angler fishing today that could close in on Gleason is Spike Stoker, currently in sixth place in Central AOY points, but seventh on the official tournament leaderboard. Meanwhile, Gleason is 44th and likely sweating bullets,

Hackney in his comfort zone

Greg Hackney is doing what he does best, beyond being in contention to win pretty much any given tournament where a shallow bite is in play. What he does best is go to battle with a stout flipping stick.

Take a look at this photo just taken by Andy Crawford and you can see why the Hack Attack is in third place going into today. 

Andy described the area where Hackney is fishing as "dirt shallow." He is flipping his bait as near the bank as possible, targeting isolated wood in 2 feet and less of water. The deepest water around is a 5-foot-deep channel. 

Hackney told Andy that he plans to stay here all day, which would make sense. My educated guess is that Hackney is guarding his area and buying time until the sun shines, repositioning the bass tighter to the cover, also creating pinpoint casting targets for his bait. 

What to watch for

Weather conditions are the main influencer about what will go down today on Lewisville Lake. 

Currently, and just like yesterday, the skies are overcast, so that means the shallow bite will be in play as those bass roam in search of baitfish. Later on, the sun appears, turning on the deeper bite. By deeper, that means anything not on the shoreline and out. Shallow and deep, the bass will reposition and the anglers in pursuit of them will need to adjust accordingly. 
The other influencer today will be the wind. Yesterday it hampered the shallow bite in two ways. First, it muddied up the red clay shorelines exposed to southerly wind, and then it made boat control challenging for the deeper bite. Yesterday, the wind howled with gusts to 30 mph. Today, the anglers get a bit of a reprieve, with the forecast calling for southerly winds at 10 mph, with gusts to 20 mph. 
What that could mean is that areas that were unfishable yesterday might be in play today. Call it the expansion of the strike zone in a big way. Guys told me before the tournament began that should the wind blow, it would prevent them from fishing key areas. That happened yesterday, but not so today. 
Add it all up and today has a lot of change in the works, which can be good or bad, depending on your game plan. 

Afternoon report

Brandon Dillard is fishing only his second Bassmaster Open but he is making it count. The local angler's first event was the 2011 Open held on Lewisville Lake. Today, BASSTrakk has him in the lead with 21 pounds, 5 ounces, with the weights substantially dropping from there. That was also a prediction made by many anglers about how someone would crack 20 pounds, with the weights falling from there.

What else is happening is the wind has picked up. Sustained winds are howling at 21 mph with gusts to 30 mph. And as predicted, the wind has substantially reduced the playing field by eliminating any windblown areas that are either muddy or too windy to maintain boat positioning.

"What's going to happen is boats are going to stack up on the few fishable areas that aren't too muddy or windy," said Darold Gleason.

Today is winding up to be all about survival with better news ahead. Tomorrow's forecast calls for southerly winds at 10 mph, with gusts to 20 mph. The hope is that what was inaccessible today will be fishable on Friday, the day it really counts going into Championship Saturday.

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