By BassFan Staff

The Jason Christie Express is starting to pick up steam and nobody's had a better view this week than Beaver Lake's bass.

The Oklahoma pro, who's in the midst of his first season competing in both Bassmaster Elite Series and FLW Tour events, can now say he's made three final-day cuts in five tour-level events in 2013, not to mention a 7th-place finish at the Bassmaster Classic.

Today, he took over the lead at the Beaver Lake FLW Tour with an impressive 20-04 stringer that pushed his 3-day total to 47-07. He'll be shooting for his second career Tour win tomorrow and third victory overall in the last 10 months.

"I've missed my family dearly, but I've always been the type that the more fishing I do, the more in tune I get," he said of his busier schedule. "Sure, you're a lot more tired, but you don't have any distractions. Sometimes, you'll go home for a couple weeks and get busy outside or doing projects and before you know it you've lost sight of what your job is. The bottom line is it keeps you tired, but it keeps you thinking about fishing."

His weights have improved considerably each day of competition and his effort today was just the third 20-pound sack weighed in during FLW Tour competition at Beaver. It also gave him a 2 1/2-pound cushion over day-2 front man Brandon Coulter entering Sunday's final round.

Coulter scratched out a 13-00 stringer today and has 44-15. Shawn Murphy is less than a pound back in 3rd after bagging 16-11 to move up five places with 44-02.

Koby Kreiger remained steady with a 13-15 effort that has him in 4th with 42-13, assuring him a second straight Top-10 finish. Scott Suggs was the biggest mover today, thanks to a smallmouth-only 17-09 stringer that boosted him from 19th to 5th. He's 4-11 behind Christie with 42-12.

Here's a rundown of the Top 10 after 3 days, with the deficit margin from Christie indicated by red numbers in parentheses:

1. Jason Christie: 47-07
2. Brandon Coulter: 44-15 (2-08)
3. Shawn Murphy: 44-02 (3-05)
4. Koby Kreiger: 42-13 (4-10)
5. Scott Suggs: 42-12 (4-11)
6. Anthony Gagliardi: 41-09 (5-14)
7. Mark Rose: 40-14 (6-09)
8. Barry Wilson: 39-15 (7-08)
9. Stacey King: 39-09 (7-14)
10. Jim Dillard: 38-00 (9-07)

Among those slipping out of contention today were Austin Terry, whose crankbait bite didn't net the quality he'd been catching on previous days. His 7-05 limit dropped him from 2nd to 11th 37-08. Todd Hollowell only mustered four fish for 6-10 on the heels on his 22-15 catch on day 3. He finished 12th with 36-07. Chris Brasher was among those done in by the windless conditions today. He caught 3-14 and fell to 18th from 6th with 32-01.

The talk earlier in the week was that the tournament was hitting the lake at just about the right time for the weights to come way up from what BassFans are used to seeing at Beaver. The weather's been windy and overcast for the most part and with many of the fish making their annual push to their spawning areas, it's been a near-perfect recipe for some big stringers to be caught.

The consensus among the leaders entering the final day is based on the top-end weights that have been caught so far, there's plenty of evidence to suggest whomever takes home the trophy will likely need 17-plus pounds on Sunday. The forecast is calling for mostly sunny skies with highs in the 70s A strong south wind in the 30-mph range has those throwing an umbrella rig thinking such a bag is possible.

All Largemouth For Christie

> Day 3: 5, 20-04 (15, 47-07)

Christie, who was tied for 67th after day 1 and started today 4-12 behind Coulter, has fished Beaver Lake enough to know each day is a new, blank slate. By the time his boat slides off the trailer tomorrow morning, his 20-04 stringer from today will be ancient history.

He's got a feeling it'll take another significant catch, maybe not necessarily 20 pounds, though, to take home the win.

"I'm going to catch all I can," he said. "You just never know about Beaver. Someone's caught a big bag every day and I believe we'll see one or more tomorrow. I'm going to need another good bag. It's not the old Beaver where you can go catch 10 or 11 pounds and be alright."

He said he's doing "some junk fishing," but feels like he's established the framework of a pattern that's starting to pay off.

"I hadn't really figured anything out until the middle of day 2 and even then I was just trying to get inside the Top-20 cut," he said. "I'm just going to go fishing. I'll start on stuff that I've been fishing and it all depends on how that plays out. I’ll make more decisions from there. It's a scary place to go fishing. The difference between being a hero and zero is a couple big bites and you just don't know where they're going to come from."

He had his limit within a short amount of time this morning and made two significant upgrades later in the day. While others have been catching mixed bags of spotted bass, largemouth and smallmouth, he's been focused solely on largemouths this week.

He's hopeful more fish transition into the areas he's been fishing tomorrow.

FLW/Brett Carlson
Photo: FLW/Brett Carlson

Brandon Coulter has guaranteed himself a career-best finish at Beaver this week.

"I didn't catch the numbers I caught yesterday, but I caught some better fish (today)," he said. "I lost one of my schools today because there was no wind. Hopefully, I'll be able to get that school fired up tomorrow. It's such a big timing deal here."

2nd: Coulter Kept His Cool

> Day 3: 5, 13-00 (15, 44-15)

Despite slinging an umbrella rig all tournament, Coulter knew he'd eventually have to shift into grind-it-out mode. Today was that day.

"I knew whoever is going to win it is going to catch a big bag," he said. "I just wanted to stay in the hunt."

Asked if relinquishing the lead relieved any sort of pressure, he said, "This lake takes the pressure off of me. I know it's going to be different tomorrow. I'm just fishing with a clean head. In a way, it's setting up like I thought it would. I figured the weights would be tight and higher than normal. I'm thinking I'll need around 17 pounds tomorrow to have a shot at it."

At 11:30, he had one keeper in the boat as the morning flurry that had buoyed him the first 2 days never happened with the lack of wind. He kept his wits, however, and kept slinging his rig.

"I never got spun out," he said. "I stayed focused because I knew I'd been catching them in bursts. I just didn't have my morning burst today. Between 11:30 and 12:30, I caught five keepers."

His fish came off different locales in the same creek he's been all week and he sees no reason to abandon the area tomorrow.

"There's really not a bad place in it," he said. "I'm going to dance with who brought me in a sense. There are plenty of protected areas, but any kind of wind is good. I caught them in the wind on the first 2 days."

He's yet to make a cast with anything but an umbrella rig in the tournament and he said since he's fishing out of an FLW-provided wrapped boat tomorrow, he'll keep his tackle options simple – just a couple umbrella rig rods and a bunch of swimbaits.

"That boat ought to fly in the morning," he joked.

3rd: Murphy Thrilled To Be In Mix

> Day 3: 5, 16-11 (15, 44-02)

Murphy's season got off to a miserable start with consecutive finishes of 137th or worse. After catching 16-11 today, he guaranteed himself a career-best finish on the FLW Tour and he sees no reason why he couldn't claim the victory tomorrow.

"It's awesome. I'm super excited about it," he said. "I had a good practice and have had to switch up quite a bit. I'm fishing staging areas for pre-spawners and they're wanting to move up bad. If Jason stumbles and I have a decent day, I could catch up being only 3 pounds back. There's the potential for me to catch 20 if I get the right bites. I caught a 7-pounder in practice and I had no idea those types of fish were in here. Can definitely overcome that deficit."

After having success with a crankbait earlier in the week, he's been quick to pick up an umbrella rig lately and today his first fish on the rig was a 5-pounder that paired nicely with a 4 3/4-pounder he caught later.

"Tomorrow, I'm just going to have two rods on the deck, both with Alabama Rigs on them," he said. "It's supposed to blow 25 to 30 and the windy conditions here seem to get them fired up. It was calm this morning and I struggled with the crankbait."

His nine keepers today were by far the fewest he's boated during the event, but he'll gladly take the quality over quantity. He'll target clear-water zones tomorrow in the windy weather, but should the breeze subside he has some stained-water areas that he can run to.

4th: Frustrating Day For Kreiger

> Day 3: 5, 13-15 (15, 42-13)

A second straight Top-10 will move Kreiger up among the leaders for Angler of the Year after tomorrow. The Floridian moved up a slot despite losing a key bite later in the day.

"It feels pretty good," he said. "It was a frustrating day of fishing, but it all worked out in the end."

He caught 10 keepers, but had a solid smallmouth come off on the way to boat that stung.

FLW/Brett Carlson
Photo: FLW/Brett Carlson

Scott Suggs has ridden a smallmouth pattern all week.

"That happens to everybody, but at Beaver Lake where you don't get many big bites and then you get one and you see the dang thing and then it comes off, that hurts," he said. "I probably had another limit's worth of bites that knocked slack in my line, but just didn't get the bait. They hit it really hard. It's amazing how hard they hit, but it was like they weren't opening their mouths. They were just running into it."

He had to rotate through three spots this morning before getting his first bite and when the sun broke through, the fish seemed to get more active. Typically, tomorrow's windy forecast would have him concerned, but not this week.

"Back in the old days, I'd be disappointed about the wind blowing 25 to 30, but I think it'll help me out maybe more than others," he said. "It's not discouraging."

Facing a deficit of 4-10 to Christie, he's not counting himself out of contention just yet.

"I have to have a big day, that's for sure," he said. "I think somebody will come in with a big stringer. Anybody could still win this thing. It's still wide open. Here, 10 to 12 1/2 pounds is normal. Anything above that I consider to be above average. I think I'll need 17 to have a shot."

5th: Mostly Smallies For Suggs

> Day 3: 5, 17-09 (15, 42-12)

Suggs came into the tournament feeling as prepared as he's ever been for a Beaver Lake event and his efforts are paying off handsomely. He made the biggest move on day 3 and stands 4-11 behind Christie.

He's one of a small few that have unlocked a consistent smallmouth bite and through 3 days, 14 of his 15 weigh fish have been smallies.

"I'm tickled to death," he said. "I knew the potential was there. I told my partner this morning that with no wind were just going to go practicing. I felt like I was going to be in trouble, but even with being dead slick, they were chomping."

His key tactic this week has ripping a jerkbait to trigger reaction strikes. Today, the bites came pretty steady all day, especially after 1 p.m. when he moved into an area that kicked out some fish on day 2.

"I'm also running way off and I caught two key fish in two different areas today," he said. "I don't want to change what's got me to where I'm at. I'll be running and gunning again tomorrow."

With another change in the weather on tap tomorrow, he thinks he has his bases covered.

"With the wind shifting, I have another plan if I need it," he said. "There will be areas with in them tomorrow that haven't had fish in them since early in practice. Hopefully, I can get them to bite again. I know every time my bait hits the water the potential is there for a big one."

Notable

> Day 3 stats – 20 anglers, 14 limits, 2 fours, 2 threes, 2 twos.

Weather Forecast

> Sun., April 14 – Mostly Sunny - 74°/54°
- Wind: From the S at 15 to 25 mph

Day 3 Standings

1. Jason Christie -- Park Hill, Ok -- 10-05 (5) -- 16-14 (5) -- 20-04 (5) -- 47-07 (15)

2. Brandon Coulter -- Knoxville, Tn -- 17-03 (5) -- 14-12 (5) -- 13-00 (5) -- 44-15 (15)

3. Shawn Murphy -- Nicholasville, Ky -- 14-06 (5) -- 13-01 (5) -- 16-11 (5) -- 44-02 (15)

4. Koby Kreiger -- Okeechobee, Fl -- 13-15 (5) -- 14-15 (5) -- 13-15 (5) -- 42-13 (15)

5. Scott Suggs -- Bryant, Ar -- 11-10 (5) -- 13-09 (5) -- 17-09 (5) -- 42-12 (15)

6. Anthony Gagliardi -- Prosperity, SC -- 15-05 (5) -- 14-05 (5) -- 11-15 (5) -- 41-09 (15)

7. Mark Rose -- West Memphis, Ar -- 14-05 (5) -- 13-10 (5) -- 12-15 (5) -- 40-14 (15)

8. Barry Wilson -- Birmingham, Al -- 16-11 (5) -- 10-09 (5) -- 12-11 (5) -- 39-15 (15)

9. Stacey King -- Reeds Spring, Mo -- 12-02 (5) -- 13-09 (5) -- 13-14 (5) -- 39-09 (15)

10. Jim Dillard -- West Monroe, La -- 13-00 (5) -- 12-04 (5) -- 12-12 (5) -- 38-00 (15)

The following anglers did not make the cut and will not fish on day 4.

11. Austin Terry -- San Angelo, Tx -- 15-05 (5) -- 14-14 (5) -- 7-05 (5) -- 37-08 -- $12,500

12. Todd Hollowell -- Fishers, In -- 6-14 (4) -- 22-15 (5) -- 6-10 (4) -- 36-07 -- $12,500

13. Tom Monsoor -- La Crosse, Wi -- 12-14 (5) -- 12-07 (5) -- 9-06 (5) -- 34-11 -- $12,500

14. Jimmy Houston -- Cookson, Ok -- 12-06 (5) -- 13-04 (4) -- 8-12 (3) -- 34-06 -- $12,500

15. Cody Meyer -- Auburn, Ca -- 11-10 (5) -- 13-12 (5) -- 8-06 (5) -- 33-12 -- $12,500

16. Ishama Monroe -- Hughson, Ca -- 14-08 (5) -- 10-13 (5) -- 8-03 (4) -- 33-08 -- $12,000

17. Cody Bird -- Granbury, Tx -- 5-15 (3) -- 19-14 (5) -- 7-02 (3) -- 32-15 -- $12,000

18. Christopher Brasher -- Hallsville, Tx -- 15-14 (5) -- 12-05 (5) -- 3-14 (2) -- 32-01 -- $12,000

19. James Watson -- Waynesville, Mo -- 12-00 (5) -- 13-01 (4) -- 6-09 (5) -- 31-10 -- $12,000

20. Scott Canterbury -- Springville, Al -- 15-05 (5) -- 11-05 (5) -- 4-02 (2) -- 30-12 -- $12,000