Milliken: “We could have a special day tomorrow”

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MANY, La. — Ben Milliken was considered one of the favorites coming into the Gamakatsu Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend Reservoir. His win in a Bassmaster Open here last April, when he totaled 77 pounds, 14 ounces over three days, made him an easy pick this week.

The first two days of the tournament left Milliken, a 34-year-old Elite Series rookie, in 14th place. But everything changed for him Saturday.

“This morning something just told me to make a different decision, so I switched the entire side of the lake I was on,” he said. “They’re coming to me. I’m excited. We could have a special day tomorrow.”

It was pretty special Saturday. Milliken’s five-bass limit weighed 26-13, which was the fourth-heaviest bag of the tournament so far. It will take another special day to capture the title. Milliken will start Championship Sunday in 5th place, 10 pounds, 10 ounces behind leader Pat Schlapper. But this is Toledo Bend, where the outlandish is possible.

“I could have had 35 to 40 pounds one day in practice,” Milliken said.

When asked if a bag that heavy was possible Sunday, the newly confident Milliken said, “One thousand percent. I casted at probably 40 fish over 7 pounds today that didn’t bite. It’s loaded in the area I’m in. I’ve just got to make them bite.”

The Nebraska native now living in New Caney, Texas, did make one 7-pounder bite Saturday, a 7-6 that anchored his bag.

Milliken said he didn’t come to this area of the lake on Day 1 because of the wind. He did test it in the afternoon on Day 2 and “timed it up wrong.” Everything was right Saturday.

“I’m still catching them out,” he said. “I can watch them funnel into me from the main creek. I’m excited. I caught them as deep as 25 feet but two or three feet below the surface. And I caught them in three or four feet of water too.”

Milliken said a jerkbait was his primary lure. None of the places where he won the Open here last April are in play this week.

“It was all gizzard shad related last year,” he said. “And they don’t care where the gizzards are now. They’re in pre-spawn. They’re getting ready to spawn.”

Based on that excellent practice day Milliken enjoyed, he predicted on Wednesday that it would take 110 to 115 pounds to win this tournament. That’s highly unlikely now, even at Toledo Bend. But Milliken could hit the century mark with a 32-10 bag Sunday on a lake where two 30-pound bags have already been weighed this week.

“I’ve just got to make them bite tomorrow,” Milliken said. “These Florida strains, they kind of make up their own minds about what they’re going to do that day.”