By Todd Ceisner
BassFan Editor

Who knew fun could be so stressful?

As the Elimination Round for Group A at the Table Rock Lake Bass Pro Tour wore on Sunday afternoon, the 100-pound club kept adding members 15 anglers in all. At the same time, a smaller group of competitors was jockeying for position near the 20th-place cut line, a spot Randy Howell has taken to calling the Fun Line.

Howell spent a good bit of time there today after starting the day in 27th place. He moved up to 21st after the second period before surging up to 19th by catching 15-11 in the third to solidify a spot in the Knockout Round, which will take place Tuesday when everyone's weights reset to zero. He caught at least 10 fish in each period today to finish with 55-03 (33 bass) and push his two-day total to 94-13.

Its a bad place to be, but a good place at the same time, Howell said, referring to being among those on the bubble. Today it worked out.

So how much fun was it?

Its such an amazing adrenaline rush the whole time, Howell said. Its nonstop. I was shaking because it felt like every fish was a 10-pounder. On this lake, where so many fish are being caught, you cant breathe. You might gain a little, but as youre weighing one, someone else is reeling one in.

Hes not far off there. The 40 anglers combined to catch 1,024 bass today, the third straight day the fish tally has eclipsed 1,000.

In the closing minutes and while sitting in 20th place, Howell opted to make a short run. On his first cast at the next spot, he landed a 1-09 that locked him into the next round.

I was totally out of somewhere to fish in that area, he said. I was on such a specific pattern I knew if I hurried up and got to another stretch with the right kind of trees on it, I could maybe catch another one. I had that in the next cut down.

Howell wasnt the only one who felt the weight of the Fun Line. Randall Tharp, who started the day in 16th, had a rough first couple of periods, but caught a dozen for 18-15 in the third, including three in the final 10 minutes, to lock up 20th with 94-12 over two days.

Cliff Pace never had the sweat the Fun Line today as he cruised to a first-place finish with 134-13 (89 bass) after tacking on 60-01 today with 38 bass.

I beared down on day 1 and today I just tried to fine-tune some things, said Pace, who only recycled one spot from Friday. I went to a key place and caught enough to make the cut and went practicing the rest of the day.

A move in the third period allowed him to catch enough to hang on to the top spot.

At the end of the day, I was a pound behind with an hour to go, so I moved to a place where I felt like I could catch a few and it worked out, he said. I thought itd be neat to win.

He was followed by Zack Birge, who prior to today was the only angler to eclipse 100 pounds over the Shotgun and Elimination rounds (he did so at Lake Chickamauga). Birge caught a day-best 71-03 (38 bass) to finish with 131-00 (73 bass). Gary Klein was third with 130-02 (83 bass) while Shotgun Round leader Greg Vinson settled for fourth with 125-12 (78 bass). Aaron Martens rounded out the top 5 with 121-15 (73 bass).

The aftereffects of the storm cell that moved through the area around Table Rock on Saturday evening werent very noticeable and the post-front conditions clearly didnt slow down the fishing. The Group B Elimination Round will take place Monday under mostly cloudy skies with highs in the upper 70s.

The big mover of the day was Andy Montgomery, who began the Elimination Round in 31st place, 12 1/2 pounds out of 20th. He racked up 20 pounds in the first hour as part of a 25-fish, 36-01 first period that fueled his march up to 16th by days end. He totaled 62-02 (42 fish) today to push his two-day total to 96-13.

I knew it was going to take a really big day and my goal was to win today or finish in the top 5, then Id have a chance, said Montgomery, the only competitor to catch more than 40 bass today. It was good to get off to a good start. I didnt catch one in the first hour on day 1 and played catch-up all day. This morning, I just sat down on the right place. Its all about timing here. I had a lot of bites in practice and I started there Friday and got no bites. Today, my timing was better. Maybe I was a little luckier with my time, but it was a lot like practice today.

Brent Chapman also made a double-digit jump up the leaderboard (29th to 18th) to make his second straight Knockout Round and third in the last four events. He caught 58-08 today, including 25-10 in the first period, to bump his two-day total to 95-04 (55 bass).

Jason Christie (19th to 21st) and Justin Lucas (7th to 22nd) both wound up with more than 90 pounds yet didnt advance to the Knockout Round. Adrian Avena (18th to 25th) also dropped out of the top 20.

Lucas, whod made the Knockout Round at the last two events after a tough start to the season, said his undoing was poor execution. After catching 42 bass for 62-04 on Friday, he tallied just 19 for 28-10.

It stings just because it was all my fault, he said. Just tons of lost fish an unacceptable amount. We all lose some and we expect to, but Im losing way too many fish. Its very frustrating.

He said most of his misfortune occurred when he was fishing with a wacky-rigged worm.

Its the nature of the beast with that thing, he said. I need to learn my lesson and probably put it down even though it gets a ton of bites because the landing ratio is not there.

He made a push toward the end of the third period while fishing a bridge piling, but it wasnt enough to overcome his slow start.

If Id gotten there sooner, I wouldve done it, but in this format, you cant afford to run, he said. If your lines not in the water, youre losing ground.



Weather Forecast

> Mon., May 20 Partly Cloudy, Rain Possible - 83/68
- Wind: From the SE at 5 to 10 mph

> Tue., May 21 Scattered Thunderstorms - 76/63
- Wind: From the S at 10 to 15 mph

> Wed., May 22 Isolated Thunderstorms - 82/65
- Wind: From the S at 5 to 10 mph

Group A Elimination Round (Day 3) Results

1. Cliff Pace -- 51, 74-12 -- 38, 60-01 -- 89, 134-13

2. Zack Birge -- 35, 59-13 -- 38, 71-03 -- 73, 131-00

3. Gary Klein -- 47, 67-14 -- 36, 62-04 -- 83, 130-02

4. Greg Vinson -- 52, 83-06 -- 26, 42-06 -- 78, 125-12

5. Aaron Martens -- 35, 56-15 -- 38, 65-00 -- 73, 121-15

6. Jacob Powroznik -- 46, 76-15 -- 25, 40-00 -- 71, 116-15

7. Jesse Wiggins -- 39, 67-13 -- 29, 47-08 -- 68, 115-05

8. Michael Neal -- 37, 57-00 -- 37, 57-07 -- 74, 114-07

9. Mark Rose -- 35, 54-05 -- 29, 55-15 -- 64, 110-04

10. Fletcher Shryock -- 33, 55-10 -- 35, 53-05 -- 68, 108-15

11. Russ Lane -- 35, 57-15 -- 31, 50-05 -- 66, 108-04

12. Jeff Sprague -- 48, 70-04 -- 25, 34-02 -- 73, 104-06

13. Anthony Gagliardi -- 38, 59-13 -- 28, 43-11 -- 66, 103-08

14. Casey Ashley -- 31, 47-01 -- 33, 54-11 -- 64, 101-12

15. Dave Lefebre -- 40, 58-01 -- 30, 42-03 -- 70, 100-04

16. Andy Montgomery -- 27, 34-11 -- 42, 62-02 -- 69, 96-13

17. Fred Roumbanis -- 25, 53-05 -- 23, 42-08 -- 48, 95-13

18. Brent Chapman -- 20, 36-12 -- 35, 58-08 -- 55, 95-04

19. Randy Howell -- 23, 39-10 -- 33, 55-03 -- 56, 94-13

20. Randall Tharp -- 28, 53-15 -- 24, 40-13 -- 52, 94-12

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

21. Jason Christie -- 26, 47-04 -- 22, 45-02 -- 48, 92-06

22. Justin Lucas -- 42, 62-04 -- 19, 28-10 -- 61, 90-14

23. Bradley Roy -- 31, 43-12 -- 29, 42-14 -- 60, 86-10

24. Britt Myers -- 27, 44-15 -- 23, 40-00 -- 50, 84-15

25. Adrian Avena -- 34, 47-09 -- 24, 37-05 -- 58, 84-14

26. John Murray -- 25, 46-15 -- 17, 35-00 -- 42, 81-15

27. James Watson -- 23, 36-07 -- 18, 43-03 -- 41, 79-10

28. Mark Daniels, Jr. -- 19, 30-13 -- 25, 46-12 -- 44, 77-09

29. Todd Faircloth -- 23, 37-02 -- 23, 37-13 -- 46, 74-15

30. Mike Iaconelli -- 25, 41-10 -- 19, 31-03 -- 44, 72-13

31. Skeet Reese -- 28, 41-11 -- 20, 30-13 -- 48, 72-08

32. Jeff Kriet -- 23, 42-08 -- 18, 27-09 -- 41, 70-01

33. Jared Lintner -- 19, 32-06 -- 23, 31-00 -- 42, 63-06

34. Roy Hawk -- 14, 25-05 -- 22, 34-09 -- 36, 59-14

35. Timmy Horton -- 19, 33-14 -- 16, 24-14 -- 35, 58-12

36. Dean Rojas -- 16, 30-06 -- 14, 22-12 -- 30, 53-02

37. Brett Hite -- 12, 19-13 -- 19, 31-13 -- 31, 51-10

38. Shin Fukae -- 19, 28-05 -- 16, 23-04 -- 35, 51-09

39. Ish Monroe -- 13, 21-11 -- 13, 20-06 -- 26, 42-01

40. Paul Elias -- 10, 14-03 -- 9, 15-09 -- 19, 29-12