Mind = blown

This event is less than 1 hour old and I've already had my mind blown twice. Hard to do for an old guy with little mind left.

The first was KVD going through about a 10-cast flurry that produced a nice limit on a spinnerbait.

A moment ago I turned to see Dustin Connell in the same creek behind us. The spectators are in between both. I was under the impression Connell was way up the river. As in a long way from here.

His water may have gotten muddy. Or he may be spreading his wings a bit. Either way none of it is what we expected.

To accentuate that point, KVD caught two more keepers while I was typing this blog.

KVD in a flurry

KVD just went through a flurry and we watched him catch three keepers, no make that five, on almost successive casts.

I can't say for certain. I was trying to write this blog and had to toss it aside at least four times while the next fish was being hooked.

He now has a limit. I'm a good bit away from him but I'm certain he has at least 10 pounds. Probably more. It's hard to know for certain. Since I started typing this, he has caught 7 keepers and it's getting hard to keep up.

The cleanest water I've seen all week

I can't speak for the other anglers, but the big storm that pushed through here yesterday did not trash the water Kevin VanDam is fishing. As a matter of fact, it's the cleanest water I've seen all week.

The level doesn't seem to have changed much it's a beautiful morning. The wind is blowing fairly strong from the southwest, which on this lake is straight up the river. That made for a bumpy ride for a short stretch. But other than that today is like no other day in this event.

And it appears as if the storm played nice. At least for some of them.

Got the t-shirt?

Meet Aimee Fitzhugh. She is a Marshal this week, having ridden with Jordan Lee and Shaw Grigsby. On Championship Monday she’ll ride with Skeet Reese.

What’s up with the special edition t-shirt?

 “I make shirts in my side business for special occasions, and this is a very special occasion,” she said. “It’s not every day that you get to go out with the pros.”

Back home her husband, also a Marshal this week, was getting their children ready for school.

“He didn’t get chosen for today so here I am.”

And styling in the only t-shirt of it’s kind. Welcome to Championship Monday. 

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Postponement warranted

While the predicted 2 to 4 inches of rain didn't occur during Sunday's storm, the postponement was well-warranted. In addition to tornado warnings and high winds, there was quite a light show. Ross Barnett Reservoir general manager John Sigman lives near the lake. "The lightning was incredible," Sigman said. "It would have been real dangerous to be out there."
Ish Monroe agreed, noting, "I'm glad we don't go out in dangerous conditions. There is no sanctuary on the water. Here at the camper, I've got sanctuary."
And the 12 finalists seemed to enjoy a day of rest. 
"It's just a day off," Mark Menendez said. "I kind of look at these things as a chance to turnoff, take off my fishing hat and let my body rest. (Sunday) was actually a welcomed relief for me.

"It's always best to err on the side of safety. I mean this is just fishing. It's what we all do for a living, but I would like to be able to do it tomorrow as well."

Upriver anglers arrive

The upriver anglers have made it safely. At least four of them anyway.

Keith Poche, Dustin Connell, KVD and JVD in that order came roaring up the river minutes ago.

We quickly slipped in behind KVD. He didn't go too far before he shut down and began throwing a frog. I was so tuned to that, I didn't notice we had a spectator contingent.

It's not a typical armada. But five boats, each with a couple of fans on average, are with us.

I'm surprised by the number. Makes me wonder if anyone works in Mississippi. Actually it's kind of cool to see these guys on a Monday morning.

AOY scrambled at ‘The Rez’

No matter what happens today, there will be a new leader in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. Jason Christie has edged previous leader Ott DeFoe as a result of his 27th-place finish and DeFoe’s 51st-place showing in the Academy + Sports Bassmaster Elite at Ross Barnett Reservoir.

The current AOY point totals won’t become official until the standings of the Top 12 are determined today. But for everyone else on the Elite Series, the points after four tournaments are final. And it’s apparent that Ross Barnett scrambled the standings. For instance, among the top 10 going into this event, only four made the Day 2 Top 51 cut.

Christie now has 359 points and a four-point lead over DeFoe. There’s a gap of 20-plus points between those two and 3rd-place Greg Hackney, who finished 42nd at Ross Barnett and moved up from 6th place. There will probably be three new anglers in the top 10 this week, Kevin VanDam, Dave Lefebre and Dustin Connell. But that won’t be determined until today’s weigh-in.

There’s a logjam between 4th and 10th place, separated by only 7 points. A point is earned for each place in the final standings of a tournament. Based on a 110-angler field, first place is worth 110 points, second is 109 and so forth. VanDam was in 27th place entering this event. While the AOY standings now show KVD in 4th place, that’s based on him being 3rd in the Ross Barnett event. If VanDam falls to, for instance, 8th today, he’d finish with 321 points and drop to 10th when the points become official.

Again, just to be clear, AOY points aren’t determined until an angler’s place in each tournament is final. As another example, Dustin Connell is 7th in the current “mythical” AOY standings listed on this site. But he’d officially be credited with 11 fewer points if he fell all the way to 12th place today. That’s highly unlikely, but it serves to illustrate the point – nothing is official until the angler’s final place in the tournament has been determined.

There remains a lot of room for movement in the AOY standings approaching the halfway point of the season. That’s illustrated by Brent Chapman and Ish Monroe potentially jumping 30 places in the AOY race as a result of Top 12 finishes at Ross Barnett. On the other hand, Jason Williamson was 2nd in AOY points after three tournaments, and he’ll remain in the top 10 despite a 73rd-place finish here.

It’s still too early to make a whole lot out of these AOY fluctuations. But it’s certainly time to make note of them.

In position

Welcome to Championship Monday on Ross Barnett! Bassmaster photographer Garrick Dixon and his awesome boat driver Bill Boggan are in position to catch Dustin Connell on his way up the river. So far the water conditions look relatively unchanged after yesterday's storm, but will Dustins fish still be biting? 

Less rain than expected

The storm front that roared over Ross Barnett Reservoir today left little of the predicted rainfall. So for all the worries about rising rivers and additional muddy water, Monday the lake may look much like the Top 12 anglers left it on Saturday.

"Surprisingly, we got only about an inch or so across the basin, not the two to four inches that was predicted," said John Sigman, the general manager for Ross Barnett Reservoir. "It won't impact our operation of the lake. We've been trying to hold the lake level stable all week, and it looks like we're going to be able to do that a couple more days."

Rather than formulating Plan B, it seems the Top 12 anglers will be able to stick with Plan A, the one that got them to Day 4 of the tournament.

Connell's worst nightmare

The good news for Dustin Connell is he has a 5-pound, 6-ounce lead over second-place Keith Poche going into Monday's Top 12 final of the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite at Ross Barnett Reservoir.

The bad news is the final is Monday instead of Sunday, as scheduled before today's storm forced a postponement. Connell's thoughts, when asked about that possibility after weighing-in Saturday, are significant. The 26-year-old Elite Series rookie was supremely confident about closing out a win, if the predicted storm didn't hit, noting that conditions in his area up the Pearl River were improving.

"The big rain on Wednesday night raised the water level about eight inches to a foot, and it kind of scattered them out," Connell said. "But it's starting to stabilize up there now. Hopefully we don't get 52 inches of rain and they postpone the tournament until Monday. That would ruin my deal. I'd have to just call Plan B, and go throw a frog like everybody else."

While it hasn't rained anywhere near 52 inches, Connell and the other 11 finalists are certainly considering alternative game plans today.