By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor

The action at Falls Lake is on a definite uptick as the 40 surviving anglers prepare to compete in the Knockout Round at the MLF Bass Pro Tour stop in Raleigh, N.C.. The Group B Elimination Round didn't feature as much late-day drama as the Group A segment the previous day, but there were significantly more impressive fish hauls.

Now just about everybody who's left from either group hopes the water level stops receding, lest the fish they've found be forced to relocate or become entirely inaccessible.

Ish Monroe emerged as the Group-B victor with a combined 60-12 total from the Shotgun and Eliminated rounds at Jordan Lake and Falls, respectively. He boated 20-11 at Falls and said he could've tallied much more had he not been in conservation mode for the succeeding round.

"I caught that completely practicing," he said. "I shook off a lot of fish today, so I'm feeling really good about tomorrow. I have no idea (how much he could've caught) because I shook off 15 to 18 bites and there was definitely a couple of big 'uns in there. I shook off more than I caught.

"The only thing that could make those fish move is if the water keeps dropping and it's already pretty low. It could make me pull out to where everybody else is fishing. I didn't fish around anybody today."

David Walker, who led after the Shotgun Round, finished 2nd with 56-13 (9-07 at Falls). Brett Hite was 3rd with 55-01 (13-01).

Brandon Palaniuk catapulted from 34th to 4th with a day-best 42-05 haul on 16 fish gave him a 50-15 aggregate. Casey Ashley completed the top 5 with 49-14 after catching just one fish albeit a 7 1/2-pounder at Falls.

Another big mover, Russ Lane, led the second half of the top 10 after a 16-fish, 36-15 performance at Falls. He was trailed by Ott DeFoe with 46-11 (2-10 in the Elimination Round), Brent Chapman with 43-15 (24-09), Stephen Browning with 42-01 (12-01) and the third major climber, Jeff Sprague, with 41-06. Sprague caught 14 fish for 33-07 at Falls.

Also advancing to the Knockout Round were Terry Scroggins (39-15 total), Bradley Roy (39-15), Takahiro Omori (39-12), Greg Hackney (38-12), Shaw Grigsby (37-09), Mark Rose (36-12), Aaron Martens (36-10), Dustin Connell (36-06), Tim Horton (35-03) and Jeff Kriet (33-10).

Weights will be zeroed for the Knockout Round. From there, the top 10 will advance to Sunday's Championship Round, where they'll start from scratch again.

Grigsby's 8-10 bruiser was the biggest fish of the day. Ashley, Martens and Skeet Reese, who finished 23rd, all caught fish that registered over 7.

Palaniuk's final fish was a 6-pounder. His next biggest was a 4-04.



MLF
Photo: MLF

Russ Lane said he celebrated wildly after catching this 7 1/2-pounder.

"I had a better practice day here than I did on Jordan and I was looking forward to getting out here," he said. "I knew I had a really big hill to climb and my goal for the day was 25 pounds. After I got there, I felt like I should go to at least 30 you just don't know and the weights were so tight.

"I did regret catching that last one a little bit because I didn't need it today and I could really use it tomorrow. It was on new water, though, so it was kind of reassuring at the same time."

He said his confidence level is high, but not quite through the roof.

"I have some doubts, but not any more than normal. With the weather changing and the water level going up and down, fish can leave or show up. I don't think any place or pattern is safe right now.

"Not knowing what it's going to be like tomorrow has me a little nervous, but I'm catching them better than the majority of the field and that's all I can ask for."

Lane, who struggled badly on the Bassmaster Elite Series last year and didn't make it out of the Elimination Round at either of the first two BPT events, was thrilled to move up 25 places on the day.

"It feels awesome, man," he said. "It feels like a long time since I had a good day.

"Just keeping an open mind was the key. I pretty much had an idea that what I was doing on my practice day at that lake wasn't going to be any good because it had gotten warmer, so I had to scrap everything and start over. I figured out a different kind of deal real quick and just went with it."

He caught his 7-10 hawg on a crankbait midway through the second period. Normally fairly stoic, he said he had a joyous reaction.

"It put up a pretty good fight and it was nerve-wracking there for a minute. When I caught that fish I knew I'd probably make the cut and I went pretty crazy.

"I feel like I can go out and catch some more tomorrow. I think the fish are swimming right now a lot of them are on their way to somewhere else. I'll start where I caught some today and try to keep an open mind. I'll make adjustments if I need to, but hopefully I won't have to."

Sprague said he had a lousy practice day on Falls and took a calculated risk today that paid off.

"I put all my eggs in one basket," he said. "I bet on them showing up, and they showed. They'll stay where they are tonight and hopefully more will come in. I just hope they don't keep dropping the water it's hard to get where I'm going and it's getting pretty skinny, and that's scaring me a little.

"I've got three areas that I pulled into and I caught some out of all of them. Between the three, if I can get a few bites out of each of them tomorrow, I think it'll put me where I need to be."

Weather Forecast

> Sat., March 30 Cloudy - 76/57
- Wind: From the SSW at 12 mph

> Sun., March 31 Light Rain - 62/36
- Wind: From the WNW at 10 mph

Day 4 Standings Group B Elimination Round

1. Ish Monroe -- 10, 40-01 -- 8, 20-11 -- 18, 60-12

2. David Walker -- 15, 47-06 -- 4, 9-07 -- 19, 56-13

3. Brett Hite -- 17, 42-00 -- 4, 13-01 -- 21, 55-01

4. Brandon Palaniuk -- 3, 8-10 -- 16, 42-05 -- 19, 50-15

5. Casey Ashley -- 16, 42-08 -- 1, 7-06 -- 17, 49-14

6. Russ Lane -- 5, 11-06 -- 16, 36-15 -- 21, 48-05

7. Ott DeFoe -- 13, 44-01 -- 2, 2-10 -- 15, 46-11

8. Brent Chapman -- 7, 19-06 -- 8, 24-09 -- 15, 43-15

9. Stephen Browning -- 10, 30-00 -- 8, 12-01 -- 18, 42-01

10. Jeff Sprague -- 4, 7-15 -- 14, 33-07 -- 18, 41-06

11. Terry Scroggins -- 8, 24-01 -- 6, 15-04 -- 14, 39-15

12. Bradley Roy -- 6, 26-05 -- 6, 13-10 -- 12, 39-15

13. Takahiro Omori -- 11, 32-03 -- 4, 7-09 -- 15, 39-12

14. Greg Hackney -- 5, 18-00 -- 8, 20-12 -- 13, 38-12

15. Shaw Grigsby -- 8, 22-15 -- 3, 14-10 -- 11, 37-09

16. Mark Rose -- 7, 24-15 -- 6, 11-13 -- 13, 36-12

17. Aaron Martens -- 10, 19-13 -- 8, 16-13 -- 18, 36-10

18. Dustin Connell -- 8, 30-15 -- 2, 5-07 -- 10, 36-06

19. Tim Horton -- 6, 23-12 -- 5, 11-06 -- 11, 35-03

20. Jeff Kriet -- 8, 21-00 -- 6, 12-10 -- 14, 33-10

The following anglers did not make the cut and will not advance to the Elimination Round.

21. Marty Robinson -- 6, 21-08 -- 5, 10-11 -- 11, 32-03

22. Dave Lefebre -- 6, 23-00 -- 6, 8-13 -- 12, 31-13

23. Skeet Reese -- 7, 21-14 -- 2, 8-13 -- 9, 30-11

24. Chris Lane -- 8, 24-03 -- 3, 5-08 -- 11, 29-11

25. Mike McClelland -- 4, 12-09 -- 7, 15-08 -- 11, 28-01

26. Keith Poche -- 12, 27-07 -- 0, 0-00 -- 12, 27-07

27. Bobby Lane -- 5, 18-01 -- 5, 8-03 -- 10, 26-04

28. Jesse Wiggins -- 4, 14-04 -- 6, 11-12 -- 10, 26-00

29. Gerald Spohrer -- 8, 24-11 -- 1, 1-05 -- 9, 26-00

30. Roy Hawk -- 7, 18-07 -- 4, 7-00 -- 11, 25-07

31. Jordan Lee -- 6, 19-00 -- 3, 5-06 -- 9, 24-06

32. Jonathon VanDam -- 3, 7-08 -- 11, 15-07 -- 14, 22-15

33. Justin Lucas -- 3, 10-01 -- 6, 12-12 -- 9, 22-13

34. James Elam -- 5, 11-08 -- 7, 9-04 -- 12, 20-12

35. Britt Myers -- 2, 10-12 -- 6, 7-11 -- 8, 18-07

36. Cliff Pace -- 4, 15-05 -- 2, 2-08 -- 6, 17-13

37. Matt Lee -- 3, 3-12 -- 6, 11-08 -- 9, 15-04

38. Dean Rojas -- 3, 6-05 -- 5, 8-13 -- 8, 15-02

39. Scott Suggs -- 1, 1-06 -- 6, 9-10 -- 7, 11-00

40. Randy Howell -- 2, 8-10 -- 1, 2-03 -- 3, 10-13