Canadians Cory Johnston 22th , Chris Johnston 23rd & Gustafson 90th
Current loving smallmouth key to big limits.
Koby Kreiger’s main pattern provided a solid foundation, but a strategic relocation proved essential to maintaining his lead at the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Pickwick Lake.
Adding a five-bass limit of 19 pounds, 15 ounces to his Day 1 leading catch of 25-12 — the event’s biggest bag — the pro from Alva, Fla., tallied 45-11. Heading into Semifinal Monday, Kreiger leads second-place Bill Lowen by 11 ounces.
Kreiger started his day in the Wilson Dam tailrace, where he targeted the down-current side of a wooded rock island. With the dam releasing an hourly average of 178,170 cubic feet per second, bass were leveraging the intense feeding opportunities.
Heavy rainfall from Wednesday’s massive storm system brought extreme current and flood conditions, which required B.A.S.S. officials to postpone the tournament’s scheduled start from Thursday to Saturday.
“The fish just hunker down behind that (structure) and anything that falls over those rocks, they eat it,” Kreiger said. “It was a grind today. I caught one big smallmouth pretty early this morning and I was lucky to catch three to go with it. Then I struggled for a while.
“I made a move and went down my limit bank and caught a 4-pounder and another one about 3 1/2.”
Kreiger’s second area was a riprap bank near the takeoff site at McFarland Park. He spent about an hour in this spot.
Returning to the tailrace in the afternoon, Kreiger found that the bite had completely shut down. He attributes the decline to increased turbidity.
“The upper end of the lake is getting dirty and I think that’s part of the problem,” Kreiger said. “They didn’t bite after this morning. When I returned (to the tailrace), I never got another bite. It was nowhere near like it was yesterday.
“It has to be because the water got dirty. I mean, the fish are there; they’re not going to go anywhere. Smallmouth are sight feeders, so that has to play a role in it. But I also caught some big largemouth up there yesterday and they didn’t bite either, so I don’t know.”
Kreiger caught his fish on a deep-diving crankbait, a 1-ounce spinnerbait with tandem willow-leaf blades and a balsa Wee Bait in the silver shad color.
Despite today’s downturn, Kreiger said he’ll definitely fish the Wilson tailrace tomorrow.
“There’s no question, if I’m going to win, I’m going to win up there,” he said. “I’m going to go up there and spend a couple of hours up there and see what happens.”
Hailing from Brookville, Ind., Lowen is in second place with an even 45 pounds. Gaining a spot from Day 1, Lowen bolstered Saturday’s limit of 21-3 with 23-13 — the day’s heaviest bag.
“Yesterday I didn’t get a lot of bites and today I didn’t get a lot of bites, but I got the right ones,” Lowen said.
Spending his day near the Natchez Trace Bridge, Lowen fished main river current breaks. Noting that this area is a major offshore community hole when conditions are stable, Lowen strategically pushed shallow and flipped wood with his signature series 3/8-ounce Lure Parts Online jig with a chunk trailer.
“The reason I go with a 3/8 is so it sweeps through the cover instead of getting stuck,” Lowen said. “When it sweeps through there, it looks more natural than if you’re fighting to get it through.”
In his day’s later hours, Lowen fished docks inside a pocket in the same general area. He caught several on his jig, with one making it into his limit.
“My theory is that those fish are getting pushed to the sides,” Lowen said. “I had a really good area out on that flat before (the heavy current) came and I assumed that those fish slid up to the docks.”
Scott Martin of Clewiston, Fla., is in third place with 41-2. Mirroring his Day 1 strategy, Martin started the day fishing the slower current areas right outside of McFarland Park.
He added 22-13 to the 18-5 he caught on Saturday.
“I caught a 6 1/2-pounder right outside the takeoff, then I caught some more fish down the (riprap bank bordering McFarland) and ended up with a limit of 15 pounds or so without starting my motor and then I just went fishing,” Martin said. “I didn’t catch as many today, the grade was better. I caught a lot of 3 1/2- to 4 1/2-pound fish.”
After leaving the McFarland area, Martin fished his way down lake, nearly to the Tennessee state line. He targeted current breaks, points and shallow cover and caught his fish on a ChatterBait, swimbait and a balsa crankbait.
Hank Cherry of Linconton, N.C., is in the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with his 7-11.
Patrick Walters of Summerville, S.C., leads the Angler of the Year standings with 258 points. Seth Feider of New Market, Minn., is in second with 251, followed by Bryan New of Belmont, N.C., with 249, Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, with 244, and Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La., with 242.
Monday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6:45 a.m. CT at McFarland Park. The weigh-in will be held at the park at 3 p.m.
Live coverage of the event can be streamed on Bassmaster.com and the FOX Sports digital platforms.
The tournament is being hosted by Florence-Lauderdale Tourism.