|Austin Felix of Eden Prairie, Minn., is leading after Day 3 of the 2022 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Lake Oahe with a three-day total of 55 pounds, 6 ounces. (Photo: BASS)|
MOBRIDGE, S.D. — Thanks to a late-day push, Austin Felix secured a limit of smallmouth weighing 18 pounds, 1 ounce on Day 3 of the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Lake Oahe, pushing his three-day total to a tournament-leading 55-6.
A lackluster Day 1 that included losing a big smallmouth put Felix in 34th place with 14-2, but he rocketed up the leaderboard with the VMC Monster Bag of the Tournament so far, a 23-3 sack of smallmouth that put him in second entering Semifinal Saturday.
The Eden Prairie, Minn., native now holds nearly a 3-pound lead over Kentucky pro Matt Robertson in second and nearly a 4-pound advantage over Day 2 leader Chris Johnston of Canada, who dropped to third.
On a volatile fishery that has seen anglers move up and down the standings each day, Felix is trying not to think about his status entering Championship Sunday.
“I’m just trying to keep my head down because I know I have another day, and that’s the most important thing,” Felix said. “I need to catch five more good ones. It isn’t easy out there right now. A lot of guys struggled today. I was fortunate enough to figure out something late and caught a few good ones.”
Felix, the 2020 Bassmaster Rookie of the Year and a two-time Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic qualifier, started where he caught his monster bag Friday with two other competitors and found the smallmouth were not loaded up like they had been previously.
“I caught one solid 4-pounder and then a rat, but it definitely wasn’t as good as I was hoping,” Felix said. “Fortunately for tomorrow, I will have it to myself. There may be scraps left, but if I can get all the scraps I might be able to get a few decent ones or scratch a bag together.”
Felix has been fishing main-lake points located close to steep breaks on the main river channel. He has about 18 of those points marked, but it is a mystery as to which one will produce on a given day.
“I am just running waypoints,” he said. “Obviously, a lot of people found them because it is pretty obvious stuff, but hopefully tomorrow you will be able to do what you want to do.”
After starting in 20th place with 16-1 on Day 1, Robertson caught 17-8 on Day 2 to move into ninth and sacked 19-0 on Saturday for a three-day total of 52-9.
“The last three days I have changed it up every day,” Robertson said. “Don’t just stick to one thing. You have to give them a little different look. One day I caught them on a drop shot. I caught a few on a Damiki rig and a Carolina rig today. Honestly, it’s been about not getting too stuck on anything.”
Robertson has fished three or four main spots he knows are holding quality bass. On Saturday, he got three quality smallies to start the day, adding he lost another bass bigger than all of them in the process. He added his fourth fish around 11 a.m. and finished his bag around noon.
Now that he is squarely in contention, he is considering making a 72-mile run down lake to an area he hasn’t touched. But he is worried he won’t be able to make it back to check-in before running out of gas.
“It is far enough to where I am 99 percent sure I am going to run out of gas on the way back,” Robertson said. “I almost went there today and (Seth) Feider made the Top 10, so I will probably end up down there to take a crack at it. I know whenever I run out of gas he will be there to give me a ride back.”
After taking the lead on Day 2, Johnston found his big bass spot did not reload and scrambled to catch 13-12 on Saturday. The Canadian pro is now third with 51-8.
“I went to my starting spot, which I was a little worried was going to run out of fish, and sure enough it was pretty vacant,” Johnston said. “I gave it two hours and started running some secondary stuff. Seth (Feider) was on my second-best spot and he beat on them pretty good — which is good for him, but it sucked for me.”
Johnston saw quite a few smallies on several areas he visited, but getting them to bite was a difficult task. Winds are expected to pick back up on Sunday, and Johnston hopes that will help the bite.
“Tomorrow the pressure is off. I am just going to go out and have some fun and see what I can catch,” he said.
Wisconsin pro Jay Przekurat caught the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the day, a 5-6 smallie that anchored his 19-10 bag and gave him a $1,000 bonus. South Carolina’s Brandon Cobb still holds the overall Phoenix Boats Big Bass with the 5-12 smallmouth he caught on Day 1.
Rathdrum, Idaho, native Brandon Palaniuk leads the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year race with 647 points. Fayetteville, Tenn., pro Brandon Lester moved up to second with 610 points and Johnston fell one spot to third 600.
Przekurat continues to lead the Falcon Rods Bassmaster Rookie of the Year race with 543 points while Ava, Mo., pro Cody Huff is second with 479 after making the Top 10 cut. Tennessee pro Jacob Foutz follows in third with 456.
The Top 10 remaining anglers will launch from the Indian Creek Recreation area at 7 a.m. CT and return for weigh-in at 3 p.m. The weigh-in will be livestreamed on Bassmaster.com.
Bassmaster LIVE coverage will begin at 7 a.m. CT on FS1 and run through 10:30 a.m. before transitioning to Bassmaster.com until 2 p.m.
2022 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2022 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Progressive Insurance, Ranger Boats, Rapala, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha
2022 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Daiwa, Garmin, Huk Performance Fishing, Marathon, Strike King, Triton Boats, VMC
2022 Bassmaster Conservation Partners: AFTCO, Yamaha Rightwaters