Big bite window closed for Hartman?

Here's the problem facing Jamie Hartman this afternoon: He needs a big fish to overtake John Murray and all his big bites have come in the morning this week.

"All the big fish are coming out of the same area, and I've been catching the big ones in the morning," Hartman said yesterday. His big bass Saturday of 6-5 was his first fish of the day. He had a 5 3/4 and a 5 1/2 on Day 2, and those came in the morning as well. 

Hartman's big bass today is a 5-4, which was also his first fish of the day. Then he added a 3-8. Since then everything has been 2 pounds or less. The good side of that for Hartman is he's got plenty of room to upgrade as he has a 2-pounder and a 1-12 in his livewell.

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Can Ashley do it?

Casey Ashley started the day in second place, 3-12 behind Jamie Hartman. But he slipped down the standings through most of the morning. He started a move back up with a 3-pounder at 12:54, which gave him a limit weighing 12-8. None of this is surprising. Ashley rallied in the afternoon yesterday as well.

"My fish seem to bite better later in the day," he said Saturday. "The fish I'm catching that are feeding on shad are around timber. I don't know what the big ones are doing during the morning, but later in the day they'll get down on the wood where you can catch 'em. 

"But it's not a one cast deal. They're scattered out. They're on trees that have fallen over and stumps. It's a grind, but there are a lot of good ones there. You can catch 20 pounds there, but everything has got to go right."

What hasn't gone right today for Ashley is the wind, but he wasn't expecting it to go his way.

"I hope it's as slick as glass," Ashley said. "But we're at Toledo Bend. You only get one of those a month, and that was Friday."

It was in the calm conditions Friday when Ashley jumped from 54th place on Day 1 to 5th with a 23-9 bag.

Christie's rough ride back

This morning when I met Jason Christie he was switching out the prop on his boat. The 28-pitch prop was added to give the motor and hull more control for him in rough water.

There will be plenty of that on the ride back. Christie is fishing far up north and he faces a long ride back. Directly into a south wind that is blowing at least 15 mph.

The run was obviously worth it. Christie has done well with a 1/2-ounce BOOYAH Bait Co. spinnerbait with tandem Colorado blades.

The big question is how much more time will he spend before heading back south. That must be running through his mind. There always is a fine line between cutting short fishing time, and sacrificing fish catches, to make it back in time for the weigh-in. 

Hartman's fourth

Jamie Hartman inches closer to a limit as he lands his fourth fish a few hours into the final day.

Murray fills limit with a good one

John Murray adds number five to the livewell, and it's a good finish to his limit.

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Palaniuk upgrades twice

Brandon Palaniuk follows up his morning flurry with two solid upgrades.

Murray's 1-2-3 punch

John Murray this morning switched to a deep diving crankbait to catch prespawn bass. What got him here, though, was a trio of lures fished in shallower water. 

This morning Murray told me that a River2Sea S-Waver swim bait helped him locate bass. 

"It's best in clear, calm water but there hasn't been much of that in my area," he explained.

The big 4.75-inch, 13/16-ounce swimbait does indeed get attention. Murray fished the glide-style lure like a jerkbait for a reason. 

"When I missed a fish then I switched to the true jerkbait," he said.

As I reported earlier in my blog that lure is a Smithwick Rogue that Murray guesses to be 25 or 30 years ago. 

Finally, when encountering bedding bass he picked up a flip shot rig. The combo featured an 8-inch Gene Larew Lures Tattletail Worm, rigged to a 2/0 jhook and 1/4 ounce weight.

The lesson learned is that Murray varied his bait selection to maximize strike potential in his area. 

BASSTrakk madness

Everyone has heard about the deception of anglers when discussing the fish they catch. Likewise they all know the tricks of getting the fish as close to the camera as possible to make it look bigger.

It's what we do.

I spend all day trying to stay as far away from the angler and the fish as possible while trying to maintain a distance I can actually capture what is going on.

All that said, I mentioned in a previous blog I thought Hartman's BASSTrakk weight was a little light.

I based that on the first fish being a 5 1/4 pounder. That was Hartman's estimate. The next was a 3 1/2. Also fairly accurate.

That means he was closing in on 9 pounds with two fish. Add a 2 pounder and it's closing in on 11.

Add a fourth I didn't see, but make it 1 1/2 pounds. Now you are at 12 pounds and change. His fifth was in the 2-pound class. I actually think it was a few ounces more.

My math says 14 and change. I just asked Hartman what he thought he had. His answer was "13."

This is the madness of BASSTrakk and watching these fisherman. I'm wrong more than most. But I guarantee you he has somewhere between 13 and 15, which depending where that falls has all kinds of implications on how this event could turn out.

And there it is

Hartman has just finished his limit with a 2-pound class fish. That should give him close to 15 pounds.

I believe his BassTrakk weight has been showing him a bit light. Regardless, the limit fish is in the boat and big weight has been lifted from Hartman's shoulders.

The last hour or so it appeared as if his fishing had sped up some and possibly he was moving through areas too quickly. But that's just pundit talk. If he truly was moving too fast, then this last fish will have helped him tremendously.

Still a lot of time left. And there's nothing like fishing with confidence when you have a limit in the boat.

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Is Hartman on pace?

Championship Sunday leader Jamie Hartman, has an estimated 11-pounds, 8-ounces, in the boat this morning. On Day 2 Hartman had 14-15 by 11 a.m. and yesterday he had 15-6 by 11 — with a 6-pound class fish.

Today, he is one short of a limit, with one in the 5-pound range.

Yesterday, Hartman caught four significant fish after 11 o'clock to help his 17-14 limit.

Hartman has spent the majority of the tournament on the south end of the lake.

With Hartman leading, going into the day with a 3-12 cushion, he has time and room to fill his limit and cull.

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