Weather pushes Elite finale to Monday

Dustin Connell was all smiles at Saturday's Bassmaster Elite weigh-in, but knows Sunday's postponement is not good news for his upriver pattern at Barnett Reservoir.

Weigh-in scheduled for 2 p.m. at Old Trace Park

Due to unsafe weather conditions, the final round of the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite tournament at Barnett Reservoir has been postponed until Monday.

B.A.S.S. tournament director Trip Weldon made the decision around 4 a.m. on Sunday after lengthy discussions with the National Weather Service in Jackson.

“With the safety of our anglers as our top concern, we felt postponing the final day was the best decision,” Weldon said. “These storms contain significant lightning among other severe weather factors, and it is not worth the risk.”

The decision proved wise. At one point early Sunday there were five active tornado warnings in Central Mississippi, although none were over Barnett Reservoir. Frequent lightning strikes, thunder, heavy rain and strong winds did hit the 33,000-acre lake between 8 and 10 a.m.

Weldon said the 12 remaining fishermen will launch at 6 a.m. on Monday at Madison Landing in Ridgeland, and must check in by 2 p.m. The first fish is scheduled to hit the scales at 2:15 p.m. at the adjacent Old Trace Park. Admission is free to the public. Parking will be available at Madison Landing.

Elite tour rookie Dustin Connell of Alabama carries a 5-pound, 6-ounce lead into the final round. The original field of 109 was cut to 51 for Saturday’s third round and only 12 will fish for the $100,000 top prize on Monday.

Connell said Saturday that a delay until Monday could hamper his fishing. Most of his fishing has happened on the upper Pearl River area of the lake, which would be most impacted by runoff.

“It could change things … a lot,” Connell said. “Potential flood waters could wash out my spots. If that happens, I may have to revert to plan B and pick up a frog.”

Weather was also on the mind of second-place angler Keith Poche, who is 5 pounds, 6 ounces behind at 46-8.

“I know I’m around some big fish, maybe even the winning fish, but several inches of rain will definitely change things — and if it does I will be starting over,” Poche said.

Veteran Kevin VanDam, who many rate as the best professional bass angler ever, is 2 ounces behind Poche in third place at 46-6, is probably licking his chops. His weights have improved consistently over the first three days, including Saturday’s 18-7 total that was the day’s biggest catch.

“I’m figuring out this lake,” he said, “but I am a lot of pounds behind.”

Day 2 of the Elite Outdoor Expo at The Rez presented by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks has been cancelled.

The Ridgeland Tourism Commission and the Barnett Reservoir Foundation are local sponsors of the event.

About Bobby Cleveland 1342 Articles
Bobby Cleveland has covered sports in Mississippi for over 40 years. A native of Hattiesburg and graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Cleveland lives on Ross Barnett Reservoir near Jackson with his wife Pam.

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