PALATKA, Fla. — After he weighed in Saturday, Alton Jones said he would play Sunday by ear, and let the conditions come morning guide his decision on where and how to fish.
Sunday morning, waiting at the docks, Jones said he felt confident his sight bite would stand up.
"I'm certainly not going to jump ship on a pattern I've been fishing unless conditions dictate," he said. "It's something I won't know until I get out there — if it (wind) happens at all.
"It looks to me like, at least for a few hours this morning, it's not going to be too windy," he added. "They're predicting for 14 up to gusts of 20 later in the day. But at 15, you'll still get a lot of stuff that's very fishable out of the main lake."
Jones, the 2008 Bassmaster Classic winner, is looking for his first Bassmaster Elite Series win. He's had five other top-level Bassmaster wins, but not in the Elite Series, and not since the 2008 Classic title.
It's a given he'd enjoy the 2012 Classic qualification awarded to Elite event winners for the first time this season. After a down 2010 season, Jones did not qualify for the 2011 Classic. He had been one of the pros one just expected to be in the Classic; he has had 13 trips to the world championship since 1996, missing only 2005 and 2006.
Wind on the water
By daylight Sunday, most of the 12 finalists had checked out the forecast for winds of up to 17 miles per hour. Their observations:
Alton Jones (leader, 60-10): "Wind makes fishing these open-water flats difficult. You just can't see the fish."
Edwin Evers (2nd, 2-9 behind Jones): "It's going to make it a lot tougher, but I have a few areas that are protected, so I think I can get in there and catch them."
Terry Scroggins (4th, 6-11 behind): "That'd be good for me. I know where to go to get out of the wind. I know where they live, I don't have to guess about it."
Kevin VanDam (9th, 13-8 behind): "It's going to make it hard to sight-fish, for sure, so maybe I'll do something different. I'm not going to try to sight fish if it's blowing 20 miles an hour."
Keith Combs (10th, 13-13 behind): "That may play into my hands. Yesterday I wasn't sight fishing — that stuff is playing out. Now, I'm just fishing."
Steve Kennedy (7th, 12-5 behind): "It should blow right over my head. I've been looking for wind every day. I've got a little topwater bite going, and when the wind blows, it kind of sets them up pretty good. That's only good for 12-15 pounds worth; I haven't got a big bite there yet."
And now, for something completely different: Terry Scroggins tried a wreck pattern Saturday within eyesight of the launch area.
"There's actually a some old sunken barges over there, wooden barges" said the Palatka area native who cut his fishing teeth on the St. Johns River. "They're on a mud bottom, so the barges are a hard structure for them to get on, so they gang up there. It's offshore, you have to know where they are, and I know where all of them are, so I've been hitting them every day. I can catch them every day, but I didn't get the key bites I wanted today (Saturday).
Kevin VanDam said that if the wind holds off long enough, he's going back after some good-sized fish in an area where he lost a 10-plus pounder Saturday in the middle of the day.
"It only took me 15 minutes to get it to bite, but It came unhooked. I couldn't get it to bite again — it nipped my bait a couple of times, but just wouldn't eat it. I probably spent an hour and a half trying to get it to bite again," he said. "I saw half a dozen more that were probably 6-plus pounds that were just not quite ready yet. I've got to go and look at them.
"It's eye candy."
Big bass, big bag
Steve Kennedy had Day Three's biggest bag, 26-0. It popped him from 39th place into seventh place and into the final round.
He also had the day's largest fish, an 8-12. Even such a lunker wasn't enough to overtake Jason Williamson's 10-3 of Day One, which still stands as the Berkley Big Bass of the Tournament. The winner of the Berkley Big Bass award, determined after Day Four is over, will get a $500 bonus.
Kennedy said that before the tournament began, he'd have guessed that his biggest day would have been sooner. The first day he had 13-8. The second day was lighter, an 8-13 bag.
"I was looking at some pretty big fish," he said. "The first day of the tournament, there were so many boats in what I thought was the best place, I was surprised I didn't get a big one, and yesterday I managed to catch two."
Steve Kennedy's father, Van Kennedy of Fort Valley, Ga., qualified for the 1982 Bassmaster Classic through the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation. Van Kennedy finished 28th in the competition, which was on the Alabama River.
It was his only Bassmaster pro-level tournament.
His son, who has fished 70 Bassmaster events since 2002, has qualified for five consecutive Classics, 2007-2011. His best finish was eighth in 2007 on Alabama's Lay Lake.
"I was fortunate to get that one (an 8-6); I couldn't catch two. The main thing here is to catch two of those big ones a day, and you're doing fine." — J. Todd Tucker, 5th place with 53-13
"You can get one bite out here that weighs 11." — Keith Combs, 10th place with 46-13
"There doesn't seem to be a lot of 4- or 5-pounders. They're either 7 to 8, or 3 or less. — Steve Kennedy, 7th place with 48-5
"I finally got an over-8-pound bite. I hadn't had one the first two days and everybody else had, seemed like, so it really felt good to finally get a really good one." — Kelly Jordon, 8th place with 47-9
"They'll still be caught sight-fishing (on Sunday), but I don't know that I'm a good enough sight fisherman to catch them in the wind." — Billy McCaghren, 11th place with 44-4.
"I've got some crankin' stuff I'm going to. I didn't catch any big fish there today, but the other two days I did. I caught a lot of fish today, just no big ones." — Terry Scroggins, 4th place with 53-15.
"At the beginning of the week if somebody had said, 'Would you take a top 20 and be happy?' I'd have said, 'Absolutely.' — Brent Chapman, finishing up at 17th after being the Day One runner-up.
"I can win. There are big ones swimming around everywhere, and I can win. — Edwin Evers, 2nd place with 58-1
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