(Jul 1, 2018 - PIERRE, S.D.)
Alabama’s Mark Daniels Jr., who vaulted to the lead in the Berkley Bassmaster Elite at Lake Oahe presented by Abu Garcia Saturday, distanced himself from the rest of the field today. The second-year Elite Series pro brought 17 pounds, 6 ounces to the scales for a three-day total of 56-6, which gives him a nearly 5 1/2-pound cushion going into Championship Monday.
“Man, it was tougher today. I need to get more bites,” Daniels said. “There is fishing pressure in the area, and I think the bass are starting to get hip to what’s going on. I had a lot of fish swim up and look at my bait and not bite today. The first day they would come eat it while it was sinking.”
Daniels is concerned that his school is almost fished out, so his impressive cushion does not make him overconfident. “Tomorrow, I’m going to expand on my area and probably try some new water. I need those 4-pound bites, and I feel like they will be pretty hard to come by if I stay where I’m at.”
Boyd Duckett made a huge surge to second place on the strength of a 16-pound, 6-ounce limit of smallmouth on Day 3. This pushed his total to 50-1. The Alabama pro and former Bassmaster Classic champion credits his success to fish management.
“During practice, I had found three schools of fish,” he said. “One was a community hole that a lot of guys found. One was a little less obvious. And my third was a little hidey hole that I was hoping nobody found.
“I started the first day on the community hole and then went and caught a couple on my second place. Yesterday I just fished my second spot and it had one other angler on it. Today, I finished out my limit on the hidey hole and nobody was on it. So, I feel good about starting there tomorrow.”
Like the majority of the field, Duckett is focusing on postspawn bass.
“These fish are pretty beat up from the spawn and just are not biting like smallmouth usually bite,” he noted. “But, there should be more fish coming to these areas. I just need one of these Oahe 5-pounders to bite.”
Casey Ashley, who smashed the biggest limit of the tournament Saturday, struggled to match the efforts of his first two days. Still, the 12-6 he caught today was enough to hold on to third with a total of 49-12.
“I got to my spot first thing this morning, and it was really strange. Current was flowing through the area spinning my boat in circles. Once I finally figured out how to position my boat to make the right cast, I caught a 4 1/2-pounder and thought it was going to be on. I was wrong.”
Ashley said he was still marking fish on his sonar unit, but he couldn’t make them bite. “Man, I threw a drop shot, a swimbait … every ‘cricket’ I had in my boat, and they just wouldn’t eat. Hopefully they will be in a better mood tomorrow.”
The biggest jump of the day went to Bradley Roy, the current leader for the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. The Kentucky pro wowed the crowd with a 17-15 limit of smallmouth, giving him a total of 49-7, and jumped all the way to fourth place.
“This lake was new to me, and I had a bad practice. But I found a little spot and decided to dedicate my tournament to the area,” Roy said.
That spot just happened to be the same area both Daniels and Ashley are fishing. Knowing that Daniels had a chance to win, he decided to give him that spot and find new water. That decision paid off. “It’s weird. It’s like random collisions with these fish. They are hanging around the structure, but they are not on the bottom. Most of the fish I’m catching are suspended in the middle of the water column. If you stay on a spot long enough, you’ll eventually see one and hopefully catch it.”
The field was cut to the Top 12 anglers for Monday’s Championship round. Other top anglers qualifying for the finals and a chance at the $100,000 first prize are Josh Bertrand, 48-8; Clifford Pirch, 45-7; Dean Rojas, 45-0; Jacob Wheeler, 45-0; Justin Lucas, 42-6; Jordan Lee, 42-1; Edwin Evers 42-0; and Brent Ehrler, 41-9.
Edwin Evers caught a 4-15, which was the Phoenix Big Bass of the day. Yesterday’s 5-6 smallmouth landed by Fred Roumbanis still holds on to the first-place spot for the tournament, and will give him a $1,500 Phoenix Boats Big Bass bonus if it stands.
Daily takeoff is scheduled for 6 a.m. CT from the Spring Creek Resort & Marina, and the final weigh-in will be held at Steamboat Park in Pierre at 3:45 p.m.
2018 Bassmaster Elite At Lake Oahe Title Sponsor: Berkley
2018 Bassmaster Elite At Lake Oahe Presenting Sponsor: Abu Garcia
2018 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2018 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha, Abu Garcia, Berkley, Huk, Humminbird
2018 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: Carhartt, Livingston Lures, Lowrance, Phoenix Boats, T-H Marine, Academy Sports + Outdoors
2018 Bassmaster Elite Series Elite Partner: Black Velvet Canadian Whisky
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