Eliminator Bass Tournament Diaries From Lake Russell And West Point

GON Staff | April 25, 2008

Two Elite 8 Skeeter Eliminator Series tournaments took place last month, sending two anglers to semi-finals matches in June.

Shawn Malcom advanced after a West Point win against Tim Peek on Friday, April 18. Shawn spent the two days prior to the tournament practicing. He had 15 pounds Wednesday, but only boated one keeper Thursday, one day before his Eliminator match-up.

“I decided just to fish the places I caught fish Wednesday,” said Shawn.

Tim Peek did not catch a keeper fish in his seven-hour tournament against Shawn. However, it wasn’t due to lack of preparation. Tim had been consistently catching 20-lb. bags at West Point. He just couldn’t get several bedded bass to bite, and it cost him a trip to Clarks Hill in June.

Shawn discovered a crankbait pattern about two hours into the tournament. Being a crankbait specialist on Lake Oconee, he stuck with the pattern and ended up with three keepers that weighed 6.18 pounds. Shawn is awaiting the outcome of the Aaron Batson vs. Mike Cleveland match-up. He’ll face one of them at Clarks Hill in June.

David Lowery weighed in 11.85 pounds of Lake Russell bass to move past Buster Slocumb and into a Round 5 match against either Mike Harris or Daryl Adams. The Russell tournament took place on Wednesday, April 9.
“I had 16 or 18 pounds up here Sunday before the tournament,” said David.

Fishing up Beaverdam Creek, David found a prespawn pattern and fished a few select baits to put together a limit. He even culled a smaller fish after the last cast of the day, thanks to a 3.15-lb. spot that bit. That fish is the current big-fish leader for the Elite 8 tournaments, a prize worth $500.

GON editors Daryl Kirby and Brad Gill were along for the rides and wrote the fishing diaries below.

West Point: Round 4, Shawn Malcom vs. Tim Peek

Shawn Malcom:

Shawn Malcom caught three West Point keepers, enough to move past Tim Peek and advance to a Round 5 match-up on Clarks Hill against Aaron Batson or Mike Cleveland.

6:39: Blast-off.

6:44: Shawn puts his Ranger down at the mouth of the McGee Access pocket and starts fishing the northern bank with a bluegill-colored Top Dollar topwater plug made by Normans. The bank looks real “fishy,” with lots of grass and wood cover.

“It’s a fisherman’s heaven right here,” said Shawn.

6:53: Shawn motors down the bank to the mouth of a cut that has a ditch leading toward the back. He’d learned in his two days of practice that these ditches were holding fish.

“(Rick) Gasaway was saying the cuts had to have a ditch,” said Shawn.

6:56: A fish swipes at his plug near the back of the cut.

6:57: Shawn changes to a Bagley 3/16-oz. Shaky Head jig head dressed with a green-pumpkin Zoom Finesse worm. He throws the small bait on 10-lb. line and a spinning reel and bounces it back to the boat.

6:59: He picks up his third bait of the day, a lime-colored Trick Worm. He sprays it with Jack’s Juice and chunks it to the back of the cut.

“Down here is the first time I’ve caught a fish on a Trick Worm in a big lake,” said Shawn.

7:03: He decides to crank the motor and head toward the back.

“Fish one, Shawn zero,” he said.

7:06: Near the back he fishes the Shaky Head on a 6-foot, 5-inch Castaway rod with medium action. He brings the bait back with an Ambassador reel.

“That’s all I fish with,” said Shawn. “They don’t make another reel.”

He’s using Bass Pro Shops camouflage line that’s tri-colored in red, green and clear. He likes to tie the bait to the red portion of the line.

7:11: Shawn reaches the back of the creek. The water temperature is 64.5 degrees. He throws the Trick Worm down a ditch in the very back and then at an adjacent blowdown.

“I haven’t caught a fish out of a blowdown yet,” said Shawn.

7:22: Shawn puts a 12-inch spot in the boat that couldn’t resist the Top Dollar. The non-keeper has a big threadfin hanging out of his mouth.

“I see some shad spawning right here,” said Shawn. “That’s the first I’ve seen of that.”

The activity is in 2 feet of water in grass but quickly disappears.

7:25: For a few casts, Shawn throws his plug around a dock.

“And these fish evidently don’t like docks,” said Shawn. “I fished them right, too. I flipped them like you’re supposed to.”

7:31: Time to move. Shawn goes north and stops in a pocket on the right, below Highland. The pocket has about 10 docks in it and lots of grass. He works his Top Dollar around the docks and fishes the Shaky Head between them.

7:40: Shawn changes to a Texas-rigged lizard with a 3/16-oz. tungsten weight, targeting grass between docks. The plastic is fished on a 6-foot, 9-inch Carrot Stix rod.

“I saw fish in here Wednesday,” said Shawn. “They were cruising, and this is a prime place for a fish to be bedding. It’s a protected pocket with a lot of sand.”

7:42: A 5-pounder and a buck move off a bed and disappear. The buck comes back, and he works him briefly with the lizard and the Shaky Head.

7:45: “No more spending time; the buck isn’t ready and she’s moved out,” said Shawn.

7:58-8:38: Shawn goes in Highland Cove and fishes the mouth of Perch Creek. He works down the bank and into a pocket throwing the Top Dollar, Shaky Head and lizard around grassy banks. He spots several keepers cruising and looks hard for a fish locked on a bed but can’t see one.

8:41: Still in Perch Creek, Shawn fishes the next pocket south. He looks hard for a fish up.

“Charlie (Baldwin) said these fish lay in the middle of these pockets waiting on the sun, and then they’ll move up,” said Shawn. “These fish don’t stay on the bed at night here.”

8:50: Shawn fires up the motor and heads north to the middle pocket in Highland Cove.

“Tim (Peek) will have 12 or 15 today, if not 20,” said Shawn. “I have my work cut out for me. I know that.”

8:55: Shad are flipping at the mouth of a short pocket. He misses a fish and decides to tie on a homemade, flat-sided crankbait in gable green. The bait resembles a Gulp. Shawn is known for his ability to crank. He’s excellent on Oconee when the fish go deep. His cranking rod is a 7-foot American Rodsmiths David Fritts series in medium-heavy action. He uses a 4600 Garcia reel.

9:00: His first cast with the plug is well received.

“Please stay on the line, baby,” he pleads.

The 2 1/2-pounder does stay on and gets the skunk out of the boat.

“I haven’t thrown a crankbait much this week,” said Shawn. “There’s so much grass, and I don’t own many that run less than 5 or 6 feet.”

The plug he’s throwing runs 7 or 8 feet, making it difficult in grass.

9:04: “I just had one tick it,” said Shawn. “There are definitely more fish here than just that one.”

9:05: Keeper No. 2 bites the plug, and Shawn swings a 2-pounder in the boat.

“I’ll hit every little cut I see now,” said Shawn. “I probably will hit these red-clay banks. Now I’m doing what I love to do!”

9:13-9:20: He leaves the cut and cranks down a red-clay bank. Two fish, one that would go 5 pounds, follow his plug to the boat.

“There’s something these fish don’t like about this bait,” he said.

He ties the plug on a rod loaded with heavier, 20-lb. test.

“This way it won’t go as deep,” said Shawn.

9:25: He puts a Rapala Mini Fat Rap in gable green on a spinning rod.

“I hardly throw anything factory color,” said Shawn. “I don’t like throwing this crankbait on a spinning rod. You always stand the chance of losing one when you’re not throwing a fiberglass rod. I think they should outlaw every kind of fishing but crankbait fishing. Naw, me and Lee (Nunnally) do a lot more flipping now, and it’s helped out.”

Shawn keeps cranking.

9:49: “There was another monster,” said Shawn.

The fish followed the homemade plug to the boat.

“They always say if they’re following it and not biting they don’t like the color or something,” said Shawn.

He puts on a Suddeth Little Earl in Sexy Shad.

“It’s a great bait, but you lose a lot of fish, no matter what hooks you use,” he said. “It’s cost me a lot of money, but it catches fish.”

10:14:-10:37: Shawn moves into Half Moon Creek. His basic pattern from this point to the end of the tournament is to fish pockets with the homemade crankbait and switch to the shallower-running Rapala as he nears shallower water. Both plugs are green.

“Green is supposed to be the color here,” said Shawn.

Toward the back of the remaining pockets he fishes, he looks for bedded fish with either a Shaky Head or lizard in hand.

10:44-11:50: Shawn works two pockets and spends 16 minutes on a bedded 3-pounder, his longest time spent on a locked-down fish. She doesn’t bite. He has two hours to go.

“It’s not looking good today, I can tell you that,” said Shawn. “I don’t know what to do — spend time looking for bedded bass that will bite or run these red-clay banks with a crankbait?”

12:00-12:40: Shawn fishes main-lake points with visible standing timber in Whitewater and Turkey creeks. He cranks three areas and catches one non-keeper spot and has a 3-pounder come unbuckled.

“That hurt,” he said.

12:48-1:00: Shawn stops at the mouth of a long pocket in Yellowjacket Creek and works a Carolina-rigged, green-pumpkin Trick Worm. He targets a roadbed with his boat in 13 feet of water.

“I can’t do this for long unless they are just killing it,” said Shawn.

1:02-1:16: “I’m covering water now,” said Shawn.

Shawn moves up Yellowjacket and quickly cranks a stretch of red-clay bank that’s about 5 feet deep. He stays a cast and a half off the bank and quickly misses a fish.

“He tried to jerk the rod out of my hand,” said Shawn.

At 1:08 he sees bass crushing bait on a secondary point, and at 1:11 a big spot comes out of the water trying to eat. Keeper No. 3 slams his homemade crankbait at 1:16, and Shawn nets a 2-pounder.

With just 23 minutes left in the tournament, Shawn catches his third keeper.

1:16-1:39: Shawn spends the remaining time cranking two pockets. He’s got three keepers and is confident Tim Peek will have a good bag.

“If I had to do it all over again, I’d throw a crankbait all day and cover water,” Shawn said on the ride back.

Tim Peek, West Point Diary

6:38: Blast-off. As he idles under the bridge at Yellowjacket Access, Tim says he’d be much better off if we were fishing from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“If I catch three of the bass I saw yesterday, I’ll have 15 pounds,” Tim says, “and I saw more than 15 bass that size. But I need the sun to see them.”

Over the past couple of weeks, Tim has brought several 20-lb. sacks to the scales during tournaments. It’s been no secret that he’s been on a massive bedding-bass bite.

6:45: Tim runs down the lake to a short pocket. His first cast is with a Pop-R.

“We haven’t caught many on the Pop-R, but the few we’ve caught have been good ones,” Tim said.

6:47: Tim gets his first hit, a small bass that doesn’t meet the 14-inch length minimum.

7:02: With the sun far from hitting the water, Tim strains to see a bed where he saw a good bass the day before. He can’t see the big female or the 2- to 3-lb. buck bass that was with her.

“What kills me is how you’ll find one locked on — just locked on — and you go back the next day they’ll both be gone,” Tim said.

7:06: He tries a floating worm, a non-brand “Senko-style” worm fished weightless on spinning gear.

A few shad are flipping in the flooded shoreline cover.

“Since last week we’ve been seeing a few shad trying to get started, but the shad-spawn bite might not be good this year with all these bass still on bed and guarding fry,” Tim says.

7:07: Still throwing to a bed because under the low light he’s not convinced the bass isn’t in the area, Tim tries a Texas-rigged green-pumpkin Zoom Super Hog, a “creature” bait.

“I throw all kinds of stuff at them on the bed,” he says.

Tim builds his own rods and has developed custom cork handles. You can see them at <>.

7:16: He leaves the bed. On the trolling motor, he heads out of the pocket, making casts with the Pop-R.

7:18: Tim moves to the next pocket down the lake where he saw a good bass hard on the bed the day before. The bass is there.

“She’s locked on. I see her in there rolling around. Please be biting and not laying eggs,” he says as he positions the boat about 30 feet from the bed. His first casts are with the jig.

7:34: Tim makes about a dozen casts with the Zoom Super Hog.

7:39: Back to the jig.

7:50: “She mouthed it that time. She’s sick of this thing,” Tim said.

8:00: Back to the Zoom creature bait.

8:02: Tim tries a white Texas-rigged lizard.

8:07: “I can’t believe she hasn’t hit yet,” Tim said.

8:10: He goes back to the jig.

8:14: “She was real hot there for a minute, then she bit it and got cold. I’m going to try to get her fired up,” Tim says as he pulls a rod from the rod box that is rigged with a Pointer Minnow. “If she inhales this on the first cast, I’ll have a heart attack. This is what we’ve been catching those male bass on that are guarding fry.”

8:18: Tim tries the jig again.

8:24: After more than an hour, Tim leaves the fish. He crosses the lake to another pocket where he saw two good bedding bass the day before.

8:26: He sees a 2 1/2-lb. buck bass guarding a ball of fry and throws the Pointer at the bass. It swims away from the bait and circles back quickly to the black mass of tiny bass.

8:30: Tim tries the Pop-R.

“He’s a little spooky. Yesterday every bass I showed that Pointer to ate it,” he says.

Even worse, the 4-pounder that was on the bed yesterday is gone.

8:36: He checks another bed in the same pocket that had three fish on it. Nothing.

8:44: Tim moves to another pocket, but again the big female has disappeared. He throws the Pointer at a keeper-sized buck bass, but the bass barely looks at the lure.

“I could have caught that bass yesterday on two casts. I don’t know what’s going on,” Tim said before moving to another pocket. For the next 40 minutes he checks beds in three pockets. All are empty.

9:20: Tim catches a short fish on a the floating worm.

9:29 to 12:01: Tim checks eight different pockets where he had bedding fish located. All the beds are empty or hold just buck bass that won’t hit.

12:02: “I might not catch a fish, but I’m not going to do the same thing all day and not catch one,” Tim says while re-rigging a rod with a white, small-profile spinnerbait.

It’s a non-brand bait that’s similar to a Mini-Me.

“I haven’t been fishing defensively today because I knew I could catch a few off the bed. I figured worst-case scenario I could catch a few of those bucks. I didn’t plan for a worst-worst case scenario,” Tim said.

12:12: Tim heads up Yellowjacket. The wind is blowing steady and hard now, and he begins fishing the wind-blown bank at the mouth of a pocket, working into the pocket with the wind to the back, then back out the other side. Tim fishes fast. During the next hour and 10 minutes, he catches four spotted bass, including two that were 13 3/4 inches, but none meet the length minimum.

Lake Russell: Round 4, David Lowery vs. Buster Slocumb

David Lowery

David Lowery made a good showing in his Round 4 Russell tournament, beating Buster Slocumb.

6.56: David runs up Beaverdam Creek and into a long creek on the left across from Gray Branch. The area is full of timber, and David carefully idles through the windy channel heading toward the back to a pocket on the right that splits in the back.

“I don’t care if you print where I fish; I don’t fish here,” David said.

7:09: He begins the day fishing at the mouth of the pocket and throws a 5-inch, Senko-type bait called The Terrain Stick (A.T. Stick), made by All-Terrain Tackle.

David fishes the junebug-colored bait on a 1/16-oz. tungsten weight and targets flat, clay banks and some stick-ups. He slowly works toward the back.

7:30: David fires a spinnerbait right down the middle of the right-hand split, nearly making it to the back.

“It’s a Bob Williams spinnerbait,” said David.

The 3/8-oz. bait is white/chartreuse with double willowleaf blades, one gold and one chrome. He throws it on a 7-foot, medium-heavy, Kistler LTA rod. He fishes it on 15-lb. Big Game line.

“I fish 20 pound on a jig and 10 on my spinning and cranking rods,” said David.

7:38: Fishing the small, red-clay point at the mouth of the two splits, a 14-inch largemouth takes an 8-inch, Texas-rigged lizard. Keeper No. 1 goes in the box.

7:44: David starts talking about his experience during the first three rounds of the Eliminator. His non-boater, Blake Atha, finished third.

“He’s the best co-angler I’ve ever had in the boat,” David says as he casts his lizard down the middle of the left pocket.

7:48: Fishing a stick-up, David gets a bite, but his line breaks.

“I know that line didn’t falter,” said David. “It wrapped around something.”

7:51: Determined to catch his second keeper, he downsizes to an All-Terrain Mighty Jig jig head dressed with a NetBait T-Mac worm in Bama Bug.

7:53: The fish bites beside the stick-up, but to avoid snapping the line again David lets her swim out with it before setting the hook.

“Oh, that’s a good one,” said David.

The 2 3/4-pounder goes in the box.

7:58: David re-ties his spinning rod with a watermelon-chartreuse-colored lizard and a 5/0 Gamakatsu hook.

“I don’t Texas rig a whole lot,” said David. “I had this rig tied on from Seminole.”

David was competing in a BFL Bulldog tournament at Seminole 10 days prior to his Eliminator match-up. He is currently second in Bulldog points. Through the BFLs, David has fished the All-American in 2002 and 2005. He’s currently in his third year fishing the Stren Series. David says he’s fortunate to work for his brother at Air Concepts of Middle Georgia, a heating and air business, where he can take off time to fish tournaments.

8:02: David sees what looks to be a bed by a stump and quickly works it with a lizard.

“I’m not a bed fisherman,” said David. “I’m afraid if I see one, I’ll get hung up trying to catch it. But if I stumble up on one, I’m won’t say I won’t make a few casts.”

8:07: He misses a fish on a submersed stick-up.

“He was right on a drop, from 6 to 9 feet,” said David. “I should already have four fish in the boat. I wasn’t paying attention, asleep at the wheel. I just looked down, and my line was swimming off.”

He quickly returns his lizard to the timber, followed by the jig head.

8:13-8:48: David works the middle of the pocket, focusing on stick-ups with the lizard.

“The middle of these pockets don’t get beat up as bad,” said David.

His usual routine is to throw 4 or 6 feet past the stick-up, reel it up to the wood and then let it fall. He’s very patient, taking his time in an area he knows there are fish.

“It helps I got two fish in the boat,” said David. “Five years ago I was strictly throwing something big. I broke my arm in 2001. I couldn’t fish with a baitcaster. I had to fish a spinning rod. A Trick Worm and a Shaky Head ruined me. I’ve won more money since I’ve been doing it.”

As he heads up the bank and out of the pocket, he chunks a spinnerbait as he quickly heads for the mouth.

8:58: At the mouth of the point, he works the A.T. Stick on some bigger blowdowns.

9:01: He cranks the big motor and heads to the next pocket up on the right and goes to the back where the lake makes a 90-degree bend to the left.

9:10: For the first time in the tournament, David picks up a jig and fishes a deep bank with a series of blowdowns. His jig of choice is an All-Terrain Flipping Jig in black/blue, and it’s dressed with a black/red Zoom Chunk.

“Most fish haven’t spawned,” said David. “Everything Sunday was prespawn.”

Water temperature is 61 degrees.

“All I can figure is the nights are still getting the water temperature into the 50s,” said David. “It could be tomorrow that you come in here and see 50.”

9:31: He sets the hook and catches a 2 1/2-pounder from inside a blowdown. Keeper No. 3 is in the boat.

9:32-9:53: He pitches at the blowdown a few more times and works his way back down the pocket rotating between the jig and the jig head.

9:54: He rounds a rocky point.

“There ought to be some big spots if nothing else,” he said.

9:58: Just down from the point with the boat in 15 feet of water, keeper No. 4 eats the lizard. David puts the 14-inch largemouth in the livewell. The fish was right on a steep drop along a rocky, clay bank.

David’s light, 1/16-oz. Texas rig seems to be working, catching two of the four fish.

“These fish like a slower-falling bait,” said David.

10:10: David works into a small pocket and fishes the middle with the A.T. Stick. He misses a fish several times as it tries to swim off with his bait.

“I think she’s bedded; she’s moving it off,” said David.

10:22: Fishing 30 feet from where he missed the fish, he connects on a 2 1/2-pounder in 3 feet of water while working the A.T. Stick. David has his limit in three hours, 26 minutes and has about 10 pounds. He works some brush on a drop with a jig head and leaves.

10:33-11:06: David tries a new pocket. He quickly covers water with a spinnerbait and slows down and fishes plastics when he gets to any blowdowns.

11:09-12:21: Without a kicker fish in the boat, David’s fishing gets somewhat faster. Using the same baits, targeting wood and red-clay banks, David fishes four pockets.

12:24-12:34: David motors down Beaverdam and stops on an island full of rocks. With his boat in 18 feet of water, he works the rocky bank for 10 minutes.

12:40-1:00: David fishes across Beaverdam Creek in a pocket within sight of the railroad trestle. He works a drop with the A.T. Stick.

“Fish were everywhere here Sunday on that little flat that drops out from 2 feet to 5 or 6,” said David.

Without putting another fish in the boat for more than 2 1/2 hours, David makes his final run to the cove behind the Hwy 72 ramp.

1:04: With the A.T. Stick and the jig head, he goes to work fishing the bank with the lizard and jig head, targeting brush and clay. The water has warmed to 66.5 degrees.

“It’s going to be like a light switch,” said David. “There could be fish up everywhere tomorrow.”

1:55: David’s final cast is with the jig head on a drop that goes from 4 to 9 feet. He sees shad on the graph and knows there are fish in the area.

GON editor Brad Gill tells David, “Time is up, that’s your last cast out.”

Eliminator rules for Rounds 4-6 state that an angler may finish out their last cast.

1:56: David sets the hook on a good fish.

“Get the net,” David tells Brad.

“Get the net?” Brad laughs.

Eliminator rules also state the GON editor can’t help the angler, which includes netting a fish.

After several attempts with the net, David finally gets the big spot in the boat. The 3.15-pounder is his big fish of the day.

“That’ll give you something to write about,” David laughs.

David had a limit that weighed 11.85 pounds, which was anchored by a 3.15-pounder, that he caught on his very last cast of the tournament.

Buster Slocumb, Lake Russell Diary

6:55: Buster heads straight across the lake from the Hwy 72 ramp and fishes a small patch of rip-rap where the railroad runs along the bank in the back of a pocket. It’s not the main stretch of rocks at the railroad trestle, but one of more than a dozen smaller patches of rip-rap back in the pockets.

6:57: Buster picks up a spinning rod and makes his first cast. He’s fishing a home-poured, 1/16-oz. jig head threaded Texas-style with a green-pumpkin Zoom Finesse worm.

Buster begins bouncing the worm down and over the rip-rap rocks — and he sets the hook. His first cast produces a 12 1/2-inch keeper.

“I ought to go ahead and throw him back, do some pre-culling,” Buster says. But the bass goes in the box.

7:03: He catches another bass, but it doesn’t keep.

7:07: A 14-inch spotted bass is Buster’s second keeper.

7:31: At the back of the pocket where the rip-rap stops, Buster makes three casts with a white spinnerbait down the middle of the pocket at the very back. It has three small willowleaf blades.

“If the wind gets up, we’re running about 20 miles. There’s a spinnerbait bite when the wind is blowing in where the bass are on a little point that runs out in the timber. But it has to be blowing pretty good,” Buster said.

The water is dead calm.

7:32: Buster picks up his spinning rod with the jig-head worm, and for the rest of the day he never picks up another rod.

Between the Hwy 72 bridge and the dozens of patches of rip-rap where the railroad passes close to the lake back in several pockets, Buster has plenty of rip-rap to fish.

For the rest of the day, Buster does his thing — he fishes the jig-head Finesse worm on the big, chunk rocks. It’s what allowed him to win two rounds of competition at Sinclair and round three at Oconee without having to crank his big motor. His jig-head pattern on rip-rap isn’t just a limit-filler. Buster won two Eliminator big-fish checks over the past two years during the Sinclair rounds.

Buster makes short little pitches to the rip-rap.

“I don’t like to make a long cast ever because I can’t set the hook,” he says.

He twitches the rod tip, moving the worm down the rocks until he feels a big rock, then he pops it over the rock — both to attract a strike and to try to keep the jig head from hanging up. But hang up it does. Buster probably went through 3-dozen jig heads during the day. He also re-ties after every fish he catches.

Between 6:57 a.m. when he caught his first bass and 1:15 p.m., Buster puts 23 bass in the boat, 18 are keepers, but the quality 3- and 4-lb. bass he caught while practicing for the tournament haven’t bit. Every fish hit the jig-head worm on rip-rap.

1:21: Buster moves to the Hwy 72 rip-rap for the second time that day. He has only until 1:55 before his fishing time is up.

1:23: Buster catches another keeper, but it doesn’t cull.

“This is the part I hate, re-tying. I’m scared to with so little time left, but I’m scared not to,” Buster said.

1:49: Buster catches a short fish.

1:54: He makes a cast at one of the Hwy 72 bridge pilings, which earlier produced his best bass of the day. He sets the hook and boats a 14-inch bass, but it won’t cull.

1:54 and 50 seconds: With 10 seconds to get a bait in the water before Buster’s time is up, he pitches to the same bridge piling. He sets the hook almost immediately, and the light-spinning rod doubles over for the first time all day.

“This is a good one, finally, on the last cast,” Buster says as he takes his time.

The bass flashes near the surface, and it’s an easy 3-pounder. It makes another run, and Buster’s line suddenly goes slack. His last cast produced the quality bass he’d been after all day. But for the first time all day Buster didn’t re-tie after catching a bass — he didn’t have time — and the fish broke the 8-lb. test line.

Coming next month: The action doesn’t slow down. We’ve got a great one at Hartwell with Mike Harris and Daryl Adams, and the highly anticipated Jackson match-up between Aaron Batson and Mike Cleveland will take place. Next month, we’ll announce our final-four anglers who will be one step away from a shot at the big dance in November.

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