Even the mighty VanDam, however, couldn’t manage a limit on Wissota today. His four bass weighed in at eight pounds, six ounces – not enough to garner any attention at most of the Bassmaster Tournament Trail stops, but more than good enough to take the lead and Busch Heavyweight honors at Wissota for the third round.
“I did well today, but I didn’t catch more than one fish in any hole, so we’ll have to see what we can do tomorrow,” said VanDam.
When asked how different the six-hole fishing course was from the rest of the lake, VanDam said, “There’s a lot more character here. You find grass, humps, rocks and all kinds of habitat for bass on the course.”
2004 Classic champion Takahiro Omori is alone in second place after the third round with three bass that weighed six pounds, 13 ounces. One of Omori’s fish was the Purolator Big Bass of the Day at three pounds, three ounces and earned him an extra $1,000.
Though Omori wouldn’t offer any details on his baits or techniques, he did admit to fishing soft plastics in very shallow water.
Veteran Florida pro Shaw Grigsby is in third place going in to the final round with three bass weighing 5-9. Despite the tough day, however, Grigsby may be on to something.
“I made two crucial mistakes today and lost two real key fish,” Grigsby explained. “If I had put them in the boat, I’d have the lead right now.”
Texas’ Jay Yelas and Zell Rowland and South Carolina’s Davy Hite round out the Super Six that will fish in the final round. First place prize money is $100,000.
The Super Six live to fish again another day, but six other anglers are sent home after the third round, including the leader of the first two rounds, New Jersey’s Michael Iaconelli. He was philosophical about a third round performance that saw him step up on the stage without a single fish.
“It was just one of those days,” the 2003 Classic champion said. “I don’t regret anything that happened this week. The patterns that I had on the lake just weren’t working in the course waters. I couldn’t get the bites I needed, but I did my best, and I’m proud of that.”
Another angler who didn’t make the cut to six for the fourth round was Missouri’s Rick Clunn, a finalist (along with Roland Martin) in ESPN’s Greatest Angler Debate presented by John Deere. Seeing Clunn on stage with BASS founder and master of ceremonies Ray Scott reminded many spectators of the early days of the organization.
Clunn zeroed in the third round, but still offered a few compliments for Lake Wissota.
“It’s a tough lake, but it’s a good tough lake,” the four-time Classic champion said. “If we all go out there and no one catches any fish, then there’s something wrong, but Mike Iaconelli showed everyone that you could catch a limit two days in a row. We just needed to raise the level of our skills.”
For now, there are five anglers struggling to raise the level of their skills to those of Kevin VanDam. If they can’t do it, VanDam will take his second straight Elite 50 title.
Part one of the Bassmaster Elite 50 Series event on Lake Wissota will be telecast on The CITGO Bassmasters on Saturday, July 2 at 10:00 a.m. ET on ESPN2. Part two will air on Saturday July 9 at 10:00 a.m. ET on ESPN2.
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite 50 series, 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 Bassmaster Elite 50 Series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).
Local Sponsors include the Chippewa Valley Sports Commission.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.bassmaster.com.