The hot spot

That’s Clay Phillips handing his co-angler a 7-pound plus fish.

The two were fishing nearby as I worked up a gallery on Keith Combs. During that process I continued to hear yelling and screaming from a boat several hundred yards away.

That yelling was from Phillips who had caught an 8-pounder and a few more quality fish on his way to quickly building a 20-pound plus stringer.

As I trolled closer the co-angler got into the act. Don’t have his name yet, but evidently they are on a hot spot.

Phillips had 9 pounds yesterday and needs another big one to ensure another day in this event.

Ebare, co-angler weight DQ'd

Dakota Ebare, in sixth place with 20 pounds, 12 ounces after Day 1, had that weight disqualified after self-reporting violation of B.A.S.S. Rule #8 Tackle and Equipment. 

The rule states: "Use of landing nets and grippers for landing bass is prohibited during tournament competition."

Ebare self-reported the violation after realizing his mistake following the weigh-in. Coincidentally, Ebare is an FLW Tour pro, and landing nets are allowed during competition. 

Ebare hopes to recover from the tough start based on the strength of his pattern. He is fishing a rotation of offshore areas where roaming largemouth feed on baitfish. 

"It's all about the timing, and there are so many variables in play," he said. "Later in the day the wind picks up, and the wind-driven current is a key in setting the fish up." 

Beau Brinson, his co-angler, also had his weight disqualified. Brinson caught two largemouth weighing 3-7 while fishing with Ebare.  

Opens AOY watch

There are already interesting storylines worth watching in the Opens Angler of the Year points race. 

The headliner is Dakota Ebare, who as of Thursday was second in the Central standings with 376 points and 40 pounds, 15 ounces. That was based on the strength of his Day 1 weight of 20 pounds, 12 ounces, and a 20th at the opener on the Arkansas River. On Thursday evening, Ebare's Day 1 weight was disqualified, and he is now in 106th place in the AOY standings. 

The Angler of the Year qualifying structure was changed this season, giving Opens anglers more opportunities to advance to the Bassmaster Elite Series. The Falcon Rods Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year will award a $10,000 prize to the overall points winner in the pro division. The top co-angler will have paid entry fees into the 2021 Bassmaster Opens division of their choice.

Each division has four tournaments, and there are now three ways to qualify for the 12 available Elite Series invitations. The Top 4 from the Central and Eastern Divisions get invites, along with the Top 4 overall anglers in the point standings. 

One angler everyone is watching is Scott Martin, who moved from a longtime and illustrious career on the FLW Tour to the Opens to qualify for the Elite Series. Martin also aims to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic and achieve a goal left unfulfilled by his father, Roland, who never won a world championship, despite having won nine B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year titles. 

As of Friday, Scott Martin was in third place in the overall points. Martin was in 28th place after Day 1 on Sam Rayburn. 

"At this point it's all about the points and I'm going for the quality bite, after having made a couple of key adjustments," he said. "Ten-pounders live here, and those individual size fish are best for gaining points." 

Gerald Swindle leads the overall points race with 542 points. Keep in mind that Swindle is already qualified as an Elite Series angler. Bryan New is second with 541. John Hunter Jr. is fourth with 508 points and Randy Blaukat, another former FLW Tour veteran, is last man in with 501 points. 

What to watch for (or not)

Something very peculiar is going on. Cloud cover has overtaken the skies above Sam Rayburn. 

What that means is a game changer is underway. Cloud cover will turn on the bite for the shallow water anglers, and especially those fishing the lower end of the lake, where the hydrilla and other vegetation is abundant. The guys whose rods are rigged and ready with frogs must be smiling. Yesterday, numerous comments came in from those guys about how they watched fish follow their bait, only to have them shy away at the pivotal moment of a strike. 

That won't happen today. Cloud cover adds ambush cover for those shallow cruisers, which triggers an active feeding period. For the deep water anglers this is the worst case scenario. Without sun those fish will emerge from holding tight to cover (aka casting targets) and roam around. 

I just spoke with Andy Crawford, who is awaiting the arrival of boats in the Black Forest. He confirmed what I see on this wind direction map. Winds from the northeast, with a noticeable chop on the surface. 

Expect a lot of last minute audibles this morning, because it won't last all day, according to the forecast. But then again, this is 2020. 

No wind, no good

Steve Bowman just called in a blog post about a topic previously written about by me. It just validates how the lack of wind-driven current is hampering the bite.

"In all my years of covering tournaments here (and that is decades worth of them) I have never seen this lake so calm," he said.

Bowman had just shot a gallery with Jason Christie, whose livewell contains an average limit weight of largemouth. It should come as no surprise that Bowman discovered Christie casting a frog in a dense lily pad field located in the back of a creek.

Christie acknowledged Bowman's comment about the lack of wind. He'd never seen it as calm either, out on the main lake. That is where the double-digit largemouth are most numerous during summertime.

"It's no good without some wind," said Christie.

Meanwhile, another battle is taking place in the mind of Scott Martin. Recall that he moved from FLW to B.A.S.S. with the goal of qualifying for the Bassmaster Elite Series, and specifically the Bassmaster Classic. Martin's lofty goal is to win the coveted trophy never claimed by his legendary father, Roland.

Andy Crawford spent time with Martin, also shooting a gallery. Crawford found Martin offshore, fishing brushpiles.

"He told me his early, shallow bite that produced so well during practice went dead," said Crawford. "He didn't have an explanation about what might have happened.

Crawford went on to explain that Martin's goal at this point is to salvage valuable Opens qualifying points for the Elite Series, his goal for the year.

Martin has a limit and wants to cull up with one of those double-digit largemouth in deeper water.

"They live there, and all it takes is one to give my weight a big lift," he said.

And add to those valuable angler of the year points.

Meanwhile, offshore

Andy Crawford just sent this photo of Josh Douglas. The Minnesota pro told Andy there was 13 pounds in his boat when this photo was taken. As you can see from the background, Douglas is fishing off the shoreline. What you don't see is other boats gathered in the area. Most of the anglers don't stay long, opting to move on to other areas. 

"I haven't moved, been here all day," Douglas told Andy. 

Will such an area produce the heavyweight limits common here during summer, when bass school offshore over deep vegetation? 

We shall soon see. 

Seven keeper bites

I stopped a bit on Jason Christie. Like Brandon Palaniuk he’s on the lower end. But Christie is shallow. Imagine that.

It’s been slow for him too. He’s had “seven keeper bites” but has been only able to connect with two of them.

After 20 minutes on a shallow bank he picked up and headed into a creek. I followed but allowed too much space between us.

I can see him a half mile away. But I’m idling over stumps as I type this.

Hopefully his action will pick up behind this maze of stumps and dead trees.

Ripple on the water

Brandon Palaniuk has been unable to add a second to his well. He’s still bopping around the lower end hitting points with a variety of lures.

The wind has started to pick up a bit. Now there’s a ripple on the water. But it’s not been enough to kick-start the bite.

Palaniuk, though, is staying patient. An interesting note is he’s throwing a Storm Arashi walking bait at times. That bait is the exact one he used to help him win Texas Fest a few years ago. It’s not a likeness. But the actual bait.

It was used to catch his first keeper this morning. But we are a long way from the production it created in Texas Fest.

In this world you don’t retire baits, but you always try and return to past glory with them.

Wind driven current

The weather geek in me was curious when Darold Gleason and I had a discussion about wind-driven current. That is a bass fishing term defined by surface winds that create current in the upper water column, from the surface down. 

Wind driven current is a key influencer of stimulating baitfish activity on reservoirs without natural current, unlike manmade current as you have on power-generating lakes. In the latter case, anglers throughout the South know that when power is generated to create electricity, the bass fishing turns on and especially so during summer. 

On Sam Rayburn Lake, there is no such scenario. Here, the wind-driven current pushes bass to ambush points, such as grass edges, windy-blown points and shorelines. When the wind blows, the bass knows which direction a meal is coming. 

A little bit of wind here goes a long way. 

"It doesn't take much," said Gleason. "When it rarely blows at all, like it has in the past few weeks, it can create bass activity." 

Well, the anglers might just get their wish. A southerly flow of really humid air and hot upflow is creating thunderstorms training from the South and into central and east Texas. This screen shot shows the predicted pattern of precipitation for midafternoon. 

If there were a wind-driven current forecast, I'd say there is a high probability of it coming into play this afternoon.