By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor

Some big rallies from far down the standings sheet came up just short as the Group A field was reduced from 40 to 20 in the Elimination Round at the Smith Lake MLF Bass Pro Tour.

Gerald Swindle caught a 1 3/4-pounder in the closing minute of the day to jump from 21st place to 18th. That fish bumped out Scott Suggs, who'd started the day in 35th place and registered 18 fish for 34-03, but lost a tiebreaker to Brandon Palaniuk for the No. 20 position when both ended up with 48-10 totals. Palaniuk won by having caught one more fish, 28-27, during the group's two days on the water.

"It was nerve-wracking," Swindle said. "I was throwing a (shaky-head) with a new Zoom bait called a Beatdown, which is like a Ned worm. The line was frayed and I knew if I got a bite it'd break off, so I picked up my dropshot rod and whipped it over there.

"There was one minute to go when the bait entered the water, then I start shaking it and the line jumps. I needed 1-05 and the fish weighed 1-12."

Suggs, Terry Scroggins and Chris Lane all started the day below 30th place and each caught more than 30 pounds in the Elimination Round, but it wasn't quite enough. They ended up in 21st, 22nd and 24th places, respectively, all less than a pound shy of advancing.

"It was a fun day, but not quite fun enough," said Suggs, the former FLW Cup champion who's still looking to make his first Knockout Round. "I had a fish come off close to the side of the boat right at the end, but it wouldn't have weighed a pound. I'd have thrown a major fit right there if it'd been big enough, and I lost plenty (earlier in the day) that were."

His 34-03 haul for the day was just slightly less than 20 pounds more than he'd caught during the Shotgun Round.

"I didn't change a thing. I fished the exact same rotation, so I really don't know what the difference was. That's just the way those spotted bass are when they're on the (blueback) herring you don't know where any of them are going to be from one day to the next. They're just wherever they stopped chasing the herring."

Jacob Wheeler started the day atop the standings and ended it there as well as his 13-fish, 25-07 haul gave him an 87-06 total. He was followed by Wesley Strader with 81-03 (38-02 in the Elimination Round), Ott DeFoe with 76-09 (33-13), Josh Bertrand with 72-11 (33-14) and Andy Morgan with 70-13 (24-01).

Edwin Evers, the Angler of the Year points leader who made his fifth consecutive shotgun round, paced the bottom half of the top 10 with 67-08 (25-13). The remainder of that group consisted of Boyd Duckett with 64-01 (35-10), Matt Lee with 62-09 (32-02), Stephen Browning with 59-03 (22-08) and Luke Clausen with 56-07 (24-02).

The Group B Elimination Round will be staged on Friday, followed by the 40-angler Knockout Round on Saturday. The top 10 from the Knockout Round will move on to Sunday's Championship Round.

Wheeler, who caught one of two 5-pounder boated during the round (Marty Robinson had the other), used the day as primarily a practice session for Saturday.

"I don't know if I found anything in particular that was spot-related, but I did do a couple things I hadn't been doing that have the potential to catch some," he said. "I also found some stuff that, if I can get to Sunday when it's going to be sunny again (the forecast for Saturday calls for thunderstorms), could potentially play pretty well."



Major League Fishing/Garrick Dixon
Photo: Major League Fishing/Garrick Dixon

Brandon Palaniuk claimed the final Knockout Round berth from Group A by winning a tiebreaker over Scott Suggs.

Robinson began the day in 29th place, but leap-frogged 14 competitors with a 32-14 haul in the Elimination Round. His 5-03 largemouth, caught on a shaky-head, was an ounce heavier than the big one Wheeler caught.

"I started on a couple places (on Tuesday) that had a little shad spawn going on in practice, but they weren't spawning that day," he said. "I thought I could hang around and catch some, but nothing worked. I spent too long there and I had a terrible first period, but fortunately I caught enough in the second and third periods just to survive.

"I went to other places today and I caught a couple fish that were spitting up blueback herring. I've got that area there (for Saturday), plus another place where I marked some fish and a place up the river that I fished (on Tuesday afternoon) that I didn't go to today. If a couple of those produce, I could have another good day."

It was an intense final period for Palaniuk, who started the round in 12th but spent a good portion of the day below the cut line. A 2-03 largemouth that he caught in the final 20 minutes allowed him to survive.

"The first day I caught the majority of my weight in the first period and a half, but today I didn't catch a fish until the last five minutes of the first period," he said. "I caught a fair amount in the second period when I got on a little group, then it was just one here and one there in the third period.

"About midway through the third period I started having some moments wondering just how I was going to go catch another bass. It was a huge relief when I finally got the word that I'd gotten in on the tiebreaker by one fish."

Brent Ehrler, who ended up 18th, was outside the cut line with 10 minutes to go, but caught two spotted bass that weighed 1-13 and 2-02 to advance.

"I thought there was still too much time left and that I needed one more," he said. "That's the deal with this format you go from being sure you're not going to make it to excited that you might make it and then you're totally panicking. In a regular five-fish (format), you have no idea."

Notable

> Evers and Alton Jones Sr. (17th) have made the Knockout Round at all five events to date. Conversely, Kevin VanDam (27th) is just 1-for-5 in that department.

Weather Forecast

> Fri., May 3 Partly Cloudy - 84/63
- Wind: From the WSW at 3 mph

> Sat., May 4 Thunderstorms - 77/59
- Wind: From the SSW at 7 mph

> Sun., May 5 Partly Cloudy - 77/54
- Wind: From the NW at 5 mph

Day 3 Standings (Group A Elimination Round)

1st -- Jacob Wheeler -- 38, 61--15 -- 13, 25--07 -- 51, 87--06

2nd -- Wesley Strader -- 21, 43--01 -- 24, 38--02 -- 45, 81--03

3rd -- Ott DeFoe -- 24, 42--12 -- 20, 33--13 -- 44, 76--09

4th -- Josh Bertrand -- 25, 38--13 -- 21, 33--14 -- 46, 72--11

5th -- Andy Morgan -- 29, 46--12 -- 17, 24--01 -- 46, 70--13

6th -- Edwin Evers -- 26, 41--11 -- 17, 25--13 -- 43, 67--08

7th -- Boyd Duckett -- 17, 28--07 -- 20, 35--10 -- 37, 64--01

8th -- Matt Lee -- 20, 30--07 -- 18, 32--02 -- 38, 62--09

9th -- Stephen Browning -- 25, 36--11 -- 16, 22--08 -- 41, 59--03

10th -- Luke Clausen -- 23, 32--05 -- 17, 24--02 -- 40, 56--07

11th -- Cody Meyer -- 14, 27--01 -- 15, 28--01 -- 29, 55--02

12th -- Jordan Lee -- 18, 28--13 -- 18, 25--07 -- 36, 54--04

13th -- Mark Davis -- 19, 26--11 -- 17, 26--12 -- 36, 53--07

14th -- Dustin Connell -- 16, 25--01 -- 17, 28--04 -- 33, 53--05

15th -- Marty Robinson -- 16, 19--08 -- 21, 32--15 -- 37, 52--07

16th -- Alton Jones -- 17, 25--05 -- 19, 26--05 -- 36, 51--10

17th -- Shaw Grigsby -- 15, 26--08 -- 13, 23--11 -- 28, 50--03

18th -- Brent Ehrler -- 15, 24--06 -- 15, 25--12 -- 30, 50--02

19th -- Gerald Swindle -- 15, 25--11 -- 14, 23--07 -- 29, 49--02

20th -- Brandon Palaniuk -- 16, 27--10 -- 12, 21--00 -- 28, 48--10

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

21st -- Scott Suggs -- 9, 14--07 -- 18, 34--03 -- 27, 48--10

22nd -- Terry Scroggins -- 8, 12--15 -- 19, 35--09 -- 27, 48--08

23rd -- Bobby Lane -- 15, 25--15 -- 14, 22--05 -- 29, 48--04

24th -- Chris Lane -- 10, 16--11 -- 15, 31--02 -- 25, 47--13

25th -- Cliff Crochet -- 12, 24--06 -- 15, 21--14 -- 27, 46--04

26th -- James Elam -- 12, 20--13 -- 15, 23--09 -- 27, 44--06

27th -- Kevin VanDam -- 14, 21--04 -- 16, 22--08 -- 30, 43--12

28th -- Gerald Spohrer -- 18, 24--13 -- 10, 17--14 -- 28, 42--11

29th -- Keith Poche -- 17, 23--13 -- 13, 18--02 -- 30, 41--15

30th -- Tommy Biffle -- 12, 20--06 -- 11, 20--09 -- 23, 40--15

31st -- Greg Hackney -- 16, 22--13 -- 11, 15--04 -- 27, 38--01

32nd -- Justin Atkins -- 13, 20--00 -- 12, 17--04 -- 25, 37--04

33rd -- Kelly Jordon -- 8, 11--05 -- 15, 24--04 -- 23, 35--09

34th -- Alton Jones Jr. -- 9, 14--10 -- 13, 19--00 -- 22, 33--10

35th -- Takahiro Omori -- 11, 16--00 -- 12, 16--08 -- 23, 32--08

36th -- Brandon Coulter -- 5, 9--00 -- 13, 21--01 -- 18, 30--01

37th -- David Walker -- 13, 19--01 -- 9, 10--03 -- 22, 29--04

38th -- Jason Lambert -- 8, 14--14 -- 9, 14--06 -- 17, 29--04

39th -- Mike McClelland -- 8, 11--11 -- 11, 15--09 -- 19, 27--04

40th -- Jonathon VanDam -- 8, 11--09 -- 4, 7--15 -- 12, 19--08