By Todd Ceisner
BassFan Editor

There was a little bit of jockeying for position near the top of the Group A leaderboard today as the first portion of the Shotgun Round of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes MLF Bass Pro Tour came to a close.

Not nearly as much as there was further down the ledger, though.

With all the focus on getting inside the top 20 and advancing to the Knockout Round, four anglers fished their way into the next phase of the inaugural event, including two who came from near the bottom of the standings.

While Ish Monroe racked up 24 bass for 61-04 over two days, including 20-07 (nine fish) today, to claim the top spot in Group A, Kelly Jordon and Andy Montgomery continued this weeks trend of big rallies.

Ott DeFoe tallied 25-10 today and finished 2nd in the group with 60-08 while Zack Birge caught 21-00 to finish 3rd with 57-09. Randy Howell, who led after day 1, slipped to 4th after catching just three fish for 7-08 to finish with 57-04. Takahiro Omori carded 32-09, the second-best total of the day, to move into 5th with 52-05.

Jordon began the day in 36th, more than 12 pounds below the top-20 cut line. He was one of two anglers to catch at least 12 pounds in the first period today and he carried that momentum through the rest of the day. He tacked on 13 fish for 21-09 in the second period (both were period-bests today) and added five more bass in the third to finish with a day-best 42-07 (24 fish) and finish 6th in the group.

It sure felt good because it was a pitiful first day, Jordon said.

Montgomery was in worse shape than Jordon after Tuesdays round. He had carded just one fish for 1-14 and was 39th in the 40-man field. Today didnt start any better with a zero in the first period. His first keeper came midway through the second period, and the 1-11 fish touched off a flurry over the next 45 minutes that saw him reel in five more, including two 3-pounders.

He saved his best for the third period when he landed three straight brutes a 4-06 followed by a 5-06 and a 4-13 to move into the top 20. He added a couple more smaller fish later to secure his spot in the Knockout Round in 17th place. His 11 fish weighed 32-01 as he fell just shy of averaging 3 pounds per fish over the first two days.

A guy that hasnt caught squat is dangerous because hes looking, Montgomery said. I have been in enough of these to know that you just get that feeling. You know whats going on and what to do and youre gonna catch em. When I was still 10 pounds back, I knew my chances of making it were really high.

Jordan Lee went fishless through two periods today and had fallen to 27th, more than 5 pounds below the cut line. He turned things around in the third with six fish for 13-07, highlighted by a 4-05 with 18 minutes left in the day. He tallied two more bass, including a 2-12 with a minute remaining to slide into the 20th spot and prolong his tournament.

It was awesome, Lee said. I just needed one more bite, like everyone says. I was around an area where Id gotten all those bites and I was going to burn my bait in because I thought I saw a fish break, then it loaded up.

Honestly, my heart was beating so fast. I hadnt felt that in a while. In most tournaments, you dont know when you catch a good one what itll do for you. Here, knowing what you need and to be able to catch it is exciting. You dont feel it unless youre the one doing it, but it was awesome to get that bite at the end, knowing Id made it.

Brett Hite caught 12 fish for 22-10 today and improved from 25th to 18th to extend his tournament.

The top 20 from today will be joined in the Knockout Round on Saturday by the top 20 finishers in Group B, which finishes up its Shotgun Round tomorrow. Weights will be zeroed and the top 10 from the Knockout Round will move on to the Championship Round on Sunday, when weights reset to zero again and a champion will be crowned based on that days weight.

With the sun tucked away behind the clouds for a second straight day and the wind playing a big factor again, the conditions were less than ideal for targeting Florida-strain bass. With rain and more wind in the forecast for the next two days, it could be more of a grind than a big-fish shootout. Theres yet to be a 7-pounder caught through three days.

Major League Fishing/Phoenix Moore
Photo: Major League Fishing/Phoenix Moore

Ish Monroe spent most of today searching for areas he may come back to Saturday.

Jordon wasnt interested in finding new stuff today. He just wanted to make up the deficit to 20th, which was 9 pounds, 3 ounces after Tuesday.

Thats a mountain to climb, he said. Then you know that guys caught 40 and 50 pounds and I had fished around guys Tuesday that caught them like that.

Still, he had to overcome some day-1 missteps and make some adjustments.

its the first tournament and Im hard-headed and I tried to force stuff, he said. Ive fished MLF for a long time and I tried to make things happen. We had high, bluebird skies and no wind after all that weather we got in practice. It was a shocker to the fish and I didnt do well to adjust. Today, I had nowhere to go but up.

Five minutes into the day, he caught a 3-06 to set the tone and by the end of the first period, he had moved up to 23rd, just 3-11 out of the 20th spot.

That was the change I needed, he said. It was like, Here we go. Id made up the deficit and now its game on.

He made a major move in the second period, catching a bakers dozen for 21-09 to advance into the top 10.

I was around the fish and I knew I had to just roll with it, he said. I got some bites and it was lot easier to go with it. I caught them all day. When its that way its fun and easy.

There was nothing fun and easy about the start to Lee's day. Sitting on zero fish after two periods, he was in a negative mood.

I hate my life, he recalls thinking. The only thing Id touched were chain pickerel. Id had some bites, but I was in Hatchineha and I felt like I needed to run back down to an area where Id caught fish Tuesday. I spent the whole first period with nothing and I was pretty down knowing I had just 2 hours to fish with the run down there.

The move didnt pay off how hed hoped as he caught a 1-08 to get on the board.

I needed to make another move because that wasnt working, he said. I was trying to find a protected area and stopped where I hadnt fished before. The water looked good and it had good grass. I caught a couple, then caught a 4-pounder and I knew I was not out of it. It all happened pretty quick.

At 3:20, he landed a 1 1/2-pounder, then the 2-12 clincher came at 3:29.

I was struggling today, he said. Its hard on the Kissimmee Chain to adjust because theres so much dead water out there. You cant pull up anywhere and catch fish. Its so area specific and with the limited practice you dont have many areas to hit. I went out on a limb and got fortunate.

And he couldnt more excited to be moving on to the next round.

Its awesome, especially knowing the position I was in, he said. I was thinking I wouldnt get another shot, but its cool how quick it can happen. Its going to be fun fishing on the weekend. Its where you want to be and with the weights zeroed, its nice to know I dont have to play catch-up.

The key to Montgomerys turnaround was simple. He changed lakes and he may not make another cast in Lake Toho ever again.

After a scoreless first period, he locked into Lake Kissimmee and turned his tournament around over the final 5 hours.

I finally got out of Toho, he said. We never got along with it. Ive always had bites there, but never made it happen in a tournament.

Its not like the spot he ran to had a lot of meaning to him either. Hed found it on Google Earth and figured it was worth a look.

Id never been to it before in my life. I fished around and got a couple bites, then my confidence grew and I just rolled with it, he said.

His first fish was a 1-11, but he followed it up with a 3-10 about 10 minutes later. By the end of the second period, he had climbed from 39th to 29th, but was still 7 1/2 pounds out of 20th. No matter, his confidence was swelling. He lost a couple fish to start the third, but he sensed he was in a good area.

One bite does that, he said. My confidence went through the roof because I knew Id gotten around some. Then I caught one and then I caught a good one, and I started to think I could make it happen.

Sure enough, the 4-13 he landed at 2:06 p.m. put him inside the top 20 to stay and confirmed his feelings about Toho.

Its a good feeling, but Im done with Toho for the rest of my life. Done forever, he said.

Monroe was stoked to find out this afternoon that he earned a $500 bonus for being the Group A winner, but hes also looking forward to being among the 40 competitors on Saturday in the Knockout Round.

Im super excited about it, he said. Ive literally gotten four hours of sleep the whole week. I barely slept last night because I was so excited to go fishing. Im just hoping Im so tired today that Ill just fall asleep and not wake up until late tomorrow.

He said since he was in a comfortable position on the leaderboard, he devoted all of today to gearing up for the next round.

I was going to watch the leaderboard and if guys got close to me, then Id go hammer on my fish, he said. That didnt happen and I rode by my spot multiple times and never saw anybody there, so I left it.

That allowed him to test some theories and identify some new areas for the weekend.

Any chance you have to go out and practice is good, he said. I never fished anything today that I practiced on.

He caught a 4-pounder at his first stop, then picked off a 3-pounder an hour later, but he wasnt satisfied despite those being his two biggest fish of the day.

It was too slow, he said. I needed to be consistently catching fish, so I learned if you keep moving youll keep catching them. I must have burned 40 gallons of fuel running around looking at new stuff.


> Day 3 stats: Period 1 98 fish, 191-13; Period 2 105 fish, 203-13; Period 3 109 fish, 225-10; Total 312 fish, 621-04 (1.99-pound average)

> The 11 anglers who caught 20 pounds or more today all made the cut and will compete in Saturday's Knockout Round.

Weather Forecast

> Fri., Feb. 1 Cloudy, Rain Likely - 74/61
- Wind: From the ENE at 10 to 15 mph

> Sat., Feb. 2 Scattered Thunderstorms - 76/62
- Wind: From the ENE at 5 to 10 mph

> Sun., Feb. 3 Mix of Sun and Clouds - 76/61
- Wind: From the NW at 10 to 15 mph

Day 3 Results Group A Elimination Round

1. Ish Monroe -- 15, 40-13 -- 9, 20-07 -- 24, 61-04

2. Ott DeFoe -- 14, 34-14 -- 11, 25-10 -- 25, 60-08

3. Zack Birge -- 15, 36-09 -- 6, 21-00 -- 21, 57-09

4. Randy Howell -- 26, 49-12 -- 3, 7-08 -- 29, 57-04

5. Takahiro Omori -- 8, 19-12 -- 19, 32-09 -- 27, 52-05

6. Kelly Jordon -- 2, 3-13 -- 24, 42-07 -- 26, 46-04

7. Gerald Spohrer -- 17, 35-04 -- 6, 10-00 -- 23, 45-04

8. Randall Tharp -- 9, 28-11 -- 6, 15-04 -- 15, 43-15

9. Chris Lane -- 10, 18-00 -- 13, 25-02 -- 23, 43-02

10. Dave Lefebre -- 15, 26-06 -- 9, 15-07 -- 23, 41-13

11. Mark Davis -- 8, 24-03 -- 15, 16-10 -- 24, 40-13

12. Jared Lintner -- 13, 13-13 -- 10, 25-12 -- 23, 39-09

13. Brandon Coulter -- 17, 32-05 -- 4, 5-04 -- 21, 37-09

14. Michael Neal -- 8, 13-14 -- 12, 23-04 -- 20, 37-02

15. Jacob Wheeler -- 11, 23-09 -- 7, 12-04 -- 18, 35-13

16. Edwin Evers -- 8, 11-00 -- 11, 24-11 -- 19, 35-11

17. Andy Montgomery -- 1, 1-14 -- 11, 32-01 -- 12, 33-15

18. Brett Hite -- 8, 10-13 -- 12, 22-10 -- 20, 33-07

19. Mark Daniels -- 8, 20-13 -- 6, 11-14 -- 14, 32-11

20. Jordan Lee -- 9, 17-05 -- 6, 13-07 -- 15, 30-12

The following anglers missed the cut and will not compete in the Knockout Round.

21. Greg Vinson -- 12, 18-13 -- 7, 11-13 -- 19, 30-10

22. Stephen Browning -- 10, 13-00 -- 6, 16-05 -- 16, 29-05

23. Matt Lee -- 7, 17-15 -- 6, 11-01 -- 13, 29-00

24. Cody Meyer -- 5, 10-03 -- 12, 18-12 -- 17, 28-15

25. Russ Lane -- 7, 16-01 -- 6, 11-00 -- 13, 27-01

26. Roy Hawk -- 5, 12-12 -- 6, 13-10 -- 11, 26-06

27. David Walker -- 3, 6-04 -- 11, 19-08 -- 14, 25-12

28. Tim Horton -- 6, 9-04 -- 6, 15-06 -- 12, 24-10

29. Casey Ashley -- 6, 13-00 -- 5, 9-00 -- 11, 22-00

30. Mike McClelland -- 3, 4-00 -- 7, 14-13 -- 10, 18-13

31. Fred Roumbanis -- 4, 5-12 -- 7, 11-11 -- 11, 17-07

32. Andy Morgan -- 8, 9-14 -- 2, 7-03 -- 10, 17-01

33. Gary Klein -- 8, 12-14 -- 2, 2-08 -- 10, 15-06

34. James Watson -- 3, 9-00 -- 6, 6-02 -- 10, 15-02

35. Jason Lambert -- 6, 7-00 -- 4, 7-05 -- 9, 14-05

36. James Elam -- 4, 3-04 -- 5, 10-15 -- 9, 14-03

37. Tommy Biffle -- 2, 4-03 -- 5, 9-12 -- 7, 13-15

38. Justin Lucas -- 1, 1-06 -- 3, 11-12 -- 4, 13-02

39. Keith Poche -- 3, 3-14 -- 3, 4-11 -- 6, 8-09

40. Shin Fukae -- 2, 2-06 -- 3, 3-14 -- 5, 6-04