Support for Spohrer

Gerald Spohrer stands a good chance of making his first Bassmaster Elite Series Top 51 cut.

He can thank the service crews for playing a role in getting there.

This morning the Louisiana angler experienced mechanical difficulties with his Mercury outboard while at the boat dock. The Mercury team responded, but so did service techs from Phoenix Boats, Nitro Boats, Yamaha Outboards and other competing brands. Spohrer also fishes from a Bass Cat.

The service crews are the unheralded heroes of the event. Each morning, teams stand at the ready whenever needed. And no matter the brand there always is an all-out assist to get the anglers back on the water and in the game.

Lee brothers at top of BASSTrakk

It should be noted that in BASSTrakk Jordan Lee is in first with 34-9 (two day total) and Matt Lee is in second with 33-8. Steve Wright when is the last time brothers were sitting in first and second? Steve Bowman and I can't recall another time.

As most of you know, Jordan won the Classic this year and had a stellar young Elite Series career so far. Matt has struggled more. But he's having a strong 2017 season, with two top 12 finishes so far this year. As a fan it's exciting to see these guys competing head to head. We may have the pleasure of watching these brother from Alabama battle for years to come.

Currently in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race Jordan sits in 16th place and Matt is 32nd.

Mama and papa Lee have got to be very proud.

Writer's note: I did hear from Steve Wright about my question on whether any brothers had spent time at first and second in the leaderboard. And as usual he made me feel like an idiot. Not really, but he did recall that in the 2012 Bassmaster College Championship in Little Rock Matt finished first and Jordan finished second. Some called that event the Civil War, because brother was fighting brother. Because of the win, Matt went on to fish in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic. Will we see another Civil War here?

Championship Sunday, supersized

Come to a Championship Sunday takeoff and the vibe at the launch ramp is usually laid back. After all, the field is cut from 108 to just 12 anglers. The finalists have the relief of knowing they made it all the way to the final day. There will be less fishing pressure.

Tomorrow the vibe will be different. The top 51 will be fishing. There will be more pressure. The vibe already is tense and here is an example.

Jeff Kriet and Justin Lucas are fishing within casting distance of each other. BASSTrakk shows Kriet in third place, and the Oklahoma angler is in contention to win his first B.A.S.S. title since 1998. Lucas is 23rd place and is just trying to stay inside the cut. Normally, he would eliminated on a normal Championship Sunday. Lucas will keep pressing on.

The two anglers got into a spirited conversation about territory. Lucas contended the area is a community hole and not exclusive to anyone. Kriet acknowledged it. Even so, Lucas continued to justify why he was fishing in the area. The more he persisted, the less patient Kriet became.

With so many community holes getting attention the above scenario is sure to pan out elsewhere. Again, having 51 anglers in the mix makes the competition more intense than a typical Championship Sunday.

Faircloth with No. 4

Todd Faircloth just put largemouth number four into his livewell. It was another 2-pounder, so that gives him around 8 or 9 pounds so far. He had just missed a bite, so when he set the hook this time he did it dramatically, with a big body lean and a strong curve in his rod. That made me think the fish was bigger. Faircloth is fishing slow, steady and calmly. Those words might also be used to describe the tall Texan's personality.

Palaniuk's spinbait

The Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year leader continues to surge ahead.

The average angler always stands to learn a lot from the tactics mined up by the anglers in tournament competition.

Brandon Palaniuk is a case in point. A key to his tournament is dialing into a specific type of vegetation. There is lots of different varieties on Lake Champlain. At his request I will not disclose the type of vegetation, but it indeed enables one of his lure choices to excel.

That lure is the Storm Arashi Spinbait that he helped design. The lure features a front prop with three blades with two props at the rear.

“It’s a super finesse lure but it gives off a big profile,” he said.

The water vortex created by the action emulates a fleeing, struggling baitfish.

“Air gaps are created between the front and rear props that add to the pulsating, rock and roll action,” he explained.

Faircloth with 6 pounds

This morning Steve Bowman and I have followed Day 1 leader Todd Faircloth to the north end of Lake Champlain. It's warm and calm here. Faircloth has three largemouth in his livewell for 6 or 6 and a half pounds.

It's an unusual Saturday on the Elite Series, with the full field fishing today. Typically the field is cut to the top 51 anglers for Sat. and then to the top 12 for Sunday. Because Thursday was canceled due to rough conditions, the tournament was shortened to three days. So tonight the field will be cut to the top 51.

This could make for an dramatic Championship Sunday. If the weights stay tight deep into the field, this opens the door for someone deeper in the leaderboard
to make a charge to the top.

Matt Lee moves up

Matt Lee continues to climb in the standings of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. He was 47th place yesterday and got a huge lift after landing in 7th place in the tournament standings. That moved him inside the Classic cut in 32nd place. He just briefly took the lead before getting knocked down to second by his brother.

“The calmer the better for me. I’m fishing deep, from 12-35 feet and it makes a huge difference with lure presentation.”

Matt shared those thoughts with me this morning.

The reason why he likes the calm wind is boat control. He is making very precise casts to fish holding tight to cover. Wind and waves make detecting strikes in the deeper water more difficult, just like keeping the boat in place over the cover.

Matt’s only previous tournament here was the 2014 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open. Ironically, a 28th-place finish is helping him today.

“I’m using some old waypoints that worked well back then.”

He added, “the post-spawn smallmouth are really skinny, and I’m also catching largemouth from the same areas.”

Adding weight to his lures puts his chosen bait into the deeper water strike zones favored by the smallmouth.

A limit for Kriet

Patience has paid off for Jeff Kriet. He has just boated his fifth bass. This one weighs close to 3 pounds and should give him the lead, if BASStrakk is up-to-date.

Kriet has confidence in this hole. Just before that last keeper, he brought in a 14 inch smallmouth that would have filled his limit and he tossed it overboard without even measuring it. He knew bigger ones would come along soon, and one did.

It is no coincidence that the wind is picking up and current is moving. Now he's catching them every cast.

Kriet's spot turns on

Backing off from the place he started is turning out to be a good move for Jeff Kriet. After boating a bass almost 3 pounds, a few casts later he hooked into one just under 4.

It took him what seemed like forever to bring the fish in. These Champlain smallmouth just don't give up.

What to watch for

The weather forecasters missed it again. Yesterday afternoon everyone was nervous about the potential for a Day 2 cancellation. Winds out of the north up to 18 mph, they said. The boats left the dock under sunny skies and a temperature of 53 degrees. The forecast now calls for light winds from 5-11 mph. Same thing on Championship Sunday.

Here are three things to watch for as the day unfolds.

Weather: Some want calm, others don’t care. No matter the preference, today is setting up for ideal conditions to catch largemouth and smallmouth. The high sun will position largemouth and smallmouth tighter to cover. That will help everyone fishing in shallow water for largemouth. Flipping shoreline cover and offshore grass will be a big deal. It already is for Todd Faircloth and Alton Jones Sr.

Fishing pressure: On the Vermont side alone are eight permitted club-sized tournaments. Now another factor is adding to the pressure. That is the community holes. The Inland Sea, The Gut and other popular areas will get more pressure as anglers jockey to get inside the Top 51 for Championship Sunday.

Mixed bags: Yesterday everyone I spoke with talked about catching mixed bags of largemouth and smallmouth. Of course, those anglers are fishing in deeper water inhabited by both species. Some anglers are catching a mixed bag limit and then culling up with smallmouth. So it will be interesting to see which species becomes the most reliable for consistency and weight.