Wide open

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Even Fred Roumbanis, who goes into Sunday with a 6 pound, 15 ounce lead on 12th place Ish Monroe, said the final of the Carolina Clash presented by Evan Williams is wide open."I think 12th place could still win this tournament," Roumbanis said. "In fact, I feel like I'm in 12th. I've got to go out and perform. It's definitely an all-star lineup."Not only is this the tightest top 12 the Elite Series has had all season — the next closest was Kevin VanDam's 8-4 lead over 12th place Rick Morris going into the final of the Citrus Slam on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes — but it could be the strongest.Eight of these guys have already won on the Elite Series, including Major victories from Roumbanis and Dave Wolak. And when you combine the slim deficit with that kind of talent — and put them on a lake that will make you one day and break you the next — it should make for an interesting final.


"If Fred goes out and has even a mediocre day at 14 pounds and I catch 21, all the sudden, I'm right there," Monroe said. "I caught 18 yesterday, but it could have just as easily been 20."Grant Goldbeck, who led after Day One with 20-4, said it's not unthinkable someone would bring in a 30-pound bag Sunday."Every day I've had the opportunity to have a much bigger bag than I had on that first day, but I just can't get them in the boat," he said. "Even on Day One, I think I should have had 28 pounds."If you get them all in the boat, you could potentially have 30 pounds. There's some big fish in this lake."VanDam (11th, 6-4 behind) said he couldn't ask for better conditions: Slightly overcast skies and a healthy wind are exactly what he and most of the other anglers keying on the blueback herring bite were looking for.

 "The weather should make it a lot better today, but still, if you hit the right spots at the right time, it's unreal ... and if you hit the right spots as the wrong time, you catch nothing," VanDam said. "Just look at yesterday, when a lot of the leaders struggled. I've got nowhere to go but up."The one angler not keying on the blueback bite, Roumbanis, said the weather looked good to him, too."The only thing I really wanted was to wake up to about 60-degree weather — and we got it," he said. "I'm getting a lot of bites, and today, there's no holding back. I've just got to get them in the boat."

 Then there are the anglers who haven't been mentioned, like 2006 Rookie of the Year Steve Kennedy (second, 7 ounces behind), 2005 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Aaron Martens (third, 1-13 behind), and local and two-time AOY winner Davy Hite (sixth, 3-14 behind).

 Hite, who said he'd like nothing more (outside of a Classic win) to take the title on his home lake, is also riding his "May and birthday" momentum. His last two wins came in the month of May, including an Elite 50 victory on Lake Dardanelle in 2005 that fell on his birthday — May 18.Hite turns 43 today, and was asked if he plans on having a party with a $100,000 check."I'd rather have that than a girl popping out of a cake," he said.



Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Carolina Clash, May 15–18, 2008. Thursday through Saturday, daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 3:00 p.m. ET. On Sunday, "Hooked Up" will air at noon and 2:45 p.m. ET, with the final weigh-in and live streaming video to start at 3:15 p.m. ET.