Getting dialed-in, maybe

You would expect the Top 51 anglers in what was a 109-angler field to post some better overall numbers on the third day of any tournament anywhere. As you can see from the chart below, that’s exactly what happened Sunday in the GoPro Bassmaster Elite at Dardanelle presented by Econo Lodge.

A higher percentage weighed-in 5-bass limits, and the average weight of the bass brought to the scales went up. But hidden in those numbers are the continuing individual struggles for consistency on this ever-changing Arkansas River impoundment.

For instance, Shane Lineberger never got his groove back after being fourth on Day 1. He still had a great chance to make the Top 12 after Day 2 in 14th place, but finished 32nd with a four fish weighing 8-1 Sunday. And Elite Series rookie Stetson Blaylock seemed to be on the rise, going from 12th on Day 1 to 8th on Day 2, before finishing 21st with a limit weighing 10-2 on Sunday.

Today will present a new challenge to an already formidable fishery as heavy overnight rains have added a new twist.

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Total anglers 109 109 51
5-bass limits 80 65 43
Anglers/limits 73% 60% 84%
Bass weighed-in 487 451 242
Total weight 1,213-10 1,080-13 621-14
Ave. bass weighed-in 2.49 lbs. 2.39 lbs. 2.57 lbs.
16-lb.-plus bags 17 4
Big bag 19-3 19-4 18-14 
Big bass 6-8 5-4 5-8

Reminder: Championship Day is Monday

Reminder to fans: this week's Elite tournament at Dardanelle began a date later than our typical Elite Series tournaments. Which means instead of Championship Sunday, Day 4, or Championship Day, will take place on Monday. Bassmaster honored Memorial Day last Monday, and started practice for the tournament on Tuesday. With three practice days in the schedule that moved everything back a day.

Championship Monday will begin with take-off at 7:15 ET. Bassmaster LIVE airs 8:00 to 11:00 ET and 12:30 to 3:30 ET. The final weigh-in begins at 4:15 ET. You can follow it all right here on Bassmaster.com.

Is it okay to keep up with the tournament from work? Absolutely!

Sharing pays off for Hartman

Jamie Hartman is sharing water with David Mullins. That paid off for both anglers fishing Championship Monday.

What else paid off was the reassurance of knowing one would help the other in the unlikely event of a mechanical breakdown. That is an unwritten code of honor in this sport that went into play this morning.

Hartman discovered a minor malfunction in his Mercury outboard shortly after arriving at the shared location. Hartman phoned B.A.S.S. tournament officials to summons the Mercury service crew. He made another call to his Mullins, letting him know about the scenario. Mullins agreed to be on stand by should Hartman need other help.

The service crew was dispatched, arrived and quickly and got Hartman back in the game in no time.

“There is no other sport like this where guys will help each other out even though competing against each other,” said Hartman. 

DeFoe cashing in

Ott DeFoe doesn’t like to talk about his chances of winning Toyota Angler of the Year. That’s understandable. The season is at the turning point and there is much work to be done. 

One thing DeFoe can talk about. That’s his tournament earning this season. DeFoe is now the only Elite Series angler to earn a check at every event this season. Jason Christie and Todd Faircloth both missed the first cut at Dardanelle, ending their continuous run of checks this season. 

On the dark side, there are four anglers who’ve yet to cash a check this season. They are Jay Brainard, John Hunter Jr., Koby Krieger and Gerald Spohrer. 

Cruising the shoreline with Menendez

Most of the time bass move shallower when the water rises. They swim away from the shoreline toward deeper water when it goes down.

On Lake Dardanelle, Mark Menendez has learned otherwise from experience, trial and error, and running lots of water. The water on Menendez end of the lake is falling.

“The bass are not moving out at all,” he said. “They are staying shallow and finding whatever makes them comfortable.”

Whatever that is remains a mystery. However, Menendez confirmed the bass are holding to specific types of habitat at a given depth. They are not following the textbook theory of staging on any just any available cover.  

There you have yet another nuance of a lake that fishes like a river. 

Iaconelli keeping open mind

Michael Iaconelli described the core of his fishing strategy as keeping an open mind. It’s a good thing.

Up to 17 fishing outfits were on his front deck each morning of the tournament thus far. Under normal conditions most pros use half that amount. This is anything but a normal tournament.

Each outfit has a specific application for a given spot. Some are variations of the same lure. Iaconelli is moving so much that retying lures consumes to much time and is unpractical.

Iaconelli has taken keeping an open mind to extremes this week.

“Most times you want to have a great practice but here that could have led you in a direction that has already happened,” he explained. “What I found today is happening right now.”

Today keeping an open mind paid off with a huge limit weighing 18 pounds, 14 ounces.

“I wished the day had never ended,” said the self-proclaimed junk fishing junkie.

No kidding. Iaconelli cycled through keepers at each of his final 10 stops of the day. Until then he’d never fished at any of them before. That is strong because Iaconelli has five previous B.A.S.S. events here that include a second place at the 2005 Elite Series event. 

What's Ike really got?

Mike Iaconelli just made a jump into third place, according to BASSTrakk. If he really has 18-4 on the day, he would be only 2-2 behind leader Mark Davis. But here's the deal: Ike is THE big-eyer of all big-eyers on the Elite Series. He consistently over-estimates the weight of the fish that his marshal then enters on BASSTrakk. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Nothing counts until it's officially weighed.

It's just one more example of how Iaconelli walks to the beat of a different drummer. Most of these guys underestimate their weight. It seems to be a psychological advantage for them to have a BASSTrakk weight of say, 19 pounds, then weigh-in 21 pounds on the official scales. Ike goes the other way.

So we took a poll in the media trailer: If BASSTrakk shows him with 18-4, what's Ike really got? Six media "experts" participated, and the guesses ranged from 17-3 to 16-1. An extra large dill pickle will be delivered to the winner, courtesy of Thomas Allen, provided he doesn't win it himself.

No matter what Iaconelli actually weighs-in this afternoon, he's definitely moving up. He was 40th on Day 1 with 12-5, 23rd on Day 2 with 14-10 and appears to be solidly locked into Monday's Top 12 final, whether he's really got 18-4 or 16-1 or somewhere in between.

Dardanelle performers

Mark Davis harped yesterday that Lake Dardanelle is his nemesis. He based that on the early days of his career when good practices led to poor local and state tournaments. The bad luck carried over to his B.A.S.S. career, Davis told us yesterday. It’s true. His best performance here was a 44th-place finish in 2004.

In the BASSTrakk standings others have faired much better. Kevin VanDam leads the list with three Top 10 finishes in four events fished on Dardanelle. KVD’s best finish was a runner-up at the 2009 Bassmaster Elite Series. His other top finishes came at the 2007 Bassmaster Major (3rd place), the 2005 Elite Series (10th) and in 2004  (8th).

Dean Rojas’ best finish was a 4th-place finish in 2004. Steve Kennedy’s best performance was 20th at the 2007 Major. Michael Iaconelli had a runner-up finish in 2005.

Topping them all is Mark Menendez, winner of the 2009 Elite Series on Dardanelle.

A free front-row seat

Between the hotel and the weigh-in site at Lake Dardanelle State Park, there are small parking areas on the edge of Lake Dardanelle. Driving into town Thursday, I noticed pros practicing near the parking spaces. Moving from the hotel to the weigh-in site today, I noticed two pros had gathered an audience in one parking section...even in a pouring rain storm.

Cliff Pirch slowly worked a shallow spot and swapped pleasantries with the happy fans. Every piece of exposed wood got the once over as a steady rain fell. The fans got close and then shared the baits he was fishing amongst themselves.

This type of up-close interaction with the pros as they fish a Bassmaster Elite Series event is defintiely one thing that makes bass fishing unique. The fact that local fishing fans have the ability to watch their favorite pros fish their favorite spots is one factor that makes these events and venues such a good match.

For even better pictures of the Elites fishing close that were taken from the shore, check out Chris Mitchell's Day 3 from the shore photo gallery.

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