Steve Kennedy heads into Championship Sunday with a 6-ounce advantage over day 2 leader Brandon Cobb.
OKEECHOBEE, Fla. — Frog fishing is generally considered one of bass fishing’s least consistent techniques, but Steve Kennedy employed it Saturday to land a whopping five-bass limit that weighed 23 pounds, 1 ounce. With a three-day total of 70-2, the Alabama pro now sits atop the leaderboard heading into the final round of the SiteOne Bassmaster Elite at Lake Okeechobee.
Kennedy heads into Championship Sunday with a 6-ounce advantage over day 2 leader Brandon Cobb of Greenwood, S.C.
On a day when his bag was anchored by an 8-4 largemouth, Kennedy caught most of his fish on a black SPRO Bronzeye popping frog. He’s working his reaction bait over shallow dollar pads and, while he’s experiencing the inconsistency common to the frogging technique, Kennedy said he’s having a blast.
“Today, I had two big fish; the rest of my fish were 3-pounders,” he said. “The last two days, I’ve had three big fish (each day). That big one today makes up a little difference.
“It’s a pretty incredible bite and if I can catch all of my bites, it would be awesome. But it is some of the most fun. You throw that thing out there, twitch it a couple of times and it goes ka-bloom! It’s an impressive bite, for sure.”
Despite turning in a similar weight to what he caught the first two days, Kennedy said he experienced a slower day — likely because of the dim, colder conditions that starkly contrasted the warmth and partly cloudy skies on days 1 and 2. A shift from southerly winds the first two days to a northeast wind also seemed to rattle the fish.
On day 2, Kennedy said he thought the north wind might help his cause by blowing more clear water out of the grass-filtering marsh above his area at the lake’s upper end. While he did not see any improvement, the 8-4 was his best catch of the tournament.
“I caught a bigger fish than I’ve caught any day, but I wouldn’t say it was better,” Kennedy said. “It took me until 11:30 to get a limit. I missed a couple of small ones.
“I didn’t feel like we had a wave of fish move in, but it’s truly incredible how many big fish are in this area. We had 31 boats there yesterday. We probably had a few less today, but everybody catches them.
“I’m covering so much more water than anyone in there. It just gets hard when other boats are going over the spots.”
In addition to his frog fish, Kennedy weighed one keeper on a Texas-rigged 8-inch lizard.
“I was trying to get a big bite,” he said. “They’re bedding in those holes. You can see them on Lowrance ActiveTarget (forward-facing sonar).”
Looking ahead to championship Sunday, Kennedy said he’s hoping the returning warmth and calmer southeast wind will ignite the bite and improve his opportunities. After two days of full field competition and Saturday’s Top 50, the final round’s 10-boat field will relieve some of the pressure the key areas have endured.
“I’m getting nervous; I had eight big bites the first day, six yesterday and four today,” he said. “It’s going downhill, but we’re going to lose some guys. The sun’s coming out and that’s going to change things, so I just have to figure out where the little sweet spot is and milk it for all it’s worth.”
After placing sixth in the first round with 22-9, Cobb added a Day 2 limit of 32-15. Day 3 saw him weigh 14-4 to bring his total to 69-12.
On Day 2, Cobb said he capitalized on a wave of fish moving into his area southwest of the Kissimmee River. Saturday’s weather seemed to hold back any new arrivals.
“I don’t think my area has a ton of fish until a wave comes in,” Cobb said. “With no sun and cloudy conditions, it wasn’t a moving day for Florida fish.
“There are a few too many boats in my area to just catch resident fish. With no new ones coming in, I ran out of fish.”
Cobb caught his bass on a black and blue 3/8-ounce ChatterBait with a Zoom Super Fluke.
Tyler Rivet of Raceland, La., is in third with 68-2. His daily weights have been 24-5, 29-2 and 14-11.
Rivet has parked in the Kissimmee River for three days and caught most of his fish on a prototype jerkbait from Xcite Baits, along with the Sucka Punch creature bait he designed for Xcite. On Saturday, the jerkbait did all the work.
“I really thought the wind and the clouds would get them going today,” Rivet said. “I caught a 3-8 right off the bat and I was like ‘They’re here; this is it. We’re going to catch them.’
“They did the same thing as yesterday, but they never had that frenzy they had the first two days. They just never fired up. I was watching them on Garmin LiveScope. They would chase and chase, but they just wouldn’t commit. I probably had 25 pounds chase the bait, but they were just inches away.”
Cody Huff of Ava, Mo., earned the $1,000 daily bonus for catching the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Day with his 8-6. Cobb still holds the overall lead in that category with his 8-12 from Day 2.
Cobb's Day 2 catch of 32-15 also leads the race for VMC Monster Bag honors.
The Top 10 remaining anglers will take off at 7:30 a.m. from C. Scott Driver Park with a chance to win the $100,000 first-place prize. The weigh-in will be held at the park at 3:45 p.m. FS1 will broadcast live with the leaders beginning at 8 a.m. with continuing coverage on Bassmaster.com.
The Bassmaster Elite at Lake Okeechobee is being hosted by Okeechobee County.