By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor

Jason Christie caught less than 15 pounds during his Shotgun Round at the Smith Lake MLF Bass Pro Tour in Alabama and started the Elimination Round in 37th place just three spots from the bottom of the standings. He was a real longshot to work his way inside the top 20 and qualify for the Shotgun Round.

The Oklahoman pulled it off, though, as he caught 28 fish for 51 pounds even in his second crack at the lake, climbing all the way to 12th place. Christie and Michael Neal (15th) were the only competitors in Group B who finished in the top 20 after starting below that mark.

"I got a little lucky today and ran into some," Christie said. "I fished mostly really shallow in practice, but we've had such warm weather that they moved out a little deeper.

"Honestly, I had one spot that had some fish and I spent the last two periods today catching everything I could catch. I may not catch anything tomorrow."

Jesse Wiggins, who dominated the Shotgun Round on his home lake with 72-04, added 25-14 in the Elimination Round for a group-winning 98-02 total. With such a massive cushion (he would've finished 7th without catching anything today), he spent most of the day practicing for the Knockout Round, from which only the top 10 anglers will advance to Sunday's Championship Round.

"I definitely did some exploring," he said. "I wasted a lot of time just figuring out what not to do (on Saturday). I found maybe one or two more places where I can get some bites, but nothing real special.

"I just wanted to get some places out of my mind so I wouldn't be tempted to go to them tomorrow."

Todd Faircloth ended up 2nd in the group with 86-11. Tim Horton was 3rd with 85-15 after a day-best 51-14 haul and James Watson (82-02) and Zack Birge (76-14) rounded out the top 5.

Fred Roumbanis was 6th with 74-14. Dave Lefebre (70-07), Brent Chapman (70-04), Skeet Reese (69-15) and Shin Fukae (69-00) completed the top 10.

The pleasant springtime weather that the field has enjoyed thus far is expected to change tomorrow, as thunderstorms are in the forecast. Wiggins, an Addison, Ala. resident with thousands of days' worth of experience on the lake, doesn't think the rain will prevent the fish from continuing to chomp.

"It could change my bite or someone else's, but I don't think it'll really affect things overall," he said. "I don't think you're going to see the weights go down.

Jeff Kriet was the final angler inside the cut with 54-08. He edged 21st-place Mark Daniels Jr. by 4 ounces after Daniels failed to catch a scorable bass during the final 40 minutes of the day.

"I just had too many times when I didn't catch any," Daniels said. "I'd go 20 minutes here or 25 minutes there, and those lulls when you don't get a bite are killers. I also think I had four 15-ouncers (an ounce shy of being scorable) that were just a shad or something away from being a 1-pounder.



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

Jesse Wiggins, fishing on his home lake, easily held onto the top position in the standings that he'd established in the Shotgun Round.

"I can't think of anything I'd have done differently I fished my butt off and gave it everything I had, but it just wasn't enough. I was one scorable bass short."

Christie's weight for the day eclipsed the half-century mark even though he registered just one fish in the first 2 1/2-hour period. A mental note he'd made during practice was the key to his big rally over the remainder of the day.

His primary bait was a finesse worm, but he also caught a couple on a spinnerbait. None of his fish reached the 3-pound threshold the biggest weighed 2-14.

"I started on that spot and fish had been chasing (blueback) herring up there shallow," he said. "I had a terrible first period and I was getting ready to leave, and then I remember that in practice I'd panned out (with his Garmin Panoptix LiveScope) and saw a brush pile and a hard spot. It didn't make any sense to fish it with the way I fished in practice.

"During the break (15 minutes between the first and second periods), I figured that maybe they'd grouped up out there on the place I'd seen. The LiveScope definitely paid off today."

He doesn't think the place is a total secret a couple of competitors came in during the day and he assumes they would've fished it had he not been there. There was nobody else fishing anywhere in the vicinity.

"Even if I don't fish it tomorrow, I've got a little better idea of what's going on."

Faircloth's weight in the Elimination Round was just an ounce shy of 32 pounds even though he fished much of the day in practice mode with his hooks covered up. His confidence level is high heading into the weekend.

"I didn't fish four or five of my best spots and I feel like I found four or five new ones," he said. "My morning deal definitely worked today I might not have caught them at as fast a pace as the first day, but I definitely caught fish doing it.

"We're supposed to have rain and clouds tomorrow and that could change what I'm doing in the afternoon. We haven't really fished under those conditions since we've been here and this being only my second time here, I don't know what the fish are going to do when those conditions roll through."

Notable

> Wiggins predicted that it'll take 40 pounds to advance from the Knockout Round to the Championship Round. "I really have no idea whether I can catch that all I can do is go out and try my danged-est."

Weather Forecast

> Sat., May 4 Thunderstorms - 75/60
- Wind: From the SSW at 7 mph

> Sun., May 5 Partly Cloudy - 77/56
- Wind: From the NW at 6 mph

Day 4 Standings (Group B Elimination Round)

1st. Jesse Wiggins -- 49, 72-04 -- 16, 25-14 -- 65, 98-02

2nd. Todd Faircloth -- 33, 54-12 -- 20, 31-15 -- 53, 86-11

3rd. Timmy Horton -- 21, 34-01 -- 29, 51-14 -- 50, 85-15

4th. James Watson -- 25, 50-01 -- 20, 32-01 -- 45, 82-02

5th. Zack Birge -- 25, 40-14 -- 23, 35-16 -- 48, 76-14

6th. Fred Roumbanis -- 25, 35-00 -- 27, 39-14 -- 52, 74-14

7th. Dave Lefebre -- 26, 36-05 -- 22, 34-02 -- 48, 70-07

8th. Brent Chapman -- 19, 27-12 -- 28, 42-08 -- 47, 70-04

9th. Skeet Reese -- 20, 30-12 -- 26, 39-03 -- 46, 69-15

10th. Shin Fukae -- 33, 53-13 -- 9, 15-03 -- 42, 69-00

11th. Mark Rose -- 18, 26-09 -- 25, 41-08 -- 43, 68-01

12th. Jason Christie -- 12, 14-13 -- 28, 51-00 -- 40, 65-13

13th. Justin Lucas -- 28, 41-11 -- 15, 23-01 -- 43, 64-12

14th. Dean Rojas -- 25, 44-02 -- 13, 20-01 -- 38, 64-03

15th. Michael Neal -- 16, 25-08 -- 24, 36-15 -- 40, 62-07

16th. Casey Ashley -- 22, 34-04 -- 16, 26-07 -- 38, 60-11

17th. Mike Iaconelli -- 22, 28-14 -- 17, 30-13 -- 39, 59-11

18th. Jeff Sprague -- 26, 35-03 -- 14, 20-14 -- 40, 56-01

19th. Bradley Roy -- 20, 31-05 -- 18, 24-10 -- 38, 55-15

20th. Jeff Kriet -- 27, 34-07 -- 14, 20-01 -- 41, 54-08

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

21st. Mark Daniels, Jr. -- 14, 22-08 -- 21, 31-12 -- 35, 54-04

22nd. John Murray -- 23, 30-12 -- 15, 20-12 -- 38, 51-08

23rd. Anthony Gagliardi -- 18, 25-09 -- 16, 25-11 -- 34, 51-04

24th. Aaron Martens -- 20, 29-07 -- 13, 21-02 -- 33, 50-09

25th. Greg Vinson -- 15, 21-01 -- 18, 27-04 -- 33, 48-05

26th. Brett Hite -- 13, 19-04 -- 18, 28-06 -- 31, 47-10

27th. Britt Myers -- 14, 22-05 -- 16, 24-08 -- 30, 46-13

28th. Roy Hawk -- 15, 24-00 -- 14, 21-13 -- 29, 45-13

29th. Jacob Powroznik -- 12, 19-09 -- 14, 24-04 -- 26, 43-13

30th. Gary Klein -- 12, 15-09 -- 16, 26-12 -- 28, 42-05

31st. Jared Lintner -- 14, 20-02 -- 13, 21-04 -- 27, 41-06

32nd. Adrian Avena -- 16, 23-09 -- 12, 16-11 -- 28, 40-04

33rd. Ish Monroe -- 10, 13-06 -- 17, 26-08 -- 27, 39-14

34th. Cliff Pace -- 12, 15-08 -- 14, 22-14 -- 26, 38-06

35th. Randy Howell -- 16, 20-12 -- 11, 16-09 -- 27, 37-05

36th. Andy Montgomery -- 13, 15-09 -- 9, 18-03 -- 22, 33-12

37th. Paul Elias -- 8, 12-01 -- 12, 19-11 -- 20, 31-12

38th. Randall Tharp -- 12, 18-01 -- 9, 13-05 -- 21, 31-06

39th. Russ Lane -- 8, 13-05 -- 12, 16-11 -- 20, 30-00

40th. Fletcher Shryock -- 10, 15-15 -- 10, 13-12 -- 20, 29-11