Canadians Gustafson 19th, & Chris Johnston 20th.
Brock Mosley of Collinsville, Miss., is leading after Day 3 of the 2022 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Chickamauga Lake with a three-day total of 58 pounds, 1 ounce. (Photo: Seigo Saito/BASS)
DAYTON, Tenn. — The Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Chickamauga Lake has been anything but your typical early April event in the South.
At one point during Semifinal Saturday, anglers were actually sight fishing for bedding bass in 52-degree water with sleet peppering down on them. Any angler will tell you that’s not only an odd scenario, but one of the hardest to figure out.
Through it all, though, Mississippi pro Brock Mosley has remained consistent, building a three-day total of 58 pounds, 1 ounce to grab the lead heading into Championship Sunday. He caught 19-6 Thursday, 18-11 Friday and 20-0 Saturday and will now head into the final round with five anglers within 4 pounds of him.
“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again,” Mosley said. “I didn’t know if I could catch a fish at all going into the first day of the tournament. I caught five that weighed 17 or 18 pounds early that first day and then laid off of them because I didn’t know if I’d be able to find anything else the second day.
“But what I’m doing has pretty much worked every day.”
While Mosley has stayed in the same basic areas each day, he has alternated between several lures, including a bladed jig, a lipless crankbait and an assortment of flipping baits. He said it’s been a process of trial and error to figure out which of those offerings the bass want.
“Every day they’re in a different mood,” said Mosley, who has 13 Top 10 finishes with B.A.S.S. “The last two days, the flipping bite has been slow. So, it’s been the moving baits that worked. I kind of have to mix it up until I figure out which mood they’re in.”
Mosley has benefited each day from fast starts — something he said has given him the confidence to mix up his lures and find which one the fish want most in the moment.
“Getting a couple of keepers early has been big for me,” he said. “I think I’ve had a limit every day by 11:30, and that really calms me down and allows me to fish without getting in a hurry and stressed out.
“People won’t believe it, but like I said, I’ve been kind of worried about catching a limit every day.”
Mosley will carry the pressure of four previous second-place finishes into Sunday with Japanese pro Daisuke Aoki just 3 ounces behind in second place with 57-14. Oklahoma pro Jason Christie, who is a month removed from winning the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk, is only 6 ounces back in third.
After using two patterns the first two days, Aoki saw one of those fizzle on Saturday.
“On Day 1 and Day 2, I started off on a shallow spawning area,” Aoki said, with longtime B.A.S.S. photographer Seigo Saito interpreting. “That is a really tiny place and the fish were gone from there. It was really tough this morning.”
Luckily for Aoki, the offshore spot where he’s been using a collection of finesse tactics had actually improved in the frigid conditions. The only drawback was it took more time and patience to put together the solid limit of 17-10 he brought to the scales.
Another weather change is predicted for Sunday — sunny skies, calm winds and a high temperature of 75 degrees. But while it seems Aoki’s offshore pattern would be less susceptible to weather changes than shallower patterns, he wasn’t sure how the fish in his area will react.
“I know there will be fish there,” he said. “It’s just a question of whether or not bigger fish move into that area. If they do, I think I can make them bite.”
Christie, who seemed to struggle a bit with a Classic hangover — finishing 93rd place in the next Elite Series event after the Classic at Santee Cooper Lakes — has regained his form this week with catches of 16-0, 20-15 and 20-12.
That puts him in excellent position to score his eighth career B.A.S.S. victory.
“I’ve never seen a situation quite like the one we have this week,” Christie said. “The water temperature is 50 to 52 degrees and it’s sleeting. But I think a few of these fish have just decided the water’s coming up and it’s time to get up there and try to spawn.
“I caught fish in inches of water today, and I know that they’re spawning because yesterday I missed two on open banks. Then today, I made the same casts on those banks and caught those fish.”
Christie is employing his usual selection of baits — spinnerbait, bladed jig and jig — and each has worked well in certain water colors. But Christie’s priority Sunday will be finding areas that haven’t been fished out.
“There’s so much pressure out there right now that you don’t know where you’re gonna be at in the rotation when you go into a pocket,” he said. “They might not even be doing the same thing, but when there’s a boat in a pocket, you go on to the next one.
“In some pockets, there are five casts to make and in some there’s 50.”
Tennessee rookie Jacob Foutz earned Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Day honors with a 7-12 largemouth, but Wisconsin pro Pat Schlapper still holds the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Week with the 10-5 he caught Thursday.
Hawaiian Matty Wong failed to make the Top 10 cut for Championship Sunday, placing 14th with 48-5. But he still leads for VMC Monster Bag of the Week with the 25-13 limit he weighed in Friday.
With a 33rd-place finish, Florida pro John Cox maintained his lead in the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 353 points. Idaho pro Brandon Palaniuk moved into second with 343, followed by Clifford Pirch of Arizona (337), Drew Benton of Georgia (322) and David Mullins of Tennessee (321).
The Top 10 remaining anglers will take off Sunday at 7 a.m. ET from Dayton Boat Dock with weigh-in back at the dock at 3 p.m. The winner will earn $100,000 and the fourth blue trophy awarded on the Elite Series this season.
FS1 will broadcast live with the tournament leaders beginning at 8 a.m. ET on Sunday. Live coverage can also be streamed on Bassmaster.com and the FOX Sports digital platforms.