ONE MORE SUNRISE left for U.S. Open contenders...

No words for it. Though there is some separation in the upper ranks, the “new” Lake Mead has created the closest U.S. Open chase in recent memory. When the official standings are posted later this evening, you will be able to pick just about any of the top 20 and not be surprised if they earn the title.

I checked in with a few of the contestants, who were dueling in the roughly 110 degree heat. While stifling if you’re parked in a cove, it’s not anything close to the killer 120’s of a year ago. Three-time former Open champion Mike Folkestad told me, “It was a little windier, but not so muggy,” then mirrored a common theme of those this week: “It’s a struggle.”

While many of the pros are burning calories with topwater and other reaction baits, and still others are scratching the contours with plastic worms, one pattern was a bit of a surprise.

SHAUN BAILEY has weighed a pair of money fish...

Shaun Bailey of Lake Havasu City just went back-to-back with daily big bass money fish, today’s being a healthy 4.58-pound largemouth followed yesterday’s 3.61. These are $1000 bass. And the surprise, for all the talk about what the new growth may or may not provide, he said he caught his fish flipping “the biggest salt cedar trees I could find.”

Unfortunately, he has not had a lot to go with his kickers. “I’m struggling to get five good ones,” he confessed.

GARY KLEIN'S 2-pounders have carried him so far...

While local talent made their move toward the front, it’s still hard to count out the touring pros. Among them, Gary Klein told me, “The pickin’s are getting a little slim.”

Likewise, the lake was fishing a little smaller today, according to Gary. “I didn’t see but two or three boats yesterday,” he mentioned. “Today I saw 30.” Even after catching his first limit by 9 a.m., Klein’s overall, assessment confirmed, “It’s a grind.”

If there are more notes, I’ll post later. WON BASS will have the complete standings around dinner time and I’ll put up the link.