4:00 p.m. – Ballgame for Group A
Lines are out. We have our 10 anglers from Group A who will be fishing on Friday.
1. Kurt Mitchell
2. Evan Barnes
3. Casey Scanlon
4. Grae Buck
5. Greg Bohannan
6. Matt Stefan
7. Rusty Salewske
8. Josh Weaver
9. Jon Canada
10. Ron Nelson
The top six didn’t change much today, but those bottom four spots were musical chairs of stellar anglers gunning for $200,000. In the end, Salewske, Weaver, Canada and Nelson outlasted the likes of Troy Morrow, Barron Adams, Tyler Stewart and Scott Dobson, all of whom did their best to put something together at the end of the day to move above the cut line. It just wasn’t quite enough.
These 10 pros will be off tomorrow and fish in the Knockout Round Friday, alongside the top 10 from Group B (fishing tomorrow). Congratulations to all who made it to the next round and the 15 pros who didn’t make the cut today. It’s been one heck of a season for all of them.
Thanks for sticking with us today. Be sure to follow along again tomorrow for complete coverage of Group B’s second day on the water, and check back later on both flwfishing.com and MajorLeagueFishing.com for stories of all today's action.
3:35 p.m. – Down to the wire
Twenty-five minutes remain in Group A Qualifying Round action. At 4 p.m. CT, we’ll know which 10 anglers will be moving on to the Knockout Round on Friday for a chance to win the $200,000 top prize as the first ever Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota champion.
Kurt Mitchell has called it a day early. He hasn’t had to do much today except practice for Friday after eclipsing the century mark Monday. Evan Barnes, Casey Scanlon, Grae Buck and Greg Bohannan are pretty safe as well.
Oddly enough, the same can probably now be said for Rusty Salewske, who has zero fish after one period and is now more than 12 pounds ahead of 11th place and sitting comfortably in seventh.
Eighth, ninth and 10th are the hot seats right now. Josh Weaver, Jon Canada and Ron Nelson have all had great afternoons and have a little cushion over Tyler Stewart and the rest of the below-the-cut-line crowd. We’ll see what happens in the final 25 minutes.
3:00 p.m. – One hour left
One crucial hour remains for Group A in the final of two Qualifying Round in this Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota. It’s hard to get a full grasp on all the action without seeing it unfold live, so be sure to head over the MajorLeagueFishing.com to the live show for every catch.
Right now, Ron Nelson and Barron Adams split the cut line, with Nelson being in. The advantage there is just ounces, though, and Troy Morrow, Tyler Stweart and Scott Dobson are right in the thick of things. More like than not, who fishes and Friday and who doesn’t is going to come down to the waning seconds of the day.
Adams, Jon Canada and Rusty Salewske have not been messing around. All three have been featured heavily in our fish catch feed, and all three have landed a scorable bass in the last five or so minutes.
Stay tuned. This is going to be a wild ride.
2:19 p.m. – Madness near the cut line
In a span of minutes, Ron Nelson landed a 3-2 to jump back into the top 10. At the same time, Jon Canada was catching a 4-1 and a 3-11 just one minute apart. Rusty Salewske, who was the last angler in Group A to catch a fish today, has surged all the way into 13th with 28-11 today. He’s just 2-6 behind Ron Nelson, who’s now in 10th.
That afternoon bite we got accustomed to seeing the last two days is picking up again today. The rest of Period 3 should provide enough movement on SCORETRACKER to give us whiplash.
2:01 p.m. – Nelson's move: will it pay off?
Ron Nelson just sat down after a 45-minute spot change to start the final period. The 2020 Pro Circuit Angler of the Year has been fishless since 11 a.m., and as he just confirmed on the live stream, he's in need of "some hungry bass that want to play". Nelson is one keeper bite below the final spot in the Knockout Round.
1:38 p.m. – Now the pressure is REALLY real
All week long we've chattered about the pressure of SCORETRACKER and the number 10 spot in this Group A qualifying round. Scott Dobson, Tyler Stewart, Barron Adams, Troy Morrow and Ron Nelson are about to experience the most stressful 2 1/2 hours of their careers. Adams currently holds that final 10th-place spot with narrow 11-ounce lead over Morrow and a 1-7 cushion over Nelson. Stewart and Dobson entered the final period in eigth and ninth places, but are only a 3-pound smallmouth ahead of that dreaded "Elimination Line". It'll be interesting to see how that pressure plays out.
12:46 p.m. – Here comes Dobson
It just feels like Scott Dobson is a sleeping giant in this field. After a mediocre day one and a slow start to his day today, the Northern smallie aficionado went back-to-back on a couple scorable bass at a new spot and is now in 12th, 5-1 out of 10th place. Let’s see if he can ride a little momentum to close out this period.
12:41 p.m. – Salewske on the board, Adams making moves
After going all of Period 1 and much of this period without a scorable bass, Rusty Salewske has tacked on three keepers for 9 pounds, 10 ounces and jumped from 20th to 16th place. He still has a ways to go (about 18 pounds under the cut line), but it seems he’s making something happen this afternoon. Salewske has about half the weight he had in total on day one.
Barron Adams has now moved ahead of Scott Ashmore as the bubble boy. He’s a mere 2 ½ pounds behind Ron Nelson after adding a 2-4 and 3-10 in the last 20 minutes. He’s sitting with 23-14 on the day, good for the second-most weight caught so far today
12:14 p.m. – Where have all the 4-pounders gone?
For whatever reason, we’ve seen one 4-plus-pounder in the last hour and 20 minutes, which Jim Moynagh caught about 15 minutes ago. That’s a bit unusual considering that, even though the numbers have been down across the board this week, the quality has really made up for it. The big girls aren’t chewing right now, and that’s a problem for the pros looking to make moves above the cut line right now.
Still, the conditions are changing quickly today, from the wind dying down and changing directions to the sun doing its best to poke through the clouds. And the middle of Period 2 tends to be the least productive anyway. Expect to see a little flurry as we get closer to Period 3 and into the afternoon.
11:53 a.m. – Stewart adds some breathing room
Tyler Stewart continues creating separation from the cut line. In the last 20 minutes he’s tacked on 9 pounds and moved up to eighth place, almost 10 pounds above Scott Ashmore in 11th. Stewart is definitely on some good fish right now, and while none were giants, every scorable bass helps when you’re flirting with the cut line. Ron Nelson is still staring down at that cut line, but he does have a little over 8 pounds on Ashmore.
Two anglers who have done very little today are Kurt Mitchell and Grae Buck, but Mitchell is just practicing for Friday and Buck is in a similar situation. He’s not at much risk to slip below 10th, and you have to believe Buck could tack on a couple scorable if he really felt like he needed to. He’s still 27 pounds above Ashmore on SCORETRACKER
11:39 a.m. – Numbers game
The smallmouth in Sturgeon Bay are nomadic in nature and oftentimes hard to find after a day off from fishing. When you factor in changing weather conditions, you end up with a situation like we’re seeing today. The fishing isn’t bad, but it’s not as good as it was on day one. Evan Barnes leads the Group A field today with eight scorable bass (24-10 today).
Casey Scanlon and Greg Bohannan both have seven scorable today and are both situated fairly comfortably in the top 10. Bohannan (fifth) is more than 23 pounds up on the 11th-place pro (Scott Ashmore).
Speaking of Ashmore, he’s having a great day today with five scorable bass for 20-10. That 4-pound average is a great way to make a push for the cut line. He’s 3-5 behind Tyler Stewart, who’s currently in 10th.
Every angler in the Group A field save for Rusty Salewske has at least one scorable so far. Even without one, Salewske is still in 20th place and less than 20 pounds back of the cut line. That’s only five or six fish on this pond.
11:01 a.m. – Nelson, Dobson updates
Angler of the Year Ron Nelson is still above the cut line, currently in eighth. He has a goal of catching 15 fish today, which will almost certainly secure a top-10 finish in the Qualifying Round and a ticket to fish on Friday. The only surprising thing about Nelson’s tournament so far is that he isn’t at the top of the leaderboard. He was many people’s pick to win this tournament with all his Northern smallmouth knowledge and experience.
Speaking of knowledge and experience, Scott Dobson was another favorite to make a run at the TITLE win. There isn’t an angler in this field as adept at catching a bunch of big smallies. Dobson got off to a slow start Monday and ended the day with only six fish for 18-9. He already has five today for 14-13 and finds himself in 13th, less than 7 pounds under the cut line.
10:30 a.m. – End of Period 1
With one-third of the day in the books, weights are tight and no one has separated from the rest of the pack, save for Kurt Mitchell. The day one leader has one fish for 2-10 today and doesn’t even need that. He’ll be fishing on Friday regardless.
But behind Mitchell, things get a little more interesting. Evan Barnes has had a great start with 21-4 and is now just 40 pounds off the lead (which seems like a lot until you consider how much of a head start Mitchell had). Barnes also has a 13-2 advantage over Casey Scanlon in third, who’s just a few pounds ahead of Grae Buck.
In other words, things are pretty stacked up in the top five. From six through 10, the largest gap between pros is 6-14 between Matt Stefan and Josh Weaver. Ninth and 10th (Tyler Stewart and Ron Nelson, respectively) are tied in total weight at 40-1. Stewart has 13-11 today and Nelson 15-6.
The wind has started to settle down out on the water, and while it’s expected to pick back up later in the day, for now, we may see a few more fish catches than we saw in Period 2 on day one. The middle period tends to be the least productive for anglers. We’ll see if the change in conditions gets these smallies chewing again.
10:17 a.m. – Slow… but steady?
Fishing today has been slower than we’ve seen the last couple days. Weight totals aren’t quite on par with either day, and even the frequency of fish catches is a little off.
Even with just 25 pros in the Group A field, Sturgeon Bay is just such a good fishery that seeing long gaps in catches is pretty unusual. From 9:56 to 10:08, not a single pro landed a scorable bass. Other than the period breaks, it’s unlikely we’ll see another 12-minute gap the rest of the day, but Sturgeon Bay is definitely being a little stingier on day three.
9:48 a.m. – Making moves
After less than two hours, six pros have tallied double digits today, headlined by 16-1 from Greg Bohannan. He now finds himself in sixth place and 22 pounds ahead of the cut line. If he can manage to tack on a few more scorable bass, it’ll be hard for enough anglers to overtake him and drop him below the cut line.
Joining Bohannan with 10 or more pounds, Evan Barnes sits in second after catching 14-3 so far. Troy Morrow (eighth) and Ron Nelson (ninth) have 12-15 and 15-6, respectively.
It’s important to remember that weights zero after the Qualifying Round. All that matters for Group A today is who finishes the day in the top 10 to compete in the next round.
9:30 a.m. – Bigs showing up
The last three catches from our Group A field were all of the 4-plus-pound variety, starting with a 4-8 from Miles Burghoff, a 4-7 from Troy Morrow and then a 4-10 from Matt Stefan. Earlier this morning, Darrel Robertson, Lendell Martin Jr. and Ron Nelson all boated 5-plus-pounders.
The wind is going to make it harder for pros today in terms of positioning, casting and moving around, but it sure seems to be helping the bite, at least when it comes to the bigger fish.
9:16 a.m. – Eyes on the prize
The elimination line looms large for a lot of pros today. Tyler Stewart currently holds the coveted 10th-place spot right now and he’s fishing a spot he’s pretty confident in. He has plenty of competition, though, and it’s early.
James Niggemeyer is without a scorable bass today, but he’s just an ounce back of Stewart and the cut line. Six more anglers are within 8-6 of Stewart and the cut line.
We’re discussing the cut line early today, if only to set up what will likely be a lot of drama later in the day. A lot can and will change before 4 p.m. CT. But one of the most unique and interesting aspects of the MLF format is the pressure associated with pros knowing where they are on SCORETRACKER at all times. By the time Period 2 is coming to a close later, there’s going to be a whole bunch of pros with some nerves as they try to get (or stay) above the cut line in the last few hours of the day.
8:38 a.m. – Early catches
Evan Barnes is off to a decent start today with 8 pounds to tack on to his 61-10 from day one. He’s up to 69-10 total and in second place. Behind him, Grae Buck, Casey Scanlon and Matt Stefan are fishless. Ron Nelson (6-9 today) and Jeremy Lawyer (6 pounds) have both caught a couple scorable bass. They’re currently in 10th and 12th, respectively, sandwiching Jon Canada in 11th. Canada just fought one on FLW Live for several minutes before losing it – what could be a crushing blow for someone so close to the cut line today.
8:10 a.m. – Conditions update
Lines are in the water, and while these pros have only been fishing for about 10 minutes, it’s pretty apparent the weather conditions are going to be a big curveball today. After slick-calm and sunny conditions yesterday (and similar to that the first day), it’s overcast with a bunch of wind this morning.
Some people, like Ron Nelson, have found some calmer water. There’s definitely some less choppy real estate out there to be had, but pros like Grae Buck and Jeremy Lawyer are in their starting spots getting hammered by the wind. If it helps the bite, though, you won’t hear them complaining too much.
7:30 a.m. CT – Group A back in action
There's Kurt Mitchell and then there's everyone else. After catching, weighing and releasing 119 pounds, 10 ounces of bass on Monday, Mitchell is firmly in command of Group A. He'll likely not need to add a pound to make the Knockout Round cut (top 10 from each group), but he has no reason to lay up, either. Today should be all about figuring out the smallies in Sturgeon Bay and how they move and reposition from day to day.
For everyone else, however, there's a whole lot at stake. The next few anglers after Mitchell are bunched up pretty solidly, with Grae Buck in second (63-0) and Evan Barnes (61-10) and Casey Scanlon (57-0) right behind him. That tier has the best shot at making some waves today, though Matt Stefan is only 10 pounds behind Scanlon – two or three casts on this pond – and has a knack for Northern smallmouth fishing, being from Junction City, Wisc., just a couple hours away.
As those pros and the rest of the 25 anglers in Group B go out hunting for priceless bronze, we'll be following right along with them. Period 1 for Group A starts at 8 a.m. CT. Fortunately, our live video coverage starts even sooner. Be sure sure to head on over to MajorLeagueFishing.com for the FLW Live stream at 7:45 CT, and hang out here all day for analysis, updates and a lot more.
Temperature at takeoff: 69 degrees
Forecast high: 89 degrees
Sky: Mix of sunshine and clouds
Precipitation: 20 percent chance of rain, potential for stray thunderstorm
Wind: SSW 10 to 20 mph
Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota
Sturgeon Bay, Wis.
August 24-29, 2020
Hosted by Destination Sturgeon Bay