Things have changed on the St. Lawrence

Things have completely changed on the St. Lawrence today. The wind is blowing harder than it has all week, rolling straight up the river at about 15 miles an hour.

I'm sitting up river waiting on KVD in the area he's been fishing and at the moment I'm bobbing up and down in waves that are reaching 3-footers. And it's a choppy kind of pattern. The kind that creates a really rough ride.

Interestingly, after the first two days of an incredible current flowing from the south the wind is actually blowing us up the river.

I'm sure this will change things. For the better or worse remains to be seen.

KVD's thinking 23

Kevin VanDam enters Day 4's finale with a 2-pound, 7-ounce lead over his nephew, Jonathon VanDam. When asked is he's got a goal today, Kevin said, "It's hard to catch 25 pounds here, so if I can catch 23 pounds, and I've got a two-pound lead..."

But nothing can be taken for granted. VanDam emphasized that other than the relative ease of fishing in Saturday's calm conditions, it has taken a lot of hard work and constant adjustments to reach his three-day total of 66-7.

"It's not easy," VanDam said Saturday. "Yesterday (when he had 19-8) was a real struggle. On my best spot Friday, there was a guy watching me, and he was sitting there this morning when I got there. I never got to even fish it."

That's just one more example of why it's not always good to be king, so to speak, like Kevin VanDam is in the bass fishing world and has been for a long time. As one Elite Series pro told me several years ago, "If the rest of us had to fish under the same conditions as Kevin does, he'd win every tournament."

Another day of adjustments

Every angler in today's Top 12 will tell you he's had to adjust to changing conditions the three previous days to make the final cut. And today is going to be another day to adjust. The brisk northeast wind is signalling that. It's currently blowing at 13 miles per hour with gusts to 20. It's predicted to gradually diminish into single digits this afternoon, but that will still be a contrast to yesterday's calm winds.

Saturday presented perfect weather for catching St. Lawrence River smallmouth bass. It was reflected in the number of 20-pound bags weighed - 13 in a 51-angler field, the same as Friday when all 109 men were fishing.

"(Saturday) was real calm and it changed directions (from Friday) 180 degrees," said Kevin VanDam, the tournament leader every day so far. "It slowed things down. It's a lot easier to fish when it's like that. If you look at the weights, they're a lot better for everybody."

Today? Not so much. So this will be a test as to who can make the best adjustments - again.

What is the cone on JVD's front deck?

We've gotten several questions today about the orange cone sitting on Jonathon VanDam's front deck. See the photo.This is not a traffic cone, it's a Flogger Underwater Viewer, made by LureCraft. Place it in the water and, by blocking out the sun's reflection, the Flogger gives anglers a clear view of what's under the surface. It is typically used in clear, shallow water, and is particularly useful durning spawn. Mark Zona talked about it on Bassmaster LIVE today. And JVD told Steve Wright he caught a spawner using it today. 

KVD adds a lunker

Thanks in part to his latest catch, Kevin VanDam will probably be leading this tournament for the third straight day when the weigh-in concludes. VanDam landed an estimated 6-pounder at 1 o'clock. If you were watching on Bassmaster LIVE, the sound of VanDam's spinning reel stripping drag seemingly went on forever before he landed the fish.

VanDam's 6-pound, 1-ounce smallmouth on Day 1 is the big bass of this tournament so far. This one might top it. BASSTrakk shows VanDam with 21-8 now. He's got every bit of that.

DeFoe can see hope in Palaniuk

Ott DeFoe seemingly exited the Angler of the Year race with his 99th place finish at the St. Lawrence River. No one has taken the AOY title with a tournament finish in the 90s. But there’s a first time for everything. While he’s got no margin for error this late in the season, DeFoe need only look at Brandon Palaniuk’s record for inspiration.

Based on the Day 2 standings here, Palaniuk is second in AOY points, only four back of leader Casey Ashley. That’s despite finishing 105th at Lake Okeechobee in the second tournament of the season.

Palaniuk has overcome that Florida disaster by being amazingly consistent in the other five tournaments, finishing no lower than 18th and making the Top 12 four times, including a win at Sam Rayburn.

The following is an event-by-event comparison of the top four anglers in the AOY race, based on the standings after Day 2 at St. Lawrence. It’s important to remember that the total points listed here aren’t final. For instance, leader Casey Ashley’s 619 points are contingent on him finishing in second place, where he started today. If he wins this tournament, Ashley would finish with 620 points. Any place less than second, and his 7-tournament total will be reduced accordingly when the points become official based on the final standings. 

Casey AshleyBrandon Palaniuk Kevin VanDam Jason Christie
Total Points:619615604596
1. Cherokee              61st12th62nd14th
2. Okeechobee          31st105th24th42nd
3. Toledo Bend       4th5th29th2nd
4. Ross Barnett          34th18th2nd27th
5. Sam Rayburn        13th1st52nd7th
6. Dardanelle            13th12th3rd72nd
7. St. Lawrence          2nd *       9th*   1st *17th *

* after Day 2 at the St. Lawrence River

Upside, downside of calm

Since LIVE came on the air yesterday we've seen the importance of the current-driven wind on the smallmouth bite. Smallmouth must have it, natural flow of a river or from above by the wind.

There is little wind at this stage of Day 3.

There is an upside and downside to it. The good side is the smallmouth are easier to see in the ultra-clear water, much to the delight of the sight fishermen. The bad news is the lack of current, from the wind, inhibits the predator feeding instinct of the smallmouth. They feed by current, waiting for food to be swept past the bottom current breaks where they hold.

The wind is coming back soon. And it will shift to northerly directions on the compass. That will certainly be good for the smallmouth anglers.

Ashley culling

Ashley has just made his first substantial cull of the day. This one arrived in the boat somewhere around 3 1/2 to 4 pounds. That culls out one of the dinks and likely brings his total up a couple pounds.

Prior to that fish he had about 11 1/2 pounds. He should be well over the 13 pound mark now.

And I can't put a period on that sentence before he hooks up. This one was even better. The fish was so strong it pulled Ashley closer to us.

It came in at 4-12. He weighed it. He threw back a 1-12. So he should be scaring the 16-pound mark at the moment.

While all that is going on Russ Lane is in the background and we've seen him boat two chunks in the same amount of time. The bite may be picking up or they just hit a sweet spot together.

Ashley moves, rallies

Casey Ashley mentioned yesterday that he was hoping to stay in the same area over the next two days, saying, "It's a big place and I've got it all to myself."

But at the same time, he noticed some change was in the air, literally.

"They quit for awhile today," he said. "I don't know what the deal was. The wind changed. It was blowing more out of the west rather than the south. The place I'm fishing, they really like that south wind."

And, apparently, they really don't like the north wind that is blowing today. So Ashley made a move, according to Steve Bowman, who is following him this morning. And it started paying off instantly. Ashley landed two 3 1/2-pounders and a 4-12. He's got at least the 16-6 BASSTrakk shows, maybe closer to 17 pounds, according to Bowman. Russ Lane is within sight, and he's catching 'em too.