It's ... a tie!

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Redemption is sweet, and Daniel Lanier of Winter Springs, Fla., almost tasted it today at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. After taking a commanding lead on the first day of the tournament with a limit of bass weighing 27 pounds, 11 ounces, he saw it all slip away in the second round when he caught just two bass for a scant 2-11. It put Lanier in sixth place going into the finals, a little over two pounds behind Rick Howes of nearby Oviedo.

But the final round was a new day for Lanier, and he made the most of it. Lanier was back on his game and, perhaps just as importantly, his fish were biting again, too. He caught a five-bass limit weighing 16-12 that include the best fish of the day, a 7-10 lunker. Lanier finished the competition with 47-2, enough to put him on B.A.S.S.’ hot seat and wait for the rest of the competition to weigh-in.

Everything went just fine until the last angler came to the scales. Lanier had outlasted everyone but Howes. With a 14 pound, 10 ounce cushion, he knew he wasn’t safe.

But when the scales for Howes’ catch read exactly 14-10, both anglers had to be a little disappointed and perhaps a bit relieved. Instead of crowning a champion, handing over a trophy and checks and sending an angler to the 2014 Bassmaster Classic, the big prizes have to wait for one more day.

Lanier and Howes will go out on tournament waters again on Sunday to fish from 7:00 a.m. ET to noon. They’ll weigh in at Kissimmee’s Lakefront Park on Sunday, Feb. 3. Fans and friends are welcome to attend.

Brian Kelly of Liverpool, N.Y., celebrated his 31st birthday with a win on the co-angler side of the competition. He ended the tournament with a three-day total of eight bass weighing 27-4. The first-place trophy and top prize of a Triton Boat and Mercury outboard will make terrific birthday gifts.

Once a pro champion is crowned, he’ll earn $10,000 plus a Skeeter boat and Yamaha motor combo. Also at stake are critical points toward a spot in the Bassmaster Elite Series and a berth in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic for a champion who competes in all three Southern Opens this season.

Howes earned his share of the tie in dramatic fashion. He didn’t have a bass until 12:30 p.m. and caught his last keeper within sight of the check-in area and with less than two
minutes left to fish.

Most of the field fought their way to the final round by flipping and pitching matted vegetation with heavily weighted soft plastic baits. For many, the bite was slow in the morning, but picked up as the sun rose and the water warmed.

Stay tuned. There’s more to come from this Bassmaster Southern Open.