MURRAY, Ky. – It was a battle of the haves and the have-nots today on day three of Walmart FLW Tour competition on Kentucky Lake presented by Off!. Strong winds wreaked havoc on most pros’ game plans with two notable exceptions – leader Chris Baumgardner and No. 2 Dave Lefebre.
Of the top 20 pros, only three did not have their worst day of the tournament, and only two had their best day – the aforementioned Baumgardner and Lefebre. Baumgardner, the Snickers pro from Gastonia, N.C., leads the pack with 58 pounds, just a scant 2 ounces ahead of Lefebre, the Kellogg’s pro from Erie, Pa., who will enter the final day with 57 pounds, 14 ounces to his credit.
Lefebre wowed the crowd with the heaviest stringer of the tournament so far – an incredible five-bass limit weighing 23 pounds, 15 ounces. A few minutes later, Baumgardner came to the scales with a personal tournament-best 22 pounds, 15 ounces, and the race was on.
Baumgardner and Lefebre may be neck-and-neck, but they left the pros behind them with a lot of work to do. Jim Moynagh of Carver, Minn., led day two but sits more than 4 pounds behind Lefebre in third, and 11 pounds, 10 ounces separate the leader from No. 10 pro Todd Hollowell of Fishers, Ind. Hollowell knocked local pro Terry Bolton out of the final round by only an ounce.
Baumgardner heading to Barkley
Although there are a few anglers here and there fishing Lake Barkley, including No. 6 pro Jay Yelas, the action this week has mainly been on Kentucky Lake. However, it is on Barkley that Baumgardner has quietly worked his way up the leaderboard.
He ended day one in 30th with 15-9 but broke loose on day two with a 19-pound, 8-ounce stringer that vaulted him to seventh. It’s an upward trend he hopes to continue tomorrow.
“I’m just now figuring out what I’m on,” he said. “The second day I figured out a presentation that is working for the big fish, and I expanded it on it today.”
Baumgardner admitted that the relative lack of company on Barkley can only help his chances.
“I’m fishing some docks,” he said. “Some might be kicking themselves that they didn’t find them.”
Time will tell what it is exactly that Baumgardner has figured out, but for now, all he’ll say is that it’s really not much.
“I figured out one little old deal that they seem to bite,” he said. “It isn’t even that big a deal, but in fishing, sometimes it’s the small things that count.”
He said he caught his bass today on a Zoom Super Fluke.
Lefebre leaves them biting
Like Baumgardner, Lefebre has enjoyed a continual rise up the leaderboard, as he ended day one mired in 40th but bounced back on day two, making the cut in the No. 9 position. He caught 14-15 that first day and followed it up with 19 pounds yesterday, but it was his 23-pound, 15-ounce stringer today that made his competition squirm.
“This was a different day,” he said. “It was on like Donkey Kong. It was flipping ridiculous.”
Lefebre said on stage that he caught 18 pounds in 13 minutes this morning and said you know you’re having a good day when you think you can’t cull but you wind up culling three.
“It’s the first tournament day I can remember eating and drinking,” he said. “I was able to relax.”
He said his bite has been better early in the day every day of the competition.
“I caught three 4-pounders really quickly, and I left them biting,” he said. “I’m trying to manage what I’ve got going on. They are the winning fish.”
Coming from the vast waters of Lake Erie, Lefebre was perhaps a little less troubled by the waves that tossed contenders to and fro today.
“I was soaking wet, so I feel right at home,” he said. “But the wind did make it to where I couldn’t position the boat where I wanted.”
Though Lefebre is confident his spot has the fish, he admits that in fishing, you just never know.
“I feel like it’s going to happen,” he said. “I caught a 4-pounder with two bigger ones behind it, and I left them.”
Puzzled Moynagh slips to third
M&Ms pro Jim Moynagh caught the heaviest sack on day two, a 21-pound, 11-ounce limit that propelled him to the top of the standings sheet. That, coupled with his day-one haul of 18-11, allowed him to stay near the top despite a mediocre 13 pounds, 7 ounces today.
“I knew I was vulnerable to catch smaller weights because the first two days, nine of the 10 I weighed in came out of one place,” he said. “I caught a limit today, but no big fish.”
Moynagh too struggled with the wind, and like others, felt like he needed to stay close in order to not beat up his fish in the livewell with a rough and rocky ride.
“The wind made it that much harder to figure something out because you can’t move,” he said. “It would beat the fish to smithereens, and then I’d get penalized for dead fish. There’s no telling what shape they’d have been in.”
So Moynagh stayed put, but his prospects tomorrow seem dismal.
“I don’t feel good about tomorrow,” he said. “I’m reaching for something.”
Mabrey, Kenney stay in top five
Kyle Mabrey of McCalla, Minn., also struggled a bit today, bringing in 14-6 to bring his three-day total to 50 pounds, 10 ounces.
“On the Tennessee River, all things are possible,” he said. “I’m going to do everything in my power to make a move. I’m surprised nobody’s weighed in 25 pounds.”
As far as making a move, Mabrey is in it to win it, but he’s not exactly going to swing for the fences.
“I’m not going to say I’m going to gamble, but I’m going to go to a few places I haven’t fished but have potential,” he said of his final-day plans.
Straight Talk pro J.T. Kenney of Palm Bay, Fla., also weighed in a tournament-worst sack today, bringing in 12 pounds, 12 ounces. That limit is a far cry from the 18-pound, 10-ounce stringer from day one and yesterday’s 18-pound, 4-ounce limit. But as he was in good company today as far as lower weights, he remains in contention in fourth with a combined weight of 49-10.
“It didn’t go quite like it had been,” Kenney said. “I caught a lot of fish; I just didn’t get the big bites.”
Like Moynagh, Kenney felt a little penned in today because of the wind.
“When it gets rough like that, it’s hard to run around and find new spots,” he said. “You’ve got to go slower, and that cuts into fishing time.”
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top 10 pro finalists who advanced to Sunday’s competition:
6th: Chevy pro Jay Yelas of Corvallis, Ore., 49-5
7th: Fatheadz Eyewear pro Jacob Wheeler of Indianapolis, Ind., 48-13
8th: EverStart pro Ron Shuffield of Bismarck, Ark., 48-7
9th: Snapple pro Jacob Powroznik of Prince George, Va., 47-9
10th: Todd Hollowell of Fishers, Ind., 46-6
Bass fishing fans take note
FLW Tour action continues during Sunday’s final takeoff, scheduled to take place at 6:30 a.m. at Kentucky Dam Marina, located at 466 Marina Drive in Gilbertsville, Ky. The final weigh-in will be held at the CFSB Center at Murray State University located at 1401 State Route 121 North in Murray beginning at 4 p.m.
Fans who can’t make tomorrow’s weigh-in in person can also tune into FLW Live on FLWOutdoors.com shortly before 4 p.m. Central Time to watch live streaming video and audio of Sunday’s weigh-in.