GROVE, Okla. – For the first time all tournament, Rayovac team pro Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., didn’t catch the biggest stringer of the day. But then again, it didn’t much matter. Not only did Christie’s total, three-day stringer weighing 58 pounds, 4 ounces, keep him in the overall lead for a third consecutive day, but he actually upped his margin over his next closest competitor to 3 pounds, 8 ounces.
“This lake is pretty special to me,” Christie said. “It’s a lake that really taught me how to fish. I’ve been trying to get FLW to come here for six years because it is one of the best lakes in the country. When you’re in a bass tournament, all you want to do is have a legitimate chance to win on the final day. And I’ve given myself that chance. So yes, I’m where I want to be.”
Christie said that he didn’t change up much for today’s competition even though the bite appeared to be tougher for the field. He’s continuing to run three different patterns predominately siding with flipping techniques. He said he’s still employing combinations of Yum Wooly Bugs and Booyah spinnerbaits as well.
“It definitely started off slow today,” he said. “And it was slow and steady all day. I’d pick up one fish here and one there. But generally everything I did was the same as I’d done the first two days.”
To be sure, one of Christie’s main constants has been his prime fishing hole which appears to be replenishing each and every day – at least so far. According to Christie, the area is “off bank” in deeper water and has provided the majority of his larger fish this event.
“I have a bunch of other areas I can go to but I don’t have the same confidence in them like I do with that one spot,” said Christie. “I think the fishing overall is getting a little tougher but I still believe the tournament can be won on that spot. Tomorrow I’ll be there again but I might try a couple of different areas earlier and then head to my (my prime area) later in the day. I just have to go out there and go fishing.”
Wilson on the rise
Other than Christie’s dominating performance, the other main story of the day was the sensational outings of pro Barry Wilson of Birmingham, Ala., and Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tenn. Wilson, who began the morning in seventh place, parlayed a whopping 19-pound, 4-ounce bag into a second-place finish after today’s weigh-in.
“Today was my best day so far,” said Wilson. “I ended up with a limit in 45 minutes. Right off the bat I caught a 5-, 4-, 3-, 2- and 2-pounder and I knew that I needed to cull at least two fish if I was going to make a move. And I managed to do that. Then with about 30 minutes to go, I was able to cull a 3-pounder with one that weighed 4 1/2 pounds so that was nice. After that I actually stopped fishing because I wanted to save that spot for tomorrow.”
According to Wilson, he’s not completely sure of the exact makeup of his “magic spot” or why exactly the fish are biting. But then again, he’s not complaining either.
“It’s off a point but I honestly can’t figure out if it’s an old road bed or a house foundation or what,” he said. “But if you hit a certain area over that spot you’ll get bit. It’s also continually replenishing. But why those fish are there, I don’t know. I can’t figure it out. It’s a place, though, that really allows me to make up some ground. And hopefully that spot will hold up for one more day.”
And make up some ground he did.
“My goal was to be in third place after today because I thought if I was in third, I’d be in shooting distance (of Christie),” said Wilson, who now boasts a hefty three-day limit of 54 pounds, 12 ounces. “And I managed to do that.”
Wilson said he’s targeting fish in two distinct areas with a combination of Strike King KVD 2.5 crankbaits and a Strike King Hack Attack jig equipped with a Tightlines UV Bubba Chunk.
“I have a bunch of key little stretches as well,” he said. “Some fish have pulled out off the bank and are out on the outer edges. For those fish I’m using the crankbait. I’m also flipping the jig to fish holding to shallow, thick cover nearer the bank.”
Wilson said he also doesn’t mind heading into the finals in the role of underdog.
“As far as I’m concerned, outside looking in is always the best,” he said.
Morgan makes a play for the title
“I just went out there today and went fishing where (the areas) looked good,” said Morgan, who ecorded a total, three-day catch of 54 pounds, 7 ounces. “I ran some different water today and tried to expand my areas. And it kind of worked out.”
Morgan said that he’s flipping a Zoom Super Hog and fishing a War Eagle jig to land the majority of his catch.
“I’m mostly targeting shallow bushes and tomorrow I’m going to do the same thing,” he said.
While Morgan now has a chance at the title, he said he isn’t going to get his hopes up just yet.
“The one thing about this lake is that it’s hard to make up ground,” he said. “You can catch a lot of fish in the 21/2- to 4-pound range but it’s tough to come back with a 25-pound stringer.”
But no matter whether Morgan walks away with the title or not, he’s already accomplished something of great significance, grabbing the overall points lead in the 2013 FLW Tour Angler of the Year race.
“So far it’s been a good tournament for me,” said Morgan, who has one FLW Tour event on his home lake of Chickamauga standing between him and the official AOY title. “And if the angler of the year (title) happens, great. But if not, it’s see you on Monday.”
Houston climbs into fourth
“Grand Lake is a wonderful lake,” said Houston. “I had a limit by 9:00 a.m. and at 9:30 a.m. I finally moved out deep. By noon I culled a couple more fish so overall I had a good day. I’m ticked to death to be in the top 10.”
Houston, who is known for fishing shallow with a spinnerbait whenever he gets a chance, said he actually mixed it up today throwing a combination of buzzbaits, ChatterBaits, crankbaits and, of course, spinnerbaits.
“I was fishing rock piles and brush,” he said. “The deepest I probably fished today was 10 feet and only in one area.”
As for his chances of snaring the title tomorrow?
“It’s anybody’s contest right now,” he said. “This lake can produce 25-pound stringers so it’s doable.”
Dodson lands in fifth
“It was terribly slow out there today,” he said. “I kept going back over the same old bank but the fish weren’t biting as well as yesterday. And I think it was because the fish are getting used to seeing my bait.”
Dodson said he’s continuing run up and down the banks, covering as much water as possible. He said he’s been fishing a black-and-blue jig “99 percent of the time”, targeting bass in shallow water – 2 feet or less.
“Basically all of my fish have come out of shallow grass – at least when I can find them,” he said. “Hopefully tomorrow they’ll bit a little bit better.”
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 pro finalists:
6th: Chevy pro Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., 15 bass, 53-1
7th: Chevy pro Jay Yelas, Corvallis, Ore., 15 bass, 51-11
8th: Zell Rowland, Montgomery, Texas, 15 bass, 51-6
9th: Stetson Blaylock, Benton, Ark., 15 bass, 51-1
10th: Straight Talk pro J.T. Kenney, Palm Bay, Fla., 15 bass, 50-12
For a complete list of pro results, click here.
FLW Tour action on Grand Lake continues with Sunday’s final takeoff, scheduled to take place at 6:30 a.m. at Wolf Creek Park, located at 963 North 16th St. in Grove, Okla.