By BassFan Staff

At some point, the weights coming out of Lake Dardanelle have to start tailing off, right? It is part of the Arkansas River after all and typically, weights in a multi-day tournament on most river systems level off or decrease as the event wears on.

Dardanelle has proved to be an exception to the rule as the bite turned back on today for the 50 Bassmaster Elite Series anglers vying for a chance to fish on Sunday. Fourteen competitors caught 17 or more pounds today, including 10 who ultimately qualified for the final round. Compare that to the nine pros who sacked 17 on Friday when the full 107-man field was on the water.

Despite constantly changing conditions, the lake continues to churn out solid stringers – partly because of those conditions – and it has set the stage for a Sunday shootout with the two leaders separated by just 13 ounces.

Greg Hackney was not part of the 17-pound club today, but his 16-10 stringer was good enough to keep him in the lead and run his total to 56-08. The Arkansas native who now calls Louisiana home is chasing his second career Elite Series win and first tour-level victory since the 2009 Forrest Wood Cup.

Hackney is less than a pound ahead of legendary Rick Clunn, who's seeking his first win in nearly 12 years. Clunn, fishing his 401st career B.A.S.S. event this week, hammered 19-08 to slide up three spots to 2nd with 55-11.

Keith Combs is looking to make it two wins in two weeks after catching 17-11 to move up to 3rd with 54-03. Jason Christie, who won a Central Open on the Arkansas River (Fort Gibson Lake) in the fall of 2012, sacked 20-00 today to jump into 4th with 53-01. Cliff Crochet, who was in 70th after day 1, rode his second straight 19-pound stringer up to 5th with 52-05.

Here's a look at the 12 anglers who will fish on the final day, with their deficit margin from Hackney indicated by red numbers in parentheses:

1. Greg Hackney: 56-08
2. Rick Clunn: 55-11 (00-13)
3. Keith Combs: 54-03 (2-05)
4. Jason Christie: 53-01 (3-07)
5. Cliff Crochet: 52-05 (4-03)
6. Gerald Swindle: 51-14 (4-10)
7. John Crews: 51-00 (5-08)
8. Takahiro Omori: 49-09 (6-15)
9. Chris Zaldain: 49-04 (7-04)
10. Skeet Reese: 48-12 (7-12)
11. Mike Iaconelli: 48-10 (7-14)
12. Paul Elias: 48-09 (7-15)

Gerald Swindle, whose last Top-10 finish in an Elite Series event was a 3rd-place result at the Arkansas River in June 2011, caught 19-00 today and moved up to 6th with 51-14.

Takahiro Omori clinched his second 12-cut of the season with a 20-07 effort today that moved him into 8th. Mike Iaconelli, who came from 80th to 16th on day 2, climbed to 11th with a 17-12 stringer to give him 48-10 and assured him his best finish of the season. Paul Elias also used a 20-pound stringer to seize the last spot among the finalists with 48-09.

Zell Rowland, who blew everyone away with a 25-pound bag on day 2, caught just 10-05 today and slipped from 3rd to 17th. Keith Poche had been in the Top 10 the first 2 days, but a 12-06 bag pushed him down to 16th with 47-07. Randy Howell (7th to 20th) and Boo Woods (9th to 18th) also dropped out of the Top 12.

The fish continue to bite well throughout the lake and it appears the off-colored water has made the bigger fish more apt to chew. Timing will continue to be a crucial deciding factor tomorrow as some areas have been known to turn on in a moment's notice with a change in current or other conditions.

There were some afternoon showers around Russellville, Ark., on Saturday and the cloudy skies will continue through Sunday when the temperature is expected to hit 71 with light winds out of the east.

Hackney Being Thorough

> Day 3: 5, 16-10 (15, 56-08)

Hackney totaled 20 keepers today, but he was bummed that none of them were what he'd consider big bites.

"I caught them quicker today, a lot sooner than I had any other day and I caught about nine or 10 3-pounders, but I just didn't get any big bites," he said. "I fished the exact same way I've been fishing."

One difference he noticed this morning was the water was a lot higher in the area he finished in yesterday and opted to start in today. It was real muddy and it wasn't long before he was off to his next spot.

"It was the highest it's been and then they pulled it," he said. "It been different every day. Either it's been low and it comes up or it's been high and they bring it down."

He moved to the area where he started on Friday and bagged a limit pretty quick, including four 3-pounders.

"After that, it was just keepers," he said.

A win tomorrow would carry a lot of meaning for Hackney for several reasons.

"To win on any lake is important and I'd love to win here because I do have a lot of history in this state," he said, "but more than anything I haven't won in a while and I'm hungry for a win.

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

Rick Clunn is in position to win his first Elite Series event.

"I felt like I was in a position to win a couple times earlier this year. At Table Rock, I had the bites to win there. It's so hard to win one of these. It's hard to get things to go right for 4 days in a row. I just feel blessed to have led for 2 days and I feel like I've had a good week regardless of how it turns out."

Sunday morning, he's planning to check out an area he hasn't fished at all this week just to see if the hunch he has is right.

"It's an area close to where I've been fishing, but it's a deal I've been thinking about all week," he said. "I'm going to experiment in there for about an hour. I have a lot confidence in a lot of areas that have a lot of potential, but the problem is the way I'm fishing I just can't blow through them and run to another one. I'm having to be real thorough and every 6 inches has to be fished because for whatever reason the strike zone is much smaller than it was in practice."

2nd: Clunn Prepared to 'Weight' It Out

> Day 3: 5, 19-08 (15, 55-11)

Clunn isn't planning any changes to the game plan that has brought him to the brink of his first win since 2002.

"Nothing has changed for me. It was the same as it's been," he said.

He got eight or nine bites today, which is right in line with the first 2 days of the tournament.

"Five of them were good quality fish," he said. "I'm just running a pattern and one day one stretch will produce more than another. None of them are knocking my socks off. For me, a good stretch is one where I catch a big one. If I have seven or eight of those stretches, I can have a good day."

On Sunday, he feels he'll have to have his best day weight-wise in order to overtake Hackney.

"I'd just like to go out there and have the most enjoyable day that I can – physically and mentally," he added. "I'm on a good pattern and I believe it will hold up. All of the guys are catching them and it's going to boil down to the guy who catches the better fish. Each day I've had a 5-pounder and I'm probably going to need a couple or three of those type of fish tomorrow."

He sensed there was considerably more water coming into the lake today than there had been earlier in the week and believes that's part of the reason his pattern has been effective.

"There's a lot of water flushing out of the side creeks and a lot of water coming in," he said. "Any time those creeks have clear water in them the bigger fish become harder to catch, so this off-color water has made them a little easier to catch. What the stained water does is it compresses the fish shallow and makes them easier to target."

He said he hasn't given much thought to what a first Elite Series win would mean to him should things fall in his favor, but it would be a significant milestone on a personal level.

"Until it happens, I really don't even think about it," he said. "I've been fortunate to win over 20 major events in my career while some guys never win one. For me to get hyped up about it isn't worth it.

"My two boys have never seen me win. That would make it special for me personally."

3rd: Combs Thinks 21 Will Do It

> Day 3: 5, 17-11 (15, 54-03)

Combs is ready to prove that he can win a tournament somewhere other than Texas. He has a prime opportunity tomorrow to do just that.

He's quietly hung around the Top 5 all tournament and sits less than 2 1/2 pounds behind Hackney, poised to claim his second Elite Series win just a week after winning another Toyota Texas Bass Classic.

"Everybody says I tear it up in Texas and not that that's a bad thing, but I want to win one somewhere else," he said.

He started strong today with a 3- and 4-pounder fairly quick and it had him thinking he was on the brink of a big day.

"I caught two more keepers, including a 2 1/4-pounder that I weighed in from that area and had it all in the boat by 8 a.m. and then I didn't get a bite until about 11," he said. "That's when I caught my fifth fish and that was a squeaker."

He's had to constantly adjust to the endless changes in conditions, be it water level or current flow.

"It changes on an hourly basis here," he said. "The one constant to me was the water looked higher today than it has been at any other time."

He has a couple baits that've been most effective – one casting and one flipping.

"I've caught them off about five different kinds of cover, but there is a pattern to it," he noted.

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

Keith Combs is seeking his first win outside the state of Texas.

He's hoping the pattern continues to fire tomorrow.

"It's going to boil down to who in that Top 8 catches over 20 tomorrow," he said. "People are catching 19 1/2 and 20, but I think you're going to need 21. I really think I could've had one of those days today. I'm not going to worry about it. If it's meant to happen, I'm dang sure around them to make it happen."

4th: Christie Has it Narrowed Down

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

Christie feels right at home at Dardanelle since he feels like it fishes "exactly the same" as Robert S. Kerr Reservoir, which is located four pools up the Arkansas River near his home in eastern Oklahoma.

"The only difference on Dardanelle is once the fish get in their summertime deal, they move out and get offshore, but on Kerr they tend to stay on the bank all year," he said. "To me it fishes about the same. I was pretty sure it would be a shallow-water deal and any time it's that way, I'm comfortable doing that. It's all about picking the right area and I feel like I'm in the right area. Now, it's all about getting the right bites."

Today, his best area got muddy and when he went into another spot that he hadn't been to since Tuesday, he noticed the water temperature had plummeted 22 degrees.

"Things are still changing and I think that's why the weights have been as crazy as they've been," he said. "They're river fish. They live shallow year-round and they just relocate not because of the colder water, but because of the amount of current going through the lake."

After struggling the first couple of mornings, he had two good fish in the boat right away today before hitting a 3-hour dry spell. The bite picked up again in the afternoon and he wound up with a bag of 4-pounders.

"It's crazy how you'll go down a stretch and not get a bite and then come back 30 minutes later and get four bites," he said. "It's been a big-time timing deal for me."

He said he lost what he believes was close to a 7-pounder today when he tried to boat-flip it.

"I've swung fish like that all of the time, but I didn't think it was actually that big," he added. "I thought it was maybe a 4 or a 5 and when I went to swing it, it was a lot bigger than I thought it was and it came off."

He's been catching fish on several different baits, but all of his weigh-in fish have fallen for one particular bait that he declined to identify.

"Tomorrow, it'll be one rod and one bait," he said. "It's go time now, but it's been stressful because it's not like we're catching the heck out of them. I caught my last fish 15 minutes before weigh-in today. You have to keep pumping until the last minute. It's happening late, that's for sure."

5th: Familiar Pattern for Crochet

> Day 3: 5, 19-02 (15, 52-05)

Crochet has more than made up for a couple bad decisions on day 1 and has himself within 5 pounds of Hackney entering the final day.

"Day 1 was my own fault," he said referring to his 13-04 stringer that had him well down the standings. "Day 2 I made good decisions and things went my way with getting the right bites. Today was a grind, though."

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

Cliff Crochet has bounced back from some poor decisions on day 1.

He said he made a call to leave an area, but returned soon after and power-fished with a jig through some dirty water as he's been doing most of the event.

"I knew it was the wrong thing to do, so I went back and things went my way," he said.

He had caught about 12 pounds by mid morning before he hit a dry spell. Around 1:30, he stuck a 4-pounder and after that he caught his three biggest fish of the day.

"I don't think it's a certain timing thing for me. So far this week it hasn't been an early, mid-day or late thing," he said. "I just need to be in the right area and be on the right stretches. At no point do I feel like I've missed a big window to catch them."

His previous best Elite Series finish was a 2nd at Clarks Hills Lake during his rookie season in 2010. He feels this might be his best chance to win since then.

"I think I can," he said. "We've seen a lot bigger leads disappear on the Elite Series before and we're on a pretty good lake. We've seen 25 pounds this week. I'm fishing with the intention of competing to win. You do have to give credit to the guys in front of me and behind me. There are some studs, legends and up-and-comers. They're all in there."

12th: Big Ones Showed up for Elias

> Day 3: 5, 20-07 (15, 48-09)

Elias said the bites he was getting in practice finally showed up again today and it helped him secure his second Top-12 cut of the year.

"My big fish hadn't bit yet and they finally did today," he said. "I just hope I can catch them again tomorrow. The way they're jacking with the water and the way I'm fishing outside grass, when the water rises the fish go in the grass and when they drop it, they come back out to where I'm it. It's like a cat and mouse game."

His first 2 days were slow in terms of the numbers of fish he was catching, but today he figured he caught three limits, all on a crankbait.

"I caught two good ones pretty quick, then struggled for a long time," he said. "I caught most of my fish between 1 and 2:30 this afternoon. With all of the fluctuations here they get triggered and do their deal and with what I'm doing if they show up, I can pop a big bag quick."

Notable

> Day 3 stats – 50 anglers, 45 limits, 2 fours, 2 threes, 1 zero.

Weather Forecast

> Sun., May 18 – Partly Cloudy - 71°/57°
- Wind: From the E at 5 to 10 mph

Day 3 Standings

1. Greg Hackney -- Gonzales, LA -- 15, 56-08 -- 100 -- $500
Day 1: 5, 21-13 -- Day 2: 5, 18-01 -- Day 3: 5, 16-10

2. Rick Clunn -- Ava, MO -- 15, 55-11 -- 99
Day 1: 5, 18-05 -- Day 2: 5, 17-14 -- Day 3: 5, 19-08

3. Keith Combs -- Huntington, TX -- 15, 54-03 -- 98
Day 1: 5, 19-14 -- Day 2: 5, 16-10 -- Day 3: 5, 17-11

4. Jason Christie -- Park Hill, OK -- 15, 53-01 -- 97
Day 1: 5, 16-07 -- Day 2: 5, 16-10 -- Day 3: 5, 20-00

5. Cliff Crochet -- Pierre Part, LA -- 15, 52-05 -- 96
Day 1: 5, 13-04 -- Day 2: 5, 19-15 -- Day 3: 5, 19-02

6. Gerald Swindle -- Warrior, AL -- 15, 51-14 -- 95
Day 1: 5, 18-12 -- Day 2: 5, 14-02 -- Day 3: 5, 19-00

7. John Crews -- Salem, VA -- 15, 51-00 -- 94
Day 1: 5, 22-09 -- Day 2: 5, 16-12 -- Day 3: 5, 11-11

8. Takahiro Omori -- Emory, TX -- 15, 49-09 -- 93
Day 1: 5, 16-00 -- Day 2: 5, 13-02 -- Day 3: 5, 20-07

9. Chris Zaldain -- San Jose, CA -- 15, 49-04 -- 92
Day 1: 5, 17-09 -- Day 2: 5, 15-03 -- Day 3: 5, 16-08

10. Skeet Reese -- Auburn, CA -- 15, 48-12 -- 91
Day 1: 5, 16-14 -- Day 2: 5, 13-07 -- Day 3: 5, 18-07

11. Michael Iaconelli -- Pittsgrove, NJ -- 15, 48-10 -- 90
Day 1: 5, 12-09 -- Day 2: 5, 18-05 -- Day 3: 5, 17-12

12. Paul Elias -- Laurel, MS -- 15, 48-09 -- 89
Day 1: 5, 14-09 -- Day 2: 5, 13-09 -- Day 3: 5, 20-07

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

13. David Walker -- Sevierville, TN -- 15, 48-05 -- 88 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 17-07 -- Day 2: 5, 12-15 -- Day 3: 5, 17-15

14. Bernie Schultz -- Gainesville, FL -- 15, 48-04 -- 87 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 15-15 -- Day 2: 5, 13-11 -- Day 3: 5, 18-10

15. Aaron Martens -- Leeds, AL -- 15, 47-14 -- 86 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 13-15 -- Day 2: 5, 16-07 -- Day 3: 5, 17-08

16. Keith Poche -- Pike Road, AL -- 15, 47-07 -- 85 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 19-09 -- Day 2: 5, 15-08 -- Day 3: 5, 12-06

17. Zell Rowland -- Montgomery, TX -- 15, 47-06 -- 84 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 11-12 -- Day 2: 5, 25-05 -- Day 3: 5, 10-05

18. Boo Woods -- Oneida, KY -- 15, 47-06 -- 83 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 18-08 -- Day 2: 5, 14-09 -- Day 3: 5, 14-05

19. Cliff Prince -- Palatka, FL -- 15, 46-12 -- 82 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 14-03 -- Day 2: 5, 17-01 -- Day 3: 5, 15-08

20. Randy Howell -- Springville, AL -- 15, 46-06 -- 81 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 16-10 -- Day 2: 5, 17-13 -- Day 3: 5, 11-15

21. Jonathon VanDam -- Kalamazoo, MI -- 15, 46-03 -- 80 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 13-07 -- Day 2: 5, 13-09 -- Day 3: 5, 19-03

22. Casey Ashley -- Donalds, SC -- 15, 45-07 -- 79 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 16-03 -- Day 2: 5, 09-15 -- Day 3: 5, 19-05

23. Edwin Evers -- Talala, OK -- 15, 45-07 -- 78 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 16-12 -- Day 2: 5, 15-15 -- Day 3: 5, 12-12

24. Jason Williamson -- Aiken, SC -- 13, 44-15 -- 77 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 19-14 -- Day 2: 4, 10-07 -- Day 3: 4, 14-10

25. Ott DeFoe -- Knoxville, TN -- 15, 44-13 -- 76 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 12-05 -- Day 2: 5, 18-04 -- Day 3: 5, 14-04

26. Justin Lucas -- Guntersville, AL -- 14, 43-14 -- 75 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 16-15 -- Day 2: 4, 13-10 -- Day 3: 5, 13-05

27. Davy Hite -- Ninety Six, SC -- 15, 43-14 -- 74 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 13-06 -- Day 2: 5, 16-04 -- Day 3: 5, 14-04

28. David Mullins -- Mt Carmel, TN -- 15, 43-08 -- 73 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 14-01 -- Day 2: 5, 13-00 -- Day 3: 5, 16-07

29. Dean Rojas -- Lake Havasu City, AZ -- 15, 43-04 -- 72 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 14-12 -- Day 2: 5, 12-13 -- Day 3: 5, 15-11

30. Tommy Biffle -- Wagoner, OK -- 15, 42-13 -- 71 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 15-12 -- Day 2: 5, 14-05 -- Day 3: 5, 12-12

31. Kenyon Hill -- Norman, OK -- 15, 42-04 -- 70 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 09-11 -- Day 2: 5, 17-10 -- Day 3: 5, 14-15

32. Tim Horton -- Muscle Shoals, AL -- 15, 41-09 -- 69 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 14-14 -- Day 2: 5, 15-08 -- Day 3: 5, 11-03

33. Joel Baker -- Talala, OK -- 14, 41-05 -- 68 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 17-04 -- Day 2: 5, 14-08 -- Day 3: 4, 09-09

34. John Murray -- Phoenix, AZ -- 15, 40-09 -- 67 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 15-15 -- Day 2: 5, 11-12 -- Day 3: 5, 12-14

35. Casey Scanlon -- Lanexa, KS -- 15, 40-08 -- 66 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 16-08 -- Day 2: 5, 13-09 -- Day 3: 5, 10-07

36. Glenn Browne -- Ocala, FL -- 15, 40-08 -- 65 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 12-01 -- Day 2: 5, 15-11 -- Day 3: 5, 12-12

37. Brandon Lester -- Fayetteville, TN -- 15, 40-07 -- 64 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 13-01 -- Day 2: 5, 13-12 -- Day 3: 5, 13-10

38. Bradley Roy -- Lancaster, KY -- 15, 39-08 -- 63 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 17-04 -- Day 2: 5, 12-00 -- Day 3: 5, 10-04

39. Grant Goldbeck -- Boerne, TX -- 14, 39-01 -- 62 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 20-01 -- Day 2: 4, 07-14 -- Day 3: 5, 11-02

40. Chad Morgenthaler -- Coulterville, IL -- 15, 38-14 -- 61 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 18-02 -- Day 2: 5, 11-02 -- Day 3: 5, 09-10

41. Josh Bertrand -- Gilbert, AZ -- 15, 38-12 -- 60 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 12-14 -- Day 2: 5, 15-09 -- Day 3: 5, 10-05

42. Brett Hite -- Phoenix, AZ -- 15, 38-07 -- 59 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 15-00 -- Day 2: 5, 12-09 -- Day 3: 5, 10-14

43. Jamie Horton -- Centerville, AL -- 15, 37-11 -- 58 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 15-03 -- Day 2: 5, 11-07 -- Day 3: 5, 11-01

44. Trevor Romans -- Plano, TX -- 15, 37-10 -- 57 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 10-02 -- Day 2: 5, 16-09 -- Day 3: 5, 10-15

45. Morizo Shimizu -- Osaka JAPAN -- 15, 37-08 -- 56 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 14-03 -- Day 2: 5, 12-04 -- Day 3: 5, 11-01

46. Michael Simonton -- Fremont, OH -- 15, 37-04 -- 55 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 12-14 -- Day 2: 5, 13-07 -- Day 3: 5, 10-15

47. Britt Myers -- Lake Wylie, SC -- 15, 37-01 -- 54 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 15-13 -- Day 2: 5, 11-01 -- Day 3: 5, 10-03

48. Pete Ponds -- Madison, MS -- 13, 36-13 -- 53 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 17-01 -- Day 2: 5, 12-13 -- Day 3: 3, 06-15

49. Kotaro Kiriyama -- Moody, AL -- 13, 34-13 -- 52 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 12-13 -- Day 2: 5, 13-12 -- Day 3: 3, 08-04

50. Brandon Card -- Caryville, TN -- 10, 26-10 -- 51 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 15-13 -- Day 2: 5, 10-13 -- Day 3: 0, 00-00