By BassFan Staff

Victory at the Sam Rayburn Reservoir FLW Tour might come down to one big bite on the final day. There are plenty of guys at the top of the leaderboard who've proven they can entice – and boat – such fish.

Five of the Top 6 have tour-level wins on their rιsumιs. The lone exception is a rookie who's improved his finishes tremendously each time out and who caught the largest bag on day 3.

Mark Rose doubled his lead to nearly 3 pounds with a 16-01 stringer that pushed his total to 59-01. His closest pursuer is Bryan Thrift, who's moved up two places each day and climbed to 2nd on day 3 with a 16-09 sack that gave him a 56-03 total.

Steve Kennedy, trying to shake off a couple of lousy finishes on both major circuits, caught 14-14 today to remain in 3rd with 55-08. Greg Hackney, another two-tour pro and the 2009 Forrest Wood Cup champion, jumped from 6th to 4th with a 16-09 stringer for a 53-04 aggregate.

Jayme Rampey, a first-year pro from South Carolina, was next with 53-01 after catching the day's lone 20-pound bag.

Here are the totals for the final-day qualifiers, with deficit margins denoted by red numbers in parentheses:

1. Mark Rose: 59-01
2. Bryan Thrift: 56-03 (2-14)
3. Steve Kennedy: 55-08 (3-09)
4. Greg Hackney: 53-04 (5-13)
5. Jayme Rampey: 53-01 (6-00)
6. John Cox: 50-11 (8-06)
7. Jason Meninger: 49-10 (9-07)
8. Andy Montgomery: 49-07 (9-10)
9. Tony Davis: 47-10 (11-07)
10. Rick Cotten: 46-14 (12-03)

Today was the dreaded second day following a cold front and the action was indeed a bit slow. Five competitors – a quarter of the field – failed to weigh a limit and Rampey's bag was the best of the day by 3 1/2 pounds.

Fish that have yet to spawn continue to move toward the bank, but sight-fishing is unlikely to play much of a role on day 4 as the vast majority of the water remains heavily stained.

Rampey was the lone newcomer to the Top 10 as he moved up from the No. 12 slot. He replaced Jonathan Newton, who fell from 9th to 13th with a 10-03 haul.

The final-day forecast calls for partly cloudy skies, a high temperature of 76 degrees and a southeast wind to 8 mph.

Rose Hanging On

> Day 3: 5, 16-01 (15, 59-01)

Although Rose added a bit of weight to his lead, he still doesn't feel like he's on anything extremely solid. His numbers have fallen off by several pounds each day.

"I had another decent day thanks to a few key bites," he said. "It's been that way the whole tournament. I'm excited, but it's kind of scary, too. I'm not going to worry about it, though – I'll go try to get another big bite tomorrow and see if I can make something happen."

His stringer was headed up by a 5 1/2-pounder that he caught at 8 o'clock. He boated only six keepers and didn't lose any as he again relied primarily on a crankbait.

"My stuff's just going away – the fish are going to the bank," he said. "Although I'm not fishing very deep, my main area is out away from the bank and every time I get up near the bank, I don't get bit.

"I feel like those fish are moving into more of a spawning mood and I'm just trying to scratch and claw and survive. I'm just riding the big fish as far as they'll take me."

FLW/Colin Moore
Photo: FLW/Colin Moore

Bryan Thrift rode a quintet of 3- to 3 1/2-pounders into 2nd place on day 3.

He's certain he'll need considerably more than 16 pounds on day 4 to close out the win.

"I feel like 20 is the mark I have to shoot for to have a chance. We're on Rayburn and you know somebody's going to weigh a good sack. I won't be comfortable without 20."

2nd: No Big 'Uns for Thrift

> Day 3: 5, 16-09 (15, 56-03)

Thrift's bag consisted of five fish that were all very similar in size.

"I actually caught more today than any other day, but there were a lot of small ones," he said. "I got six 3-pound bites and got five of them into the boat. I probably caught 12 that weren't even keepers."

He flipped a Damiki Knockout for much of the day, but got one of his weigh-in fish on a ChatterBait.

"I think somebody's going to bust a big bag to win this thing. I wouldn't be surprised to see 24 or 26 pounds. I don't think I have a shot at a bag like that – I think my area's good for 15 to 19 pounds max. I could be wrong and I hope I'm wrong, but that's what I think from what I've seen."

3rd: Kennedy going Snagless

> Day 3: 5, 14-14 (15, 55-08)

Kennedy revealed that he's gone primarily with an old-school bait for this event – a Hildebrandt Snagless Sally in-line spinner.

"I know I haven't thrown that in 13 or 14 years," he said. "I used to win a bunch of money on it at Lake Eufaula, but since I've turned pro the ChatterBait and the swimbait have totally replaced it. To me, this place looks just like Eufaula, so I pulled it out in practice.

"It's a search bait that I throw between the trees and do the same things I would with a swimbait. If I get one to blow up on it and I don't catch it, I'll throw the Senko in there."

He handled seven or eight keepers today, the best of which went a little over 5 pounds.

"I had to go back over some areas I'd already fished and I got my biggest one off a set of trees where I didn't get a bite an hour before. They were pretty finicky today, really.

"Tomorrow I'll have to be in that 20-pound range. One big bite could get me even, and then I could go from there. There's some big fish in this place – I've really been impressed with it."

4th: Tougher Day for Hackney

> Day 3: 5, 16-09 (15, 53-04)

Hackney's weight was off by 4 pounds from the previous day, but he gained ground in the standings.

"It was a little tougher today than it has been," he said. "I only caught seven, which was easily my lowest number of bites – I'd been getting a dozen to 15 and culling three or four times, but today I only culled once. The best one I had was about 5 pounds."

He's fishing shallow and catching both pre- and post-spawners.

"I'll have to have better than 20 tomorrow – it'll have to be my best day. I feel like they live in the areas I'm fishing and I'm looking forward to going back out there. I may have to back out a little bit to have a shot."

Garrick Dixon
Photo: Garrick Dixon

Rookie Jayme Rampey's 20-pound stringer was the best of the day.

5th: Rampey Moving Around

> Day 3: 5, 20-00 (15, 53-01)

Rampey started his pro career with a 139th-place finish at Lake Okeechobee. He followed that up with a 50th at Hartwell and will fare no worse than 10th in this derby.

"I'm jacked about that," he said. "I'm really excited."

He said he's covering a great deal of water and fishing solely for larger bites. He caught 10 keepers today, the best of which was a 5-pounder.

"I think I'll need 24 or 25 pounds tomorrow, and I think I have a shot at that. I've been getting two or three big bites a day, and if I can get four or five, we're playing."

8th: Wind Shift Hurt Meninger

> Day 3: 5, 8-03 (15, 49-10)

Meninger's bag was only about a third the size of the one he caught on day 2.

"I tried to make my offshore spot work as long as I could today, but a ton of (spotted bass) moved in there," he said. "The spots have been in there and I've been catching some, but eventually the largemouths would show up. Today I probably got 50 bites, but only two of them were largemouths.

"I think what happened was when the wind was blowing out of the south, it was blowing the bait right into that spot and the largemouths were coming up to feed. Today, when it blew out of the north, it was sending the bait back toward the main lake."

He'll give the area another chance on the final day.

"The place is kind of magical and I could catch a big bag if another wave moves in. I'll give it a few hours and if it's not happening, I'll run up shallow and throw a frog."

Notable

> Day 3 stats – 20 anglers, 15 limits, 2 fours, 2 threes, 1 one.

Weather Forecast

> Sun., March 30 – Partly Cloudy - 76°/47°
- Wind: From the SE at 8 mph

Day 3 Standings

1. Mark Rose -- West Memphis, Ar -- 23-14 (5) -- 19-02 (5) -- 43-00 (10) -- 16-01 (5) -- 59-01

2. Bryan Thrift -- Shelby, NC -- 18-12 (5) -- 20-14 (5) -- 39-10 (10) -- 16-09 (5) -- 56-03

3. Steve Kennedy -- Auburn, Al -- 18-14 (5) -- 21-12 (5) -- 40-10 (10) -- 14-14 (5) -- 55-08

4. Greg Hackney -- Gonzales, La -- 16-03 (5) -- 20-08 (5) -- 36-11 (10) -- 16-09 (5) -- 53-04

5. Jayme Rampey -- Liberty, SC -- 16-10 (5) -- 16-07 (5) -- 33-01 (10) -- 20-00 (5) -- 53-01

6. John Cox -- Debary, Fl -- 14-12 (5) -- 21-14 (5) -- 36-10 (10) -- 14-01 (5) -- 50-11

7. Jason Meninger -- Gainesville, Ga -- 17-05 (5) -- 24-02 (5) -- 41-07 (10) -- 8-03 (5) -- 49-10

8. Andy Montgomery -- Blacksburg, SC -- 24-11 (5) -- 9-15 (5) -- 34-10 (10) -- 14-13 (5) -- 49-07

9. Tony Davis -- Williston, Fl -- 15-05 (5) -- 18-02 (4) -- 33-07 (9) -- 14-03 (5) -- 47-10

10. Rick Cotten -- Guntersville, Al -- 25-15 (5) -- 11-15 (5) -- 37-14 (10) -- 9-00 (5) -- 46-14

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

11. Rob Kilby -- Hot Springs, Ar -- 16-07 (5) -- 15-00 (5) -- 31-07 (10) -- 14-13 (5) -- 46-04 -- $12,000

12. Richard Peek -- Centre, Al -- 15-13 (5) -- 14-02 (5) -- 29-15 (10) -- 15-04 (5) -- 45-03 -- $12,000

13. Jonathan Newton -- Rogersville, Al -- 16-05 (4) -- 18-02 (5) -- 34-07 (9) -- 10-03 (3) -- 44-10 -- $12,000

14. Tom Monsoor -- La Crosse, Wi -- 15-06 (5) -- 15-14 (5) -- 31-04 (10) -- 13-00 (5) -- 44-04 -- $12,000

15. Austin Terry -- San Angelo, Tx -- 17-04 (5) -- 14-07 (5) -- 31-11 (10) -- 11-02 (5) -- 42-13 -- $12,000

16. Shad Schenck -- Waynetown, In -- 13-04 (5) -- 18-14 (5) -- 32-02 (10) -- 10-05 (5) -- 42-07 -- $12,000

17. Mike Surman -- Boca Raton, Fl -- 15-07 (5) -- 17-09 (5) -- 33-00 (10) -- 7-12 (3) -- 40-12 -- $12,000

18. Gary Yamamoto -- Palestine, Tx -- 17-00 (5) -- 12-13 (5) -- 29-13 (10) -- 10-08 (4) -- 40-05 -- $12,000

19. Brad Knight -- Wartburg, Tn -- 16-01 (5) -- 13-15 (5) -- 30-00 (10) -- 7-02 (4) -- 37-02 -- $12,000

20. Shinichi Fukae -- Palestine, Tx -- 17-09 (5) -- 15-10 (5) -- 33-03 (10) -- 2-05 (1) -- 35-08 -- $12,000