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Daily Live Blog

7/31/2010

Evan Williams Bourbon Trophy Triumph, Day Two

(refresh your page for updates)


6:55
PM ET

The weigh-in is about to begin live on ESPN3. Don't miss it!


6:43
PM ET

Time ticks away and a line of boats come running back to the dock. It all comes down to this. One more weigh-in to crown a champion of the 2010 Elite Series season.

The anglers are checked in and it's time to send the action to the weigh-in on ESPN3. What a day, what a year it's been. I'm ready for a cool shower. In less than an hour, one angler will be enjoying a confetti shower. You won't want to miss it.

— Rob Russow


6:38
PM ET

Crunch time is here. This is like stoppage time in the World Cup. Russ Lane and Skeet are both out in front throwing deep crankbaits. A good-sized crowd has gathered to watch, but no fish have tried to show off yet.

Swindle just did a little showing off, shouting boisterously across the water to Lane: "Attaboy Russ, Wooooo!"

Tommy Biffle just pulled up down the way, the first time he has been this far south since this morning. He's fishing down a row of pilings, but judging by the sack he has, it's just killing time. Skeet is back cranking the take-off dock milking every minute he has.

— Rob Russow


6:31
PM ET

John Crews is the next angler to pull in the area. He idles over to Skeet to ask him where he was going to fish. Respecting that water, Crews turned around and moved downstream of the take-off.

Reese snagged his crankbait and has to retie. Precious minutes are ticking away and the AOY is at stake. Good fish live in the area, but unlike yesterday's rainy conditions, it's sunny and hot.

— Rob Russow


6:30
PM ET

Russ Lane just began working his way in to where Skeet is at. He probably couldn't see Skeet at first, but now they are passing each other.

Lane started throwing a frog and Skeet asked, "Are you Dean Rojas?"

Lane answered that question on the next cast when he tossed the frog into a tree.

Cliff Pace is the first angler to check in. He's in a good 15 minutes early.

Reese is back out in front of the dock where the riverboat just left. He's throwing a crankbait where he caught his second keeper early today.

— Rob Russow


6:29
PM ET

Ok, here comes Hooked Up!, where Tommy Sanders and Mark Zona will break down the final day of Toyota Trucks Championship Week, complete with footage from the water. I hear Chris Lane is a guest and will give an Elite anglers' perspective.

Looking back at this week, things to remember are KVD and the heat. Deep south heat. Sahara desert heat.

I can see why those people in the Middle East wear those head dresses and cover up with long flowing, er, dresses. They're actually called emirati, and light colors would be preferred.

I lost a hat and bought a head buff. Keith Alan and I were both wearing them up to our noses as we trolled up to James Overstreet. He said, "Looks like ya'll are fixing to rob a stagecoach."

JO can really break it down. Wonder how he figures this AOY race. See what Sanders and Z think now.

— Mike Suchan


6:19
PM ET

Skeet picked up a lipless crankbait for a few casts around a sandbar in the middle and then went back to a creature bait.

A hookset and a small bass came flying out of the water and fell off. Not what he is looking for.

— Rob Russow


6:14
PM ET

All was quiet at the amphitheater until Skeet just rolled up. He went back into the area where he started in the morning. Moving along the bank pitching a creature bait, he had two fish hit and steal his bait. Repeated attempts to cast back to the fish didn't pay off.

— Rob Russow


6:00
PM ET

Be sure to watch Hooked Up! at 6:30 p.m. ET for commentary by Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders and video from today's action on the water.


5:38
PM ET

Martens is on a steady sto-and-go pattern, targeting logs and brush along straight banks in the vicinity of where he caught his first four keepers early this morning. I've not seen him try any of the same spots, though, and he's not working any offshore structure this time. He seems to be looking for the thickest tangles of cover, pitching a creature bait repeatedly to the best ones. Shade is definitely part if his gameplan now.

He's always on high alert, knowing that any pitch could produce one of the 4-pounders he must have. His latest pitch gave him a 1 1/2 pounded, enabling him to cull a 12 incher. I have him at 8 1/2, still far short of a winning string.

He added ice to the livewells, hoping to keep his catch alive and healthy.

He's back to pitching the shaded brush.

Russow and Overstreet just stopped to check on us. They're headed in, but we're staying with Martens a while longer. The bank just ahead of him has lunker written all over it.

— Dave Precht


5:25
PM ET

It's a long run from the dam back to Montgomery. Skeet's most likely making the same run. That's a lot of time to think about what for him, has been a long few days. I think he has a little more than 9 pounds right now, maybe a little more.

That's not enough, but close. The AOY title might very well come down to the wire.

Watching Skeet all day has been brutal. He has faced the toughest challenges these past two tournaments that he has all year. Even in the face of that, he has remained strong. The flurry he went on before we left upgraded him close to three pounds. A good fish here at the end could make for an exciting weigh-in.

When we get back, I'll station myself at the amphitheater to catch any last-minute heroics from the field.

— Rob Russow


5:21
PM ET

It seems to be getting quieter. We saw that yesterday.

KVD is still on top with Evers, Biffle, Butcher and possibly Hackney sitting in the way of Skeet making a jump over them.

We expect KVD to win the derby.

He has about 27 and change.

Evers has about 25, Biffle has 23, Butcher has 22 and Hackney has 21.

We expect Skeet is currently in the 21- to 22-pound range. Not enough to win the title.

But he caught his best two fish yesterday during these final hours. Two 3-pounders and he leap frogs over everyone but KVD.

Skeet is also notorious for sandbagging, so he may have a little more than 21 or 22. In that case, one good fish could do it. Fact of the matter is, we have lost our eyes on him at the moment.

We suspect he's headed toward Montgomery where he did his damage a day ago, but he could stop any where along the way and boat the fish he needs.

In short, this is really too close to call at the moment. The weigh-in promises to be exciting.

— Steve Bowman


4:55
PM ET

Oh, it seems there are plenty of people commenting about the postseason format on our comments section for the blog: Skeet this, KVD that, new playoff format this, etc.

Some make arguments for it and others against the postseason as it currently stands.

One commenter makes a case that we kinda like.

"Personnally I like the new format. I know it is different and has no history, yet. But as a fan I think it adds to the AOY title. If this were just another tournament I wouldn't be sitting in front of my PC waiting for the next BLOG update or the next BassTrak update."

Well said. Read on, Garth.

— Mike Suchan


4:47
PM ET

Reese moved out to a sandbar flat and boated another keeper. This one goes maybe 1 1/2 pounds and culled a few ounces.

It's time for us to start running back. We are probably an hour away and have to conserve gas. I have a feeling Skeet will blow by us on the way as he tries for a last-minute cull around the amphitheater. He isn't leaving himself much time.

— Rob Russow


4:42
PM ET

Martens picked up a swimbait and tossed it a few times around brush on a mud bank. He traded the swimbait for a pitching lure, probably a creature bait, and on his first pitch jerked a 2 pounder out of a treetop. This should help his total by a pound, giving him 8 for the day, give or take.

— Dave Precht


4:36
PM ET

It's getting hard to think of something new to write about Martens' day. There's so much sameness to what he's doing. But I salute him for sticking to his plan.

He's spent the last 10 to 15 minutes casting to the same treetop, over and over.

— Dave Precht


4:35
PM ET

Things are getting hot on the Alabama River. Sure, the heat index is at 119, but the AOY race has a new horse in Evers, as Bowman just reported.

One comment on the bottom of this page noted that Evers could tie KVD in AOY points to force a total weight tiebreaker. Evers' 21-6 on Lake Jordan pales to KVD's 30-2.

Maybe Greg Hackney can find a hot streak and do something to help Evers. Or maybe Terry Butcher could help out his brother-in-law. On BASSTrakk, Butcher has the best day going at 13-11 but the river hasn't been giving up the size of fish he would need to surpass KVD and make Evers AOY.

When I said a couple days ago this was getting intriguing, I was on it. The game and what this week has come down to is rather fascinating. I wanna know how it ends.

This weigh-in might have more twists than a pretzel factory. And I don't care how hot it is, I'll be front and center.

— Mike Suchan


4:34
PM ET

Reese has made another move, down even closer to the dam and loses all his follow boats ... except for us.

He's at a spot where the current flows around a small point, creating an eddy. With all the boat traffic, a mud line has formed from the boat wake waves.

After a handful of casts with the crankbait, he hooks up with a fish. Reese carefully plays it around the boat and swings it in. It's a 2-pound bass, upgrading Reese about a pound to 7.5 or 8 pounds.

An observer tells us he caught one as soon as he arrived and it was bigger than that one. If that's true, Skeet could have as much as 9 or 9.5 pounds, putting him on the cusp of winning this AOY.

— Rob Russow


4:24
PM ET

A little redemption for Skeet. He patiently sat down and retied, then began fishing a dock thoroughly. About his third or fourth cast, he sets the hook and yanks a keeper out into the air.

It will help him, but not much, maybe a few ounces.

Another few pitches and he sets the hook again, but this one is another dink. At least now the action seems to be picking up as he moves back farther into the cut.

— Rob Russow


4:23
PM ET

Reese has been picking apart every log back here and until now, not getting bit. He just jerked about a 6-incher out of the water. Not close to the quality that will help him today.

A few casts later he does it again. This time, the fish flies over the boat and off the hook. Not a keeper.

The key spot seems to be where a bush is right on the edge of the thick grass. Picking the same bush apart, Reese gets another bite, sets the hook and the fish gets buried in the wood. A second later, his line snaps.

Reese let's the rod fall out of his hand and bends over with his hands on his knees. Agony.

— Rob Russow


4:17
PM ET

Tommy Biffle isn't making it any easier on Skeet. BassTrakk has him at about 12 pounds. But his Marshall just called and said that he has about 15 pounds.

That would put him in the 24-pound neighborhood and yet another place Skeet would have to leap to get there, with Evers ahead of him scaring the 25-pound neighborhood.

With Skeet's reported 6- to 7-pounds, that still means Reese has to have 13 to win, possibly 14. He caught most of that yesterday, much of it in the last hour.

But he could ill afford to have too many more of these anglers climbing over him.

— Steve Bowman


4:03
PM ET

Several new videos are up on the BASSCam page.

Watch: Kevin VanDam and Cliff Pace fishing close

Watch: Pace afraid to leave

Watch: VanDam describes the sweet spot


4:02
PM ET

I knew as soon as I said that this race boiled down to what two horses did, someone would make me eat my words and look like the south end of a north-bound pony.

In this case that would Edwin Evers. He's off the grid, no BassTrakk info, out of sight from everyone and Brian Mason, his cameraman just sent a text that he has 13 pounds.

That would put him neck and neck with KVD and if he could pass him, then set up a really exciting finish. If Evers could win and KVD were second the two would be tied with 170 points. Evers was intent on winning the title and it looks like he's making noise to get in that position.

His 13 pounds gives him in the 24-pound and change neighborhood.

That is a major change in this event. That puts Skeet needing to hit the 24-pound mark. He's currently in the 18- to 19-pound range, 5- to 6-pounds back.

If his limit really is dinks that means two 3- to 3 1/2-pounders.

We've flown the banner for "The Plot Thickens" all day. It's getting thicker by the second.

— Steve Bowman


3:59
PM ET

There's just less than three hours to fish folks, and a lot could still change, but the numbers don't seem to be adding up in Skeet's favor.

With his 3-pound, 3-ounce lead coming into today and a limit near 11, KVD appears to be walking away with the Evan Williams Bourbon Trophy Triumph. But is a third consecutive Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title in the works as well?

It's very likely. Reese and Martens started at 12-4 and 12-2, respectively, but have struggled and are only around the 8-pound mark today, so give them 20 total.

Edwin Evers, Greg Hackney are on the board for 23-2 and 21-11, respectively. And Tommy Biffle and Cliff Pace also have currently passed both Reese and Martens on the unofficial BASSTrakk standings. Russ Lane doesn't appear to making a move though.

Skeet has some ground to make up. Remember, he has to finish second to KVD to take AOY. If anybody slips between them, he'll suffer a repeat heartbreak with very similar circumstances; the same body of water, and the same heartbreaker, KVD.

— Mike Suchan


3:58
PM ET

Photos of Aaron Martens on the water are up on the Photo Galleries page.

3:56
PM ET

Everybody in Montgomery and Lowndes counties who doesn't have a bass boat (and there can't be many) must run a pontoon. Every sandy bank on this river is lined with party barges, their occupants sitting neck deep in the water to cool off. I wish I could join them right now.

— Dave Precht

3:51
PM ET

Aaron has just decided to turn and go north again. "I think it should be getting better up there," he said.

Unfortunately, KVD and company just raced by, so Martens will have competition for spots to fish.

Watching VanDam fly by, he wondered out loud, "I don't know if they raced up here this early to beat the current, or whether it just stopped down there."

He moved to another downstream point and began fishing wood along a shady bank.

Aaron thinks his limit will weigh 7 pounds, less than we guessed, and he's the better judge.

He's working comparatively fast now, pitching to cover while trolling at a steady clip. For the first time today, he's moved inside a creek mouth, apparently thinking a little current will make the inside points more productive.

We're off again.

— Dave Precht


3:38
PM ET

Reese has returned to the spot he started on yesterday morning. There are a variety of docks and laydowns, like many of the places he's fished today, but more concentrated.

We flew by VanDam and his entourage camped out just up the river. Russ Lane was there too in the area we saw Evers fishing yesterday.

The water is low here. This is where we saw a boat stuck on the sandbar yesterday. Reese was able to easily boat a small limit yesterday here, but has yet to get a bite.

— Rob Russow


3:31
PM ET

I've decided that the hardest job in sportfishing is that of an ESPN cameraman. As we've been following Aaron all day, I've rarely seen his videographer take that heavy camera off his shoulder.

It's 100 degrees, it feels like, and the guy has to stand at attention, ready to record in case the next pitch nets a bite. His only break comes during a wild, bumpy, 75 mph ride in the jump seat of his pro's boat.

— Dave Precht


3:29
PM ET

New photos of Skeet Reese are up on the Photo Galleries page.

3:21
PM ET

Skeet and Martens have finally filled their limits, but neither is where they need to be.

Skeet says 6-pounds, which means 8. Martens says 7 1/2 pounds, which probably means 8.

Martens has to move more than Skeet to win. But if he moves more than Skeet, and not over KVD, then the title goes to VanDam.

Skeet, though, has to get to that 11-pound mark or better to have a shot.

At least they are still catching fish. We're reminded of KVD's prediction that the last two hours of today would be the most critical of all.

— Steve Bowman

3:19
PM ET

Martens stopped next at another major creek mouth, fishing the downstream point — same pattern he was running about this time yesterday. He immediately caught a 1 1/4 pounded on a shaky head and put this one in the box. "I feel better now that i have a limit!" He proclaimed.

Aaron should have about 7 1/2 or 8 pounds, although it's hard to guesstimate the weight from our polite distance.

There's a steady stream of boat traffic down here, as Rob Russow observed earlier. Martens complained about the murky water but believes it will get clearer farther down, where the current should be moving.

— Dave Precht


3:14
PM ET

Skeet stops at another creek mouth downriver, fishing points on both sides with his creature bait. John Crews comes flying by, headed to the back of the creek. Reese is on the move again.

"He can't sit still," Overstreet observes. "He's starting to look like he did on the final day at Jordan."

Things have slowed considerably. The clouds have disappeared and the sun continues to beat down. Skeet runs to a bend in the river where he begins to fish shallow (is there any other kind) laydowns. He makes about 10 casts and then he's moving again.

— Rob Russow


3:01
PM ET

At this point in the game, the two anglers to watch are Aaron Martens and Skeet Reese.

With VanDam at the top of the standings and apparently staying there, those are the two that remain with a realistic shot.

Stranger things have happened, but we are guessing that it's going to come down to whether or not Martens or Skeet catches two decent fish in the last hours of competition.

If they don't and KVD stays where he is, we don't see anyone knocking him off the perch. For that to happen, someone would have to win the event besides him and for those making a run today that would mean much larger sacks than what we're hearing about.

— Steve Bowman


2:51
PM ET

Just looking at the standings, it's easy to see several possibilities.

KVD probably has first locked up. If that's the case, Skeet has to finish second or relinquish the title.

It looks eerily similar to 2009. When Tommy Biffle and Kelly Jordon put a buffer in between the two and allowed KVD to win.

This year Biffle, Hackney and Evers are playing that role. But this title is still in Skeet's hands. Yesterday, he pulled off some last-minute heroics to stay in the mix. We said at that time, he would likely have to do that two days in a row.

That still holds.

Two 3-pound class fish and Skeet should win if all other things stay the same and our info is right.

That could be a 4 and a 2-pounder, whatever gets him that extra 5- to 6-pounds and in the 10- to 11-pound range. At that point, he has 22 to 23 pounds. Barring any unforeseen heroics from those chasing him that would put the title in Skeet's hands.

Of course we are talking about heroics from someone, so anything can happen.

That's the point. Some might think this is over. But it's long from being to that point.

Skeet catches what he had yesterday, and he's basically at about the same weight today as he was yesterday at this time, then it could become academic.

The point is, it's a long way from being over, just the way we like it.

— Steve Bowman


2:46
PM ET

Martens' big fish hole is not paying off with any fish. His contingent of spectators has dwindled to two, counting us. He's continuing downstream, apparently toward moving water. Yesterday he said he started on the lower end and worked his way up. Consequently, by the time the current kicked on, he was too far upstream to feel its effects.

Today he decided to reverse his itinerary and be in a better position when the dam gates are opened. He's starting to move faster now, firing a dozen casts at specific targets and moving on.

— Dave Precht


2:44
PM ET

With another quick run, Skeet ends up at the mouth of a small creek. There are a variety of logs around the down-current point and it is off one of them that Reese catches his sixth keeper. He culled, but at this point, he still has a limit of rats.

They say every ounce matters, but at this point Skeet needs to be culling pounds to get back to second place.

— Rob Russow


2:43
PM ET

Skeet ran down to the mouth of Swift Creek and a grass bed where he caught a few little fish yesterday. After about five minutes of nothing, he picks up and continues downriver.

The biggest change from yesterday has to be the water level. I don't think it's as low as the lowest point yesterday, but it's lower than it was when Skeet has his morning success shallow.

I'm waiting for him to pull the plug and head back north, but he still has a few spots to try down here and doesn't want to gamble on the long run until he can put a few fish in the box.

The report from the Jordan Dam is that they are supposed to be running two gates (since 1:00) until 5:00. That current around the launch area helped him yesterday afternoon stay in this race and he may need another performance like that to claim the title.

Correction to an earlier report: Skeet does have a limit. We thought one that he caught was too small to keep, but it did go in the well. I'd be surprised if he has any more than 6 pounds.

— Rob Russow


2:16
PM ET

We've made a long run now to the mouth of Bear Creek. Derek Remitz is already fishing just outside it.

I overheard Martens ask Remitz if he was catching anything here. Remitz said he caught a small one.

"I caught my biggest fish in practice here," Martens volunteered. Neither have had a bite since we got here.

Remitz is moving into the creek mouth while Martens takes his place over the sandbar at the mouth. Martens is finesse fishing with his spinning rig.

— Dave Precht


2:10
PM ET

We were out of service back following Skeet into a cut, but now we're back running down the river, getting closer to where many of the other anglers are fishing. It is a rough ride with spectators and pleasure boaters cruising the river.

Skeet is getting farther from downtown Montgomery, but I expect to see him back there at the end of the day.

He's pulled back into another backwater area behind a series of islands. The spots he's fishing have all been similar in that they all have been areas behind islands, not the typical creeks or sloughs that many of the anglers have targeted this week.

After flipping down a long stretch of bank, Skeet gets to a patch of grass and sets the hook on a fish buried up in thick cover. The bass flies through the air and into the boat. It doesn't look big, but goes on the board and into the box. Keeper Number Four might weigh a pound if he's lucky giving him just a little under 5 pounds.

— Rob Russow


2:09
PM ET

The current has started to pick up around us. Skeet was fishing the bank on the inside of a sandbar, but when he noticed the current, trolled over to the sandbar itself and started throwing a lipless crankbait.

There must be a trough there because Reese has himself right up against the bar, throwing parallel. He's reached the area where the current is breaking over the sand, creating a perfect ambush point for the bass.

Now he's trolled over to a series of stumps and starts pitching to them with a creature bait.

— Rob Russow


1:51
PM ET

Despite saturating the best-looking laydown in the pocket with a variety of casts, Reese ultimately emerged empty handed. He pulled up and left, continuing down the river.

His next spot is similar to the last, a bank behind an island that again has a mixture of willow weed and wood. Most of the grass here is out of the water though, but there is a bush that is sticking out into the lake and a laydown next to it that both seem like prime fish-holding areas.

The current should be going down closer to the dam, but here it is mostly stagnant, which is why Reese continues to try to fill his limit out shallow.

Boat waves have kicked up a small mudline along shore. Reese motors on to the next group of small laydowns. A few hooksets gave us good photograph material, but didn't result in any fish for Reese.

— Rob Russow


1:46
PM ET

Martens has been fishing the mouth of a major creek on the shady side of the river. He hasn't paid as much attention to shade as I expected, but that may change as the temperature approaches the century mark.

I bet every one of the AOY contenders has fished this creek mouth one or more times this week. Its an obvious hole.

Martens continues down the bank, setting the hook on a 10-incher that he jerks through the air and past his head. It goes back into the water, a little disoriented after its bungee jump.

Aaron is methodically pitching and flipping his way down the bank. The Alabama boasts hundreds of miles of shoreline, and much of it looks exactly like this. Im curious to know what makes these laydowns and stickups attractive to him.

Factors like depth, bends and shade can come into play, but there seems to be no pattern to the stretches he's working.

Kyle Tindol say he never fishes seemingly random stretches like this, nor does he ever see others stopped there. "There's such a thing as too much cover," he said. This river suffers from that embarrassment of riches.

Stuck at 6 1/2 pounds, we're off to another random stretch.

— Dave Precht


1:28
PM ET

Pace has another small one that's no help.

Pulling up stakes, VanDam led a flotilla downriver. We're hitting it too as Keith has to get in to prep for the weigh-in show.

— Mike Suchan


1:25
PM ET

Edwin Evers is starting to figure into this event. Brian Mason, his cameraman for the day, just sent a text that he has a limit weighing around 11 pounds.

That's pretty strong and puts him in second according to that last update with 22 pounds and change.

— Steve Bowman


1:24
PM ET

The lunch time flurry has slowed for KVD and Pace, although Kevin missed one a moment ago. Pace points out a school of baitfish before the two move apart from 40 yards to about 100.

— Mike Suchan


1:20
PM ET

Martens made a longer run and quickly boated another little fish, which he immediately let go.

He's still not worried about filling out a limit at this point in the day, but he is concerned that none of his catch dies and incurs those hefty 8-ounce penalties. Dead fish and an error in culling cost him the Ramada Inn Trophy Chase title on Lake Jordan last week.

He's off again, chasing that kicker bass that has so far eluded him.

— Dave Precht


1:18
PM ET

VanDam is culling with about 10 pounds in the boat and 25 pounds overall. If he keeps up the pressure that could lock up first place in the event.

Hackney is sitting in second with a 10-10 sack and about 22 overall.

Biffle is third with 11 to 12 pounds and 19 and change overall.

Cliff Pace has about 9 pounds and is in fourth with almost 19.

Martens is stuck on four fish, despite turning back several keepers, with 6 pounds and change and sitting in fifth with 18-6. Edwin Evers has three for about 7 pounds and is in that neighborhood.

Then you have Butcher (5 fish, 7 pounds), Remitz (5 fish, 9 pounds) and Skeet (3 fish, 4 pounds and change) making up that next tier of anglers.

Crews has caught one and we have no verified reports on Lane or Klein.

— Steve Bowman


1:15
PM ET

After 45 minutes on this stretch of bank, Martens swigs a Gatorade and heads toward stop number 8. He said at breakfast he would hit 60 spots today, twice as many as yesterday. I don't think he's going to make that many.

He's alternating between fishing a shaky head deep and flipping a creature bait to visible cover. Yesterday afternoon we watched him flip into brush and get but by a 5-pounder. Unfortunately, the hook snagged in a limb as he tried to work it in, and the fish flopped off. Martens dropped to his knees, grabbed his head with his hands and let out a loud groan. He didn't "go Ike," though, much to his credit.

That fish might have given him the first day lead and put him in the driver's seat.

— Dave Precht


1:12
PM ET

Though Lane has moved, most the spectators have not. Only about five of the 30 boats at this pocket went down river with him. KVD's culling continues. His latest fish might have given him a quarter-pound kick.

Pace just loaded up and puts another in his well. He's at the box and culling. Cliff says he thinks he's at "maybe 9 pounds."

He's caught six total in a morning he described as a grind. He's waited on this spot because he didn't want to give it up to another angler. He says he and Kevin are on two different fingers running downriver.

"I need one of those miracle days," Pace says. "winning isn't even an option no more," but he'd sure like to get back to where he was when the week started, which was third.

— Mike Suchan


12:56
PM ET

It's flurry time for KVD. He's reels in another and culls.

Lane is moving out.

Pace must not like the proceedings as he sits down and works on a lure.

— Mike Suchan


12:53
PM ET

Lane moves from the far end of the pocket, exciting fans a quarter mile away who also fired up. They're left disappointed when he stops 300 yards from where he was to try the grass.

It works. Seconds after stopping he has one on, but it's no help and goes back in the water.

VanDam reels in a small one and it's in the well.

The dinner bell is fixing to ring with the dam opening in minutes, but the wind is coming upstream, the wrong combo to really turn it on.

— Mike Suchan


12:52
PM ET

According to ESPN cameraman Marty Deshiel, Greg Hackney now has a limit that weighs around 9 pounds.

That will up the ante a bit and should put him in second behind KVD and ahead of Biffle in the 20-pound range.

That's the type movement KVD has been praying for all night. The steeper the climb for Reese the better he likes it.

— Steve Bowman


12:48
PM ET

Reese came to an area where the grass made a point and a small stick-up was just off the bank. A pitch with his creature bait and Skeet quickly set the hook on his third keeper, a largemouth close to 1.5 pounds.

As he was carrying the fish back to his livewell, the bass slipped out of his hand and nearly fell back into the water. Reese pounced on it as it was flopping on the deck of his boat and let out a relieved laugh when he tucked it into the well.

"That was almost a Jim Bitter moment," Overstreet said.

Dan O'Sullivan sent a text to Skeet's wife Kim telling her about it.

Her response: "I'm a wreck."

Skeet now has three keepers for a shade under 4 pounds.

— Rob Russow


12:
PM ET

Breaking news flash: KVD stops fishing to take a drink.

Oh yes he did. He set down his rod, picked up a big jug and slurped down as much ad he could. Then he wiped his mouth with his shirt sleeve and went right back to fishing.

The whole scene took all of about five seconds.

"I don't think I've ever seem him take a break," boat driver Boyd says. "I guess that's why he's so good."

There are other reasons as well, but keeping at it is what makes KVD who he is.

There's a light breeze that's rather refreshing, but being on the water in this heat wave is definitely affecting the anglers.

Heck, KVD stopped to take a drink.

— Mike Suchan


12:37
PM ET

Reese made another run about five miles downriver, slowly working his way toward the dam. There is less than 30 minutes until the current starts down there.

The river makes a hard left bend and behind an island, a cut has formed. The shoreline is lines with shallow grass and the occasional log. Reese is fishing like he did yesterday morning, pitching a creature bait to the shallow cover, the only difference is the water is lower. Yesterday he was hauling in fish, even though they were small. Today, the shallow cover has yet to produce.

— Rob Russow

12:36
PM ET

Skeet didn't stay at the back of Cooters for long. He moved out to the no-wake area by the boat ramp, which has a variety of docks and laydowns to fish.

There is still some good depth back in this channel. Our boat is sitting in 11 feet and the graph is reading 91 degrees. Skeet is flipping under overhanging trees and next to laydowns.

He saw a fish chasing bait right behind him and couldn't believe it wouldn't come back for a topwater. Now he's on the move again, but we stop for a minute to upload a BASSCam video.

Watch: Skeet near Cooter's

— Rob Russow


12:33
PM ET

Martens is fishing closer to shore, methodically working a shaky head or dropshot beneath his boat. He hasn't added to his catch in the past hour and a half but isn't getting in a hurry.

Boat wakes from Martens and his spectator boats washed a pontoon boat off the bank and into Martens' fishing area. Its owner waded out and retrieved it and Martens moved a short distance away.

Gary Klein just flew by between Martens and his gallery. Aaron's hoping the wakes will awaken his fish.

— Dave Precht


12:31
PM ET

Thera a nice line of clouds forming to our west and we could be looking at a repeat of yesterday's afternoon showers.

KVD hooks up and reels in a squirt. He did measure it, placed a cull tab on it and in the box it went.

— Mike Suchan


12:30
PM ET

Check out the new aerial shots up on the Photo Galleries page.

12:25
PM ET

Kevin VanDam has started catching them. He now has three fish that weigh around 6 pounds.

That's not surprising. I think if captures a limit today, then winning this event is academic for him. But the title will fall on where Reese finishes.

He would still need to be second. We watched him all day yesterday and he didn't put together a good weight until the last minutes of the day. He has a decent start, but so does Martens, and Biffle could very well throw wrench in the whole deal.

All of it makes watching every cast of this event worthwhile.

The landscape is ever changing.

— Steve Bowman

12:21
PM ET

We finally get to KVD, who's in the backwater pocket that was so popular Friday. Cliff Pace is on one side of the underwater ridge and VanDam on the other. Russ Lane pulled out from the upriver end and circled around to get in the far end of the pocket. Dropping water has brought about some concern of navigating the river.

There are about 30 boats in prime viewing position on the edge of the river channel.

— Mike Suchan


12:12
PM ET

Martens stopped next on an outside river bend where bank erosion is threatening some riverside homes. We see that a lot on the river, which is constantly redesigning its course.

He slowly trolled trough the area (about 50 yards off the bank), apparently using his depthfinder to pinpoint some structure.

These deep bars and humps are expansive, so the pros look for what they call "a spot on a spot" — maybe a brush pile on the lip of a drop — that will hold all the fish in the vicinity.

Kevin VanDam was fishing similar spots at times yesterday.

It amazes me how these pros can find such obscure holes with such little practice time.

Martens just dunked a dropshot rig down to a fish he spotted on his bow depthfinder, but it wasn't interested so he's back to shaking a worm. It's about 20 feet deep where he's fishing.

— Dave Precht


12:11
PM ET

BassTrakk has Edwin Evers with a zero. But Brian Mason, ESPN cameraman, just sent me a text message that he has four keepers that weigh about 7 pounds.

That puts Evers in the Top 3 neighborhood. He's more than capable of winning this event and the title. He's been really quiet this week, and almost overlooked with all that has been going on with Skeet, KVD and Martens. But you can't count out Evers.

He's too good and could actually benefit by not having the spotlight on him.

— Steve Bowman


12:10
PM ET

New photos from the launch are up on the Photo Galleries page.

11:56
AM ET

I've been in the helicopter and just getting back in the swing of the blog. Before I get totally caught up, though, I wanted to give a BassTrakk report.

It may not jive with what is below. But it still warrants a look.

BassTrakk reports that Tommy Biffle is the unofficial leader.

He has a limit that weighs around 11-8 and gives him 19-4 overall.

That's a big move. It won't be enough to win, but it could be enough, or at least a start, to help shape the ending in this race for the title.

Martens has four at 6-4, putting him in second with 18-6

VanDam has one and is in third with 16-15

Hackney has three (5-5) and is in fourth with 16-6 total.

Reese has two for about 2-8 and sits in fifth place with 14-12

Cliff Pace has three (5-0) fpr 14-10 and 6th place.

Terry Butcher has four (5-15) and is in 7th with 13-14

Derek Remitz has two (4-0) and is in 8th with 11-12.

The rest of the field has no reported catches with Evers, Lane, Crews and Klein sitting in that order.

— Steve Bowman


11:54
AM ET

We've caught up with Aaron again. He's still within 5 miles of the launch and is catching one or two keepers at almost every stop.

He's thrown back three 12-inch bass even though he needs one more for a limit. Martens said he doesn't want to risk the fish dying in this heat, so he's letting them go without bothering to cull.

He still has about 6 1/2 by our estimate.

They wouldn't help him much anyway, and besides, he is confident he'll be able to round out a 5-fish limit later in the day.

He's pitching to wood on the shore with a green pumpkin Roboworm creature bait.

The heat is brutal — so much that photog Larry Towell says his camera is overheating. Yet Martens is decked out in his trademark uniform of dark slacks and longsleeve black jersey.

Skeet and his chase boats just flew by, headed into Cooters Pond, just 200 yards below Martens.

— Dave Precht


11:54
AM ET

Reese has given up on the area around Montgomery for now, but don't be surprised to see him back here in the afternoon when the current starts flowing.

To give you an idea of how hot it's getting, the glue holding the pad on the foot pedal for the trolling motor melted and when we started running behind Skeet, the pad flew off and hit me in the head. Nothing injured, so Overstreet didn't stop.

Skeet seems to be ready for a long run and I'm curious to see where we will end up.

— Rob Russow


11:53
AM ET

John Crews dropping to a big tree downriver.

He's been hopping around and still waiting for his first keeper. Running water helps but he says you can pick up some here and there, like from under this tree.

"One's gotta be in there," he says.

— Mike Suchan


11:48
AM ET

After Keith uploads his videos, we're off to track down KVD. The door would open up if VanDam has a bad day.

Wow, KVD and bad day, you don't see those words together very often.

An average 10-pound day by KVD gives him around 25 and sets the bar pretty high for anyone to catch him.

— Mike Suchan


11:46
AM ET

Mark Jeffery of BassZone.com is following KVD and he reports that VanDam has one fish in the 2-pound class range. He's not moving around as much as yesterday and is sticking pretty tight to the area.

— Steve Bowman


11:45
AM ET

We're back on the trail. Kyle changed out the sparkplugs and the engine fired right up. Thankfully, Ricky Baker, a local angler driving the media boat, had the tools we needed to get going again. I would hate to have missed this day on the river.

— Dave Precht


11:40
AM ET

Working back into the pocket, Skeet has been alternating between a swimbait, lipless crankbait, topwater and shaky head, trying to trigger a bite.

Report from KVD's cameraman has VanDam just boating his first keeper, a 2-pounder, that closes the gap on Martens. Aaron is still on top in this event and in the AOY race. There's still a long way to go.

— Rob Russow


11:27
AM ET

Gerald Swindle is the first guest to visit Skeet where he fishes behind the amphitheater. Swindle is his usual amiable self, chatting with Reese as he fishes along the shore with a shaky head.

Now Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders join the show.

"Catch a hawg Skeet," Zona yells.

They are getting set to film a few segments for the television show. It sounds like Lifehouse is getting tuned up, or at least, I heard a few drums getting beat, but that could have just been Zona.

In the middle of it all, Reese tries to catch his second keeper. He worked back into where Russ Lane started the morning yesterday throwing a topwater and is now flipping to some shallow bushes.

— Rob Russow


11:05
AM ET

We're back on the move, a welcome break from the heat. It looks like we are running back to Montgomery with one fish in the box.

Skeet is now sidled up against the steamboat, making long casts with a crankbait. Now, he's picked up a shaky head. He's counting on the fish from yesterday still being here even without the current.

His first cast with the shaky head and he hooks up with a keeper. It's bending his rod like a bigger fish, but when he swings it into the boat, it's only a small keeper. Two keepers in the boat for maybe 2-4.

— Rob Russow


11:04
AM ET

Despite being close to his limit, Martens said the current that ran yesterday really helped the flipping bite. He mentions that it's so hot and sweaty that he's having issues keeping a good grip on his rod. OK, there's his fourth fish.

The livewell opens and Keith Alan begins discussing the remedy for his health care issues on Lake Jordan. His "oxygenator" is working well now.

He's taken some offense to his decisions to throw back his dying fish.

"You never know how things are going to work out. I might not have been able to catch that four-pounder."

— Mike Suchan


10:59
AM ET

We just saw an interesting tactic, but one that's effective with no current moving. Martens motored across the river and ran about 100 yards up the bank, washing a big wake against the bank before stopping and fishing the stretch he had just stirred up.

This commotion gets the baitfish active and makes the bass bite. It hasn't worked so far.

Keith Alan just jumped in the boat and is conducting a BassCam interview, which should be uploaded shortly.

Martens is fun to cover in that he chats with us and his spectators, explaining what he's doing. Many of the other Elite Anglers are too focused to speak to us, and I don't blame them.

He caught a 1 1/2 pounder while the BassCam camera was on. That's four fish for 6 1/2 pounds, an hour into his day.

— Dave Precht


10:50
AM ET

It appears with Martens last fish catch that he is back in front of Skeet. In fact, he is unofficially leading this event, which means he would be tied with Skeet for AOY. I believe the tie-breaker is most weight in the postseason, giving Martens the AOY edge.

Of course, this is all unofficial and after only an hour of competition, but the myriad AOY possibilities are beginning to unfold.

Skeet stopped not far downstream and he is pitching to an old barge tie-off. Almost immediately, he misses a fish. Then a few casts later, he misses another. That one loaded up on his rod.

"I saw that one swimming away with it," Reese said.

He has a little one almost to the boat before it comes off. Now, he switches to the topwater bait he caught his first keeper on.

— Rob Russow


10:41
AM ET

Reese is throwing everything in his boat at the discharge.

"I know these fish are there," Reese says to the cameraman.

He was just shaking a drop shot by the stump he had a blow-up. Now he throws a swimbait. Now we are moving.

— Rob Russow


10:40
AM ET

Martens boated his fourth fish and third keeper at 9:38. That should give him about 5 pounds and will definitely build his confidence for the rest of the day.

— Dave Precht


10:38
AM ET

Reese had a blow-up next to a stump, but the fish never got the bait. It hit the surface again after Reese reeled in and Overstreet and I tensed in anticipation as he fired another cast back there.

Amazingly, the fish didn't show itself again.

Right now, there is not a breath of air stirring. It's getting steamy out here.

"My hand is sweating so much I can hardly hold my camera," Overstreet says.

— Rob Russow


10:36
AM ET

Martens is camping on this spot not far downriver from the launch. I can see the top of the RSA Tower building from here. He's fishing what appears to be a Roboworm in the MM3 color, which is translucent purple with a brown back. He nearly won the first leg of the championship on Jordan last weekend on that color.

Our driver, Kyle Tindol, said these worms are flying off the shelves at Bass Pro Shops in Prattville this week. Martens has won a ton of money in the past on a similar handpour worm color named, appropriately, "Aaron's Magic." he likes MM3 even better.

He's using a shaky head setup, pitching it a few feet from the boat and pulling out line to help it go deep.

He just boated a short fish and pitched it overboard. The ESPN helicopter is hovering over us as a cameraman videos Martens. This event should make for a couple of great episodes of The Bassmasters.

— Dave Precht


10:34
AM ET

Two pastors with a load of catfish, including an 18-pounder, were sitting at a sewage discharge pump north when up comes Skeet Reese.

They said they realized what was at stake for him and moved out to let him fish it. Skeet caught his first fish there, and the pastors were waiting for him to move on so they could reclaim their spot.

— Mike Suchan


10:32
AM ET

Skeet's back on top as of this moment. His first cast with a Sammy produced a nice explosion and his first keeper was soon in the boat. Not a monster, maybe 1.25 pounds, but a start to the day.

He threw that topwater right against the bank where the current makes an eddy and the fish hit almost immediately.

These anglers don't know what their competitors have, but we will be keeping track of this race throughout the day.

— Rob Russow


10:26
AM ET

Skeet Reese is fishing about 10 miles north of the take-off at a discharge pipe right around a bend in the river. Rather than pouring into the river, the water from the pipe is bubbling up, forming a small pocket of aerated water.

I'm told this is a community hole — likely Reese is trying to catch a few quick keepers. He sets the hook and boats a small fish, but it won't measure the 12-inch minimum length.

He appears to be tossing a shaky head around the edges of the discharge. Now, he stops to flip next to a stump just downstream from the pipe. There's no current yet, except what is flowing around Skeet's boat.

Right now, Martens has moved ahead of Skeet for the tournament, meaning KVD is now leading the AOY race.

— Rob Russow


10:19
AM ET

Martens just boated a second keeper, at least 2 pounds. He should have over 3 pounds in the livewell and it's only 9:20 a.m. here.

— Dave Precht


10:17
AM ET

Falling water has been a huge part of this weekend.

Tommy Biffle fished up almost to Wetumpka on the Coosa River yesterday. He planned on making it all the way to the bridge, the furthest fishable water in this competition. The water dropped so much, however, that he could only go about 1/4 of the way.

Even with the dropping water, plenty of bass were still caught shallow. Reese put on a 12-inch bass clinic around docks and grass. There is a danger of the water dropping even more today when they open the gates. One reason Reese might have gone north is because he knows the places he started on yesterday are high and dry.

— Rob Russow


10:15
AM ET

Aaron just put a pound and a quarter fish in the boat. He's worming now, probably fishing a shaky head.

He and the other leaders are fishing a lot of very obvious spots, such as points at creek mouths. A lot of it was used water yesterday and will be even more hammered today.

I asked him how he deals with knowing others had fished his spots earlier.

"You just have to put it out of your mind," he said. "There must have been a hundred boats between here and the (Jones Bluff) dam yesterday," — only a slight exaggeration.

"They all see where we've been fishing. I bet they were on those holes at daylight this morning."

Local pressure is just one of the challenges the Elite Anglers have to deal with. I admire their ability to compartmentalize things like this.

— Dave Precht


10:07
AM ET

Russ Lane reported this morning that only two gates will be opened down south, starting at noon. That could be part of the reason Reese chose to head north. Plus, we know that he upgraded twice up in this area yesterday.

Considering that most of what he caught down the river was small, he might be counting on the fact that he can catch a limit up here and then cull in the afternoon again near the take-off.

This is uncharted territory for us this week, heading north for the first time.

— Rob Russow


10:06
AM ET

Aaron is already casting, five minutes past blastoff. He's on a straight bank, fishing a hidden sandbar 40 yards off the steep bank.

He said this morning he hit 30 different spots yesterday and will fish 60 today. We're gearing up for runnin' and gunnin'.

— Dave Precht


10:03
AM ET

We're following Aaron Martens this morning. Prognosticators pick him as having a high potential to either win AOY or spoil the dreams of Skeet Reese or Kevin VanDam. Can't wait to see how this unfolds.

— Dave Precht


10:02
AM ET

There is one more day left in the 2010 season and it starts now.

Tommy Biffle again heads north, not stopping near the launch as he did yesterday. This time, Gary Klein also joins him, a change from yesterday when he ran south.

Russ Lane isn't going to take any time to fish at the amphitheater, heading south. Skeet Reese surprised everyone by running north as the last one out of the gates. With the AOY award on the line, he once again makes a bold move. Let's see how it pays off. James Overstreet and I will be locked on Skeet all morning, let the excitement begin.

— Rob Russow


9:15
AM ET

I've covered Bassmaster events for some part of the last three decades. And I really can't remember ever looking forward to the start of a tournament day like I am at this moment.

Skeet Reese and Kevin VanDam going at it mano-a-mano, with dozens of little sidebars and possibilities behind them.

Russ Lane could still make a run at this thing, so could Aaron Martens and Edwin Evers.

Skeet is still in control of his own destiny. KVD will likely do all the damage he can do. And all things staying the same, this turns into a two-man battle between Skeet and Martens for second place.

If Martens wins that battle and KVD is on top of the tourney list then VanDam wins the title.

If Skeet wins the battle and there are no others charging, then he wins. But Lane could bust a big sack along with Evers and all of the sudden the complexion really starts to change.

That's the deal with these 12. The word quit doesn't reside in their vocabulary. They will be working just as hard in last place as KVD and Skeet will be at the top.

That face, along with all the variables that just come with bass fishing, makes this an exciting day. Already, a couple of local anglers are fishing along the seawall where Russ Lane started and Skeet Reese made a last-minute charge.

They've fished there for almost an hour. Whether they've caught anything, I don't know or care. Whether they've pressured the fish or not by their presence, who knows? But those are the type things you can't measure or practice for in events like this.

They are the variables that eventually make bass fishing compelling, even frustrating.

All tied together, though, a lot of fun to watch.

In about a half hour, we will be taking off and this day will be started. I just hope it plays out to its expectations.

— Steve Bowman


Blog Archive: Trophy Triumph, Day One
Trophy Triumph, Practice Two -- Trophy Triumph, Practice One -- Hope for the Warriors
Trophy Challenge, Day Two -- Trophy Challenge, Day One
Trophy Challenge, Practice Two -- Trophy Challenge, Practice One