Kevin VanDam already holds the Bassmaster Elite Series record for victories with four. The 15-06 mixed bag of largemouths and smallmouths he caught at Virginia's Smith Mountain Lake today gave him 3 1/2 pounds worth of cushion in pursuit of win No. 5.

The Michigander and top-seeded angler in the BassFan World Rankings took over the lead on day 2, but only by an 11-ounce margin. He lengthened his advantage considerably today with a sack that ranked among the day's best and gave him a 3-day total of 47-15.



Alabama's Matt Herren caught 15 pounds even today to move up five places in the standings with a 44-07 total, but he doesn't like his odds of running down VanDam on the final day. Day-1 leader Texan Kelly Jordon plucked 12-11 off the spawning beds today and remained in 3rd with 44-05.

Dean Rojas of Arizona climbed two places to 4th with a 13-07 stringer for a 43-07 total. Greg Hackney rounded out the Top 5 with a 14-01 bag (41-14 total) that pushed him up 10 places.

Here's how the Sunday field stacks up (red numbers in parentheses indicate deficit margin from leader):

1. Kevin VanDam: 47-15
2. Matt Herren: 44-07 (3-08)
3. Kelly Jordon: 44-05 (3-10)
4. Dean Rojas: 43-07 (4-08)
5. Greg Hackney: 41-14 (6-01)
6. Matt Sphar: 41-09 (6-06)
7. (tie) Shaw Grigsby: 41-08 (6-07)
7. (tie) Byron Velvick: 41-08 (6-07)
9. James Niggemeyer: 41-01 (6-14)
10. Jeff Connella: 41-00 (6-15)
11. Skeet Reese: 40-04 (7-11)
12. Aaron Martens: 40-00 (7-15)

Some were surprised that more fish didn't move onto the beds today. The bright sun has warmed the water temperature to 70 degrees in some places, but a lot of males can still be seen staging just outside the spawning grounds. They'll have to commit before the big wave of larger females will go.

The weekend recreational traffic might have something to do with their reluctance Smith Mountain is always inundated on good-weather weekends. A new moon arrives tonight, though, and that may convince some of them to go to the shallows.



ESPN Outdoors/Seigo Saito
Photo: ESPN Outdoors/Seigo Saito

Matt Herren knows that catching VanDam tomorrow will be a tall order.

That might need to happen for anybody to have a chance to catch VanDam. He's a superb closer who can make instantaneous adjustments, and nobody expects him to come in much lighter than his near-16-pound average.

Tomorrow's forecast for the Moneta, Va. area calls for more sun with a high temperature of 91 degrees and a southwest wind topping out at 12 mph.

VanDam Making Right Moves

VanDam has long been one of the best anglers in the game. But in a sport with as many variables as tournament bass fishing, even the best need some chips to fall in the right places.

He said that's happened for him this week.

"Sometimes things don't go your way and sometimes they do," he said. "One thing I can say about this tournament is I've made a lot of decisions that have worked out well.

"Regardless of how it ends up, I'm real proud of what I've done to this point. I judge my performance based on decisions and execution, and this is the best event I've had this year."

He's weighed eight smallmouths so far, but said he's just about depleted his brown-fish areas. He'll have to go in search of largemouths as well. He's not sight-fishing exclusively, but he's spied a lot of the fish he's caught to this point.

"I don't have any spawning fish left at all, so I'm going to have to hunt for new water. But new fish are coming for sure I saw quite a few today, but they weren't ready to bite.

"I've gotten through 3 days, and somehow I'm going to have to pull another day out. After what I found in practice, I had no dream of contending in this one. I'm always confident, but I also know I could go out there and really struggle. The difference between catching them and not catching them here is such a fine line because they're so finicky."

2nd: Herren Keeps Finding 'Em

Herren is somewhat surprised that he's in this position.

"I'm strictly sight-fishing, and every day I seem to catch a few and at the end of the day I find a few more bed-fish," he said. "This is a place where if you turn one way you do good, and if you turn the other way you do bad.

"The one glimmer of hope I have is catching a big one I saw a couple cruising and if I get fortunate, they'll lock down. But I think Kevin's got something dialed in and he's going to be hard to beat."

He caught a limit within the first hour today and then got his three best ones from the same area.

"I culled twice, and then I quit fishing for ones that clearly weren't going to help me I didn't waste my time on them. I covered a lot of miles today looking for fish and I'll do the same thing tomorrow.

"I'll just run the MinnKota into the ground and see what I can come up with."

3rd: Jordon Still Hanging On

Jordon has clung to the hope that a bunch of big fish will move to the bank before the end of the tournament, but now he's not sure it'll happen until early next week.

"It's very frustrating," he said. "I saw fish swimming everywhere today, but the males have to go up there first and they still looked like they're a day away.

"I thought tomorrow would be the day and I still hope it is, but it's unfortunately looking like it might be Monday."

He blind-fished for about an hour and a half to start the day. It didn't work out, but he'll try it again on day 4.

ESPN Outdoors/Seigo Saito
Photo: ESPN Outdoors/Seigo Saito

Greg Hackney caught some nice fish today, but he saw many that were a lot bigger swimming around.

"I caught a few big ones in practice just fishing, and maybe tomorrow I'll connect with a couple of them. Twenty pounds is what I think I need to catch to have a chance to win. If they come, that won't be a problem. But if there's only a few, I'll have to hope to pull into a place where a new one's pulled up.

"I saw several groups of fish today that I don't know how to catch. That's where they'll pull up on the beds, so if I'm not seeing them, I'll spend more time fishing."

4th: Rojas Disheartened

Rojas felt like he had a solid day, but his deficit to VanDam grew from 2 1/2 pounds to 4 1/2.

"It was a lot better than yesterday, but it's heartbreaking to catch that and keep falling farther behind," he said. "But the weather's nice and the water's warmed up really good, so hopefully more fish will move up and I can catch a big bag (sight-fishing) tomorrow.

"I've got to look for new ones I know where some 1 1/2- and 2-pounders are, but they won't do jack for you. I've got a couple more areas and I'm just trying to stay where people aren't going and in areas that haven't been beaten to death."

He had a limit by about 11:00 today and then culled three times. His bag included a 4 1/2-pounder.

"I'm not catching them real quick they're coming in spurts. I also caught one on a frog, fishing it in between moves.

"A lot of the best fish are in the backs of pockets where they don't get a lot of boat traffic. I just have to pull up on the right bank."

5th: Hackney Back and Forth

Hackney's day-3 bag consisted of three sight-fish and two blind-biters.

"It's one of those deals where I fish around until I find one (on a bed)," he said. "I've been doing the same thing every day and I keep anticipating it getting better. I'm a little disappointed because I thought the fishing was going to be great.

"You can see 25 pounds swimming around, but you can't let that bother you because those fish will not bite."

His two best fish went about 3 1/2 pounds each and both came off of beds.

"It took me about an hour to get a limit and then I improved here and there all day. The last couple hours I went looking for a big one, but I never found one."

He's unsure about how he'll begin the final day.

"If this deal blows wide open, then I might need 25 pounds to win. If it doesn't, then 20 might be enough. There's a fine line of not making the mistake of overcompensating if you see a 2 1/2-pounder, you'd better catch it."

7th: Grigsby Saw Few Big Ones

Sight-fishing maven Shaw Grigsby said he could've had bags that ran close to 20 pounds on each of the first 2 days if he'd caught everything he saw. That wasn't the case today.

"I had one big one that looked at my bait one time, then she was off to never-never land," he said. "I'll do the same thing tomorrow and hopefully somewhere I'll zig into one that's happy and agreeable.

"The good thing is there's not a lot of weight being caught 15 (pounds) a day is a big stringer. But Kevin's been so consistent that you have to figure he'll get 15-plus again. If he does that, then I'd have to have 20 or 22 pounds, and that can happen if you run across two or three big ones."

He said that even if a big wave moves up tonight or tomorrow, they'll likely be tough to entice on the final day.

"What you're looking for are the ones that spawned today and you can catch them tomorrow. I can find more fish, but it's a challenge to catch them. There's a lot of boat traffic and too much pollen can really shut you down."

9th: Niggemeyer Rules the Day

James Niggemeyer caught the day's biggest bag (16-05) that contained the event's biggest fish (7-02). It catapulted him up 28 spots and into the final-day field.

"It was one I had left over from yesterday that I'd worked for an hour and a half and couldn't get her to react," he said of the big sow. "Since last night my whole gameplan has been to get her because I knew it would mean big things.

ESPN Outdoors/Seigo Saito
Photo: ESPN Outdoors/Seigo Saito

This 7-pounder caught by James Niggemeyer is the biggest fish of the tournament thus far.

"When I started messing with the male, she stayed in the area. She was so shy and stand-offish, but I finally got her to take notice of a couple of things. And then once I caught the male, she was all in."

He's spending most of his time sight-fishing, but he'll hit a dock every now and again and throw moving baits in pursuit of smallmouths. He has a couple of new places to try tomorrow.

"There's a lot of water where there's nothing going on, then you'll come into a creek and notice life and stuff happening. I found some areas that are like that, and I'll spend a little time in them and expand from there.

"I hope I can go out there and find a couple of big ones."

20th: Roumbanis Slides

Fred Roumbanis started the day in 2nd place, but managed just four fish for 6-11.

"I had the bites I needed," he said. "I broke one off on the hookset that was 4-plus that bit a wacky-rigged Senko, then I found the biggest fish I've found since I been here and got it to eat a frog, but I missed it.

"I can't believe it ate that frog in open water. That was a last-ditch effort to get it to bite, and I reacted too soon and pulled it away."

He caught most of his fish this week on dropshots and wacky-rigs.

"I'm not too disappointed. All in all, it was a good tournament."

Notable

> Day 3 stats 50 anglers, 40 limits, 7 fours, 1 three, 1 two, 1 one.

> BassFan Big Stick John Murray's bags kept getting progressively smaller and he ended up 49th with 27-12. To read his competition report, click here.

Weather Forecast

Here's the weather forecast for the final day of the tournament.

> Sun., April 25 - Sunny - 91/60
- Wind: From the SW at 12 mph

Day 3 Standings

1. Kevin VanDam -- Kalamazoo, MI -- 15, 47-15 -- 310
Day 1: 5, 15-07 -- Day 2: 5, 17-02 -- Day 3: 5, 15-06

2. Matt Herren -- Trussville, AL -- 15, 44-07 -- 295
Day 1: 5, 17-11 -- Day 2: 5, 11-12 -- Day 3: 5, 15-00

3. Kelly Jordon -- Mineola, TX -- 15, 44-05 -- 295
Day 1: 5, 20-09 -- Day 2: 5, 11-01 -- Day 3: 5, 12-11

4. Dean Rojas -- Lake Havasu City, AZ -- 15, 43-07 -- 285
Day 1: 5, 18-07 -- Day 2: 5, 11-09 -- Day 3: 5, 13-07

5. Greg Hackney -- Gonzales, LA -- 15, 41-14 -- 280
Day 1: 5, 13-13 -- Day 2: 5, 14-00 -- Day 3: 5, 14-01

6. Matthew Sphar -- Pavilion, NY -- 15, 41-09 -- 276
Day 1: 5, 17-13 -- Day 2: 5, 12-13 -- Day 3: 5, 10-15

7. Shaw E Grigsby -- Gainesville, FL -- 15, 41-08 -- 272
Day 1: 5, 15-02 -- Day 2: 5, 13-15 -- Day 3: 5, 12-07

8. Byron Velvick -- Del Rio, TX -- 15, 41-08 -- 268
Day 1: 5, 13-05 -- Day 2: 5, 14-14 -- Day 3: 5, 13-05

9. James Niggemeyer -- Van, TX -- 15, 41-01 -- 264
Day 1: 5, 12-08 -- Day 2: 5, 12-04 -- Day 3: 5, 16-05

10. Jeff Connella -- Bentley, LA -- 15, 41-00 -- 260
Day 1: 5, 11-09 -- Day 2: 5, 14-03 -- Day 3: 5, 15-04

11. Skeet Reese -- Auburn, CA -- 15, 40-04 -- 257
Day 1: 5, 13-03 -- Day 2: 5, 11-04 -- Day 3: 5, 15-13

12. Aaron Martens -- Leeds, AL -- 15, 40-00 -- 254
Day 1: 5, 14-02 -- Day 2: 5, 16-11 -- Day 3: 5, 09-03

The following anglers did not make the cut and will not be fishing tomorrow.

13. Steve Kennedy -- Auburn, AL -- 15, 39-08 -- 251 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 10-07 -- Day 2: 5, 15-06 -- Day 3: 5, 13-11

14. Davy Hite -- Ninety Six, SC -- 15, 39-05 -- 248 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 13-02 -- Day 2: 5, 11-08 -- Day 3: 5, 14-11

15. Morizo Shimizu -- Osaka, Japan -- 15, 39-05 -- 245 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 14-06 -- Day 2: 5, 13-12 -- Day 3: 5, 11-03

16. Jeff Reynolds -- Idabel, OK -- 15, 39-02 -- 243 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 16-07 -- Day 2: 5, 12-02 -- Day 3: 5, 10-09

17. Mark Tyler -- Vian, OK -- 15, 39-02 -- 241 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 15-07 -- Day 2: 5, 13-08 -- Day 3: 5, 10-03

18. Gerald Swindle -- Warrior, AL -- 15, 38-10 -- 239 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 13-09 -- Day 2: 5, 11-07 -- Day 3: 5, 13-10

19. Kevin Short -- Mayflower, AR -- 15, 38-08 -- 237 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 12-06 -- Day 2: 5, 14-09 -- Day 3: 5, 11-09

20. Fred Roumbanis -- Bixby, OK -- 14, 38-06 -- 235 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 15-03 -- Day 2: 5, 16-08 -- Day 3: 4, 06-11

21. Matt Reed -- Madisonville, TX -- 15, 38-04 -- 233 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 16-06 -- Day 2: 5, 12-06 -- Day 3: 5, 09-08

22. Bradley Hallman -- Norman, OK -- 15, 37-14 -- 231 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 15-02 -- Day 2: 5, 11-12 -- Day 3: 5, 11-00

23. Randy Howell -- Springville, AL -- 15, 37-12 -- 229 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 14-03 -- Day 2: 5, 12-04 -- Day 3: 5, 11-05

24. Mark Tucker -- Saint Louis, MO -- 15, 37-09 -- 227 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 14-07 -- Day 2: 5, 13-09 -- Day 3: 5, 09-09

25. Bobby Lane -- Lakeland, FL -- 15, 37-05 -- 225 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 14-09 -- Day 2: 5, 12-04 -- Day 3: 5, 10-08

26. J Todd Tucker -- Moultrie, GA -- 15, 36-15 -- 223 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 14-12 -- Day 2: 5, 12-03 -- Day 3: 5, 10-00

27. Dustin Wilks -- Rocky Mount, NC -- 15, 36-14 -- 221 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 13-11 -- Day 2: 5, 12-00 -- Day 3: 5, 11-03

28. Scott Campbell -- Springfield, MO -- 15, 36-09 -- 219 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 10-14 -- Day 2: 5, 12-06 -- Day 3: 5, 13-05

29. Pat Golden -- High Point, NC -- 15, 36-09 -- 217 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 10-13 -- Day 2: 5, 13-04 -- Day 3: 5, 12-08

30. Dave Wolak -- Wake Forest, NC -- 15, 36-08 -- 215 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 16-05 -- Day 2: 5, 10-04 -- Day 3: 5, 09-15

31. Gary Klein -- Weatherford, TX -- 15, 36-00 -- 213 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 12-15 -- Day 2: 5, 13-15 -- Day 3: 5, 09-02

32. Todd Faircloth -- Jasper, TX -- 15, 35-15 -- 211 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 14-12 -- Day 2: 5, 08-14 -- Day 3: 5, 12-05

33. Kotaro Kiriyama -- Moody, AL -- 15, 35-15 -- 209 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 14-03 -- Day 2: 5, 13-08 -- Day 3: 5, 08-04

34. Takahiro Omori -- Emory, TX -- 15, 35-14 -- 207 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 12-10 -- Day 2: 5, 12-06 -- Day 3: 5, 10-14

35. Billy McCaghren -- Mayflower, AR -- 14, 35-13 -- 205 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 14-14 -- Day 2: 4, 10-03 -- Day 3: 5, 10-12

36. Boyd Duckett -- Demopolis, AL -- 15, 35-03 -- 203 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 13-14 -- Day 2: 5, 11-10 -- Day 3: 5, 09-11

37. Rick Clunn -- Ava, MO -- 14, 35-01 -- 201 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 15-04 -- Day 2: 4, 10-07 -- Day 3: 5, 09-06

38. Terry Scroggins -- San Mateo, FL -- 14, 34-11 -- 199 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 14-02 -- Day 2: 5, 12-09 -- Day 3: 4, 08-00

39. Terry Butcher -- Talala, OK -- 14, 34-08 -- 197 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 15-07 -- Day 2: 5, 10-15 -- Day 3: 4, 08-02

40. Brian Clark -- Haltom City, TX -- 15, 34-04 -- 195 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 12-04 -- Day 2: 5, 12-00 -- Day 3: 5, 10-00

41. Marty Robinson -- Lyman, SC -- 15, 33-13 -- 193 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 15-06 -- Day 2: 5, 08-13 -- Day 3: 5, 09-10

42. Michael Iaconelli -- Runnemede, NJ -- 14, 33-11 -- 191 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 15-13 -- Day 2: 5, 11-10 -- Day 3: 4, 06-04

43. Jason Quinn -- York, SC -- 15, 33-10 -- 189 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 13-12 -- Day 2: 5, 09-08 -- Day 3: 5, 10-06

44. Cliff Pace -- Petal, MS -- 15, 33-08 -- 187 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 13-09 -- Day 2: 5, 10-00 -- Day 3: 5, 09-15

45. Derek Remitz -- Grant, AL -- 13, 33-06 -- 185 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 16-15 -- Day 2: 4, 09-00 -- Day 3: 4, 07-07

46. Chris Lane -- Lakeland, FL -- 14, 33-00 -- 183 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 12-10 -- Day 2: 5, 10-14 -- Day 3: 4, 09-08

47. Kenyon Hill -- Norman, OK -- 14, 31-14 -- 181 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 09-03 -- Day 2: 5, 15-09 -- Day 3: 4, 07-02

48. John Crews -- Salem, VA -- 13, 29-04 -- 179 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 11-15 -- Day 2: 5, 11-15 -- Day 3: 3, 05-06

49. John Murray -- Phoenix, AZ -- 12, 27-12 -- 177 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 16-05 -- Day 2: 5, 07-09 -- Day 3: 2, 03-14

50. Marty Stone -- Fayetteville, NC -- 11, 25-08 -- 175 -- $9,506
Day 1: 5, 15-09 -- Day 2: 5, 08-05 -- Day 3: 1, 01-10

Big Bass

Day 3: James Niggemeyer -- Van, TX -- 7-02
Day 2: Kenyon Hill -- Norman, OK -- 6-07
Day 1: Wade Grooms -- Bonneau, SC -- 06-08