Dustin Connell adds to his lead with this bass caught Saturday on the upper Pearl River area of Barnett Reservoir in the third round of the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament. Credit: B.A.S.S. / Seigo Saito

RIDGELAND — Second day leader Dustin Connell of Clanton, Ala., retained the lead Saturday on a windy, white-capping day at Barnett Reservoir heading into Sunday’s scheduled fourth day of competion in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite Series tournament.

Stormy weather threatens the final day of fishing and Bassmaster tournament officials will make a decision about what to do at 4:30 a.m.

Options include:

• Cancelling the final day, which would make Connell, a 26-year-old rookie, the winner.

• Fishing for as long as weather permits Sunday.

• Extending the tournament until Monday.

Connell caught 15 pounds, 7 ounces of largemouth bass for a three-day total of 51-14, which is just over 6 pounds ahead of second place.

The young fisherman said he caught 12 or 13 fish during the day, and he missed several big bites that could have added to his lead. Only the largest five fish count.

“I’m happy to have a 6-pound lead, which on this lake will go a long way,” Connell said. “If the weather does hit, a 6-pound cushion will play to my advantage. At the very least, it’ll help me sleep tonight.”

Another Alabamian is also in contention for the win. Keith Poche caught 15-6 on Saturday’s semi-final round, pushing his total to 46-8.

“I really don’t know how this is going to end up,” Poche said. “The forecasted weather is a huge variable. 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.”

Rounding out the Top 12: Kevin VanDam (46-6), Jonathon VanDam (45-15), Brent Chapman (44-13), Mark Menendez (44-13), Fred Roumbanis (44-12), Matt Herren (44-4), Ish Monroe (44-2), Dave Lefebre (44-1), Bobby Lane (43-10) and Skeet Reese (42-11).

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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 13 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.