KVD ain't done yet!

Kevin VanDam has landed the biggest bass of the day - at least a 5-pounder, maybe bigger. It's listed as a 5-0 on BASSTrakk, which allowed him to close the gap on leader Dustin Connell to 2-12.

However, time is running out. Check-in time is 2 p.m.

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Pre-tournament forecasts spot-on

The Elite Series anglers often get accused of low-balling in their pre-tournament predictions, which are based on three days of practice. It’s tough to make an accurate prediction when often you’re not setting the hook on the bites you get, and you’re simply looking for bites, not exploiting those spots. But in the case of Ross Barnett Reservoir, the forecasts were pretty much spot-on. Consider the following, gathered prior to the anglers’ meeting Wednesday.

“I’ve fished here a lot over the last eight or nine years,” said Brock Mosley. “It’s only about an hour from where I live. Being consistent is real hard to do on this lake, any time of year.

“I think 64 pounds is going to be real strong this week. Somebody is going to catch 20 pounds one day, then come in with 9 or 10 pounds the next. It always happens that way here.”

First-day leader Brandon Card is a prime example of what Mosley was referring to. Card caught weighed 22-14 on Day 1, 11-0 on Day 2 and 6-10 on Day 3. Mark Davis is another example with daily totals of 20-10, 11-4 and 6-14.

If Dustin Connell reaches his goal of 13 pounds today, he’ll have 65 pounds, a single pound more than Mosley predicted.

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Tie breaker?

This tournament is shaping up to be tightly contested. A race to the finish. Unless, of course, Dustin Connell scores that crucial fifth fish to round out his limit. 

However, anything can happen when you have two VanDams and a list of B.A.S.S. veterans, several with more than two decades of experience, in the lineup. 
Is there a possibility of a Championship Tuesday
The answer is yet to come. Meanwhile, there are some rules in place in the event of a tie. Here those are, taken straight from the B.A.S.S. official rulebook.  

In case of a tie for first place weight at the end of the tournament, there will be a fish-off between the tied competitors under the direction and special rules established by tournament officials. Ties for standard cuts and places below first at the end of the tournament will be resolved in the following order: 

(1) individual with heaviest single day catch during competition; 

(2) if the tie is not broken, the next tiebreaker will be the individual with the second heaviest single day catch during competition; 

(3) if the tie is not broken, the next tiebreaker will be the individual with the largest number of legal fish weighed during competition; 

(4) if the tie is not broken, the next tiebreaker will be the individual with the largest number of legal live fish weighed during competition. If the tie is not broken by applying the foregoing procedures, the tie will remain a tie. When ties for cut position are not broken by the foregoing procedures, competitors still tied will compete for the next cut. Additional places will not be awarded. Monetary prizes for each competitor will be awarded in equal amounts. Angler of the Year points will be awarded for the place of the tied position and each competitor will be awarded equal points. In B.A.S.S. Elite events where weights are zeroed, ties for cuts going into the final round shall be broken by Angler of the Year standings following most recent concluded Elite Series event. A tie for first at the end of the AOY Championship shall be broken by the above procedures and not result in a fish-off. 

Menendez goes year round

Earlier this week the pros lamented that Ross Barnett would fish “small.” That made avoiding standout features prone to high fishing pressure a good place to avoid. Nothing stands out more on the lower lake than the very long riprap shoreline along a dam. 

This morning Mark Menendez told me he’s camped out along such a standout feature. The riprap along the dam. 
The longer he stayed the more Menendez learned about the area. That’s a nugget the average angler can use. 

“Those fish live around the dam year-round, and a quantity of fish is available that replenishes itself every day,” said Menendez. “I didn’t have to worry about running around the lake trying to find new fish.”

That is wise advice for the average angler. Focusing on a reliable area with a year-round population of bass. Fundamentally, that is an area that supports the bass population year round with habitat, depth and food. Examples are backwater sloughs, lakes, river systems and riprap shorelines. 

Earlier in the week Menendez also told me he cycled through lots of 14-inch borderline keepers to get the quality bite. 

He built confidence with every kicker fish that came along. And here he fishes. Alone at one of the most obvious features on the lake. 

Connell getting closer to his goal

Dustin Connell's goal today is 13 pounds, as he noted on Bassmaster LIVE earlier this morning. He just got 4 1/2 pounds closer with his fourth fish and retook the lead. He now has 4 bass totaling 9-5. One more like the last one, and he'd be right at his goal.

Connell started the day with a 5-pound, 8-ounce lead over Kevin VanDam, 5-15 over Jonathon VanDam and 7-1 over Mark Menendez, his three closest competitors so far today. Do the math and you see that those guys need 18 to 20 pounds, respectively, to contend with Connell if he reaches that 13-pound goal.

Photo by Seigo Saito

What happens in tie?

It is tight at the top of the BASSTrakk leaderboard right now. Jonathon VanDam is leading. Mark Menendez is just 7 ounces back. Kevin VanDam is 9 ounces back from the leader. Dustin Connell is 12 ounces back, and he only has three fish. And Bobby Lane is 1 pound and an ounce back. Of course these are all estimates.

Several fans are asking, what happens if we have a tie at the top? According to rule C21 for the Bassmaster Elite Series, "In case of a tie for first place weight at the end of the tournament, there will be a fish-off between the tied competitors under the direction and special rules established by tournament officials."

We've already had a day postponed by a big storm. This tournament would hit legendary status if we also have a fish-off. Stay tuned!

Connell's spotted bass advantage

On Day 3 Dustin Connell was elated after catching a 3-pound spotted bass. The reason why is the central Alabama native cut his angling teeth by catching spotted bass.

Specifically, he learned his trade on the Coosa and Alabama river systems, where spotted bass are found in abundance. So is current and there is plenty of that right now on the Pearl River.

That key spotted bass might be a clue as to how this tournament will end.

Connell just admitted to avoiding a key area until now. Give him lots of credit for waiting until ideal conditions set up for a spotted bass bite. Those bass are more current driven than largemouth.

Connell is making quick runs to specific pockets with current breaks that are ideal for attracting spotted bass.

That is not to suggest that he will stick with this pattern all day. But it does give him a distinct advantage. He is doing something different from his peers. That has made all the difference this week for the top anglers. It might make a huge difference since his bite is best in the afternoon.

A limit for KVD

Kevin VanDam has just finished his limit. After the flurry this morning we wouldn't have thought it was going to take this long.

But he does have five. While BASSTrakk has him at 9 1/4, I have him closer to 11 pounds which puts him and Connell neck and neck.

The last fish was in the 2-pound neighborhood. And while things are slow we know he's missed or lost a "good fish" prior to filling his limit.

It's our guess he's having second thoughts about releasing the 3-pounder this morning. But we also know he had confidence he'd catch better fish.

He may be on that track now.

BASSTrakk update

Dustin Connell's bite appears to be heating up, he now has three bass for 4-13. He's sitting unofficially in the lead. Jonathon VanDam has moved into second on BASSTrakk with a limit at 9-4. That's the big bag of the day at this point. JVD started the day in fourth place, and has moved ahead of his uncle Kevin VanDam, and Keith Poche. 

Bobby Lane started the day in 11th place. Now with three fish and 7-8, he has moved up to fourth place. 

Keith Poche began Day 4 in second place, but he has dropped down to fifth place with two fish for 2-8. Poche told Bassmaster LIVE that his primary area was "trashed by the storm." So he's fishing in a creek nearby, flippin a black and blue creature bait.

Most of the field today, seven anglers, are fishing north of the highway 43 bridge. 

KVD’s jerkbait tactics

Kevin VanDam told me this morning he would assess the dynamics of how the Sunday storms affected his area upon arrival. So far so good. 

BASSTrakk shows 4 keepers for about 7 pounds in his livewell. 

The secret is also out on the secret tactic and technique. Nobody has a keener sense of reading water, bass behavior and baitfish activity than KVD. All three are key to patterning bass. 

The secret lure is a 4.75-inch, 1/2-ounce Strike King KVD 300 Series Jerkbait, Chartreuse Sexy Shad. He chose the 300 series after noticing threadfin shad in his area being larger than normal, over 4 inches. 

What else is unique to his area is the layout. VanDam is focused on fishing bottom contours and subtle depth changes. Both are key habitats for river bass, because they offer current breaks. Largemouth use those to get out of current and ambush baitfish as it sweeps past them. The threadfin is the food source and the jerkbait is the ideal imitator. 

What else is ideal about current breaks, especially this time of year, is those act like funnels that siphon postspawn bass out of shallower spawning areas. Bass are less spread out and easier to find. 

“River fish move based on their environment, so I will be moving with them,” he told me. 

That makes the perfect setup for VanDam to be a contender. Moving water, a lure imitating the prevailing food source, and postspawn bass concentrated in funnels that make them easier to find.