By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor

Kyle Monti came to the Lake Tenkiller Bassmaster Elite Series having competed in 23 tour-level events, with a best finish of 25th at Lake Fork earlier this year. He'll exceed that career-best mark by a wide margin on the final day in northeastern Oklahoma and has a good chance to make his first-ever top-10 finish a victory.

Monti, who earns much of his living as a guide at Florida's Lake Okeechobee, caught a tournament-best 16-09 stringer on day 3 to move to the top of the standings with a 39-11 total. He'll start the final day with a 1-13 margin over day-2 leader Chris Zaldain.

"If I time it right and everything goes right, I can finish it up," the 27-year-old Monti said. "I'm not getting a lot of bites and it's fall and we're supposed to get some thunderstorms tomorrow, so I'm not sure what to expect. I'll have to keep an open mind, for sure."

He said he'll have no trouble sleeping with the lead.

"Not after taking Benadryl. My allergies are going crazy."

Zaldain, a two-time runner-up this year who'll make his fifth final-round appearance of the season, will take yet another shot at his first full-field triumph. He boxed 11-14 on day 3 to push his total to 36-11.

Australian Carl Jocumsen, who was in 5th place after day 1 but fell to 15th in the second round, climbed back into the top 5 with a 15-04 bag for a 35-03 aggregate. Cory Johnston, like Zaldain a serious Angler of the Year contender, boxed 11-11 to settle into 4th with 34-13. Brandon Card dropped three slots to 5th with 34-12 (10-01 on day 3).



B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

Most of Monti's fish are coming from 10 to 25 feet of water.

The other five anglers who'll return to the water for day 4 are Todd Auten (34-08), Keith Combs (33-12), day-1 leader Stetson Blaylock (33-05), David Mullins (31-14) and Hunter Shryock (30-01). With the exception of Blaylock, all were outside the top 10 to begin the day.

Falling out of the top 10 were Drew Cook (3rd to 28th with one fish for 1-01), Caleb Sumrall (7th to 21st with three fish for 4-14), Harvey Horne (8th to 16th with two fish for 6-02), Frank Talley (9th to 13th with a limit weighing 7-07) and Lee Livesay (10th to 14th with four fish for 7-08).

The day featured a fair amount of sun and just a moderate breeze, which may have helped Monti and Jocumsen compile their big deep-water bags. The forecast for day 4 is considerably less pleasant, calling for thunderstorms and wind out of the south/southwest to 13 mph.

Monti weighed all largemouths, the biggest of which was a 4-pounder. He went through seven keepers on the day, but two were miniscule spotted bass.

His bites were spread throughout the day.

"It was literally one fish about every hour and a half," he said. "It was just one here and one there and I never had a lot of action going at once.

"I caught all of them from one spot except for the biggest one I ran to a bank and caught it with 20 minutes left (before check-in time). It was the first time I'd fished that bank all day."

Most of his fish are coming from 10 to 25 feet of water. A dropshot rig and a spinnerbait had been productive earlier in the event, but he did most of his day-3 work with a swing-head jig. A square-bill crankbait enticed the big one at the end of the day.

B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

Chris Zaldain managed to catch only three of the big smallmouths he was targeting on day 3.

"I've had that place all to myself all week and that's why I feel like I can win off of it. There were locals there yesterday and this morning, but they didn't catch anything."

Zaldain targeted big smallmouth all day, but only managed to catch three of them. He was forced to fill out his limit with a couple of 1-pound spots.

"The clouds really help the smallmouth bite and I'm really looking forward to tomorrow because those are the conditions we're going to have," he said. "Some guys caught some really big bags today, but I can't worry about that I need to focus on what I'm doing with the lower-end smallmouth. I don't get a lot of bites, but the ones I get are good ones."

He's throwing a finesse-style swimbait in relatively shallow water on wind-blown points.

"I'll have a lot more room to play around tomorrow (with the field cut to 10 competitors) and I'll probably mix some largemouth stuff in there as well. It seems like with the smallmouth, the later the better, so maybe I can take advantage of the early topwater bite for largemouths and go from there."

Jocumsen is fishing deep (22 to 35 feet) with a large jig. His bag consisted entirely of largemouths that exceeded the 16-inch minimum-length requirement.

"I've fished pretty much the same way every day, but yesterday the weather hurt me," he said. "I need a little bit of sun and a little bit of wind, but not no sun and a lot of wind like we had.

"I'm not getting many (keeper) bites just six or seven a day. I'm catching plenty of 15 1/2- to 15 3/4-inchers, but eventually I get one that's over."

Johnston has been in the top 6 throughout the derby. He had all three species in his day-3 bag (two largemouths, to spots and a smallmouth). He had one largemouth and one spot that were both close to 3 pounds.

"I switched things up a little bit this morning and fished a lot of shallow, windy points, then I went to my main pattern on the docks," he said. "If we get some sun tomorrow, I think I can catch them, but with the clouds they don't set up properly on the docks.

"They're still there, but they're a little harder to catch."

Notable

> Day 3 stats 35 anglers, 23 limits, 4 fours, 2 threes, 6 twos, 1 one.

Weather Forecast

> Sun., Sept. 22 Scattered T-Storms 82/63
- Wind: From the SSW at 13 mph

Day 3 Standings

1. Kyle Monti -- Okeechobee, FL -- 14, 39-11 -- 100
Day 1: 5, 14-04 -- Day 2: 4, 08-14 -- Day 3: 5, 16-09

2. Chris Zaldain -- Fort Worth, TX -- 15, 36-14 -- 99
Day 1: 5, 11-01 -- Day 2: 5, 13-15 -- Day 3: 5, 11-14

3. Carl Jocumsen -- Queensland, AUS -- 14 -- 35-03 -- 98
Day 1: 5, 13-11 -- Day 2: 4, 06-04 -- Day 3: 5, 15-04

4. Cory Johnston -- Cavan, ON -- 15, 34-13 -- 97
Day 1: 5, 13-04 -- Day 2: 5, 09-14 -- Day 3: 5, 11-11

5. Brandon Card -- Knoxville, TN -- 15, 34-12 -- 96
Day 1: 5, 12-12 -- Day 2: 5, 11-15 -- Day 3: 5, 10-01

6. Todd Auten -- Lake Wylie, SC -- 14, 34-08 -- 95
Day 1: 4, 06-01 -- Day 2: 5, 13-10 -- Day 3: 5, 14-13

7. Keith Combs -- Huntington, TX -- 15, 33-12 -- 94
Day 1: 5, 10-02 -- Day 2: 5, 10-04 -- Day 3: 5, 13-06

8. Stetson Blaylock -- Benton, AR -- 15, 33-05 -- 93
Day 1: 5, 15-09 -- Day 2: 5, 07-09 -- Day 3: 5, 10-03

9. David Mullins -- Mt Carmel, TN -- 15, 31-14 -- 92
Day 1: 5, 10-15 -- Day 2: 5, 08-08 -- Day 3: 5, 12-07

10. Hunter Shryock -- Newcomerstown, OH -- 15, 30-01 -- 91
Day 1: 5, 10-15 -- Day 2: 5, 08-08 -- Day 3: 5, 10-10

The following anglers did not make the cut and will not fish on day 3.

11. Brandon Lester -- Fayetteville, TN -- 14, 29-13 -- 90 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 07-05 -- Day 2: 5, 13-07 -- Day 3: 4, 09-01

12. Ed Loughran III -- Richmond, VA -- 14, 29-09 -- 89 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 08-00 -- Day 2: 4, 11-00 -- Day 3: 5, 10-09

13. Frank Talley -- Temple, TX -- 14, 29-02 -- 88 -- $10,000
Day 1: 4, 07-03 -- Day 2: 5, 14-08 -- Day 3: 5, 07-07

14. Lee Livesay -- Gladewater, TX -- 14, 29-00 -- 87 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 11-06 -- Day 2: 5, 10-02 -- Day 3: 4, 07-08

15. Shane LeHew -- Catawba, NC -- 15, 28-10 -- 86 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 06-12 -- Day 2: 5, 13-15 -- Day 3: 5, 07-15

16. Harvey Horne -- Bella Vista, AR -- 11, 28-02 -- 85 -- $10,000
Day 1: 4, 10-09 -- Day 2: 5, 11-07 -- Day 3: 2, 06-02

17. Brock Mosley -- Collinsville, MS -- 12, 27-14 -- 84 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 12-00 -- Day 2: 2, 05-04 -- Day 3: 5, 10-10

18. Tyler Rivet -- Raceland, LA -- 13, 27-13 -- 83 -- $10,000
Day 1: 3, 06-13 -- Day 2: 5, 14-00 -- Day 3: 5, 07-00

19. Scott Canterbury -- Odenville, AL -- 15, 27-08 -- 82 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 08-15 -- Day 2: 5, 08-09 -- Day 3: 5, 10-00

20. Matt Arey -- Shelby, NC -- 15, 27-05 -- 81 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 09-06 -- Day 2: 5, 09-15 -- Day 3: 5, 08-00

21. Caleb Sumrall -- New Iberia, LA -- 13, 27-04 -- 80 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 14-09 -- Day 2: 5, 07-13 -- Day 3: 3, 04-14

22. Clent Davis -- Montevallo, AL -- 15, 26-13 -- 79 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 07-07 -- Day 2: 5, 12-03 -- Day 3: 5, 07-03

23. Micah Frazier -- Newnan, GA -- 13, 26-11 -- 78 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 10-14 -- Day 2: 4, 06-10 -- Day 3: 4, 09-03

24. John Crews Jr -- Salem, VA -- 13, 26-02 -- 77 -- $7,500
Day 1: 3, 06-02 -- Day 2: 5, 10-08 -- Day 3: 5, 09-08

25. Steve Kennedy -- Auburn, AL -- 13, 26-02 -- 76 -- $7,500
Day 1: 3, 07-10 -- Day 2: 5, 10-04 -- Day 3: 5, 08-04

26. Jake Whitaker -- Fairview, NC -- 10, 25-13 -- 75 -- $7,500
Day 1: 1, 04-06 -- Day 2: 5, 12-02 -- Day 3: 4, 09-05

27. Patrick Walters -- Summerville, SC -- 15, 24-11 -- 74 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 10-11 -- Day 2: 5, 05-15 -- Day 3: 5, 08-01

28. Drew Cook -- Midway, FL -- 11, 24-06 -- 73 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 09-14 -- Day 2: 5, 13-07 -- Day 3: 1, 01-01

29. Ray Hanselman Jr -- Del Rio, TX -- 10, 23-06 -- 72 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 08-11 -- Day 2: 3, 09-08 -- Day 3: 2, 05-03

30. Luke Palmer -- Coalgate, OK -- 12, 22-08 -- 71 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 10-11 -- Day 2: 5, 07-00 -- Day 3: 2, 04-13

31. Drew Benton -- Panama City, FL -- 13, 22-05 -- 70 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 08-02 -- Day 2: 5, 08-13 -- Day 3: 3, 05-06

32. Mike Huff -- Corbin, KY -- 12, 22-04 -- 69 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 10-13 -- Day 2: 5, 08-06 -- Day 3: 2, 03-01

33. Jesse Tacoronte -- Kissimmee, FL -- 10, 22-00 -- 68 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 14-03 -- Day 2: 3, 04-09 -- Day 3: 2, 03-04

34. Jeff Gustafson -- Keewatin, ON -- 12 -- 21-12 -- 67 -- $7,500
Day 1: 4, 08-00 -- Day 2: 4, 08-05 -- Day 3: 4, 05-07

35. Seth Feider -- New Market, MN -- 12, 21-02 -- 66 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 09-11 -- Day 2: 5, 08-15 -- Day 3: 2, 02-08