By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor

On his way back to the launch in Union Springs, N.Y. with a little more than 15 pounds worth of bass in his livewell, Jeff Gustafson was certain he wouldn't lead the field at the Cayuga Lake Bassmaster Elite Series for a second straight day.

"I was expecting to be in 5th place, like 5 pounds behind," he said. "This is a crazy sport."

What the Canadian didn't know at the time was that most of the 35 competitors on the water for day 3 had also experienced a major slowdown in the bite. Gustafson not only stayed atop the standings, but actually increased his advantage from just over 3 pounds to 4-05 as his 15-04 stringer pushed his total to 64-05.

Chris Zaldain's 14-pound haul was enough to keep him in 2nd with 60 pounds even. Seth Feider moved up two positions to 3rd with a 15-14 stringer for a 58-11 aggregate.

Jamie Hartman, the winner at Lake Guntersville earlier this year, boxed a day-best 22-02 and jumped 12 spots to 4th with 58-09. David Mullins completed the top 5 as a 12-05 sack left him with a 58-03 total.

Cory Johnston led the bottom half of the top 10 with 57-15 (21-02 on day 3). Stetson Blaylock was next with 56-11 (15-07), followed by Cliff Prince with 55-06 (20-14). Drew Cook and Brandon Lester were deadlocked in 9th with 55-03 after weighing 14-07 and 18-07, respectively.

Hartman, Johnston Prince and Lester were new arrivals to the top 10. Moving out were Scott Canterbury (11th, 9-10 on day 3), Brandon Card (17th, 14-09), Keith Combs (12th, 16-11) and Chad Pipkens (16th, 15-06).

A cold front that dropped the air temperature about 10 degrees (down into the mid 60s) might've been to blame for the overall reduced weights. Conditions are expected to stabilize for Sunday's final round, with the WeatherChannel.com forecast calling for mostly sun, a high temperature of 77 degrees and at breeze out of the east/southeast topping out at about 5 mph.

Gustafson boated eight keepers, none of which weighed much over 3 pounds.

"I don't know if my stuff dried up or if they just didn't bite or what," he said. "I'm obviously in a good position, but it really wasn't an enjoyable day. It was a real grinder."

He'd been catching the majority of his fish on a jig, but had to resort to a Ned Rig on day 3 which is something he hopes to avoid on Sunday.

"I really just fished my best stuff pretty slow. I really hope a couple of them have reloaded by tomorrow and I can put some in the box quick. If not, it'll be scramble mode again.

"I'm pretty committed to what I'm doing and I'm hoping that in 8 hours out there I can catch five good ones."



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

Chris Zaldain knew day 3 would be different when his graph wasn't showing the baitfish that were prevalent on days 1 and 2.

Zaldain said he knew from the get-go that day 3 was going to be more difficult than the previous two.

"On the prior days when I got to my first spot and put my trolling motor in the water, my Humminbird 360s would be lit up with bait," he said. "There'd be alewives, and yellow perch eating those, and white perch just a whole food chain. When the starting ingredient for the food chain wasn't there I knew I was going to have to work extra hard to get bites."

He went through seven keepers only one that reached the 3-pound mark.

"I am in contention, so tomorrow I'll take everything I've learned in practice and in the tournament and apply it for 8 hours and catch the biggest bag I possibly can. I'm not afraid to switch up and do whatever I need to do to try to come in with 20 pounds."

Feider thought he might be heading home to Minnesota after the weigh-in after he sacked less than 16 pounds, but instead finds himself only two spots from the top.

"Luckily it was tough for just about everyone," he said. "I didn't think I was going to make the 10-cut.

"I need calm and sun and I got none of that today. I'm flipping grass and the calmer and sunnier it is, the better. I thought those guys who are cranking and throwing football jigs were going to crack them today."

He caught one weigh-in fish flipping, one off a dock and three on a Ned Rig (two of which were barely keepers).

Hartman said patience was the key to his big stringer which included a 6 1/2-pounder that was the biggest fish of the round on a day when so many others struggled.

"I was just grinding out bites one at a time and they were few and far between," he said. "I did catch back-to-back big ones and that allowed me to have more patience."

He's staying in deep water and did more finesse-fishing than he had on previous days.

"I've pretty much scrapped practice and I'm just flying by the seat of my pants. Whatever the weather tells me to do tomorrow, that's where I'm going."

Notable

> Day 3 stats 35 anglers, 32 limits, 2 fours, 1 one.

Weather Forecast

> Sun., Aug. 25 Mostly Sunny 77/57
- Wind: From the ESE at 5 mph

Day 3 Standings

1. Jeff Gustafson -- Keewatin Ontario, ON 15 -- 64-05 -- 100
Day 1: 5, 23-11 -- Day 2: 5, 25-06 -- Day 3: 5, 15-04

2. Chris Zaldain -- Fort Worth, TX -- 15, 60-00 -- 99
Day 1: 5, 24-05 -- Day 2: 5, 21-11 -- Day 3: 5, 14-00

3. Seth Feider -- New Market, MN -- 15, 58-11 -- 98
Day 1: 5, 21-08 -- Day 2: 5, 21-05 -- Day 3: 5, 15-14

4. Jamie Hartman -- Newport, NY -- 15, 58-09 -- 97
Day 1: 5, 16-14 -- Day 2: 5, 19-09 -- Day 3: 5, 22-02

5. David Mullins -- Mt Carmel, TN -- 15, 58-03 -- 96
Day 1: 5, 22-01 -- Day 2: 5, 23-13 -- Day 3: 5, 12-05

6. Cory Johnston -- Cavan, ON -- 15, 57-15 -- 95
Day 1: 5, 16-10 -- Day 2: 5, 20-03 -- Day 3: 5, 21-02

7. Stetson Blaylock -- Benton, AR -- 15, 56-11 -- 94
Day 1: 5, 21-13 -- Day 2: 5, 19-07 -- Day 3: 5, 15-07

8. Cliff Prince -- Palatka, FL -- 15, 55-06 -- 93
Day 1: 5, 18-13 -- Day 2: 5, 15-11 -- Day 3: 5, 20-14

9. Drew Cook -- Midway, FL -- 15, 55-03 -- 92
Day 1: 5, 19-02 -- Day 2: 5, 21-10 -- Day 3: 5, 14-07

10. Brandon Lester -- Fayetteville, TN -- 15, 55-03 -- 91
Day 1: 5, 17-00 -- Day 2: 5, 19-12 -- Day 3: 5, 18-07

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

11. Scott Canterbury -- Odenville, AL -- 15, 54-12 -- 90 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 22-14 -- Day 2: 5, 22-04 -- Day 3: 5, 09-10

12. Keith Combs -- Huntington, TX -- 15, 54-11 -- 89 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 16-11 -- Day 2: 5, 21-05 -- Day 3: 5, 16-11

13. Hunter Shryock -- Newcomerstown, OH -- 15, 54-06 -- 88 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 15-07 -- Day 2: 5, 19-13 -- Day 3: 5, 19-02

14. Mike Huff -- Corbin, KY -- 15, 54-04 -- 87 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 19-01 -- Day 2: 5, 16-11 -- Day 3: 5, 18-08

15. Hank Cherry Jr -- Lincolnton, NC -- 15, 53-06 -- 86 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 19-06 -- Day 2: 5, 15-09 -- Day 3: 5, 18-07

16. Chad Pipkens -- Lansing, MI -- 15, 53-05 -- 85 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 22-08 -- Day 2: 5, 15-07 -- Day 3: 5, 15-06

17. Brandon Card -- Knoxville, TN -- 15, 53-02 -- 84 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 18-02 -- Day 2: 5, 20-07 -- Day 3: 5, 14-09

18. Bernie Schultz -- Gainesville, FL -- 15, 52-05 -- 83 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 16-15 -- Day 2: 5, 19-03 -- Day 3: 5, 16-03

19. Drew Benton -- Panama City, FL -- 15, 52-02 -- 82 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 15-01 -- Day 2: 5, 19-00 -- Day 3: 5, 18-01

20. Chris Johnston -- Peterborough, ON 15 -- 51-07 -- 81 -- $10,000
Day 1: 5, 15-04 -- Day 2: 5, 18-07 -- Day 3: 5, 17-12

21. Bill Lowen -- Brookville, IN -- 15, 51-05 -- 80 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 14-14 -- Day 2: 5, 22-01 -- Day 3: 5, 14-06

22. Paul Mueller -- Naugatuck, CT -- 14, 51-01 -- 79 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 20-14 -- Day 2: 4, 12-12 -- Day 3: 5, 17-07

23. Brett Preuett -- Monroe, LA -- 15, 51-01 -- 78 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 20-04 -- Day 2: 5, 15-00 -- Day 3: 5, 15-13

24. Patrick Walters -- Summerville, SC -- 15, 50-12 -- 77 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 20-11 -- Day 2: 5, 15-04 -- Day 3: 5, 14-13

25. Jason Williamson -- Wagener, SC -- 15, 50-12 -- 76 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 19-09 -- Day 2: 5, 14-11 -- Day 3: 5, 16-08

26. Brock Mosley -- Collinsville, MS -- 15, 50-08 -- 75 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 18-14 -- Day 2: 5, 16-00 -- Day 3: 5, 15-10

27. John Crews Jr -- Salem, VA -- 15, 50-05 -- 74 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 16-11 -- Day 2: 5, 17-03 -- Day 3: 5, 16-07

28. Ed Loughran III -- Richmond, VA -- 15, 50-03 -- 73 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 16-01 -- Day 2: 5, 20-15 -- Day 3: 5, 13-03

29. Derek Hudnall -- Baton Rouge, LA -- 13, 49-08 -- 72 -- $7,500
Day 1: 3, 15-14 -- Day 2: 5, 18-11 -- Day 3: 5, 14-15

30. Shane LeHew -- Catawba, NC -- 15, 47-10 -- 71 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 15-14 -- Day 2: 5, 18-03 -- Day 3: 5, 13-09

31. Clent Davis -- Montevallo, AL -- 15, 47-08 -- 70 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 15-08 -- Day 2: 5, 19-09 -- Day 3: 5, 12-07

32. Mark Menendez -- Paducah, KY -- 15, 47-08 -- 69 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 14-12 -- Day 2: 5, 18-11 -- Day 3: 5, 14-01

33. David Fritts -- Lexington, NC -- 14, 43-13 -- 68 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 19-05 -- Day 2: 5, 14-01 -- Day 3: 4, 10-07

34. Clifford Pirch -- Payson, AZ -- 14, 43-09 -- 67 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 21-10 -- Day 2: 5, 11-12 -- Day 3: 4, 10-03

35. Skylar Hamilton -- Dandridge, TN -- 11, 41-15 -- 66 -- $7,500
Day 1: 5, 20-04 -- Day 2: 5, 16-15 -- Day 3: 1, 04-12