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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Basking in the sun

This 8-foot alligator was basking in the sun watching Ish Monroe fish.

Updated by Bassmaster Marshall Bill Ford

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. 

Big hour of fish catches

The Final Day of action has been slow at times, but given the conditions these anglers are dealing with; we can only be so lucky with the catches we've seen.

6:15 - 7:15 a.m. —    8
7:15 - 8:15 a.m. —    9
8:15 - 9:15 a.m. —   16
9:15 - 10:15 a.m. — 10
10:15 - 11:15 a.m. — 9

The catch numbers have been pretty consistent, but two hours stand out to me. The most numbers we've seen today came in the 8:15 to 9:15 window when 16 catches were logged. But the other hour that has been as crucial to this final day was this past hour. Only 9 fish were caught during the 10:15 to 11:15 hour, but we saw two 4-pounders go in anglers' livewell. Mark Menendez started the hour off with a 4+ pounder and leader Dustin Connell closed that hour with his biggest of the day.

Add in two 3+ pounders for the field and we've seen 4 of the 5 biggest catches of the day so far. Hot hour for the Top 12. What hour will be hot to end the day for the 12 best?

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.

What is a hot tree?

Watching LIVE you can see Dustin Connell talking about "fishing a hot tree." What he means is, a tree that looks like prime fish habitat. Connell is flipping very thick deep green wood cover on the edge of the river channel. He believes with two 4-pound bites he can seal the deal. 

It may take an abundance of trees before Connell finds these bites, but he is fishing with patience and selecting which trees he's flipping with precision. He noted he believes the spotted bass will be more prone to bite with bluebird skies, than largemouth in post-frontal conditions. 

Like I said in an earlier blog this week, Connell told me the night after the Classic, "if there's one tournament I'm gonna win, it'll be Ross Barnett."

He's fishing with confidence.

Let's see if the rookie can pull it off.