GROVE, Okla. With tongue firmly in cheek, Kevin VanDam came to the Bassmaster Elite Series Sooner Run weigh-in stand Saturday and explained how he did some sandbagging so his friend, Jeff Kreit, would finally have a chance to beat him.
"Jeff Kriet is a pretty good friend of mine," said VanDam, who caught 21-plus pounds the first two days of the Grand Lake tournament, presented by Longhorn Moist Snuff. "He's always on this kick about trying to beat me. I just wanted to slump off a little bit."
It wasn't on purpose, but VanDam slumped to 16 pounds, 3 ounces Saturday. Meanwhile his buddy Kriet jumped to the biggest five-bass-limit of the tournament, 24-11. Going into Sunday's final, Kriet leads VanDam by seven ounces, 59-13 to 59-6. Rookie Marty Robinson, who was second each of the first two days, has 58-1.
"It's going to be a shootout," said VanDam, the three-time BASS Angler of the Year. "It's going to be fun. I'm looking forward to competing against my buddy."
Kriet, a 37-year-old from Ardmore, Okla., didn't deny his every-tournament-goal of beating VanDam, comparing KVD to golfer Tiger Woods. Another fishing buddy told Kriet several years ago that beating VanDam, no matter where he finished, was a sign that you've had a good tournament.
"After every (PGA) golf tournament, what does everybody say?" asked Kriet, who then answered his own question by adding, "What did Tiger shoot?
"After every fishing tournament, it's what did VanDam catch?"
Kriet caught 'em like nobody has all week at Grand Lake. The previous best bag was 22-5 by Kelly Jordon on Friday. Meanwhile, almost all the other Friday leaders, like VanDam, came up short of expectations. Robinson, who had 20 pounds two days in a row, had 17-12 Saturday to drop into third place. Edwin Evers, who was third after two days with 18-4 and 19-9, fell off to 13-10 and eighth place. Boyd Duckett, who was fourth with 17-7 and 19-6, dropped to 15-7 and seventh place.
There was no doubt what caused the drop-offs - the weather. After sunny skies most of the last two days, Saturday started with rain that socked-in from the 5:50 a.m. start until most of the 50 pros docked for the weigh-in.
"The fish definitely changed as they related to the structure today," said VanDam. "It was 10 o'clock or so before I caught a limit.
Bob Cobb on Hooked Up
Bass fishing legend Bob Cobb will be a special guest on ESPNOutdoors.com's exclusive live pre-game show Hooked Up. Cobb will be a part of the 3 p.m. ET live update on Sunday and will sit in with Tommy Sanders and Mark Zona an hour later for the live Hooked Up show at 4 p.m. ET.
Cobb is an icon in the sport and helped start both the Bassmaster Magazine and Bassmaster Television show. He is also an Oklahoma native who is familiar with Grand Lake.
Cobb's debut at 3 p.m. will be during the third live update of the action on the water on Sunday. There will also be live updates at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m ET.
"Typically, we want days like this during this time of year. But because of the water clarity here, it hurt today."
VanDam said he didn't catch near as many bass as he had been. But several of the Day Two leaders said they still caught numbers, just nothing over three pounds after landing four- and five-pounders in the same spots the first two days.
"I've got some fish that are 25 feet deep," said Duckett, who won the Bassmaster Classic in February. "I didn't think (the weather) would hurt them. I never hooked anything over three pounds. Something happened to the bigger fish today. They probably moved out and suspended, which is what they usually do when you can't find them."
But Kevin Short found them. The Mayflower, Ark., angler jumped from 13th place to fourth Saturday with the second biggest bag of the day, 21-8, giving him a 55-14 total, just 3-15 behind Kriet.
Short agreed with Duckett's assessment of what happened to the lunkers. All week long you've heard the pros talk about the importance of big gizzard shad and timing being in the right place at the right time.
"I caught one four-pounder early flipping," said Short, who moved near the dam as he's done every day this week after his shallow water technique played out. "About 1 o'clock today, we had one hour of sunshine. On three casts I caught a six, a five and a three-and-a-half on a (Norman) DD22 (crankbait).
"I could have very easily weighed-in only 13 or 14 pounds. I was just in the right place at the right time."
Short explained that a section of water near the dam is clearer than some parts of the lake. He thinks that brief period of sunshine in clearer water set off the whole food chain, causing an algae bloom which attracted the gizzard shad, another key to success this week.
Kriet credited his success to simply slowing down. It's a battle he constantly fights with himself.
"I've got to thank (Mike) McClelland," said Kriet of his on-the-road roommate for the last two years. "He helps slow me down, and I help speed him up.
"When you're getting bites and you're fishing slow like that, it's no problem to fish slow. But when you're not getting bites, I tend to speed things up."
Kriet had some early success Carolina-rigging that helped him stay in the slow mode all day. He said he had 22 pounds by noon. Then added those last couple of pounds by catching two five-pounders on a swimbait, something McClelland had suggested.
Meanwhile, McClelland, the Bella Vista, Ark., resident and defending Sooner Run champion, made Sunday's cut to the top 12, but had a day more like VanDam's. McClelland dropped from fifth place to 11th after weighing in only 13-5 Saturday.
"I'm going to go for it," said McClelland, explaining that he'd do something Sunday that he hadn't done all week. "I'm going to throw big crankbaits and try to cover a lot of water."
Yes, Sunday's Sooner Run final is set up for a shootout.
Editor's note: ESPNOutdoors.com invited the University of Oklahoma bass fishing team to join coverage of the Sooner Run. The collegiate anglers will post a regular blog and appear on Hooked Up, the live Internet shows that air at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. ET on Sunday in advance of the live weigh-in. Bob Cobb, creator of Bassmaster Magazine and Bassmaster television, will be the special guest on Hooked Up.
Daily live weigh-ins and a realtime leaderboard will be at 4 p.m. ET. Please feel free to post comments to this blog via the ESPN Conversation feature at the bottom of this and every news page on this site.