Hammerin’ Harriman extends lead on Lake of the Ozarks - Major League Fishing

Hammerin’ Harriman extends lead on Lake of the Ozarks

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Travis Harriman has weighed the heaviest bag of the field on each of the first two days at Lake of the Ozarks. Photo by Patterson Leeth. Angler: Travis Harriman.
September 29, 2023 • Sean Ostruszka • Toyota Series

OSAGE BEACH, Mo. – His name is still pretty new to the tournament scene, but Travis Harriman may be putting it amongst the local favorites going forward after this week.

Day 2 of the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Plains Division finale saw weights drop hard across the board. Even for many of the top anglers and biggest names, bites were hard to find, as Brad Jelinek and Kirk Smith (second and third place, respectively) both only caught five keepers today.

And then there’s Harriman.

He cracked 20 pounds, 7 ounces yesterday to take the lead, and today he extended that lead by again bringing in the biggest bag of the day, 18-1, to get him to 38-8 total. That gives him a 4-12 edge over Jelinek, which may be even bigger when you consider Harriman admitted he still has plenty of stuff saved up for tomorrow.

Of course, catching a kicker with the sun barely above the trees each morning allows an angler to do that.

“Catching a 5-pounder first thing in the morning goes a long ways,” said Harriman, who has caught one each of the first two mornings off the same dock.

While Harriman admitted the bite did get a little tougher today, he still caught more than 10 keepers, and that’s despite holding off on hitting a bunch of spots he marked during practice.

“Oh yeah, I have a number of places I idled in practices and said ‘that looks good’ but haven’t had to burn yet,” Harriman said. “Well, tomorrow I get to really burn ‘em down and leave no stone unturned.”

The pros like Brad Jelinek trying to run Travis Harriman down have a tall task. Photo by Sean Ostruszka

Playing catch-up … on a tightrope

While Harriman is confident in his pattern and catching plenty of keepers, that’s definitely not the case for everyone behind him.

As mentioned earlier, Jelinek and Smith both only caught five keepers today. Now, they happened to be the right keepers, which has both excited about their potential for tomorrow. Still, it’s a nerve-wracking way to fish.

“It’s a freaking grind,” said Jelinek, who didn’t catch his final keeper until 10 minutes before coming in. “I still like my area, as I think it’s an area they’re biting the best in. I ain’t got a clue what I’m going to do tomorrow, though. I’m just going to put my head down and fish by the seat of my pants.”

As for Smith, he’s confident he’s doing something different from everyone and it can produce, especially his starting spot in the morning. Bites after that have been the issue.

Of course, Harriman still can’t feel comfortable having the Angler of the Year leader in Jelinek, a 2022 Toyota Series winner in Smith and local big names like Cody Huff, Lawson Hibdon, Joe Grafeman, Corey Cook and Payden Hibdon all in the top 15 behind him.

“So far it’s been really special having a tournament like this,” Harriman said. “Some of the guys behind me are big, scary names that you don’t like seeing in the rearview mirror, though. So, I have to keep my foot on the gas and hope to seal the deal tomorrow.”

Taking into account his success in the Bassmaster Opens, Sakae Ushio is undoubtedly the best co-angler in the game right now. Photo by Patterson Leeth

Ushio on the verge of No. 3

Winning once as a Strike King co-angler can be tough. Yet, a rare bunch manage to do it multiple times. Sakae Ushio is among them, having won Northern Division events from the back of the boat in 2018 and 2021.

Now, he’s on the verge of doing it again and adding a new division in the process.

Despite his pro, Andy Messina, not weighing in a fish today, Ushio again brought in more than 11 pounds for the second day in a row — catching 11-7 Friday after 11-0 on Thursday — to bolster his total to 22-7. He’ll take a 2-10 lead into the final day.

Top 10 Strike King co-anglers

1. Sakae Ushio – 22 – 7 (10)     

2. Anthony Scoma – 19 – 13 (9) 

3. Mike Youngblood – 19 – 11 (8)          

4. Nycholas Swanson – 19 – 7 (8)         

5. Brian Lopp – 19 – 4 (10)       

6. Scott Parsons – 18 – 12 (8)     

7. David Conner – 16 – 10 (9)     

8. Alan Bernicky – 15 – 7 (6)    

9. Cole Seward – 15 – 4 (5)      

10. Todd Mowery – 14 – 14 (5)

Complete results