ATHENS, Tex. — Lines are going in for the final time in east Texas, this time on a different lake than Lake Fork. The 10 anglers competing in the Championship Round will head out on Lake Athens for the first time this week. Well, technically they all had a practice day on the Championship lake during their off day.
Regardless, we have heard from multiple anglers that this much smaller lake in size–more than 13,000 acres compared to Lake Fork’s 27,000-plus–and it should fish in a different way than Fork. Expect to see some fish on beds ready to spawn, but also some in a post-spawn mindset. Texas resident Kelly Jordon mentioned that since Athens is smaller than Fork, the water warms up faster, pushing the spawn up earlier in the calendar.
At the end of today, only one angler will stand alone at the top of SCORETRACKER® with the trophy. Who will it be? We have eight hours of fishing to find out.
5:41 p.m. CT — Twelve bass for more than 38 pounds in just the last hour for Ott DeFoe. He has stretched his lead to more than 21 pounds over Alton Jones, Jr. and it looks like it is his tournament to win.
5:35 p.m. CT — Add on a 5-3 to DeFoe’s total weight and his lead is double-digits in the blink of an eye. He leads Alton Jones, Jr. by 11-1 and Mark Daniels, Jr. by 11-11.
5:30 p.m. CT — We have a new leader and it’s Ott DeFoe. The Tennessee angler just made a huge statement, catching a schooling 9-6 on a crankbait. It is his biggest of the week, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. He now leads second-place Alton Jones, Jr. by 5 pounds, 14 ounces. There are 30 minutes remaining in the Championship Round.
5:15 p.m. CT — With only 45 minutes remaining, Ott DeFoe has landed seven scorable bass in 20 minutes. He is using a wakebait and having boat traffic stir up the water that he is casting to. Stirring up that water gets the fish fired up according to DeFoe. Daniels continues to try and sight fish while the two anglers trailing him are having success finding schoolers.
4:58 p.m. CT — Here comes Alton Jones, Jr. Jones just grabbed a 5-8, pushing him just 1-13 back from leader Mark Daniels, Jr. It’s been over an hour since Daniels landed a scorable bass, allowing the rest of the field to capitalize on the late afternoon bite.
4:48 p.m. CT — It’s far from over. Brent Chapman just brought in a 3-10, shrinking Mark Daniels, Jr.’s lead to just 4-3. We still have more than an hour to go on Lake Athens and it’s about to get very very interesting.
4:24 p.m. CT — Brent Chapman has started to gain ground on Mark Daniels, Jr. Chapman has three fish in the last 20 minutes to move just 7-13 back of Daniels for the lead. Also look out for Alton Jones, Jr. The young gun from Texas seems to have found a school of them that he is catching with a vibrating jig.
3:50 p.m. CT — Coulter appears to be pitching to some beds near reeds. He just caught a 2-1 to move 10-14 behind MDJ. However, as I was typing, MDJ just landed a 3-pounder to push his lead back out to 13-14.
3:15 p.m. CT — Period 2 is wrapped up and we only have two and a half hours of fishing remaining in the Championship Round of Stage Three. Here’s where it all stands heading into the final period:
Mark Daniels, Jr. increased his lead by more than 9 pounds in the second period.
2:23 p.m. CT — Mark Daniels, Jr. just made a HUGE move catching two scorable bass for 7-7, pushing his total weight to 27 pounds. He now has his first double-digit lead of the day, more than 10 pounds ahead of second-place Brandon Coulter. The worm keeps on working for MDJ.
1:56 p.m. CT — It is not easy to get bit on Lake Athens. Jeff Sprague explained to us that there are a lot of fish here, but he thinks they have been pounded on over the past couple of week, making them skittish to bite. No angler has caught double-digit fish yet. MDJ leads Coulter by 4-14.
1:17 p.m. CT — We heard the MLF NOW! crew mention earlier today how surprised they were with the amount of spinning rods used this week. Marty Stone equated it to “trying to take down an elephant with a .22.” We’ve seen MDJ, Brandon Coulter, Ott DeFoe and Jeff Sprague have success with a spinning rod so far on Lake Athens. MDJ still leads by 2-14 over Coulter.
12:34 p.m. CT — End of Period 1 and here’s where we stand with two periods remaining:
11:52 a.m. CT — Ott DeFoe just landed a scorable bass to inch closer to Mark Daniels, Jr. He is fishing somewhat offshore, dragging his jerkbait through some grass on a hard point.
11:27 a.m. CT — The first JT Kenney “formidable adversary” sighting of the day belongs to Mark Daniels, Jr. A 6-pound, 14-ounce female gets MDJ on top of SCORETRACKER®. He now leads Ott DeFoe by 2-6.
11:15 a.m. CT — Alton Jones, Jr. has found success with a wacky-rigged neko worm. He is up to second place and 2-1 behind Ott DeFoe for first.
10:50 a.m. CT — Half the field has now registered a bass on SCORETRACKER®. Ott DeFoe remains in first with 8 pounds, 4 ounces with Andy Montgomery in second with 4-8. Mark Daniels, Jr., Brent Chapman and Jeff Sprague round out the top five.
10:26 a.m. CT — There are now three anglers on SCORETRACKER® with Ott DeFoe out in front. He added a 3-4 to his total while Mark Daniels, Jr. and Andy Montgomery just landed their first bass of the day.
Montgomery caught his on a frog, but just said on camera that “I can’t win throwing a frog.” Expect him to switch up his tactics.
10:15 a.m. CT — Our first scorable bass of the day belongs to Ott DeFoe. He just brought in a 3-pound schooling largemouth. He says he has found a school of them, but he was just assessed a fish-landing violation. DeFoe mentioned that it is a terrible time to get a penalty like that because he feels like he finally had them fired up.
10:09 a.m. CT — We’re already just a few minutes into it and we’ve seen Alton Jones, Jr. lose at least two scorable bass. It looks like he has a glide bait tied on and is losing them when they get about 5 feet away from the boat.