Blaylock: The goal is 40 pounds

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YANTIS, Texas — Stetson Blaylock will begin Championship Sunday in 4th place, almost 5 pounds behind Day 3 leader Trey McKinney. His goal is clear on the final day of the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at Lake Fork.

“If I want to win, I’ve got to catch 40 pounds,” said the Benton, Ark., Elite Series veteran. “It’s very doable. I had almost 36 today (35-13, to be exact), and I had another one on that would have bumped that up even more.

“The fish are definitely on the move. You’ve just got to make the right adjustments and move with them. I feel like we’re just on the beginning of (the spawn). There are more big ones that are going to be coming in. I just want to catch them before they get there.

“I think the winner of this tournament will have 40 pounds (Sunday).”

Taku Ito came close on Day 1. His 39-1 remains the big bag of the tournament so far. No one has caught a giant at Lake Fork, which has produced the Texas state record bass of 18.18. There were 11- and 12-pounders caught in practice this week. Big bass after three tournament days is Wesley Gore’s 10-9 on Day 1. J.T. Thompkins took big bass honors on Day 2 with a 9-13. Ben Milliken had big bass Saturday with a 9-10.

When Milliken’s bass was caught Saturday points to an all-day event to determine the winner Sunday. It came at 2:02 p.m. And there was plenty of other evidence that this tournament will go down to the wire. Tyler Williams caught an 8-5 at 2:47 that put him in 2nd place, less than three pounds behind McKinney’s three-day total of 97-5. Kyle Patrick, in 6th with 90-5, landed a 6-4 at 2:23. Cooper Gallant, in 8th with 88-0, caught a 7-7 at 2:54.

Tyler McKinney turned 19 years old last Sunday, after just missing qualifying for the top 10 final at Toledo Bend. McKinney finished 12th, less than a pound out of 10th place. He’s already the youngest angler to qualify for the Elite Series. He’s on the verge of being the youngest to hoist an Elite Series blue trophy. He admitted it’s going to be a long night before takeoff begins Sunday morning.

When emcee Dave Mercer asked McKinney if he expected to get any sleep Saturday night, McKinney quickly replied, “No! Absolutely not. I’m going to sit in bed and stare at the ceiling. I’m just going to sit there and think about it. I’m going to try to go to bed, then I’m going to roll over, and it’s going to start all over again.”

All 10 finalists will undoubtedly earn Bassmaster century belts Sunday. Tenth-place Wesley Gore needs only 13-11 to hit the 100-pound mark. But every one of the finalists will have visions of 40-plus pounds dancing in their heads.