By BassFan Staff

The whole point of BASSFest, aside from creating a summertime fishing festival atmosphere reminiscent of old Bassmaster Classics, was to give anglers from the Bassmaster Opens one shot to see how they measure up against the Elite Series field.

So far, Jacob Wheeler has taken full advantage of his first turn against the top anglers B.A.S.S. has to offer.

The 23-year-old Wheeler, one of the rising stars of the sport with victories at the BFL All-American and Forrest Wood Cup already to his credit, launched today with a 6-plus pound cushion, but a four-fish day saw his lead reduced to a mere 1-01 with 1 day remaining at Lake Chickamauga.

Wheeler's 16-02 sack included a 7 1/2-pounder and gave him 68-05 through 3 days of competition on a lake that really showed its teeth today.

Veteran pro Matt Herren, who's fishing both tours this season and is seeking his first Elite Series win, had his best day of the week with a 23-06 stringer that gave him 67-04 and pulled him right onto Wheeler's stern entering the final day. Herren is the lone angler in the field with three straight 20-pound bags at Chickamauga.

Kevin VanDam also came in a fish shy of a limit as his 15-13 bag pushed his total to 61-04. Greg Hackney, the winner at last week's Pickwick Lake FLW Tour, qualified for yet another final round of competition (his fifth across both tours this year) after sacking 13-10 for a 58-07 aggregate that has him in 4th. Terry Scroggins caught 19-02 today and has 56-04 in 5th place.

Here's a look at the 12 anglers who qualified for the final day, with deficit margin from Wheeler indicated by red numbers in parentheses:

1. Jacob Wheeler: 68-05
2. Matt Herren: 67-04 (1-01)
3. Kevin VanDam: 61-04 (7-01)
4. Greg Hackney: 58-07 (9-14)
5. Terry Scroggins: 56-04 (12-01)
6. Gerald Swindle: 55-11 (12-10)
7. Casey Ashley: 54-11 (13-10)
8. Brett Hite: 54-05 (14-00)
9. Russ Lane: 53-11 (14-10)
10. Jason Williamson: 53-05 (15-00)
11. Hank Cherry: 53-02 (15-03)
12. Luke Clausen: 52-06 (15-15)

Casey Ashley (21st to 7th) and Luke Clausen (26th to 12th) both advanced 14 places to secure spots among the Top 12. For Ashley, who's fishing both tours this season, it's his fifth final-day cut made.

Takahiro Omori (5th to 19th) dropped out of contention after catching 4-15 today. Dave Smith, who was 7th after day 2 and a threat to make his first career Elite Series 12-cut, zeroed and fell to 44th. John Crews (8th to 23rd), Edwin Evers (11th to 38th) and Boyd Duckett (12th to 22nd) all caught less than 10 pounds today and fell down the leaderboard.

With no Angler of the Year points on the line this week, those who were well off the pace went looking for the giant bites Chickamauga has come to be known for while those in the hunt for a Top-12 berth had to adjust to much tougher conditions.

The clouds that had been prevalent earlier in the week gave way to high skies and sunshine today and with blast-off moved back 45 minutes, conditions were significantly different for many of the 60 competitors. Some reported decent current in their areas, but others said there was none to speak of and it forced them to make adjustments once it became apparent the fish weren't firing up like they had been.

It appears clear skies will be on the menu again for the final day as temperatures are expected to push into the mid-80s with a negligible breeze.

Wheeler Lost a Couple

> Day 3: 4, 16-02 (14, 68-05)

Wheeler endured a slow morning before eventually moving to the spot that produced his biggest fish on Thursday. It produced again today – this time a 7-07 and a 4 1/2-pounder – but he couldn't generate much else.

“I had been saving that place for a certain time of day,” he said.

He caught his fourth keeper – a 2-pounder – with 30 minutes left in the day. He had a couple opportunities to finish his limit, but one threw the hook and the other broke him off in a brush pile.

“Every bite’s so important, it could have made a huge difference. But it happens to all of us,” he said.

He changed up the order of spots he fished from the first 2 days in an attempt to preserve an area that gave up fish. With so many spectators looking on, he was fearful some would move in and hammer on it after he left it today, leaving him nothing to come back to Sunday.

“Thinking back, maybe I should have started there,” he said. “Tomorrow, everything’s on the table. I can go catch 16, 17, 18 pounds off that place, and be right where I need to be, then go catch two big ones.”

Wheeler said he isn’t relying only on his ledge patterns. He has shallow-water places to run to, and a few others. He said he felt sure each one would help him.

“You have to have confidence in what you’ve got," he added. "You have to pull up to a spot and say, ‘I’m going to get a bite here, I’m going to get a bite here.'"

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

Matt Herren is the lone angler to weigh three 20-pound bags this week.

2nd: Herren Had to Adjust

> Day 3: 5, 23-06 (15, 67-04)

Herren isn't sure what he'll catch tomorrow, but he's confident he can put the puzzle together again after he caught his third 20-pound bag of the event today.

"Everything is just falling my way," he said. "The biggest thing is the fish have changed every day. I have three key areas and I've just been adjusting inside those areas and taking what the day will give me. I'm having a lot of fun right now."

The main adjustment today was tweaking his program with what little current was moving through the lake.

"Tomorrow could be worse with it being Sunday," he said. "I don't expect to see a lot of current. It's just a matter of adjusting with it and making good decisions."

He's been catching his fish shallow in the morning and then sliding out to deeper areas later on.

"I started shallow for about an hour today just to try to get a few fish in the boat to get the day going," he said. "I caught a couple 3-pounders, but didn't weigh either of them in."

He hasn't been sharing water with other competitors this week and he hopes that continues to benefit him.

"It's changing so much that I'm having to chase it every day," he said. "I don't want to overcommit to anything. I need to stay loose and keep an open mind and let the fish tell me what they're doing."

He's posted a pair of Top-3 finishes in Elite Series events, but never won one. He'd like to change that tomorrow.

"It would mean everything," he said. "I've won on the FLW Tour and have had a string of seconds. I really want to win and winning the inaugural BASSFest would be something special."

3rd: VanDam Thinks Rally is 'Possible'

> Day 3: 4, 15-13 (14, 61-04)

VanDam knows his best chance to take control of this tournament came on Thursday, when he lost three fish that would've helped him tremendously. He could've used one of them today as conditions were much tougher for fishing offshore.

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

Kevin VanDam had a smallmouth among the four fish he weighed in today.

"There was a lack of current and when they did pull water, it was a minimal amount," he said. "Every time that current changes, the fish move a little."

He knows the 7-pound deficit he faces is not insurmountable, but based on how hard he's had to work for the bites he's gotten, it won't be easy.

"I'm going to have to have a spectacular day and have those guys have a bad day," he said. "It's very possible. I've had my chances this week, but that's the way it goes."

He started on the area that he fished the first 2 days alongside Russ Lane and Jeff Kriet, but the action wasn't nearly as good as it was then. Spectator and pleasure-boat traffic increased significantly and he eventually bolted the area at 9:30.

"It's not hard to tell on that spot," he said. "Usually by then we'd have a few bites. I'm throwing the kitchen sink at them. Every day every spot is different. There's just no pulling up and loading the boat. You have to earn every bite here."

4th: Tougher Day for Hackney

> Day 3: 5, 13-10 (15, 58-07)

Hackney's weight fell off by nearly 11 pounds from his day-2 output and he's now 10 pounds off Wheeler's pace. He said the different conditions and a later blast-off made the fishing tougher for him.

"There wasn't much wind, we had skies and there was no flow where I was," he said. "It seems like I need it to be windy or rainy or cloudy or some combination like that. I don't need any current if it's like that, but I need one or the other to get them fired up.

"I didn't adjust as much as I should have and maybe I stayed with what I've been doing too long. I figured I needed or two good bites and I just didn't get them."

He started on the spot that had been second in his rotation and was second-guessing that decision afterward. He totaled seven bites all day and lost one that he thinks was equivalent to the fish he eventually weighed in.

"I caught a lot more short fish today than I have been," he noted. "That's typically a sign because they're usually not as active when the big ones are. My first five or six bites today were non-keepers and that was weird because I'd been catching five or six shorts a day. Today they were dominant."

Despite facing a double-digit deficit, he knows Chickamauga is capable of producing the kind of stringer he needs to threaten for his second tour-level win in 2 weeks.

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

Greg Hackney had his streak of six straight 20-pound bags snapped today.

"Things would have to line up just right," he said. "I do really like my area and I have a lot of confidence in it. I've caught a few big ones there, but I would have to have a stellar day. You'd like to think you have a shot because you can catch a giant or two here. I'm definitely going to be fishing for that."

5th: Shaky-Head Again for Scroggins

> Day 3: 5, 19-02 (15, 56-04)

Scroggins has spent plenty of time competing on TVA lakes in the past, but this is his first tournament at Chickamauga.

Never did he think he'd challenge for a Top-5 finish with nothing but a shaky-head on 6-pound test.

"I've fished the Tennessee River a bunch and we always catch them deep-cranking or with a big worm or jigs," he said. "On the first day of practice, I tried to fish for them that way and didn't catch a keeper. I could see them and I marked them. I just couldn't make them bite.

"These fish are so pressured now that I decided to go with a finesse presentation and it's my bait of choice now. I know it's not a big-fish tactic, but it's caught 56 pounds in 3 days, so I'd say it's worked."

He's been working over three areas mainly, but continues to try to locate more schools. He caught nine keepers today and said conditions were just generally tougher with increased boat traffic on the lake. Tomorrow, he may chase some bigger bites with a different technique.

"I'm sitting in fifth, but I'm a ways back of the leader so I might go for the gusto tomorrow. I know a lot of big bags are being caught on a swimbait, but guys who are doing it are only getting five or six bites a day. The flipside is there's a good payout through the Top 5 and I don't want to fall back much. I can gamble a little, but I could lose some money if I don't maintain what I've been catching."

Notable

> Day 3 stats – 60 anglers, 34 limits, 9 fours, 7 threes, 3 twos, 1 one, 6 zeroes.

Weather Forecast

> Sun., June 15 – Mostly Sunny - 86°/68°
- Wind: From the SSE at 5 to 10 mph

Day 4 Standings

1. Jacob Wheeler -- Indianapolis, IN -- 14, 68-05
Day 1: 5, 22-06 -- Day 2: 5, 29-13 -- Day 3: 4, 16-02

2. Matt Herren -- Ashville, AL -- 15, 67-04
Day 1: 5, 22-07 -- Day 2: 5, 21-07 -- Day 3: 5, 23-06

3. Kevin VanDam -- Kalamazoo, MI -- 14, 61-04
Day 1: 5, 22-09 -- Day 2: 5, 22-14 -- Day 3: 4, 15-13

4. Greg Hackney -- Gonzales, LA -- 15, 58-07
Day 1: 5, 20-05 -- Day 2: 5, 24-08 -- Day 3: 5, 13-10

5. Terry Scroggins -- San Mateo, FL -- 15, 56-04
Day 1: 5, 19-07 -- Day 2: 5, 17-11 -- Day 3: 5, 19-02

6. Gerald Swindle -- Warrior, AL -- 15, 55-11
Day 1: 5, 15-05 -- Day 2: 5, 22-11 -- Day 3: 5, 17-11

7. Casey Ashley -- Donalds, SC -- 15, 54-11
Day 1: 5, 16-01 -- Day 2: 5, 17-07 -- Day 3: 5, 21-03

8. Brett Hite -- Phoenix, AZ -- 15, 54-05
Day 1: 5, 19-02 -- Day 2: 5, 18-15 -- Day 3: 5, 16-04

9. Russ Lane -- Prattville, AL -- 15, 53-11
Day 1: 5, 14-03 -- Day 2: 5, 20-14 -- Day 3: 5, 18-10

10. Jason Williamson -- Aiken, SC -- 15, 53-05
Day 1: 5, 21-03 -- Day 2: 5, 17-10 -- Day 3: 5, 14-08

11. Hank Cherry Jr -- Maiden, NC -- 15, 53-02
Day 1: 5, 13-13 -- Day 2: 5, 21-00 -- Day 3: 5, 18-05

12. Luke Clausen -- Otis Orchards, WA -- 15, 52-06
Day 1: 5, 15-08 -- Day 2: 5, 16-10 -- Day 3: 5, 20-04

The following anglers did not make the cut and will not fish on day 5.

13. Fred Roumbanis -- Bixby, OK -- 15, 51-08 -- $11,000
Day 1: 5, 20-00 -- Day 2: 5, 16-10 -- Day 3: 5, 14-14

14. Randall Tharp -- Port Saint Joe, FL -- 15, 51-06 -- $11,000
Day 1: 5, 17-01 -- Day 2: 5, 14-03 -- Day 3: 5, 20-02

15. Clifford Pirch -- Payson, AZ -- 15, 50-08 -- $11,000
Day 1: 5, 16-02 -- Day 2: 5, 16-05 -- Day 3: 5, 18-01

16. Davy Hite -- Ninety Six, SC -- 14, 50-02 -- $11,000
Day 1: 5, 21-08 -- Day 2: 4, 08-09 -- Day 3: 5, 20-01

17. Tracy Adams -- Wilkesboro, NC -- 12, 48-08 -- $11,000
Day 1: 5, 16-04 -- Day 2: 2, 04-11 -- Day 3: 5, 27-09

18. Stephen Mui -- Bartlett, IL -- 15, 48-04 -- $11,000
Day 1: 5, 16-01 -- Day 2: 5, 14-14 -- Day 3: 5, 17-05

19. Takahiro Omori -- Emory, TX -- 14, 48-00 -- $11,000
Day 1: 5, 22-15 -- Day 2: 5, 20-02 -- Day 3: 4, 04-15

20. Brandon Card -- Caryville, TN -- 15, 47-11 -- $11,000
Day 1: 5, 14-13 -- Day 2: 5, 18-07 -- Day 3: 5, 14-07

21. James Niggemeyer -- Van, TX -- 15, 47-03 -- $11,000
Day 1: 5, 15-15 -- Day 2: 5, 15-14 -- Day 3: 5, 15-06

22. Boyd Duckett -- Guntersville, AL -- 15, 46-14 -- $11,000
Day 1: 5, 16-00 -- Day 2: 5, 21-03 -- Day 3: 5, 09-11

23. John Crews Jr -- Salem, VA -- 13, 45-10 -- $11,000
Day 1: 5, 18-14 -- Day 2: 5, 19-07 -- Day 3: 3, 07-05

24. Nate Wellman -- Newaygo, MI -- 14, 45-07 -- $11,000
Day 1: 5, 15-03 -- Day 2: 5, 15-10 -- Day 3: 4, 14-10

25. Jason Christie -- Park Hill, OK -- 13, 45-05 -- $11,000
Day 1: 5, 22-05 -- Day 2: 5, 14-01 -- Day 3: 3, 08-15

26. Andy Montgomery -- Blacksburg, SC -- 15, 44-03 -- $11,000
Day 1: 5, 11-06 -- Day 2: 5, 17-00 -- Day 3: 5, 15-13

27. Bill Lowen -- Brookville, IN -- 15, 44-03 -- $11,000
Day 1: 5, 13-11 -- Day 2: 5, 16-09 -- Day 3: 5, 13-15

28. Justin Lucas -- Guntersville, AL -- 14, 43-11 -- $11,000
Day 1: 5, 10-12 -- Day 2: 5, 25-05 -- Day 3: 4, 07-10

29. Mike Kernan -- Wylie, TX -- 13, 43-11 -- $11,000
Day 1: 5, 16-13 -- Day 2: 3, 05-14 -- Day 3: 5, 21-00

30. Tommy Biffle -- Wagoner, OK -- 13, 43-10 -- $11,000
Day 1: 5, 24-01 -- Day 2: 5, 12-00 -- Day 3: 3, 07-09

31. Jacob Powroznik -- Port Haywood, VA -- 15, 43-10 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 15-00 -- Day 2: 5, 14-11 -- Day 3: 5, 13-15

32. Britt Myers -- Lake Wylie, SC -- 15, 43-01 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 19-01 -- Day 2: 5, 11-09 -- Day 3: 5, 12-07

33. Kelly Jordon -- Palestine, TX -- 13, 42-00 -- $10,000
Day 1: 3, 07-04 -- Day 2: 5, 21-00 -- Day 3: 5, 13-12

34. Brock Mosley -- Collinsville, MS -- 15, 41-03 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 12-13 -- Day 2: 5, 13-04 -- Day 3: 5, 15-02

35. Skeet Reese -- Auburn, CA -- 13, 41-01 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 19-02 -- Day 2: 3, 10-01 -- Day 3: 5, 11-14

36. Gary Klein -- Weatherford, TX -- 15, 40-11 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 13-10 -- Day 2: 5, 16-02 -- Day 3: 5, 10-15

37. Michael Murphy -- Lexington, SC -- 13, 40-10 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 15-13 -- Day 2: 5, 16-08 -- Day 3: 3, 08-05

38. Edwin Evers -- Talala, OK -- 9, 40-07 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 24-03 -- Day 2: 3, 13-04 -- Day 3: 1, 03-00

39. Rick Clunn -- Ava, MO -- 14, 40-03 -- $10,000
Day 1: 4, 12-13 -- Day 2: 5, 14-11 -- Day 3: 5, 12-11

40. Jeff Kriet -- Ardmore, OK -- 15, 40-02 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 12-00 -- Day 2: 5, 18-00 -- Day 3: 5, 10-02

41. Alton Jones -- Lorena, TX -- 15, 39-15 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 13-09 -- Day 2: 5, 14-09 -- Day 3: 5, 11-13

42. Michael Iaconelli -- Pitts Grove, NJ -- 11, 39-03 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 25-12 -- Day 2: 3, 08-01 -- Day 3: 3, 05-06

43. Jared Knuth -- Wahoo, NE -- 13, 38-15 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 14-03 -- Day 2: 5, 16-06 -- Day 3: 3, 08-06

44. David Smith -- Del City, OK -- 10, 38-05 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 20-06 -- Day 2: 5, 17-15 -- Day 3: 0, 00-00

45. David Lefebre -- Erie, PA -- 14, 37-05 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 12-15 -- Day 2: 5, 15-01 -- Day 3: 4, 09-05

46. Brian Snowden -- Reeds Spring, MO -- 12, 37-02 -- $10,000
Day 1: 4, 15-10 -- Day 2: 5, 13-00 -- Day 3: 3, 08-08

47. Marty Robinson -- Lyman, SC -- 11, 36-03 -- $10,000
Day 1: 4, 06-07 -- Day 2: 5, 19-12 -- Day 3: 2, 10-00

48. Mike McClelland -- Bella Vista, AR -- 12, 35-15 -- $10,000
Day 1: 2, 03-08 -- Day 2: 5, 16-11 -- Day 3: 5, 15-12

49. Glenn Browne -- Ocala, FL -- 14, 34-15 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 12-02 -- Day 2: 5, 14-07 -- Day 3: 4, 08-06

50. Steve Kennedy -- Auburn, AL -- 12, 34-07 -- $10,000
Day 1: 4, 14-13 -- Day 2: 3, 06-06 -- Day 3: 5, 13-04

51. Brandon Palaniuk -- Hayden, ID -- 12, 34-01 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 17-15 -- Day 2: 5, 13-03 -- Day 3: 2, 02-15

52. Skylar Hamilton -- Dandridge, TN -- 12, 33-11 -- $10,000
Day 1: 3, 06-07 -- Day 2: 4, 13-06 -- Day 3: 5, 13-14

53. Jeremy Starks -- Scott Depot, WV -- 11, 32-15 -- $10,000
Day 1: 4, 09-15 -- Day 2: 5, 18-04 -- Day 3: 2, 04-12

54. Scott Rook -- Little Rock, AR -- 8, 32-02 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 20-10 -- Day 2: 3, 11-08 -- Day 3: 0, 00-00

55. Kotaro Kiriyama -- Moody, AL -- 11, 29-02 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 17-05 -- Day 2: 2, 02-14 -- Day 3: 4, 08-15

56. Ott DeFoe -- Knoxville, TN -- 10, 28-13 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 14-15 -- Day 2: 5, 13-14 -- Day 3: 0, 00-00

57. Jared Lintner -- Arroyo Grande, CA -- 8, 27-01 -- $10,000
Day 1: 3, 13-13 -- Day 2: 5, 13-04 -- Day 3: 0, 00-00

58. Matt Reed -- Madisonville, TX -- 8, 23-11 -- $10,000
Day 1: 3, 09-06 -- Day 2: 5, 14-05 -- Day 3: 0, 00-00

59. Charlie Hartley -- Grove City, OH -- 7, 18-01 -- $10,000
Day 1: 1, 02-10 -- Day 2: 2, 03-13 -- Day 3: 4, 11-10

60. David Mullins -- Mt Carmel, TN -- 2, 07-00 -- $10,000
Day 1: 2, 07-00 -- Day 2: 0, 00-00 -- Day 3: 0, 00-00