By BassFan Staff

If the third day of competition at the Lake Seminole Bassmaster Elite Series had ended 90 minutes earlier than it did, the storyline would be much different. But what transpired over that final hour and a half created a scenario extremely similar to one that's already played out at a tour-level event this year.

For the second time in a little over a month, Brett Hite will take a double-digit lead into the final day. And with unsettled weather conditions that are conducive to his reaction-bait pattern having already started to move into the Bainbridge, Ga. area, he's extremely confident that he'll be able to close out his second victory of the young campaign.

"I'm just going to go fishing and have fun – that's the name of the game," said Hite, who had only three run-of-the-mill fish in his livewell at 1:30 p.m. today before catching four massive specimens to end the day with a flourish. "I'm going to stay relaxed, but really put my head down and fish hard. Knowing that we're going to have clouds and wind and rain gives me more confidence to stick with what I'm doing."

The veteran from Arizona, who won February's FLW Tour event at Lake Okeechobee, caught a 26-05 bag today to push his total to 71-11 and extend his lead from 14 ounces to nearly 10 pounds. If he holds onto any part of that massive advantage tomorrow, he'll notch his first B.A.S.S. victory in 68 tries.

Mark Davis, who's boxed three straight 20-pound-plus stringers but has yet to blow past that mark like Hite's done on 2 of the 3 days, moved into 2nd place with a 20-02 haul that gave him a 61-15 aggregate. He catapulted past Bernie Schultz and Kevin Short, who each weighed a sack in the 17-pound range for the second straight day. Schultz now has 61-10 and Short has 60-11.

Aaron Martens, whose 29-11 day-3 bag was second-best of the tournament (trailing only Shaw Grigsby's 30-05 on day 1), moved up 32 places to 5th with 60-00.

Here are the totals for the 12 competitors who'll be back on the water for the final day, with their hefty deficit margins indicated by red numbers in parentheses:

1. Brett Hite: 71-11
2. Mark Davis: 61-15 (9-12)
3. Bernie Schultz: 61-10 (10-01)
4. Kevin Short: 60-11 (11-00)
5. Aaron Martens: 60-00 (11-11)
6. Shaw Grigsby: 59-03 (12-08)
7. Takahiro Omori: 58-06 (13-05)
8. Justin Lucas: 58-04 (13-07)
9. Byron Velvick: 58-03 (13-08)
10. Todd Faircloth: 56-15 (14-12)
11. Charlie Hartley: 56-00 (15-11)
12. Andy Montgomery: 54-14 (16-13)

Conditions were sunny, warm and dead-calm for most of the day. That made for a tough fishing day for some (15 of the 50 competitors failed to weigh a limit), but not for others (nine 20-pound sacks crossed the stage, compared to just 11 and 8 on days 1 and 2, respectively, when the field still consisted of 108 anglers).

The jump in the standings by defending Angler of the Year Martens was by far the biggest of the day. Others who made substantial climbs to reach the final day were Velvick (24-08 today), Faircloth (23-12) and Montgomery (23-09).

B.A.S.S./Gary Tramontina
Photo: B.A.S.S./Gary Tramontina

Mark Davis sacked more than 20 pounds for the third consecutive day.

Hartley advanced to day 4 at an Elite Series event for the first time since 2007, when he finished 6th at Lake Erie.

The WeatherChannel.com forecast for day 4 predicts morning showers with afternoon thunderstorms, with some of the storms reaching the severe level. The wind should blow from the south at a stiff 18 to 20 mph.

Hite's Last Move was Right

> Day 3: 5, 26-05 (15, 71-11)

Hite said the majority of his day was difficult.

"It was actually the toughest day I've had, even though I had my biggest weight," he said. "From the beginning of the day until maybe 1 o'clock we had really high skies and no wind and the reaction bite was not good. In quite a few areas I had fish push the bait and not get it – that happened probably eight times – and I attribute that to the dead-slick conditions.

"Those first three fish I caught (combined to weigh) maybe 5 pounds. They were the three smallest ones I caught the whole week. Then I pulled into an area where I'd caught some on the first day and for that last hour and a half, it was game on."

He boated for of his weigh-in fish at that location, including a 7-pounder, a 6 and a 5. Just like on the previous days, there was nobody fishing around him.

"If I can get eight bites tomorrow, I'm going to have a big stringer – I'm not catching many little ones. If it's raining and we get a little wind, conditions are going to be right for me to catch them."

"Twenty pounds would be a good goal, I'd say. I've had that every day and that's really what I want to catch."

2nd: Uphill Battle for Davis

> Day 3: 5, 20-02 (15, 61-15)

Davis used an analogy from another sport to describe the other competitors' predicament with Hite so far in front.

"It's a one-horse race right now, and unless that horse comes up lame, I don't see him losing," he said. "You never know, but he's got such a commanding lead."

Davis' weights have been remarkably similar each day, especially considering that he's relied on a different primary technique during each round.

"I've had to mix it around," he said. "I sight-fished the first day, then I caught them on a Strike King 1.5 square-bill the second day. Today I caught them flipping a Strike King Rodent.

"When the fish are biting good enough, you don't have to sight-fish you can catch them just fishing. The day I sight-fished, there were 15 other boats in there, and I stayed in there all day and caught my 21 pounds. I knew there was no use going back, so I stayed out of it."

He expects his action to pick up a little bit on day 4.

"I think tomorrow's going to be a real good fishing day. I think a lot of the fish I'm on will bite real well, but I just don't know what size they're going to be."

3rd: Same Deal for Schultz

> Day 3: 5, 17-02 (15, 61-10)

Schultz continued to mix things up with a couple of Rapala hard baits (a square-bill and a lipless crank) and a Yamamoto Lizard, but said he'll try to narrow things down on day 4.

"I'm going to throw the (bladed jig) early in some other areas," he said. "I feel like I've milked my grass flat for all it's worth and as far as bedding fish, there aren't many good ones up there. I had a chance to look around today and I never saw any, so I'm done with that.

"I'm not giving up, though. (Hite) could have 18 pounds tomorrow and I could have 30. I'd love to be in his position – don't get me wrong, he's got a great cushion. But that's no guarantee."

B.A.S.S./Gary Tramontina
Photo: B.A.S.S./Gary Tramontina

Kevin Short lost one position in the standings today with a 17-08 stringer.

He went through eight or nine keepers on the day, the biggest of which was in the 4-pound class.

"I didn't lose any that would've helped; I was pretty solid on (hook-up) percentages."

4th: Short Scales Down

> Day 3: 5, 17-08 (15, 60-11)

Short made an adjustment today that he thinks will pay dividends on day 4.

"Condition-wise, today wasn't really a good fishing day in my opinion," he said. "It was sunny and there was no wind.

"I eventually had to make an adjustment in baits – I scaled down in size. If I'd done it earlier in the day I probably could've helped myself a little bit. That was the one mistake I made."

He said he's catching fish that are in all stages of the spawn.

"Today I fished the beds pretty hard. I can't see the fish because the water's dirty, but I'm just trying to get a semi-aggressive one to bite. And when they do bite, they absolutely hammer it.

"I have to make a whole bunch of casts to get one to bite. I've got no problem fishing for five bites a day."

He boated just five keepers today, including one that went a little over 5 pounds. He lost a big one that he hooked three different times on three different baits.

"It's fishing and I'm happy with what I've got. I'd like a little more, but I'm not going to complain."

5th: Martens Mauled 'Em

> Day 3: 5, 29-11 (15, 60-00)

Martens said his monstrous sack was all about location.

"It's just a good spot," he said. "I fished it yesterday morning and didn't catch anything. Today I spent more time there and figured them out and got them going."

He went through 13 keepers and the five he took to the scale were all between 5 and 6 1/4 pounds. He didn't lose anything that mattered.

B.A.S.S./Gary Tramontina
Photo: B.A.S.S./Gary Tramontina

Aaron Martens' 29-11 stringer was the second-biggest of the tournament.

"I threw back a bunch that would've helped me yesterday, though. The biggest five (he culled) weighed 20 pounds."

He said his area should be productive again on the final day.

"I think there's a pretty good chance it could happen. I don't know if the weather will change anything, but I guess I'll find out soon enough."

15th: Calm Hindered Morgenthaler

> Day 3: 4, 19-10 (14, 52-10)

Chad Morgenthaler dropped 10 places and out of the final cut today. His bag was far less than half the size of the 22-06 he caught on day 2.

"We had wind the first 2 days and that really made a difference," he said. "I was able to hit that golden hour and a half where I did a big portion of my damage. Today was just slower.

"I still had a good shot, but the water had warmed up quite a bit and it seemed to change the way the fish were biting. I used the same baits on the same set-ups and they were choking it before, but today it was just different."

He said he got 20 keeper bites today, but boated only 20 percent of them.

"I'd get about three cranks of the reel and then they'd come off. I don't know why that was happening. It was just one of those deals."

He threw a 3/4-ounce Lunker Lure jig on the outside of grass lines and a Missile Baits Baby D-Bomb in heavier cover on the inside.

Notable

> Day 3 stats – 50 anglers, 35 limits, 8 fours, 6 threes, 1 two.

Weather Forecast

> Sun., March 15 – P.M. Storms - 75°/60°
- Wind: From the S at 18 mph

Day 3 Standings

1. Brett Hite -- Phoenix, AZ -- 15, 71-11 -- 100
Day 1: 5, 24-11 -- Day 2: 5, 20-11 -- Day 3: 5, 26-05

2. Mark Davis -- Mount Ida, AR -- 15, 61-15 -- 99
Day 1: 5, 21-00 -- Day 2: 5, 20-13 -- Day 3: 5, 20-02

3. Bernie Schultz -- Gainesville, FL -- 15, 61-10 -- 98
Day 1: 5, 26-14 -- Day 2: 5, 17-10 -- Day 3: 5, 17-02

4. Kevin Short -- Mayflower, AR -- 15, 60-11 -- 97
Day 1: 5, 25-09 -- Day 2: 5, 17-10 -- Day 3: 5, 17-08

5. Aaron Martens -- Leeds, AL -- 15, 60-00 -- 96
Day 1: 5, 17-05 -- Day 2: 5, 13-00 -- Day 3: 5, 29-11

6. Shaw Grigsby Jr. -- Gainesville, FL -- 15, 59-03 -- 95
Day 1: 5, 30-05 -- Day 2: 5, 12-05 -- Day 3: 5, 16-09

7. Takahiro Omori -- Emory, TX -- 15, 58-06 -- 94
Day 1: 5, 19-11 -- Day 2: 5, 14-15 -- Day 3: 5, 23-12

8. Justin Lucas -- Guntersville, AL -- 15, 58-04 -- 93
Day 1: 5, 17-08 -- Day 2: 5, 25-09 -- Day 3: 5, 15-03

9. Byron Velvick -- Boerne, TX -- 14, 58-03 -- 92
Day 1: 5, 16-07 -- Day 2: 4, 17-04 -- Day 3: 5, 24-08

10. Todd Faircloth -- Jasper, TX -- 15, 56-15 -- 91
Day 1: 5, 20-15 -- Day 2: 5, 12-04 -- Day 3: 5, 23-12

11. Charlie Hartley -- Grove City, OH -- 15, 56-00 -- 90
Day 1: 5, 19-07 -- Day 2: 5, 16-01 -- Day 3: 5, 20-08

12. Andy Montgomery -- Blacksburg, SC -- 15, 54-14 -- 89
Day 1: 5, 15-10 -- Day 2: 5, 15-11 -- Day 3: 5, 23-09

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

13. Jared Lintner -- Arroyo Grande, CA -- 15, 53-09 -- 88 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 14-09 -- Day 2: 5, 21-05 -- Day 3: 5, 17-11

14. Jason Christie -- Park Hill, OK -- 15, 53-06 -- 87 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 14-05 -- Day 2: 5, 18-05 -- Day 3: 5, 20-12

15. Chad Morgenthaler -- Coulterville, IL -- 14, 52-10 -- 86 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 20-10 -- Day 2: 5, 22-06 -- Day 3: 4, 09-10

16. James Niggemeyer -- Van, TX -- 13, 51-14 -- 85 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 19-07 -- Day 2: 4, 18-02 -- Day 3: 4, 14-05

17. Alton Jones -- Lorena, TX -- 15, 51-10 -- 84 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 14-09 -- Day 2: 5, 19-07 -- Day 3: 5, 17-10

18. David Walker -- Sevierville, TN -- 15, 51-09 -- 83 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 21-04 -- Day 2: 5, 12-05 -- Day 3: 5, 18-00

19. Gerald Swindle -- Warrior, AL -- 15, 50-13 -- 82 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 16-15 -- Day 2: 5, 18-02 -- Day 3: 5, 15-12

20. Nate Wellman -- Newaygo, MI -- 15, 50-11 -- 81 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 15-05 -- Day 2: 5, 21-05 -- Day 3: 5, 14-01

21. Brandon Lester -- Fayetteville, TN -- 15, 50-01 -- 80 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 18-06 -- Day 2: 5, 17-09 -- Day 3: 5, 14-02

22. Randall Tharp -- Port Saint Joe, FL -- 15, 50-00 -- 79 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 17-00 -- Day 2: 5, 20-07 -- Day 3: 5, 12-09

23. Hank Cherry Jr -- Maiden, NC -- 14, 49-13 -- 78 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 23-03 -- Day 2: 5, 14-10 -- Day 3: 4, 12-00

24. Stephen Browning -- Hot Springs, AR -- 15, 49-12 -- 77 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 14-11 -- Day 2: 5, 15-13 -- Day 3: 5, 19-04

25. Morizo Shimizu -- Osaka, Japan -- 14, 49-09 -- 76 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 19-02 -- Day 2: 5, 17-06 -- Day 3: 4, 13-01

26. Brian Snowden -- Reeds Spring, MO -- 15, 48-14 -- 75 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 20-03 -- Day 2: 5, 14-07 -- Day 3: 5, 14-04

27. Ott DeFoe -- Knoxville, TN -- 15, 47-12 -- 74 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 17-11 -- Day 2: 5, 16-04 -- Day 3: 5, 13-13

28. Bill Lowen -- Brookville, IN -- 15, 46-07 -- 73 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 13-03 -- Day 2: 5, 16-15 -- Day 3: 5, 16-05

29. Jacob Powroznik -- Port Haywood, VA -- 15, 46-02 -- 72 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 14-12 -- Day 2: 5, 15-11 -- Day 3: 5, 15-11

30. Matt Herren -- Trussville, AL -- 15, 45-04 -- 71 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 15-04 -- Day 2: 5, 14-13 -- Day 3: 5, 15-03

31. Clifford Pirch -- Payson, AZ -- 15, 45-01 -- 70 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 18-07 -- Day 2: 5, 12-07 -- Day 3: 5, 14-03

32. Kevin VanDam -- Kalamazoo, MI -- 15, 45-00 -- 69 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 17-09 -- Day 2: 5, 14-08 -- Day 3: 5, 12-15

33. Kotaro Kiriyama -- Moody, AL -- 15, 44-02 -- 68 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 12-03 -- Day 2: 5, 15-13 -- Day 3: 5, 16-02

34. Chris Lane -- Guntersville, AL -- 15, 43-15 -- 67 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 18-06 -- Day 2: 5, 09-10 -- Day 3: 5, 15-15

35. Skeet Reese -- Auburn, CA -- 15, 43-15 -- 66 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 16-07 -- Day 2: 5, 11-01 -- Day 3: 5, 16-07

36. Dean Rojas -- Lake Havasu City, AZ -- 15, 43-08 -- 65 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 18-09 -- Day 2: 5, 13-04 -- Day 3: 5, 11-11

37. Cliff Prince -- Palatka, FL -- 14, 43-06 -- 64 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 13-08 -- Day 2: 4, 14-13 -- Day 3: 5, 15-01

38. Greg Hackney -- Gonzales, LA -- 12, 43-02 -- 63 -- $10,000
Day 1: 2, 05-00 -- Day 2: 5, 23-15 -- Day 3: 5, 14-03

39. Josh Bertrand -- Gilbert, AZ -- 13, 42-11 -- 62 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 17-08 -- Day 2: 5, 13-10 -- Day 3: 3, 11-09

40. Ish Monroe -- Hughson, CA -- 14, 41-00 -- 61 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 12-03 -- Day 2: 5, 19-13 -- Day 3: 4, 09-00

41. J Todd Tucker -- Moultrie, GA -- 10, 40-10 -- 60 -- $10,000
Day 1: 4, 18-14 -- Day 2: 2, 08-06 -- Day 3: 4, 13-06

42. Mike Kernan -- Wylie, TX -- 13, 40-06 -- 59 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 14-08 -- Day 2: 5, 16-08 -- Day 3: 3, 09-06

43. Russ Lane -- Prattville, AL -- 13, 40-02 -- 58 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 12-08 -- Day 2: 5, 17-15 -- Day 3: 3, 09-11

44. Kelly Jordon -- Palestine, TX -- 12, 39-12 -- 57 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 15-05 -- Day 2: 4, 17-10 -- Day 3: 3, 06-13

45. Jeremy Starks -- Scott Depot, WV -- 13, 38-12 -- 56 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 16-00 -- Day 2: 4, 12-11 -- Day 3: 4, 10-01

46. Davy Hite -- Ninety Six, SC -- 14, 37-10 -- 55 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 18-08 -- Day 2: 5, 10-11 -- Day 3: 4, 08-07

47. Kelley Jaye -- Dadeville, AL -- 15, 37-10 -- 54 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 15-03 -- Day 2: 5, 14-00 -- Day 3: 5, 08-07

48. Tim Horton -- Muscle Shoals, AL -- 12, 37-00 -- 53 -- $10,000
Day 1: 4, 10-07 -- Day 2: 5, 17-04 -- Day 3: 3, 09-05

49. Kurt Dove -- Del Rio, TX -- 13, 36-13 -- 52 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 17-00 -- Day 2: 5, 10-04 -- Day 3: 3, 09-09

50. Tommy Biffle -- Wagoner, OK -- 11, 35-10 -- 51 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 23-13 -- Day 2: 4, 06-08 -- Day 3: 2, 05-05