COUNCE, Tenn. (WATE) — Veteran Brandon Lester has a three-day total of 15 bass weighing 63-3, making him the leader for this year’s Bassmaster Elite series.
Lester, 34, is the only angler who caught at least 20 pounds of bass a day. The average places him in the pole position for the 43,100-acre impoundment of the Tennessee River that flows between Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.
“I feel pretty good,” he said. “I’ve been here before. I know you can’t count on things before they happen, but the fish are there.”
Last Saturday, Lester fished a 21-pound, 6-ounce limit. His weight on Saturday matched the 21-6 he produced on Day 1 and followed his 20-7 from Day 2.
Lester built his lead on a primary location that slopes from 5 to 8 feet in depth. On Day 1, he used a Strike King 4.0 crankbait to catch most of his best bass. The past two days, he’s relied on a Berkley MaxScent Magnum Hit Worm (plum apple) with a 1/8-ounce Mustad tungsten nail weight in the head.
“It’s typical ledge stuff,” he said. “I’m in a small spot. It’s a clean spot and I’m dialed in. I found it the third morning of practice. There was a big tournament won there maybe 10 years ago. I was idling through there and I saw them on my side scope. When I saw them, I knew it was a special spot.”
Competing against Lester are Elite series rookies Cody Huff, a 25-year-old from Ava, Mo., who fished for Bethel University; and Jacob Foutz, a 23-year-old from Charleston, Tenn., who fished for Bryan College.
Huff is in second place with 59-13, and Foutz is in third place with 58-5.
Both anglers qualified for the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk when they were in college, then into the Elites through the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens.
Huff fished a 19-5 limit on Saturday, which helped him win a college national championship on Oklahoma’s Lake Tenkiller in 2018.
“It’s a Dixie Jet Talon spoon,” he said. “I caught 22 pounds on it yesterday and 19 pounds today. It has a slow fall for being such a big bait because it’s so wide … I’ve been throwing the shattered glass color, but I don’t think it makes a difference. You just surprise them with it.”
Foutz started in sixth place on Saturday. He moved up the leaderboard after fishing a 21-4 limit.
“I think in my first seven casts I caught almost 18 pounds,” Foutz said. “I culled up a few more times in the morning and then I pretty much sat there and guarded my hole so no one else could get on it. I’ve caught all my fish pretty much in one spot this week and it keeps reloading.”
Foutz added that he caught 95 percent of his bass this week on a Strike King 10XD crankbait and a Zoom Ol’ Monster worm.
“I think they’re pulling up and feeding on shad,” he said. “They came up schooling this morning. I looked at my cameraman and said ‘it’s about to go down.’ They were blowing shad out of the water.”
The Top 10 anglers made the Day 3 cut and will fish Sunday for the $100,000 prize that goes to the winner. Joining Lester, Huff and Foutz are, fourth, Maryland’s Bryan Schmitt, 56-14; fifth, Florida’s John Cox, 56-6; sixth, Texas pro Chris Zaldain, 56-2; seventh, Idaho’s Brandon Palaniuk, 54-9; eighth, Kentucky’s Matt Robertson, 53-8; ninth, Japan’s Kenta Kimura, 53-5; and 10th, Alabama’s Justin Atkins, 53-4.
Zaldain led with a VMC Monster Bag of the tournament with a 22-8 limit Saturday. Palaniuk maintained the lead with a contested race for the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year title with 536 points. Joseph Webster held onto the Falcon Rods Bassmaster Rookie of the Year race with 373 points.
The final day for the Pickwick Landing State Park takeoff will be Sunday, June 11, at 7 a.m. CT. Coverage will be available on Bassmaster.com and FOX Sports digital platforms. FS1 will also broadcast live with the tournament leaders beginning at 7 a.m.