A lot can happen today

I'm sitting here waiting for Jamie Hartman to show up at his initial spot.

I took the easy route, foregoing the 20-minute run to put in close by.

Hartman, obviously, has the upper hand going into today. But as we've seen as recently as the Bassmaster Classic, the upper hand means nothing.

A lot of things can happen today. You've got guys like Jason Christie trailing behind. Christie has become known as the breaker of dreams for final day leaders when he makes the final 12. Then you have John Murray, one of the best anglers ever, who has struggled the last few years, but is most certainly starving to get back to the winner's circle. If I'm not mistaken, his last win may have come right here on Toledo Bend.

Hartman, on the other hand, has kind of quietly burst on the scene. He's in familiar territory having been near the top of the leaderboard in the first event this season. He finished second there and is ready to cross the threshold to champion of an event.

There's lots of potential drama today. For Hartman it may come down to how he answers some simple questions. He spent the first two days fishing out, or off the shoreline. But yesterday, he filled his limit by sight fishing.

We know he will start off shore this morning. We are sitting here waiting for him. But how much of that off shore structure he fishes, and how much he bed fishes and if it's the right mixture will be the key.

He likely has to assume Murray or one of the other contenders will bust a big sack. Which means dealing with a lot of pressure he's not had the last few days, while making sure every move he makes is the right one.

Championship Sunday wind

The Top 12 face the strongest wind gusts going into Championship Sunday. This may change some game plans. 


Ashley culls

In the past hour and 20-minutes, Casey Ashley has culled up to fifth place unofficially. The last cull, that brought his limit to 14-8, is a 3-pound class fish. Along with that, Ashley has one logged as a 4-8, if his BASSTrakk is low — as it was yesterday — he will safely be within the Top 12. 

VIDEO: Mercer's Livewell Lowdown

Dave Mercer gives us the latest 4-1-1 on Day 3 of the Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend presented by Econo Lodge.

Hartman fishing on instinct

Jamie Hartman is from Newport, N.Y. Well, he used to be from there, but Hartman put his stuff in storage and hit the road once he qualified for the Elite Series. Hartman's home has been the road ever since. And he spent 2 1/2 weeks getting familiar with Toledo Bend back in February.

"I'm not familiar with southern waters at all," Hartman said Thursday, after taking the Day 2 lead. "When I was here, I saw two big (spawning) waves come in and go out. Then I came back for another week, and it was the same thing. I'd fish offshore, not see much, go to the bank and boom, there they were."

So Hartman guessed the prespawn and sight-fishing bite had to be long gone by this week. He planned to fish off-shore, where he'd done extensive mapping with his electronics.

"I graphed all the nooks and crannies," he said. "That's where I planned to fish. But all I could catch were small fish in practice. So I just kept working my way back in. Just working my way back into spawning areas, and I'm still catching prespawn fish. I haven't caught a spawned out fish yet.

"Not being too familiar with this place or southern waters in general, I'm just running on instinct. If they're not all the way out, I've got to be working my way back in. I've never seen anything like it. The spawn lasts forever."

Rookie Hartman still leading

Jamie Hartman is being stingy with his lead. He began the morning with a 6-plus-pound largemouth and has steadily culled up throughout the day. Now, BASSTrakk has Hartman with 19-4, his second largest bag of the tournament.

Take a look in Hartman’s livewell: 

7:47 a.m.: 6-8

10:32 a.m.: 3-4

11:12 a.m.: 3-4

12:43 p.m.: 3-8

12:50 p.m.: 2-12

Hartman has been relatively quiet this afternoon, but could be looking at shallow bedding bass. One in particular is rumored, will help his limit significantly. Until then, Hartman has an unofficial 6-5 lead, with John Murray still holding second place with 22-12. 

P.M. bite

James Elam this morning told me something that is in sync with the BASSTrakk numbers from Day 2. 

"I think the better fish are biting in the afternoon. What it comes down to is finding a way to dial into those fish."

From noon until weigh-in time the biggest bass of the day were caught in numbers. Six largemouth weighing over 5 pounds got logged into the app. 

Elam is 8th according to BASSTrakk and held down second place yesterday in the official standings. 

VIDEO: Hartman catches upgrade off bed

Jamie Hartman gets a little help on Day 3 from this bedding bass.

Ashley returns to morning spot

After spending a couple of hours this morning bouncing around in the wind-swept main lake, Casey Ashley returned about noon to the mouth of the creek in which he began the day. Within 10 minutes, he had boated another fish.

It's interesting to note that John Murray, who had a bang-up morning, ran farther back into this creek. Thirty minutes later, Murray screamed past Ashley on the way out.

Christie making big bass count

When Jason Christie landed the 9-pound, 10-ounce bass on Day 1, which remains the big bass of the tournament, he was just trying to catch an early limit on the shad spawn. But once it was in the livewell, Christie realized he had an opportunity that he was determined not to waste.

"I'm not remotely around the fish to win," Christie said Thursday. "But maybe I can ride that fish out and make it to the next day."

Christie has done that, and more. He dropped only two places on Day 2, from 2nd to 4th. BASSTrakk now shows him in third place with a 15-pound limit today,  unofficially giving him 51-8.

Christie said the 9-10 was the third biggest bass he's weighed in a tournament. He caught two 10-pounders in a Texas Toyota Bass Classic one year.

"One bite can change everything," he said. "That's how one bite can change your season. You take that fish out, and I've got 12 or 13 pounds (on Thursday)."

We'll see how that one big bite affects Christie's season, but it has definitely changed his prospects for winning this tournament.