|MLF pro Gerald Swindle made a necessary rod change in the final minute of Group A's Elimination Round today to catch a 1-pound, 12-ouncer that leapfrogged him above the Elimination Line and into Saturday's Knockout Round on Alabama's Smith Lake.|
Swindle entered the final minute of competition on Smith Lake in 24th place, 1 pound, 4 ounces out of 20th place, and on the outside looking in for a spot in the Knockout Round. But on his last cast - after switching rods with under 60 seconds remaining because the line on the rod he was fishing was frayed - Swindle connected with a 1-12 that vaulted him past Brandon Palaniuk, Scott Suggs, Terry Scroggins and Bobby Lane into 19th place with 49-2, 8 ounces in front of Brandon Palaniuk.
"You can't fish on gut instincts if you're playing defense, and I've been playing defense all year," Swindle said. "I'm happy to make it (to the Knockout Round), but man, I'm tired of playing defense. I'm looking forward to leading one of these things so I can play some offense. But I'll tell you one thing I know: I'm going to sleep really well tonight."
Palaniuk Advances Via Tiebreaker
Palaniuk's entry into the Knockout Round was equally dramatic. After weighing only one scorable spotted bass in Period 1, the Idaho pro jabbed his way through a 12-fish day, connecting on a 2-3 largemouth with 17 minutes left in the round. Palaniuk then held on for dear life as both Chris and Bobby Lane chipped away at him before Swindle eventually leap-frogged him.
Palaniuk and Scott Suggs finished the round with the same two-day weight (48-10), but Palaniuk earned the 20th spot on a tiebreaker: Palaniuk weighed 28 fish over two rounds to Suggs' 27.
"Unexpected," Palaniuk said of his day. "The first day I caught a bunch of my fish in the morning, but I only caught one bass at the very end of the first period today. It was an intense day coming down to the wire. So intense that it's a good thing my official was on top of his game or I wouldn't have made it - the third-to-last fish I caught, the fish was bouncing around the scale wouldn't lock.
"It showed as 1-9 but wouldn't settle, so he told me 'Hold on, wait, remove your hands' and then let the scale settle and lock. It came up as 1-10, and that was the difference-maker. I made it in because that official was careful about doing his job."
Top 5 From Shotgun Looked for New Fish
There was no drama at the top of SCORETRACKER®, where Phoenix Boats Daily Leader Jacob Wheeler (87-6), Wesley Strader (81-3), Ott DeFoe (76-9), Josh Bertrand (72-11) and Andy Morgan (70-13) cruised through productive days where they caught plenty of fish while also exploring new spots on Smith Lake for the Knockout Round.
"I spent a lot of time looking for other fish today," Morgan admitted. "Fish are in post-spawn right now, so they're hungry, but they're on the move. It's all about the bait right now - all about the shad and where they are - so you have to keep up with that."
Today's Round By The Numbers
Elimination Round 1 anglers caught 966-4 on 599 fish; Period 2 was the most productive with 336 fish.
Elimination Round 2 on Friday
With the first half of the Knockout Round now set, the 40 anglers from Group B get their next shot at Smith Lake Friday for the second Elimination Round of Stage Five. The grouping around the Elimination Line is slightly looser in Group B than it was in Group A - five anglers are within a single scorable bass of the 20th spot versus eight in Group A - but the projected Elimination Line weight of 52 to 53 pounds on Friday is significantly higher than Thursday's.
Knockout Round on Saturday
The Top 20 anglers from each of the two Elimination groups will advance to a 40-angler Knockout Round on Saturday - weights will be zeroed, making the Knockout a one-day scramble. The Top 10 anglers in the Knockout Round will advance to the Championship Round on Sunday, May 5.
When, Where & How to Watch
Competition begins daily at 6:30 a.m. CT, with live, official scoring available via SCORETRACKER on MajorLeagueFishing.com and on the MLF app. The MLF NOW! Live Stream starts at 9 a.m. CT, with live, on-the-water coverage and analysis provided by Chad McKee, JT Kenney, Marty Stone and Natalie Dillon until lines out at 2:30 p.m. The Berkley Postgame Show - hosted by Steven "Lurch" Scott - will start at 4 p.m. daily.
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