Potential big AOY shakeup

I don't typically put much stock in the daily updates of the Angler of the Year point standings that are generated during a tournament. I like to call them "mythical" AOY standings, since what one angler does on Day 1 of an event doesn't actually produce any AOY points. Any and all points come from the final standings.
However, today's AOY standings, generated from the Day 1 results at the St. Lawrence River, are too significant to be brushed off so lightly. If nothing else, the new standings are a probable indicator for a big shakeup in the AOY standings when the real points are compiled after Sunday's finale.
Here's a sampling of the shakeup, based on yesterday's results: 
– Previous leader Ott DeFoe has dropped to 6th place, due to his 60th place bag of 16-12;
– Casey Ashley jumped from 4th place to 1st, thanks to his 6th place total of 21-14;
– Other risers in the top 10 include Jason Christie, from 6th to 3rd, Kevin VanDam from 7th to 2nd, and Edwin Evers from 9th to 4th;
– Others falling in the standings include Jacob Wheeler, from 2nd to 5th, Mark Davis, from 5th to 7th, Brandon Palaniuk, from 3rd to 9th, and Bobby Lane, from 8th to 17th.

Again, nothing counts until the final standings. But big changes are looming in the AOY standings in this seventh of nine regular season Elite Series events.

The bite is on

The bite is definitely on for Lowen and Herren. It's just not gang busters. Both have added 4-pounders to their well at virtually the same time.

Lowen's third keeper has put him in the lead and well on his way to building the kind of sack he had yesterday.

These two anglers are about 100 to 200 yards apart, with Herren moving around to and fro on the deeper end of a long point. Lowen is staying closer to the bank. And at the moment, it doesn't seem to matter which end they are on.

Catching up with Lowen

We caught up with Bill Lowen just as he was hooked up and landing his first keeper. And it's the right start for the day at about 4 pounds.

Two things we noticed immediately: Lowen is shallow, which we expected, but not completely on the bank; and more surprising is he has a spinning rod and reel in his hand. We typically see him with a flipping stick.

I asked him if this was the first time he'd ever used a spinning rod. His response: "This is the first time I've ever been caught with one by a camera."

Not sure if he will keep up the finesse stuff but this could be fun to watch, possibly as much fun as watching a bull navigate a China closet.

Not long after he boated his 4-pounder, Matt Herren boated one like it not far away. The fish may be biting like they were yesterday.

Meanwhile, Lowen has caught keeper No. 2. It's another smallmouth and we've someone actually measure a fish for the first time. It keeps but it'll have to cull for Lowen to keep up with his pace from yesterday.

Day 2 officially underway

Day 2 is officially underway and at the moment there doesn't appear to be a whole lot of things different than yesterday, at least from a weather standpoint.

Not sure if that means the fishing will be just as good as Day 1, but we can hope. Yesterday was one of those incredible days with so many big sacks of smallmouth hitting the scales most of the anglers set in the weigh-in line with their jaws pressed against their chest in awe.

If this keeps up then this may be very well be one of those events we talk about for a long time as a baseline for great river smallmouth fishing.

I'm hoping it's at least similar. While I wish I could cast and fish for these big beasts, it's almost as much fun watching these guys catch them. Battles are prolonged. Tensions get high. And emotions run the gamut.

As we sit here waiting for Bill Lowen, one of the true river rats in the Elite Series, we are anxious to see how a guy who normally pitches and flips in skinny water is actually catching these fish in ultra clear water.

It's our guess he's figured out the current and how it moves fish and puts them in a place to get caught. But we are only guessing.

What we don't have to guess about is how exciting today will be for a lot of this field and how interesting it will be for everyone.

Photo by Bassmaster Marshal David Mills

Can Day 2 match Day 1?

The longer Thursday’s weigh-in lasted, the more jaw-dropping it became. The headline, finally, was 20 anglers catching bags of 20 pounds or more on the St. Lawrence River. But there were several significant sub-heads, like Kevin VanDam’s first-place total of 24 pounds, 5 ounces, and 50 pros catching 18 pounds or more.

This is the third time in the last five years the Bassmaster Elite Series has been here in Waddington, N.Y. This storied smallmouth bass fishery, which includes a significant largemouth population, has always been productive. So these anglers were expecting another fun week, confirmed by three days of promising practice time. Reality hit Thursday in a surprising way.

“I knew it was going to be good, but I didn’t know it was going to be this good,” said Mark Davis, who bagged 17 pounds, 10 ounces and finished tied for 51st place – 51st place! Added Davis, “It’s just crazy.”

That’s where today’s two-day cut will be. The top 51 anglers in the 109-man field will advance to compete Saturday. In the following comparison of the last three Day 1 results, 50th place is listed for comparing apples to apples, since the two-day cut mark was at 50th place in 2013.


2013 – St. Lawrence River Elite Series – Day 1

20-lb. bags13
Big bag23-9 Brandon Palaniuk
50th place17-1
50th place Day 234-2
5-bass limits95 of 99 anglers (96.3%)

2015 – St. Lawrence River Elite Series – Day 1

20-lb. bags10
Big bag 22-15 Shaw Grigsby
50th place16-3
50th place Day 230-8
5-bass limits95 of 107 anglers (88.8%)

2017 – St. Lawrence River Elite Series – Day 1

20-lb. bags20
Big bag24-5 Kevin VanDam
50th place18-0
50th place Day 2??
5-bass limits105 of 109 (96.3%)

Limit puts Hartman at home, in hunt

If told before the season started he would be where he stands now, Jamie Hartman "would have taken it hands down."

The 45-year-old newcomer to the Elite Series is 23rd in the Toyota Angler of the Year standings and in great shape to finish in the top 36 and earn a berth into the Bassmaster Classic, his main objective.

After landing his fifth fish today, Hartman stands 35th on the unofficial BASSTrakk standings with 15 pounds. Hartman, who put his life in storage to try out this Elite business, has been close to winning with three top 6 finishes, but he's also had some bombs in the first six events.

"I'm glad to get through them -- a couple hiccups along the way," he admitted. "It cost me a little bit, but we are heading back north."

Ah, the pro from Newport, N.Y., has experience here on the St. Lawrence and at the next event on Lake Champlain. He wouldn't say he's got the 2017 crop of 11 rookies right where he wants them, but he's got the potential to climb past Mark Daniels Jr. (441 points) and Dustin Connell (437) to earn the Rookie of the Year title.

Hartman is third in that race with 419 points, and could easily be leading if not for two events where he finished in the 80s.

"You live and learn. I've got a lot to learn yet. We're just going to keep pushing," he said, hoping to make a move on the New York fisheries he knows. "We have great fishing. When we get there, all the guys are going to catch them. I know how to catch them up there, but a lot of the other anglers do, too.

"I think I got a little bit of an edge, but they've got the experience."

Feider on point

As you'd expect on a smallmouth paradise, Minnesota's Seth Feider is in his element. He enjoyed some early action, but said the bite really slowed down as the morning waned on.

Shortly after we arrived, he hooked into a beautiful, black 4-pound smallie to push his limit to about 22 pounds. BASSTrakk has him with substantially less, but that latest cull will have him near the top of the leaderboard.

When the big smallies are biting, Feider is as dangerous as anyone on tour.

He just pulled up his Ultrex, and took off looking for more productive water to help sustain him for a few more days.

BASSTrakk update: Stacked limits

5-plus-pound fish look to be the difference makers as of midday on Day 1 of the St. Lawrence.

Here’s how the numbers stack up:

145: 3-plus

55: 4-plus

8: 5-plus

Total fish registered: 664

The unofficial leader, Bill Lowen claims two of the 5-plus-pound fish (5-4, 5-12) to anchor his estimated 22-4 limit.

Lowen shares the registered 5-12 big fish with Mike McClelland, of course we will not know the exact weight of the fish until they reach the scales in Waddington this afternoon.

A 3-pound average has anglers sitting around the 30-place mark.

As of midday we already have 15 limits over 17-pounds.

4-plus-pound fish are key, but gaining a 5-pounder or two will be essential in this tournament.

Mercer's Leaderboard Lowdown No. 2

Join Dave Mercer as he breaks down the leaderboard Day 1 of the Huk Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence presented by Go RVing.