Reigning CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion Michael Iaconelli was in the lead Saturday morning when a dense blanket of fog loomed over Alabama's Lake Guntersville, creating a two-hour delay. When the fog finally lifted and the anglers took off, they faced tough fishing conditions that shook up the leader board heading into the competition's final day.
Two-time CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion George Cochran is the man to beat after Day 3. The Arkansan brought in 23 pounds, 10 ounces of bass Saturday, heading into the final day of competition with a total weight of 69-11. The fog delay didn't affect Cochran's style much as he was catching fish throughout the shortened day.
"I've been catching two and a half limits a day," Cochran said. "I think today, though, I only caught eight fish. I lost a 6-pounder right at the boat today, too. The fog delay didn't affect me all that much because I've been catching fish constantly. It was clear conditions today and what I had to do was fish a lot slower.
"What I'm doing is ripping the bait and then pausing it for three or four seconds and that's when they're hitting it. If you move the bait at a constant speed, they won't hit it. It's moving too fast. They're sluggish. But when the bait stops, they'll come up and hit it."
Cochran also received an additional $1,000 for becoming the Busch Heavyweight of the day with a sack of fish that included a 7-pound lunker, earning him another $1,000 for the Purolator Big Bass of the Day.
Cochran doesn't have much room to breathe, however. Missouri's Stacy King is a pound behind with 68-11 over three days. Missouri's Chad Brauer (66-1), 2001 Classic champion Kevin VanDam of Michigan (64-1), New Jersey's Mike Iaconelli (54-11), and Texas' Zell Rowland (51-6) round out the "Super Six" who will compete for the $100,000 top prize on Sunday.
The amateur competition finished up Saturday with local angler Philip Dukes taking home the top honors with a three-day weight of 45-7. The Alabama native has fished many tournaments on Lake Guntersville, but admitted that this one bested them all.
"This is the biggest tournament I've fished here by far," Dukes said. "I wasn't nervous at all until this morning. When I got here and realized how much I was leading by, I started to get worried. All the guys I fished with here were great and I had a great time with all of them."
Dukes took home over $36,000 in cash and prizes including a year's worth of free gasoline from CITGO.
Virginian Robert Wilkinson caught a 5-pound 4-ounce bass on Saturday, earning $500 from Purolator for the Purolator Big Bass of the Day on the amateur side.
The CITGO Bassmaster Tour event on Lake Guntersville will conclude Sunday. Launch begins at 6:30 a.m. from the Lake Guntersville State Park. Weigh-in will be held at the State Park as well beginning at 3:30 p.m.
Fans can watch "The CITGO Bassmasters" telecast of the Lake Guntersville tournament on Saturday, March 6 at 10:30 a.m. ET/9:30 a.m. CT on ESPN2.
The CITGO Bassmaster Tour events this season feature the highly interactive and family friendly BASS Sponsor Expo area. Sponsors present interactive exhibits and provide a fun family experience for all ages. The Expo will take place from 12 p.m. until 6 p.m. Sunday at Lake Guntersville State Park.
The CastingKids program, presented by CITGO was held in conjunction with the BASS Sponsor Expo Saturday at Lake Guntersville State Park. Madison, Ala.'s Miguel Casey was the winner of the 7-10 year-old age group. This was the second CastingKids win for the 8-year-old. In the 11-14 year-old group, 14-year-old Thomas Uptain from Pinson, Ala., took top honors. The event was conducted by the North Alabama Tournament Anglers bass club.
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. This April, BASS introduces the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 Series, a four-event, no-entry-fee circuit featuring a $1.6 million prize purse for the world's best anglers. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass-fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Skeeter Boats, Mercury Marine, Yamaha Outboards, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.
Associate Sponsors include G3 Boats and Bryant Heating and Air Conditioning.
Local Sponsors include Local Sponsors include the City of Guntersville, State of Alabama Conservation Department, Marshall County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.