Fog delay game plans

The fog delay was cancelled with the Top 10 anglers departing Volunteer Landing in downtown Knoxville at 8:30 a.m. ET. The 90-minute delay will not change the regularly scheduled check-in time of 3 p.m.

What does that mean for the day ahead?

Our photographers posed that question to the anglers, as it's their task to find them and shoot pictures for the website. Here is what they found out.

Our photographers are staging in the midlake region of the lake, launching at Concord Park. The photographers expect most of the action to happen in that area. Jake Whitaker is going to Telilco Lake, where he'll have the entire lake all to himself.

Tournament leader Jeff Gustafson is returning to his area in the canal between Tellico and Loudoun. Yesterday, he told me when he catches a five bass limit, that he's done for the day. I doubt that will be the case today.

Overall, sunny skies are appearing as the fog dissipates. And the nighttime low was in the low 50s. So, what to watch for will be if the water temperature holds steady in the 50-degree range that seems to stimulate baitfish and bass activity. The good news is the predicted heavy rains and thunderstorms won't be here until after weigh-in.

Fog lifted

Championship Sunday is underway with the anglers due back to check in at the regularly scheduled 3:30 p.m. ET.

Gustafson‌ ‌has‌ ‌two‌ ‌weapons‌ ‌in‌ ‌his‌ ‌arsenal‌ ‌

Jeff‌ ‌Gustafson‌ ‌has‌ ‌two‌ ‌things‌ ‌going‌ ‌for‌ ‌him‌ ‌today‌ ‌as‌ ‌he‌ ‌tries‌ ‌to‌ ‌cap‌ ‌a‌ ‌wire-to-wire‌ ‌victory‌ ‌doing‌ ‌something‌ ‌no‌ ‌one‌ ‌thought‌ ‌possible‌ ‌–‌ ‌catch‌ ‌four-straight‌ ‌limits‌ ‌of‌ ‌18-inch-minimum‌ ‌smallmouth‌ ‌bass‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌Guaranteed‌ ‌Rate‌ ‌Bassmaster‌ ‌Elite‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌Tennessee‌ ‌River.‌ ‌

The‌ ‌first‌ ‌one‌ ‌is‌ ‌obvious.‌ ‌The‌ ‌38-year-old‌ ‌third-year‌ ‌Elite‌ ‌Series‌ ‌pro‌ ‌from‌ ‌Keewatin,‌ ‌Ontario,‌ ‌Canada,‌ ‌is‌ ‌the‌ ‌best‌ ‌Damiki‌ ‌rig‌ ‌angler‌ ‌in‌ ‌this‌ ‌field.‌ ‌Elite‌ ‌Series‌ ‌emcee‌ ‌Dave‌ ‌Mercer‌ ‌described‌ ‌Gustafson’s‌ ‌expertise‌ ‌in‌ ‌this‌ ‌technique‌ ‌as‌ ‌simply‌ ‌this:‌ ‌You‌ ‌could‌ ‌be‌ ‌standing‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌boat‌ ‌deck,‌ ‌side‌ ‌by‌ ‌side‌ ‌with‌ ‌Gustafson‌ ‌and‌ ‌he‌ ‌would‌ ‌be‌ ‌catching‌ ‌fish‌ ‌while‌ ‌you‌ ‌caught‌ ‌nothing.‌ ‌

It’s‌ ‌the‌ ‌combination‌ ‌of‌ ‌Damiki‌ ‌rigging‌ ‌–‌ ‌a‌ ‌simple‌ ‌soft‌ ‌plastic‌ ‌bait‌ ‌on‌ ‌a‌ ‌jighead‌ ‌fished‌ ‌straight down‌ ‌–‌ ‌and‌ ‌current‌ ‌that‌ ‌has‌ ‌made‌ ‌Gustafson‌ ‌untouchable‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌first‌ ‌three‌ ‌days‌ ‌of‌ ‌this‌ ‌tournament.‌ ‌ ‌

Let‌ ‌Seth‌ ‌Feider,‌ ‌Gustafson’s‌ ‌frequent‌ ‌roommate‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌road,‌ ‌explain:‌ ‌“He’s‌ ‌doing‌ ‌what‌ ‌he‌ ‌does‌ ‌best.‌ ‌He’s‌ ‌probably‌ ‌one‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌best‌ ‌guys‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌country‌ ‌doing‌ ‌what‌ ‌he’s‌ ‌doing‌ ‌now.‌ ‌There‌ ‌were‌ ‌guys‌ ‌all‌ ‌around‌ ‌him‌ ‌the‌ ‌first‌ ‌couple‌ ‌of‌ ‌days‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ tournament,‌ ‌there’s‌ ‌fish‌ ‌all‌ ‌over,‌ ‌they‌ ‌did‌ ‌not‌ ‌get‌ ‌a‌ ‌bite‌ ‌and‌ ‌he’s‌ ‌catching‌ ‌them‌ ‌right‌ ‌and‌ ‌left.‌ ‌

“There’s‌ ‌a‌ ‌real‌ ‌art‌ ‌to‌ ‌what‌ ‌he’s‌ ‌doing,‌ ‌especially‌ ‌in‌ ‌current.‌ ‌It’s‌ ‌easy‌ ‌to‌ ‌do‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌lake.‌ ‌He’s‌ ‌keeping‌ ‌his‌ ‌bait‌ ‌just‌ ‌above‌ ‌the‌ ‌bottom,‌ ‌getting‌ ‌the‌ ‌fish‌ ‌to‌ ‌come‌ ‌up‌ ‌to‌ ‌it.‌ ‌But‌ ‌he’s‌ ‌doing‌ ‌it‌ ‌in‌ ‌pretty‌ ‌good‌ ‌current.‌ ‌He’s‌ ‌having‌ ‌to‌ ‌chase‌ ‌his‌ ‌bait‌ ‌around‌ ‌with‌ ‌his‌ ‌trolling‌ ‌motor‌ ‌so‌ ‌he‌ ‌can‌ ‌keep‌ ‌his‌ ‌bait‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌(sonar)‌ ‌cone.‌ ‌It’s‌ ‌really‌ ‌hard‌ ‌to‌ ‌do‌ ‌in‌ ‌current.‌ ‌He‌ ‌catches‌ ‌a‌ ‌lot‌ ‌of‌ ‌fish‌ ‌doing‌ ‌this‌ ‌back‌ ‌home.‌ ‌It’s‌ ‌one‌ ‌of‌ ‌his‌ ‌strong‌ ‌suits.”‌ ‌

Gustafson’s‌ ‌other‌ ‌asset?‌ ‌Karma.‌ ‌Gustafson‌ ‌is‌ ‌known‌ ‌as‌ ‌an‌ ‌all-star‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌good‌ ‌guy.‌ ‌

“He’s‌ ‌probably‌ ‌the‌ ‌best‌ ‌dude‌ ‌on‌ ‌planet‌ ‌Earth,”‌ ‌Feider‌ ‌said.‌ ‌“He’s‌ ‌the‌ ‌nicest‌ ‌guy‌ ‌you’ll‌ ‌ever‌ ‌meet.‌ ‌You’ll‌ ‌never‌ ‌hear‌ ‌about‌ ‌him‌ ‌poaching‌ ‌on‌ ‌somebody‌ ‌or‌ ‌doing‌ ‌anything‌ ‌like‌ ‌that.‌ ‌He’s‌ ‌right‌ ‌as‌ ‌rain.”‌ ‌

Fog delays Championship Sunday

The start of Championship Sunday is being briefly delayed by fog on the Tennessee River.

B.A.S.S. Officials made the decision after survey the conditions on the River with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

A status update will be posted when available.

Update: Launch is now at 8:30 ET.

Fritts just glad to be here

This tournament is the season-opener for David Fritts. He was recovering from Covid-19 diagnosed on January 5 and didn’t participate at the St. Johns River two weeks ago. He’s still suffering from a lack of stamina.

“I feel good, I just don’t have any energy,” the 65-year-old B.A.S.S. legendary angler said Thursday. “You’re just draggin’ around. After about a half to three-quarters of a day of fishing, I am worn out. I mean flap out.”

And here Fritts is on Saturday, Day 3, on the verge of qualifying for the top 10 final at the Tennessee River. Fritts was in 44th place on Day 1 with 6-10, moved up to 35th on Day 2 with 9-11, and is currently in 10th place on BassTrakk with his first 5-bass limit of the week of 14-5.

Fritts said he went 11 days after being diagnosed with Covid before his health took a significant dive. “I had a heart rate of 180-plus for almost four days,” he said. “I’m lucky to be here. If you ever get that close to not being here, you appreciate life more.”

Yes, Jeff Gustafson’s smallmouth slugfest is the story of this tournament so far. But David Fritts qualifying for Sunday’s final would be a close runner-up.

Kennedy continues to shine on Day 3

Steve Kennedy has caught several bass in the last hour and culled once, focusing on stretches of stumps and lay downs 

Kennedy said the stretch he was fishing had isolated stretches of milfoil and when the grass isn’t there, the bass will set up on the wood. He added he fished through the area on Day 1 and did not get a bite. 

With warmer temperatures today, Kennedy said these fish are starting to move up and with warmer weather tomorrow, he thinks his bite might be even better tomorrow. 

With 18-14 posted on BassTrakk, Kennedy is in second place and trails leader Jeff Gustafson by about 10 pounds unofficially.

Hudnall steadily moving up

To stay in contention for the Elite Series Angler of the Year title, you have to have some second- and third-day “saves” along the way. Derek Hudnall is having one of those tournaments this week. He was 54th on Day 1 with three bass totaling 4-13. He made the top 50 cut on Day 2 in 40th place with a limit weighing 11-2. And the 4-pounder pictured here is helping the Denham Springs, La., angler move up the standings even higher today.

Hudnall has three bass weighing an estimated 7-0, which has him in 29th place at 12:20 p.m. He finished 9th at the St. Johns River two weeks ago. It’s, of course, a long, long Elite Series season. But Hudnall is off to a strong start, especially with his “save” from missing the top 50 cut this week.

Gustafson finally culls squeaker

Jeff Gustafson has finally breathed a sigh of relief. The fifth keeper smallmouth that he caught about 8:30 this morning, one that barely met the legal limit of 18 inches, has been replaced by a 19-incher. It was a 3-pounder he caught at 11:05.

Gustafson caught several that measured 17 7/8ths inches before that. One of those smallies painted a picture of exactly why Gustafson has been successful this week. As he fought it to the boat, the bass spit a 4-inch gizzard shad from its mouth.

Gustafson explained that what he’s doing this week is something he’s been doing on smallmouth lakes in Canada for years. This is the first time he’s been able to use the technique successfully in an Elite Series tournament. He’s imitating the gizzard shad these smallmouth are feeding on with a 4-inch Z-Man Jerk ShadZ on a homemade jighead.

Fog in Loudoun

We have been very fortunate the last three days of the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite on Loudoun by escaping the fog. At 11 a.m. we now have fog which means by in the morning, it is possible we will have our first fog.

Kennedy, Christie having productive mornings

We’ve caught up with Jason Christie, who is throwing a spinnerbait around rocks and lay downs. The steep rip rap bank has produced his fifth keeper of the day as well as a non-keeper bite.

Christie said he lost a big one as well. BassTrakk currently has the Oklahoma native in 7th place with 8-0. 

Meanwhile across the bay, Steve Kennedy is having himself a day. He has landed a 6 pound, 3 ounce bass and has jumped to second according to BassTrakk. His estimated Day 3 total is 18-0. 

Kennedy said he caught the big fish on a chatterbait in the area he is in now and feels there is another big one around the cover he is fishing now. He also caught his fifth keeper. 

After Day 1, Kennedy said dirty water the key to his bite and this creek has it. The Auburn native fell to 19th on Day 2 after ending Day 1 in second. 

Light rain has started to fall over this section of the Tennessee River, but overall the day has seen considerably less rain than on Day 2.