By BassFan Staff

After having what was by far his toughest day at the Lake Okeechobee Bassmaster Elite Series, Tim Horton was certain that he'd wasted his lead of nearly 8 pounds.

"I was hoping on the way in that I'd just be within 2 or 3 pounds (of the new leader) so I'd have a shot tomorrow," he said. "It was really surprising the way it turned out I never saw that coming.

"It was a brutal day for me just trying to get bites and I only culled twice. I didn't land everything today and that had a lot to do with it, because on the other days, I did."

Despite losing a 9-plus-pound fish right at the side of his boat, the veteran from Alabama gained another 13 ounces over the field on day 3 of the circuit's second stop of the 2017 season. His 15-11 bag, which was just a little more than half the size of the one he'd caught the previous day, pushed his total to 71-14 and propelled him more than 8 1/2 pounds ahead of 2nd-place Ott DeFoe.

DeFoe caught 14-14 for a 63-04 aggregate. Right behind him was the ultra-steady Cliff Prince, who boxed 19-11 for a 62-12 total.

Greg Hackney jumped two places to 4th with a 21-07 haul for a 61-02 total. Stephen Browning held onto the No. 5 spot with 59-13 after weighing 17-04.

Here are the totals for the 12 competitors who advanced to the final day (red numbers in parentheses indicate the amount of weight they'll need to make up on the leader:

1. Tim Horton: 71-14
2. Ott DeFoe: 63-04 (8-10)
3. Cliff Prince: 62-12 (9-02)
4. Greg Hackney: 61-02 (10-12)
5. Stephen Browning: 59-13 (12-01)
6. Dean Rojas: 58-02 (13-12)
7. Andy Montgomery: 57-02 (14-12)
8. Fletcher Shryock: 56-02 (15-12)
9. Adrian Avena: 55-08 (16-06)
10. Dave Lefebre: 54-07 (17-07)
11. Jason Williamson: 54-05 (17-09)
12. Bobby Lane: 54-02 (17-12)

The best hope the other 11 anglers have on Sunday might be for a stiff north wind to blow out Horton's area on the south side of the lake. There's a possibility that will occur, as the WeatherChannel.com forecast predicts a previously unanticipated cold front to move in, bringing double-digit wind speeds that can sometimes be doubled on the water. Air temperatures will fall from the mid 80s to the high 70s.

There were no 30-pound bags caught on day 3; the best was turned in by Lefebre, who boxed 25-11 to gain 34 places in the standings. The Pennsylvanian has made a remarkable rally from 100th place after day 1.



B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

Bites in Horton's area at the southern end of the lake were tougher to come by on day 3.

The stringers caught by Montgomery and Avena both exceeded 23 pounds as they moved up nine and 14 places, respectively. Bobby Lane also crawled back into the Top 12, gaining three positions with a 19-05 sack.

Jesse Tacoronte, Randall Tharp, Chad Pipkens and Micah Frazier fell out of the Top 12, although none dropped below 25th place.

Odds Caught Up with Horton

> Day 3: 5, 15-11 (15, 71-14)

Horton was 8-for-8 on boating 5-pound-plus bites coming into today, but was victimized by the law of averages on the biggest fish he'd hooked thus far.

"The odds were against me," he said. "I lost that big one first thing this morning and I had to think about it all day.

"For a couple of minutes it stings you pretty good. I don't know if it affects the way you fish for the rest of the day, but it sure does pop into your mind from time to time."

He spent most of the day in the area in the southern portion of the lake that produced his 26- and 30-pound bags on the first 2 days. He caught his best specimen, a 5-13, from a place much closer to the launch ramp with just minutes remaining to fish.

He threw a frog for awhile, but everything he weighed was again enticed by a Klone Crawsome soft-plastic crayfish imitation.

B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

Ott DeFoe's 14-14 stringer kept him in 2nd place.

"It's getting tougher on everybody. When these fish have been worked for 2 or 3 days, it's hard to stay consistent with it.

"Unless the wind knocks me out, I'm going to stay (with his primary area) for the most part. If I can catch five tomorrow, I think I'll have a couple of decent ones. I really want to find a way to catch 20 pounds."

2nd: DeFoe Couldn't Capitalize

> Day 3: 5, 14-14 (15, 63-04)

DeFoe generated plenty of bites he estimated that he caught at least 20 keepers. However, none of them exceeded 4 1/2 pounds, and that has him thinking that he might have to seek out some new water on the final day.

"My third or fourth fish ended up being the biggest one I caught," he said. "I had a couple more bites that had the potential to be big fish, but I never saw them. They could've been 2 1/2-pounders or they could've been good ones.

"I didn't have to weigh in any real tiny ones, but I was just lacking the 6- to 9-pounders again."

He doubts that the bigger fish have completely deserted him, but they've definitely relocated and he's yet to track them down.

"I think there has to be some around still, but I'm surprised I haven't run into any of them. I'll start tomorrow in the same place I have been because I did catch that one good one today, and I'll fish the meat of that stretch. After that I'll just kind of go fishing. I've got one area where I've caught a lot of 2- to 3-pounders and I'll spend a little bit of time there again, but I'll spend a lot of the day looking at new stuff.

"There's no question I need 20 pounds to have a shot (at winning) and that'd be with Tim catching less than 12. I need big bites, and other than the first day I haven't seen them, but the kind of fish I'm looking for are swimming everywhere."

3rd: Prince Scored Late

> Day 3: 5, 19-11 (15, 62-12)

A 7-pounder on his final flip of the day allowed Prince to remain among the Top 3.

"That fish culled a 13-incher, so it was really a rabbit out of a hat," he said. "I went from having less than 15 pounds to almost 20.

"It wasn't a shock that there was a fish there I'd caught a couple on that stretch the first day that I weighed in, but I didn't know there were any 7-pounders there. Then again, a 7-pounder could be anywhere on Okeechobee."

He's caught his best specimens each day after 11 o'clock.

"I've caught them different all 3 days the first day I got my best ones on topwater, then yesterday was sight-fishing, and today I caught a couple on a frog and that big one flipping. I don't think the fish have necessarily changed as much as the conditions permitting me to do what it takes to catch them."

B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

Cliff Prince caught his biggest fish on his final flip of the day.

His weights have been remarkably consistent, but he knows he'll need a much bigger bag on the final day to have a shot at winning.

"It's hard to make up that deficit against a guy who's caught a 30-pound bag. I'll probably need at least 27, but that's possible. I'm going to give it a good whirl."

4th: Hackney Stays Solid

> Day 3: 5, 21-07

Hackney continued to inch his way up the leaderboard he was 10th after day 1 and 6th after day 2.

"I didn't have a really good practice, so I feel very fortunate to be where I'm at in the tournament," he said. "I really like the way I'm fishing and I really like fishing here because you can catch an 8- or 9-pounder on any cast.

"Tomorrow I'll just go fishing like I have been and hope it works out. Not on any day have I caught a lot of fish, but I'm not really fishing a way that gets a lot of bites."

He's employing two Strike King Hack Attack jigs one designed for flipping and the other for swimming. His day-3 bag contained a 7-pounder, a 5 and three 3s.

He's fishing an area on the southern end of the lake, but west of the place that's being shared by Horton and Rojas.

"It's a big area and I'm just fishing around it. I don't think it necessarily has lots of fish, but I haven't had to share water with anybody. I've made the most out of a little bit."

5th: Browning Lightened Up

> Day 4: 5, 17-04 (15, 59-13)

Browning would've had a rough day if not for a 7 1/2-pound bite.

"I'll tell you what, I just can't get out of the gate," he said. "I basically had to pick up a spinning rod to try to catch same, and luckily I did catch a big one on it. That fish was a day-saver, for sure."

He said the fish actually wasn't too difficult to handle on the lighter equipment.

"I got it on 20-pound Gamma Torque braid and 12-pound Gamma fluorocarbon (leader) and just kind of got her head up and kept the pressure on her and got her to the boat. She didn't do anything crazy."

He's fishing the North Shore, which was extremely crowded the first 2 days but wasn't nearly as congested on day 3 following the elimination of nearly half the field.

"I moved around a lot today, hoping to come across the right stretch or two. I really wasn't bothered by a lot of boat traffic or other competitors losing 60 of them yesterday really made a big difference. Nobody had to fish on top of each other.

"I don't think I'll change anything tomorrow as far as baits and stuff, but I'll keep moving around. I know there's another 26-plus bag out there and it's a matter of hitting that magic little area. I'll keep searching for it."

6th: Little Quality for Rojas

> Day 3: 5, 15-01 (15, 58-02)

Rojas' weight was off by a little more than 10 pounds from day 2.

"I caught 12 keepers, but just not the quality," he said. "A 4-pounder was the biggest one I had. I had one big one hooked for just a split second, but then it came off."

He said there was far more boat traffic today than there had been previously, but he hopes that will dissipate on the final day.

"We had a lot of weekend fishermen coming in and there were spectator boats in there, and things were getting churned up and some of the tule patches got run over. That being said, tomorrow's Sunday and we're supposed to have a pretty good wind, and maybe that'll thin some of those people out. It's just one of those deals.

"I'm going to play the weather and see what it has in store. If the wind tears the place up too bad, I might go to my secondary area where I fished some the first day, but I won't make that decision until I'm driving over there."

Notable

> Day 3 stats 51 anglers, 50 limits, 1 four.

Weather Forecast

> Sun., Feb. 26 Mostly Sunny - 79/59
- Wind: From the NNE at 12 mph

Day 3 Standings

1. Tim Horton -- Muscle Shoals, AL -- 15, 71-14 -- 110
Day 1: 5, 25-15 -- Day 2: 5, 30-04 -- Day 3: 5, 15-11

2. Ott DeFoe -- Knoxville, TN -- 15, 63-04 -- 109
Day 1: 5, 31-03 -- Day 2: 5, 17-03 -- Day 3: 5, 14-14

3. Cliff Prince -- Palatka, FL -- 15, 62-12 -- 108
Day 1: 5, 21-11 -- Day 2: 5, 21-06 -- Day 3: 5, 19-11

4. Greg Hackney -- Gonzales, LA -- 15, 61-02 -- 107
Day 1: 5, 20-02 -- Day 2: 5, 19-09 -- Day 3: 5, 21-07

5. Stephen Browning -- Hot Springs, AR -- 15, 59-13 -- 106
Day 1: 5, 26-13 -- Day 2: 5, 15-12 -- Day 3: 5, 17-04

6. Dean Rojas -- Lake Havasu City, AZ -- 15, 58-02 -- 105
Day 1: 5, 17-13 -- Day 2: 5, 25-04 -- Day 3: 5, 15-01

7. Andy Montgomery -- Blacksburg, SC -- 15, 57-02 -- 104
Day 1: 5, 20-13 -- Day 2: 5, 12-09 -- Day 3: 5, 23-12

8. Fletcher Shryock -- New Philadelphia, OH -- 15, 56-02 -- 103
Day 1: 5, 17-00 -- Day 2: 5, 20-04 -- Day 3: 5, 18-14

9. Adrian Avena -- Vineland, NJ -- 15, 55-08 -- 102
Day 1: 5, 15-02 -- Day 2: 5, 17-00 -- Day 3: 5, 23-06

10. Dave Lefebre -- Erie, PA -- 15, 54-07 -- 101
Day 1: 5, 07-07 -- Day 2: 5, 21-05 -- Day 3: 5, 25-11

11. Jason Williamson -- Wagener, SC -- 15, 54-05 -- 100
Day 1: 5, 17-09 -- Day 2: 5, 19-05 -- Day 3: 5, 17-07

12. Bobby Lane Jr. -- Lakeland, FL -- 15, 54-02 -- 99
Day 1: 5, 21-15 -- Day 2: 5, 12-14 -- Day 3: 5, 19-05

The following anglers did not make the cut and will not fish on day 4.

13. Bill Lowen -- Brookville, IN -- 15, 53-11 -- 98 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 17-11 -- Day 2: 5, 15-02 -- Day 3: 5, 20-14

14. Brett Hite -- Phoenix, AZ -- 15, 53-10 -- 97 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 23-03 -- Day 2: 5, 10-01 -- Day 3: 5, 20-06

15. Jeff Kriet -- Ardmore, OK -- 15, 53-06 -- 96 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 19-08 -- Day 2: 5, 12-00 -- Day 3: 5, 21-14

16. Jesse Tacoronte -- Orlando, FL -- 15, 53-03 -- 95 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 10-12 -- Day 2: 5, 28-04 -- Day 3: 5, 14-03

17. David Fritts -- Lexington, NC -- 15, 51-08 -- 94 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 16-06 -- Day 2: 5, 18-10 -- Day 3: 5, 16-08

18. Luke Clausen -- Otis Orchards, WA -- 15, 51-06 -- 93 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 09-08 -- Day 2: 5, 19-02 -- Day 3: 5, 22-12

19. Boyd Duckett -- Guntersville, AL -- 15, 51-04 -- 92 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 08-12 -- Day 2: 5, 22-03 -- Day 3: 5, 20-05

20. Micah Frazier -- Newnan, GA -- 15, 51-01 -- 91 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 13-08 -- Day 2: 5, 22-04 -- Day 3: 5, 15-05

21. Chad Pipkens -- Lansing, MI -- 15, 51-00 -- 90 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 19-09 -- Day 2: 5, 16-07 -- Day 3: 5, 15-00

22. Brandon Lester -- Fayetteville, TN -- 15, 50-13 -- 89 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 15-15 -- Day 2: 5, 15-12 -- Day 3: 5, 19-02

23. Josh Bertrand -- Gilbert, AZ -- 15, 50-08 -- 88 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 16-10 -- Day 2: 5, 15-12 -- Day 3: 5, 18-02

24. Kevin VanDam -- Kalamazoo, MI -- 15, 49-15 -- 87 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 10-05 -- Day 2: 5, 18-11 -- Day 3: 5, 20-15

25. Randall Tharp -- Port St. Joe, FL -- 15, 49-15 -- 86 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 18-03 -- Day 2: 5, 20-05 -- Day 3: 5, 11-07

26. Dustin Connell -- Clanton, AL -- 15, 49-14 -- 85 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 18-08 -- Day 2: 5, 12-14 -- Day 3: 5, 18-08

27. Keith Poche -- Pike Road, AL -- 15, 49-13 -- 84 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 16-00 -- Day 2: 5, 14-01 -- Day 3: 5, 19-12

28. Mark Davis -- Mount Ida, AR -- 15, 49-13 -- 83 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 19-00 -- Day 2: 5, 12-15 -- Day 3: 5, 17-14

29. Brent Ehrler -- Newport Beach, CA -- 15, 49-11 -- 82 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 19-09 -- Day 2: 5, 10-06 -- Day 3: 5, 19-12

30. Steve Kennedy -- Auburn, AL -- 15, 49-02 -- 81 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 18-07 -- Day 2: 5, 11-15 -- Day 3: 5, 18-12

31. Casey Ashley -- Donalds, SC -- 15, 47-03 -- 80 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 14-08 -- Day 2: 5, 17-14 -- Day 3: 5, 14-13

32. Hank Cherry Jr -- Lincolnton, NC -- 15, 46-15 -- 79 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 13-13 -- Day 2: 5, 17-10 -- Day 3: 5, 15-08

33. Alton Jones Jr. -- Lorena, TX -- 15, 46-04 -- 78 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 12-01 -- Day 2: 5, 19-05 -- Day 3: 5, 14-14

34. James Elam -- Tulsa, OK -- 15, 45-10 -- 77 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 15-10 -- Day 2: 5, 12-06 -- Day 3: 5, 17-10

35. Gary Klein -- Weatherford, TX -- 15, 45-09 -- 76 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 12-07 -- Day 2: 5, 22-15 -- Day 3: 5, 10-03

36. Todd Faircloth -- Jasper, TX -- 15, 44-13 -- 75 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 10-15 -- Day 2: 5, 20-01 -- Day 3: 5, 13-13

37. Stetson Blaylock -- Benton, AR -- 15, 44-11 -- 74 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 13-04 -- Day 2: 5, 16-03 -- Day 3: 5, 15-04

38. Jordan Lee -- Grant, AL -- 15, 44-08 -- 73 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 17-02 -- Day 2: 5, 16-13 -- Day 3: 5, 10-09

39. Brock Mosley -- Collinsville, MS -- 15, 44-07 -- 72 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 14-04 -- Day 2: 5, 15-00 -- Day 3: 5, 15-03

40. Jesse Wiggins -- Cullman, AL -- 15, 44-05 -- 71 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 11-10 -- Day 2: 5, 16-10 -- Day 3: 5, 16-01

41. Brandon Card -- Knoxville, TN -- 15, 44-03 -- 70 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 19-10 -- Day 2: 5, 08-14 -- Day 3: 5, 15-11

42. Jason Christie -- Park Hill, OK -- 15, 43-04 -- 69 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 17-03 -- Day 2: 5, 11-15 -- Day 3: 5, 14-02

43. Cliff Pace -- Petal, MS -- 15, 42-15 -- 68 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 17-02 -- Day 2: 5, 13-15 -- Day 3: 5, 11-14

44. Edwin Evers -- Talala, OK -- 15, 41-05 -- 67 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 11-02 -- Day 2: 5, 17-00 -- Day 3: 5, 13-03

45. Tyler Carriere -- Youngsville, LA -- 15, 40-11 -- 66 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 15-03 -- Day 2: 5, 14-15 -- Day 3: 5, 10-09

46. David Mullins -- Mt Carmel, TN -- 15, 40-09 -- 65 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 17-15 -- Day 2: 5, 14-10 -- Day 3: 5, 08-00

47. Brian Snowden -- Reeds Spring, MO -- 15, 40-09 -- 64 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 16-11 -- Day 2: 5, 14-14 -- Day 3: 5, 09-00

48. Skylar Hamilton -- Dandridge, TN -- 12, 40-00 -- 63 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 20-03 -- Day 2: 3, 08-09 -- Day 3: 4, 11-04

49. David Walker -- Sevierville, TN -- 15, 36-14 -- 62 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 14-15 -- Day 2: 5, 14-09 -- Day 3: 5, 07-06

50. Paul Mueller -- Naugatuck, CT -- 15, 35-15 -- 61 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 21-09 -- Day 2: 5, 07-08 -- Day 3: 5, 06-14

51. Chad Grigsby -- Maple Grove, MN -- 15, 35-15 -- 60 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 15-12 -- Day 2: 5, 12-02 -- Day 3: 5, 08-01