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Final push on the Potomac

Day-three leader Michael Iaconelli prepares to push away from the marina to kick of the start of the final day of FLW Tour competition on the Potomac River.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. - With scattered rain and overcast skies dominating the early morning conditions, the top-10 FLW Tour pros departed National Harbor marina shortly after 6:30 a.m. in one final quest for a tournament title on the Potomac River.

But to be sure, it won't be easy. With a stacked final-day field - which includes two Forrest Wood Cup champions (David Dudley and Luke Clausen), a Forrest Wood Cup runner-up (Michael Iaconelli) and two Bassmaster champions (Iaconelli and Clausen) - and the top-three finalists separated by a mere 1 pound, 8 ounces, it's clear that Sunday's Potomac River contest is anything but decided at this point.

"It's going to be a shootout today. It's going to be close." said second-place pro qualifier Luke Clausen. "I've just got to go out there and try to get five big bites again."

Second-place qualifer Luke Clausen shares a laugh before final takeoff on the Potomac.Clausen, who acknowledged that he's still trying to develop a cohesive strategy for fishing the Potomac, says the unpredictability of this fishery will almost certainly make today's final weight interesting to say the least.

"I'm just going to go out there today and try to figure things out as I go along," he said. "I'm using 10 different rods and just going to see what happens - that's all I can do at this point. On this river, you can never give up."

Third-place qualifier Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla., said the only thing that matters today is a tournament title.

"Personally, I'm not going to be happy with anything but first place," said Lane, who owns multiple Potomac River tournament titles. "I know where the good fish are and hopefully today they bite. Right now I'm only 1 pound, 8 ounces off the lead and on this river that (deficit) is nothing. I know the fish are out there and if they bite, it's going to be lights out."

Lane said today's overcast conditions could change things up again for the field.

"Today, with the cloud cover, I think I'm going to start somewhere new," he said. "With the conditions I think it's a good day to mix it up. I'll probably use more topwater baits and do less flipping today than I have in the past. In the morning, before the grass bite picks up, I think I'm going to try something a little different and see if I can't get some good fish in the boat early. If not, I haven't really lost anything."

Day-three pro leader Michael Iaconelli preps his baits during the early morning hours before takeoff on the Potomac River.Day-three leader Michael Iaconelli was already going over his detailed itinerary while walking the dock in the early morning hours.

"We're going to have a low tide in the morning so that's going to give me about three hours to fish grass," he said. "Then from about 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., during the higher tides, I'm going to hit my hard targets (docks, wood, laydowns). Then at about 11:30, I'll change things up again and head back to the grass. Hopefully I have one more day of good decision making in me."

As always with a tidal fishery, it's crucial to be able to adapt to the ever-changing conditions.

"You really have to reconfigure your strategy every day here," said Iaconelli. "And with the cloud cover, today is going to be a different day from all the rest."

So how does Iaconelli like his chances in the final round of competition?

"We're going to have a fun day out there. I feel good," he said. "But I've been doing this long enough to know that if it's your time to win, you're going to win. I just want to fish hard and make good decisions - that's all you can ask for."

As for the other contenders outside of the top three, they appeared to have plenty of optimism as well.

"I feel confident I'm on the right fish," said fourth-place qualifier Bryan Schmitt of Deale, Md. "I just have to go for it today. I've been around the right fish and I feel like I've found the fish I need to win. I just have to capitalize on everything.

"I think you're going to see some big bags today with the cloud cover," Schmitt continued. "And I really think anyone in the top 10 has a shot to win this."

Tourney format

Final takeoff commences on the Potomac River.The pro winner in today's competition ultimately will be determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from all four days. Sunday's weigh-in will begin at approximately 4 p.m. at the National Harbor Marina, located at 137 National Harbor Plaza in National Harbor, Md.

Pros will fish for a top award of $125,000 if Ranger Cup guidelines are met.

In addition, during this week's FLW Tour competition on the Potomac, anglers will be vying for valuable points in hopes of qualifying for the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of bass fishing.

Bass-fishing fans take note

Want to watch the weigh in live but can't make it in person? Then tune into FLW Live on FLWOutdoors.com shortly before 4 p.m. Eastern Time to watch live streaming video and audio of today's opening-round weigh in.

Daily on-the-water coverage will also be available online at FLWOutdoors.com. To see up-to-the-minute tournament updates, click here.

The top-10 FLW Tour pros make their last-minute preparations before final takeoff on the Potomac River.Fans will also be treated to the FLW Outdoors Expo at the National Harbor Marina, located at 137 National Harbor Plaza in National Harbor, Md., on Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. prior to the final weigh-in. The Expo includes Ranger boat simulators as well as the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by sponsors, and learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. In addition, an outdoor concert from the band, Level 3, will begin at 3 p.m.

All activities are free and open to the public.

Coverage of the Potomac River tournament will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on VERSUS. "FLW Outdoors" will air Aug. 7 from 1 to 2 p.m. ET. "FLW Outdoors," hosted by Jason Harper, is broadcast to more than 500 million households worldwide.

Vital statistics:

Sunrise: 5:44 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 72 degrees
Expected high temperature: 85 degrees
Water temperature: 76-80 degrees
Wind: From the East at 7 mph
Humidity: 59 percent
Day's outlook: Scattered thunderstorms

Tags: gary-mortenson  morning-story  2011-06-02-potomac-river 

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