Bass Tournament Diaries For Lanier And West Point

Tim Vanegmond and Butch Pitts both find fish fast as they advance to Round 5 of The Eliminator Series.

The Final 4 in the Skeeter Eliminator Series has been set. Tim Vanegmond and Butch Pitts won their Round 4 matchups earlier this month, sending home Walter Green and Jim Windham, respectively.

At Lanier, Tim found a great top- water bite on the Little Hall bridge pilings. He threw a Red Fin in 80 feet of water and caught a limit of spotted bass in the first 54 minutes of the tournament. He then went to a group of bedded bass that he had located the day before. Tim’s biggest fish actually came off the bed; it was a fish that he foul-hooked and had to release. He returned later and made it bite again. The 2.97-pounder anchored his 12.61- lb. limit.

Walter had a limit of fish that went 8.32 pounds, but it just wasn’t enough to advance to Round 5.

At West Point, Butch Pitts beat Jim Windham with four fish that weighed 8.88 pounds. Butch put three topwater fish in the box by fishing buzzbaits in Highland Cove where shad were spawning. He later ran reef markers with a Spook, and then he caught one fish on a frog in grass in Yellowjacket Creek.

Jim had enough bedded fish located that would have broken David Millsaps’ 20-lb. Eliminator record, but it just didn’t play out for sight-fishing on that day.

The Skeeter Eliminator Series is a unique head-to-head fishing tournament that started on March 7, when 64 boaters were trimmed down to the Elite 8 in just two days of fishing. Now, we’re down to the final four, and big money and serious bragging rights are on the line. Tim will fish against Mark Holloway at Jackson, and Butch faces a red-hot Patrick Brown on Hartwell. The two winners at those events go on to fish in our championship match at Lake Oconee in November.

For Rounds 4-6 tournaments, GON editors are in the boats, taking notes and photos. The following pages contain diaries from Lanier and West Point about how each angler spent his seven tournament hours on the water. You can’t beat this kind of bass-fishing information — diaries of how excellent tournament anglers went for the win.

Round 4: Lanier

Walter Green vs. Tim Vanegmond

This Round 4 match-up took place on Tuesday, May 1. This tournament was looking to be a good one. About a week before the Eliminator event both anglers had competed in the BFL at Lanier, where Tim had 13 pounds, and Walter weighed in a 12-lb. bag of bass.

Tim is from Gay and says his home lake is West Point. He admitted he wasn’t at all familiar with Lanier. The thought of catching fish in 80 feet of water was a new thing for him.

Walter resides in Milledgeville where he’s won plenty of money on his home lake of Sinclair. In fact, just before this issue went to press, Walter won a Bassmaster’s Weekend Series event on Sinclair. Walter, too, was new to Lanier. He found some fish on shallow stumps and went fishing with a Spot Remover jig head.

Tim Vanegmond, Lanier

Editor’s Note: Tim didn’t mind if we printed most of the locations where he fished.

6:36: Tim sets his boat down just south of the Highway 53 bridge at Little Hall. He starts the tournament on the eastern-most bridge piling with a 7-inch, white/blue Red Fin. His technique is to slow-wake the bait, creating a wake on top of the water.

6:41: He switches to a Sworming Hornet Fish Head Spin to target fish positioned on the piling. Tim dresses the bait with a white-pearl Fluke.

“Yesterday I caught three here on six casts and left,” said Tim. “They were 4 to 5 feet down.”

The water is 80 feet deep where Tim is fishing.

6:42: Keeper No. 1 hits the Fish Head Spin on the fall, and Tim quickly swings a 15-inch spot in the boat.

Bluebacks begin to skitter on top of the water next to the piling.

6:45: Tim changes baits; a Lucky Craft Staysee 90 gets wet. He allows the bait to pause for four and five seconds in his jerk-jerk-pause retrieve.

6:48: He makes another bait change, a 1/4-oz., white Rooster Tail that catches a short fish.

6:52: The Red Fin goes back to work, and Tim catches his second keeper, a 2 1/2-lb. spot.

“I like to reel this bait right on top; the bigger fish like that,” he said.

6:53: Keeper No. 3 bites, a spot that will go 15 inches.

6:58: Tim has a fish miss the Red Fin. He throws the Fish Head Spin behind the swirl.

7:11: He changes back to the Rooster Tail.

7:13: A 14-inch spot, keeper No. 4, takes the inline spinner right at the boat.

7:20: With trolling motor on high, he heads west to fish the next bridge piling.

“It’s hard to believe I’m fishing in 80 feet of water; it was hard for me to do this,” said Tim.

7:22: At the next piling, a fish hits the Red Fin but comes unbuttoned.

7:24: A 14-inch spot bites the plug and gives Tim a limit in the first 54 minutes of the tournament.

7:35: While slowly reeling the Red Fin on top, another keeper spot eats the Red Fin. Tim is able to cull a fish.

“These bridge pilings will be good all day long,” said Tim.

8:09: Tim’s next stop is a hump at the confluence of the Chattahoochee and Chestatee rivers. He starts with the Red Fin. Tim begins to think about some bedded fish in the Duckett Mill area that he located the afternoon before.

“I’d really like a few 4-lb. spots before I bed fish,” he said. “I’m giving myself a chance to catch one. If I had an 8-pounder on the bed I’d already be there, especially with five in the box.”

8:13: He throws the Rooster Tail.

8:27: Tim goes into the creek just south of the Duckett Mill area to a pocket on the right that has several fish on the bed. He pulls near a bed, which is a few yards off a dock’s walkway, and sees a 6-lb. female and a 3-lb. buck bass. The buck appears to be locked pretty tight to the bed, but the female is just hanging around. He makes a pitch with a Texas-rigged NetBait Baby Paca Craw in green pumpkin.

8:33: He makes quick retrieves, swimming the plastic bait across and adjacent to the bed in different places.

“I don’t leave it in the bed like a lot of guys do,” said Tim.

Tim’s strategy is to make the fish mad enough that when he does finally drop the bait in the bed, the fish will hammer it.

8:38: Tim puts two split shots a foot above a small crankbait and pitch- es it in and around the bed.

8:39: After no response, he goes back to the Paca Craw. The bait is threaded on a 4/0 Gamakatsu hook, and he’s using 20-lb. Suffix line. A 1/8-oz. weight sits on top of the bait.

8:42: Tim sets the hook on the 3-pounder, but it’s hooked in the back. Eliminator rules state that all fish caught while sight-fishing must be caught inside the mouth. Tim already knows this rule and is disgusted as he puts the fish back in the water.

“That hurt me right there,” said Tim. “If I could have put him in the box that bigger female may have come up on the bed.”

8:47: The buck is back on the bed, so Tim starts to swim the Paca Craw by the fish.

8:50: He chunks a plastic swimbait made by Storm Lures that resembles a bream. Tim doesn’t want the bass to bite the flimsy bait; he’s just trying to aggravate it.

8:51: After a few quick retrieves by the bass, he goes back to the Paca Craw but quickly leaves after that.

9:01: Tim goes down the lake and stops at the Hwy 369 bridge. His first cast is with a Red Fin, and he has a fish swirl right behind the bait.

9:03: He throws the Fish Head Spin a few times and leaves.

9:19: Tim goes to the back of Big Creek where he’d seen some fish on bed in practice.

9:30: After not seeing a bass on bed, Tim works a Paca Craw around a dock and catches a non-keeper large- mouth.

9:32: He begins working his way out of Big Creek targeting docks and blowdowns with an S.O.B. Lures 3/8- oz. Mini-Me spinnerbait with a white/green/black skirt and shad-color blades.

9:52: Tim leaves to go check a few places in the Shoal Creek area that were holding some 2- to 3-lb. bedding fish the day before.

10:06: Tim locates about a 2- pounder on the bed and pitches a green-pumpkin Paca Craw to it.

10:16: He connects on the keeper fish, that would easily cull a 14-inch spot, but while swinging the fish in the boat it comes unbuckled and hits the rim on the front deck of Tim’s boat. He falls to the deck hoping to get his hand on the fish, but it’s too late… the fish is back in the water.

10:19: He catches a short fish on a Paca Craw.

10:43: Tim is back in the Duckett Mill bedding pocket where he foul- hooked the 3-pounder earlier. The 6- and 3-pounder are there. The 3-lb. buck bass is the one staying fairly tight on the bed. The 6-pounder appears to be hanging around, not locked onto anything in particular. Tim spends some time both swimming and pausing the green-pumpkin Paca Craw in the area of the bed.

11:04: He changes to a white Zoom Super Speed Craw.

11:15: Tim changes to the split- shot crankbait but quickly goes back to the Paca Craw.

11:26: Tim sprays the Paca Craw with Jack’s Juice.

11:34: Tim picks up the Staysee 90 jerkbait and reels it across the bed.

11:38: The Paca Craw goes back in the water.

11:45: Tim makes a pitch with his Paca Craw and lays his rod on the front of the boat. He walks to the back of the boat to find a jig to tie on. When Tim arrives back on the front deck, the 3- pounder is an inch away from his Paca Craw. As he picks up his rod, the buck bass sucks in the bait, and Tim has the  3-pounder hooked — inside the mouth — and he quickly steers it into the net. Tim points to the hook marks in the back of the fish; it is the same fish that he foul-hooked earlier, and it allows him to cull a 14-inch spot. The fish was his best one of the day and would later go 2.97 pounds.

12:00: Tim stops to fish under the Little Hall bridge and has a fish roll behind his Red Fin on the first cast.

“I’ve been told that they hit the bait when it gets in that shade,” said Tim.

The sun is high and a nice shade line has set up.

12:04: He makes a few casts with the Fish Head Spin and catches a keep- er, but it won’t cull anything in the box.

“Since most fish hit the blade, I run a ‘trailer’ hook on the Fish Head Spin where the blade is,” said Tim.

Tim’s trailer hook is a regular 1/0 straight-shank Gamakatsu hook.

12:11: The Red Fin goes back to work as he fishes between two bridge pilings.

12:14: Tim makes a long cast into the shady water under the bridge in 83 feet of water. The big bait gets 4 feet from the shade/sun line, and a spotted bass nails it. It’s a keeper spot, and he’s able to cull another fish.

12:25: He makes a run down the Chattahoochee and fishes the Hwy 53 bridge pilings. He’s looking for one of Lanier’s common 4-lb. spotted bass.

12:45: Tim is back at Duckett Mill hoping the 6-pounder has moved up on the bed. She is on the bed but swims off; a 4-pounder takes her place. The Paca Craw goes to work.

12:54: He throws a swimbait made by Mad Lures that looks very much like a bream.

1:00: Tim sees a pair of 4-pounders and the 6-pounder in the area, but none of the fish are locked down. With 30 minutes to go, he decides his time is better spent looking for a big spotted bass.

1:19: His last stop is on a point at the Mountain View boat ramp. He ends the day chunking his blue/white Red Fin all over the point.

Walter Green, Lanier

6:31: From the launch at Balus Access, Walter Green put the boat on plane and glided out of Balus Creek, and out to the mouth of Flat Creek into the big water of the main lake.

6:37: Walter’s first stop is at a reef marker on the main lake off the big island that separates the main lake from Two Mile Creek — roughly across the lake from Aqualand Marina and Chattahoochee Bay. The water is slick — other than the occasional swirls and  splashes as fish chase bait. Walter starts with a Sworming Hornet spinnerbait.

“I usually fish a Terminator, but this has white painted blades — it’s all white,” Walter said.

6:39: “Ohhh… a fish just came up and missed it. That was a good spot right there,” Walter said.

6:41: Walter tries a few casts with a buzzbait, a white Ol-Nelle.

“They’re surfacing all around us,” he says.

6:42: He picks up a rod with a Sammy tied on, and with single fish literally coming up at times from every direction, Walter makes a super-long cast. As he’s working the bait back, he nods toward a rock at the reef marker that’s no bigger than the bed of a pick- up. “Look. The herring are up there spawning on that rock.”

6:45: Walter tries a Terminator spinnerbait. “Go with the one that brought me,” he says.

6:56: Walter eases off the reef marker and begins fishing a 1/4-oz. Spot Remover jig head with a 4-inch watermelon-seed finesse worm. Before making a cast, he dips the tail in chartreuse Spike-It. He’s working the rocky bank along the big island that separates the main lake from Two Mile, working
up the lake toward the cut into Two Mile near Vann’s Tavern Access.

7:12: Walter picks up the Sworming Hornet spinnerbait.

7:14: A spotted bass slams the spinnerbait, and Walter swings it in the boat. Unfortunately, it’s an inch short of the 14-inch minimum for Lanier.

7:28: Walter has switched back to the Spot Remover, and he gets a hit, but the hook set comes up empty.

7:29: On the next cast, Walter connects. His first keeper, a 15-inch spot, goes into the livewell.

7:40: A 14 1/4-inch keeper hits the Spot Remover.

“When this sun gets up, we’re going to catch ’em,” Walter says. “They love the way this Spot Remover stands the worm straight up. And this tail with the chartreuse dye — they like it. My friends are going to laugh at me when they see me catching these fish on a Spot Remover. I’m a spinnerbait man, but with this flat, clear water, I have to go with what they want, not what you want them to hit.”

8:03: Walter is working a little grassline. “They’re right in the edge of it. There’s one pecking at it right now.” The narrow band of grass is growing in 6 to 8 feet of water.

8:10: A 13-inch spotted bass eats the finesse worm.

8:12: Walter tries the spinnerbait again. “I need a big female.”

8:16: Between a series of reefs there is a cut into Two Mile Creek — the mouth of Two Mile is well down the lake at the mouth of Six Mile — Walter tries a Kevin Van Dam jerkbait.

“Ol’ David Phillips would be mad at me if I didn’t throw this a time or two,” Walter says. “David’s one of the best fishermen there’s ever been on Sinclair.”

9:07: Walter catches his third keeper, another barely-over 14-inch bass that hit the Spot Remover.

“I need for this sun to get up where I can see the stumps. Right now I’m just plucking off these males.”

Walter says the pattern he’s counting on is to fish every stump he can find that’s in 6 to 10 feet of water. “There’s a spot on every stump,” he says.

9:25: He boats another 14-inch bass — but again, it’s barely a keeper.

“He ain’t riding back with me, I guarantee that,” Walter says as he puts the bass in the livewell. “These bucks are spraying a lot more than they were just a few days ago — like a bream bed when you pick those bream up and they spray like that. These spots are bed- ding. Those females have to be up here laying.”

9:42: A short fish is caught and quickly released.

10:02: Another bass below the 14- inch size limit. “Dad-gum. Where’s the big girls like I was catching the other day? So far it’s been a buck-fest, but it ain’t deer season.”

10:05: Walter spots a 3- to 4-lb. spotted bass hard on the bed in about 6 feet of water next to a small stump. He tries the Spot Remover and jig ’n pig for about 30 minutes, but the bass won’t bite.

11:03: For the first time since blast-off, Walter cranks the big engine and runs a short distance to the back of another pocket in Two Mile.

11:04: On his first cast, he swings the spinning rod back and connects. It’s his best fish so far, a 2 1/2-pounder that fills his five-fish limit.

“Every stump in 6 to 7 feet of water has a fish on it,” Walter says. “Problem is, I don’t know this lake so I don’t know where to find the stumps. I’m going to run-and-gun these pockets. If there’s not a stump, I’m gone.”

From then until his fishing time was up, Walter hit eight pockets. Most didn’t have a single stump. At 12:17 he caught a short fish, and then at 12:20 he caught his final bass of the day, another keeper that just barely allowed him to cull that 14-inch bass he had promised wouldn’t be headed to the weigh- in.

The quality spotted bass Walter had caught in practice wouldn’t bite, and his five-fish limit weighed 8.32 pounds.

Round 4: West Point

Butch Pitts vs. Jim Windham

This Round 4 match-up took place on Tuesday, May 8.

Butch knew he had his work cut out for him… he was facing one-half of last year’s Tournament of Champions winner, Jim Windham. However, some fish feeding on spawning threadfins in Highland Cove allowed him to quickly put three fish in the boat and secure a West Point win.

Butch lives in Watkinsville and is really looking forward to his Round 5 match-up at Lake Hartwell. Even though Butch is facing an angler who has back-to-back 16-lb. Eliminator bags, Hartwell is Butch’s home lake.

Jim had four or five areas where he’d found bedded fish the day before his West Point tournament. He found at least a 6-, a 5- and two 4-pounders. Jim ended up with one 2.29-lb. bass; he just couldn’t get the others to bite.

Butch Pitts, West Point

6:31: A great aspect of the Eliminator Series is that once it gets to heads-up matches, there is some flexibility about which ramps we launch from and a few other details. Basically, we give the anglers some leeway, as long as both agree. Waiting for safe light at the ramp dock at Highland Marina, we discussed idling out of Highland Cove and launching from the end of the no-wake zone. Butch mentioned that he planned to start in the back of Highland Cove, and Jim said fine. Not having to idle back through the no-wake zone was a big help to Butch. At “blast-off,” Butch put the trolling motor on high and went directly across from the ramp dock to a rocky bank.

“Some spots are in here. I’m going to fish it quick,” Butch said as he made his first cast with a 1/4-oz. white buzzbait, one he made up the night before. It had a glimmer-blue split-tail trailer. “There’s a little shad spawn going on on this rock,” Butch said.

The buzzbait made it about 10 feet when a bass sucked it under. Butch set the hook and connected on his first cast and put a 15 1/2-inch spotted bass in the boat.

6:36: Another bass nails the buzzbait, and Butch has his second keeper, a 14 1/4-inch spotted bass that just barely made the Eliminator length limit of 14 inches which applied to both largemouth and spotted bass on West Point.

6:44: Keeper No. 3 is a solid bass, a largemouth that looks like it will go just under 3 pounds.

6:45: Next cast, and Butch rolls another bass on the buzzbait, only this spot is short of the 14-inch length minimum.

6:54: Butch fishes to the very back of a pocket where the water is a foot or less deep. He casts a Stanley Ribbit frog bait into the extremely thin water where a small channel enters the back of the pocket. “I caught a 3 1/2-pounder back in here Saturday,” he says. After five casts, Butch turns out of the pocket. “Not in here this morning, but it was worth try,” he says.

7:02: Butch makes a long cast across a small point with a Zara Super Spook.

“I thought one of those big lazy females would be laying off this point,” he says after three casts don’t produce.

7:05: Butch is back on the rocky bank where he started the morning, casting the buzzbait again.

“Looks like the shad are already done,” he says.

7:20: “They’re schooling out in front of us,” Butch says.

A school of bass are chasing bait out in the middle of the pocket. Butch makes two long casts with the Super Spook, then several casts with a Pop R, but the fish don’t come back up, and he doesn’t get a hit.

7:25: “There’s one little spot right around the corner here we’re going to fish, then we’re going to get out of here,” he says as he stands on the trolling motor by-passing a stretch of bank. He fishes some big chunk rock along the bank but doesn’t get a bite.

7:40: Butch cranks the big motor and idles out of Highland Cove. He heads up the Chattahoochee arm about a mile upriver from the mouth of Yellowjacket. He stops at a shoal mark- er just inside the mouth of a pocket and picks up his Zara Spook.

“I’m going to hit some these shoals, and we’ll move back down (the lake) pretty quick,” Butch says. “I don’t think many people are doing this here, but I caught a 6-10 on one of these shoals yesterday that hit the Spook.”

8:00: After fishing all the way around the shoal marker with the Spook, Butch picks up a Carolina rig with a Zoom Big Dead Ringer in the red-shad color.

“I have to make a few drags. Man, the bait is stacked up in there. There’s too much bait in there for there not to be a fish.”

8:14: No takers on the rig, so  Butch heads down the lake to the next shoal marker.

8:22: A fish jumps up and over the Spook.

“That was a spot,” Butch says. 8:24: He tries the Pop R.

8:28: Working away from the shoal marker to the bank at the mouth of the pocket, Butch starts throwing the buzzbait again.

8:33: On a secondary point in the pocket at the mouth of a little cut, Butch tries a Bandit 100 Series crankbait in the sour-grape color.

“This east wind has changed things. This pocket was absolutely full of bait and little hybrids yesterday,” he says.

8:50: Butch picks up a spinnerbait rod with a white Suddeth Blade Master.

8:57: He moves down the lake to the next shoal marker at the mouth of another pocket. After several casts with the Spook, he cranks the big engine and motors to the back of the pocket.

“It sure seems like this shoal bite is off this morning,” he says as he works to the back of a very shallow cut and begins fishing the Stanley Ribbit.

9:33: He fishes out to the point at the mouth of another cut and then begins casting the Pop-R across the flat point.

“This is textbook — the first point outside of a spawning pocket, and with the wind blowing in on it,” Butch says.

With no bites since the first thing that morning, Butch talks about his strategy for West Point, a lake he has only fished a few times.

“I’ m mainly a shallow-water fisherman. I’ve been catching them the last month at Hartwell — and every other lake — on that frog. It’s something I picked up after fishing Guntersville,” Butch says.

While practicing for his West Point Eliminator match, Butch says he went looking for bedding fish but couldn’t find any. Then he tried a spinnerbait and crankbait near the spawning pockets.

“Usually after the spawn they move out to the flat points, that first little drop,” he said.

“Where I found some fish is in some grass in the back of Yellowjacket. I found a ton of fish in there. I just need to be patient and let the sun get up, that’ll push the bait back into the grass.”

10:01:Butch makes a long run to the back of Yellowjacket and begins fishing a buzzbait along a main-channel bank above Clark Access. There are lots of little stick-ups and brush along the rocky bank.

“This water has muddied up. It’s come up a bunch, too,” Butch comments, adding that it should make his fish bite even better.

10:06: Butch tries swimming a Texas-rigged Zoom Ultra Vibe worm, blackberry color. He fishes

all the way in and out of a small, round- ed pocket just off the main-creek run.

“I caught a bunch in here the other day. Something’s off about this bite,” Butch says.

10:31: Butch idles across the creek to the back of some standing timber. Behind the timber is a very shallow flat — a foot or two deep at most —that has green grass growing up out of the water. He begins fishing the Stanley Ribbit.

“I’ve already noticed something. Saturday when you’d bring that frog through the grass, baitfish would scatter everywhere. I haven’t seen the first baitfish,” he says.

10:51: A bass blows up on the frog, but Butch doesn’t connect.

“My son Chad asked me, ‘How do you Rat Fish,’ and I said, ‘Make 9,000 casts, turn your head, and you’ll get hit,”’ Butch says while re-rigging the frog.

11:02: Butch is working the frog, and it’s almost at the boat when a bass explodes on it.

“I don’t care how old you are.

That’s exciting,” Butch says as he puts a 2 1/2-lb. largemouth in the livewell.

For the next two hours, Butch fish- es the frog relentlessly, cast after cast. At 11:45 a good fish hits and is hooked for just a second before it comes unbuttoned.

12:55: With only 30 minutes of fishing time left, Butch is running out of time. He decides to leave the frog bite that had been so good in practice.

1:08: Butch stops at the first Yellowjacket Creek bridge near Yellow Jacket Access. He makes several casts to the corner of the rip-rap with a Bandit 100 Series crankbait.

1:13: He moves to the bridge piling and throws a Blade Runner with a Super Fluke to the piling.

“I haven’t caught a fish doing this all week,” Butch says as he yanks the trolling motor up and hurries back to Highland Cove.

1:20: Butch idles to the cabin boat dock and begins fishing a jig ’n pig along the boat slips.

1:29: Butch makes a couple of long casts with a Pop-R toward the beach area.

Idling back toward the ramp, Butch’s doesn’t feel great about his chances with four keepers.

Jim Windham, West Point

6:30: Jim starts at the mouth of Highland Cove in an area of grass and blowdowns with a blue/chrome Chug Bug.

6:32: He catches a 6-inch spotted bass.

6:34: Jim is walking the Chug Bug.

“A lot of times fish don’t like the noise the bait makes when you pop it; they like it quiet,” said Jim.

6:43: Jim runs down the lake and pulls into a pocket on the left between Highland and the railroad trestle. He notices a dock light on and pitches a blue/peach-colored No. 7 Shad Rap under the light.

6:45: Heading to the back of the pocket, to an area Jim has some bedded fish located, he throws the Chug Bug around docks.

6:53: “She’s in the hole; I just saw her roll over,” said Jim.

The female is 6 pounds, and a 3-lb. buck bass is with her. Some shad begin flickering in nearby grass.

“If this is a shad spawn, there isn’t much to it,” said Jim. “I hate to give up my topwater time.”

Focused on the big bass, Jim pitch- es a black, 3/8-oz. C.C. jig dressed with a crawdad-colored Zoom Super Chunk.

7:00: Jim pitches a Texas-rigged, 8-inch lizard in the bed. The light- brown-colored bait is homemade and has some blue specks in it that flash in sunny conditions.

7:10: Jim slides on a pair of Kaenon polarized glasses.

7:13: He changes back to the jig.

7:17: “One thing about bedding fish is that they can make or break you,” said Jim.

7:19: The 3-pounder and the 6-pounder are 20 feet apart on what looks to be different beds. The 3-pounder is locked much tighter, but Jim makes casts back and forth between the two.

7:23: Jim changes to a white Zoom tube on a 2/0 hook and 10-lb. line. He throws past the bed, reels it into the bed and lets the bait sit 10 or 20 seconds before repeating the process.

7:30: Jim connects on keeper No. 1, a largemouth that will later go 2.29 pounds.

7:35: Still focused on the 6-pounder, Jim changes to a 5-inch-long Bass Pro Shops swimbait that looks like a bream.

7:37: The big sow bites. Jim hooks her for a second, but she comes off.

7:55: Jim leaves and quickly fish- es a shady area on the railroad trestle rip-rap with a Chug Bug.

8:10: Jim goes into a pocket in Glass Creek, picks up a white tube and says that he saw three fish in this area yesterday. Jim sees the three fish, and the female looks to go 5 pounds. Two smaller buck bass are with her.

8:15: Jim pitches the homemade lizard at the fish. One of the bucks bites it, but Jim misses.

8:20: Jim changes to the 5-inch,  bream-imitation swimbait.

8:23: The C.C. jig gets back in the water and then the white tube goes back to work.

8:33: The homemade lizard, which is fished on a 7/0 hook, is Jim’s next bait switch.

8:37: Jim tries a more finesse approach, changing to a 4-inch Zoom lizard in a salt-and-pepper color.

8:40: “They hit the big bait; it seems like they’d hit this little lizard,” said Jim.

The bait was fished under a 1/16- oz. weight on a 2/0 hook.

8:43: Jim hooks what looks to be a short fish, but it spits the bait.

8:45: He goes back to the bream swimbait and lets it lay in the bed.

8:51: The homemade lizard gets wet again.

9:10: The sun is starting to get on the water, and it now looks like a 4- and a 5-pounder are hanging around. Jim starts calculating. If he had the 6-pounder from earlier, along with the fish he was looking at, and another 5-pounder that he will look for later in the morning, and the fish in his livewell, he could have 22 to 23 pounds worth of fish and shatter David Millsaps’ 20-lb. Eliminator record from last year.

9:12: Jim puts a pinch weight five inches above a Shad Rap and throws it in the bed.

9:19: Jim reaches in his rod locker and gets out a 12-inch swimbait made by Bass Pro Shops.

“I’ve seen them swallow it,” said Jim. “I’ve got to do something, I’m struggling.”

9:27: On the first cast, the 5-pounder bird-dogged the giant swim- bait.

“She went after it like she was going to eat it,” said Jim.

9:36: “The biggest problem is these fish just won’t get up there and stay,” said Jim.

9:42: Trying to upset the fish, he swims a jig right at her. Then, he pitch- es a grasshopper-colored tube and a green-pumpkin colored Zoom.

10:13: Jim throws the giant swim- bait again, and the fish bird-dogged the bait for a second time but didn’t eat it.

10:35: Now that a few hours have passed, Jim goes back to where he lost the bedded 6-pounder. He quickly sees the big fish, but she’s not on the bed.

10:45: In desperation, Jim throws the homemade lizard and the 8-inch Zoom lizard but notices the big female way off the bed in deeper water. He believes she’s spawned out.

10:54: He makes a run above Highland and goes into a pocket below the first pumping station.

“I had a 5-pounder in here yesterday,” said Jim.

He spots a fish but doesn’t believe it’s the big one.

11:03: A green-pumpkin lizard goes in the bed. He quickly sees the fish is small and heads up river.

11:23: Jim begins to fish docks near Ringer. He’s pitching a 3/8-oz. C.C. jig with a black/blue Zoom Super Chunk. The docks are fairly isolated and have some trash around them.

“I always fish trash around it before I flip the dock,” said Jim.

Sporadically, Jim throws a Chug Bug in areas of shade.

11:38: A little farther up the river, he fishes the C.C. jig in some blow- downs. He’s using 50-lb. Stren braided line.

11:44: Jim spends time fishing the jig in some flooded grass.

“I’m glad to see the grass up here coming back,” said Jim. “A year or two ago a flood got rid of a lot of it.”

11:50: Still fishing docks and grass, Jim slings a white C.C. spinner- bait with Indiana blades but quickly goes back to pitching a jig.

12:11: Making his last run north, Jim stops on some main-river docks and fishes them with a jig. The docks are in 5 to 9 feet of water.

12:34: Jim goes down a row of docks and has no luck with a jig. He puts on a 1/8-oz. Spot Sticker dressed with a green-pumpkin finesse worm and fishes the same docks that were unproductive with a jig.

12:59: Working his way back toward Highland, Jim stops on a bend in the river and fishes a jig along a bank that quickly drops into 17 feet of water.

1:07: With 23 minutes left, Jim goes across the river channel into a pocket to fish a few docks with a jig.

“I should have stayed with the top- water longer,” said Jim. “It may have gotten me another bite or two. Then again, if that one big fish hadn’t come unbuckled…”

The Eliminator Series is down to four anglers chasing serious bragging rights and a $5,000 first-place check.

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