Categories
BASSMASTER Elite Series/Opens

Ike Beats The Buzzer For B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series Victory On Upper Chesapeake Bay

CECIL COUNTY, Md. — With one minute to spare before lines out, Michael “Ike” Iaconelli landed an 18.50-inch bass that lifted him to victory Saturday in the Bassmaster B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series powered by TourneyX at Upper Chesapeake Bay.

Iaconelli’s five biggest bass measured 88.25 inches, edging second-place Sterling Leach by just 1.75 inches.

It’s been a good couple of weeks for the popular New Jersey pro and 20-time Classic qualifier. His Kayak Series win comes on the heels of a fourth-place finish at the Basspro.com Bassmaster Northern Open at Oneida Lake, which lifted Iaconelli to second in the Northern Division points race.

“I’m proud of this one. I’ve been trying for three years to win a professional kayak event and I finally won one,” Iaconelli said. “It feels really, really good. It is a big moment for me. Kayak fishing has been great for me personally and a lot of the companies I work with are supporting me fishing on the kayak side as well.

“I launched an Ike-approved Hobie at ICAST this year. I’ve only fished out of it about six times. What a great way to break in a new kayak.”

The victory also gives Ike a win at every level of adult Bassmaster competition.

“I’ve won as an amateur, I’ve won as a Nation angler, I’ve won at the Open level, the Elite level, the Classic and Angler of the Year,” he said. (Iaconelli won the 2003 Bassmaster Classic at the Louisiana Delta and captured the Angler of the Year title in 2006.) “I talk to Brandon Palaniuk a lot and one of his goals is to win at every level of B.A.S.S. and the Classic is sort of the last thing he has left to win.

“But not now. If he wants to top my record he has to get a kayak and win a kayak event.”

Iaconelli’s winning fish engulfed his Berkley MaxScent Creature Hawg with just enough time for him to haul it into the boat, measure it and photograph it before the official lines out time of 2 p.m. ET.

“It’s funny how those things happen like that,” he said. “I was flipping and flipping and watching the time click. At 1:59 p.m., I pitched in a mat and it sank about a foot and the hydrilla shook. I saw my line jump and set the hook, cranked it in on 65-pound braid, swung it in, unhooked it and submitted the picture all within a minute. It was an incredible thing.

“It ranks up there as one of the most exciting fish catches I’ve ever had in my life.”

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Throughout his years of tournament fishing, Iaconelli has accumulated hours of experience on the Upper Chesapeake Bay, a place he calls a “premier fishery” in the Northeast. This time of the year, however, is one of the more difficult seasons to generate bites.

“It is a special place, but it has this ugly stage which is early August through late September,” he said. “Today was one of those days. It was hard to get bites. Sometimes the grind tournaments, when you do well or win, mean even more than the easy ones.”

Iaconelli fished parts of a big grass flat, specifically targeting ditches that drained out of the flat as well as hard hydrilla edges that were pinned against deeper creeks that ran through the flat.

With all of his experience on the Upper Chesapeake, it was the first time he fished these specific areas of the flat.

“The quality that lives out there is what attracted me to that flat. It has a tremendous amount of 15- to 20-inch largemouth. The challenge was finding them. One of the reasons it gets so tough in August is that flat turns into a grassbed. It is mainly hydrilla, star grass, eelgrass and it is 5 square miles of it.”

Iaconelli landed five bass around the drains and ditches on a Texas-rigged black/blue flake Berkley PowerBait The General with a 1/16-ounce VMC nail weight on an Abu Garcia spinning rod. His two biggest bites came punching the hydrilla edge with a black/blue flake Berkley MaxScent Creature Hawg paired with a 1-ounce tungsten weight and a 4/0 VMC Flippin’ Hook.

He said the tide played a major role.

“The golden rule of tidal fishing is low water is always the best,” he said. “I had an early window of low water. This morning I caught four within the first hour and a half. When we started it was low but coming in.

“As the tide started to come in, the bite really shut off. I went a long time without a bite. I caught the 19.50 on the bad tide, a dead high tide, and that got me my limit.”

Leach used two different patterns to claim second place in his first-ever Kayak Series event. He also claimed Big Bass of the Tournament honors after winning the tiebreaker against Iaconelli with a 19.50 and a 19.00-inch bass.

After his two days of practice, Leach decided to fish the Sassafras River section of the Bay. After failing to get a buzzbait bite first thing in the morning, he switched to a Z-Man Evergreen ChatterBait JackHammer and landed three of his five keepers around wood in deeper pockets in the river bends.

West Virginia angler Greg Harper finished third with 78 inches of smallmouth bass. Harper ventured up the Susquehanna River, an environment that matched the style of his home waters.

His bait of choice was a Lucky Craft squarebill crankbait and a 4-inch Yum Dinger rigged on a weighted wacky rig jighead around rock and wood targets.

“My day started out pretty slow. I didn’t catch my first fish until around 8 o’clock,” Harper said. “But after that, it was fast and furious. I caught a limit within an hour, and I caught a lot of fish all day long, just not a lot of size.”

The top four anglers from the event punched their tickets to the 2022 Kayak Series National Championship, which will be held in conjunction with the 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk at Lake Hartwell.

Cecil County, Maryland hosted the event. 

Categories
BASSMASTER Elite Series/Opens

Ito’s Mega Bag Earns Bassmaster Elite Series Win At St. Lawrence River


WADDINGTON, N.Y. — Saving the best for last may not have been his intention, but Taku Ito’s eye-popping 26-pound limit propelled the Japanese sensation to a convincing victory at the Farmers Insurance Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River with a four-day total of 90 pounds.

Hailing from Chiba, Japan, the second-year Elite placed 38th on Day 1 with 17-15, then improved to 11th with a second-round limit of 22-14. Day 3 saw Ito secure his Championship Sunday berth by adding 23-3 and improving to seventh.

Earning $100,000 for his Elite win, Ito anchored his third and fourth days’ limits with 6-pound smallmouth, both of which earned $1,000 daily awards for Phoenix Boats Big Bass.

“I love Waddington — I’m very, very happy,” Ito said with the engaging sincerity Elite audiences have come to love. “When I was 8 years old, I won the (Bassin’s Black Bass with Hank Parker) video game and now, on the St. Lawrence River, I won the Bassmaster Elite Series.

“Big Bass. Big Stage. Big Dreams. Bassmaster!”

Ito, who placed sixth at last year’s St. Lawrence River event, devoted all four days to Lake Ontario. The first two days, he fished rock structures in approximately 20 feet. On Saturday those areas failed to produce, so he relocated to a spot in 26 to 27 feet near Chaumont Bay.

Calling this spot “Taku Disneyland” for its abundance of fish, Ito caught his Day 3 limit there and started on the spot Sunday.

“I was driving about two hours (each way) and I had about two hours and 30 minutes of fishing time,” Ito said.

Arriving at his spot this morning, Ito thought his graph was malfunctioning when he saw what appeared to be a false bottom at 13 to 14 feet. To his delight, it was a massive school of Lake Ontario giants.

“Usually, smallmouth are on the bottom, but today there was a school of big smallmouth suspended,” Ito said.

Ito said he noticed a distinct water clarity difference, and he assumed the fish had followed the clean water into his area. Also, Ito said the gobies he incidentally caught on his drop shot were a couple of inches larger than the 3- to 4-inchers he saw the previous three days.

“My spot had bigger gobies today, so maybe the smallmouth were there for the big gobies,” Ito said.

Ito caught some of his bass on a drop shot with a 4-inch Ecogear Aqua Swim Shrimp rigged on a 1/0 Ryugi Talisman hook with a 1/4-ounce Ryugi TG Delta sinker.

He also caught keepers on a Neko-rigged 5 1/4-inch Nories Latterie straight worm and a Berkley Hit Worm. For this rig, he used a 3/16-ounce Neko weight and a 1/0 Ryugi Talisman hook.

“I was using many Japanese techniques,” Ito said. “I would cast and sometimes the fish would take (the bait) while it was falling. Sometimes, I kept my bait on the bottom for 10 seconds, 15 seconds, with no action.”

Justin Atkins of Florence, Ala., finished second with 88-12. Atkins tied Gerald Swindle of Guntersville, Ala., for eighth place on Day 1 with 21-6, then added 22-14 and rose to fifth. He caught 23-10 on Day 3 and moved into second before settling at that position with Sunday’s limit of 20-14.

“I caught all of my fish out of the lake,” Atkins said. “I found a flat that had some grass and rock with some sand mixed in 12 to 20 feet. There was big school of fish on it, and I was using my Lowrance Active Target to look for them.”

Atkins caught his fish on a drop shot with a Berkley MaxScent Flat Worm and a 3/32-ounce Marabou jig with a piece of MaxScent worm on the shank. That adjustment added bulk and scent appeal, which helped convert more bites into hookups.

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“I really liked the brown Marabou jig this week,” Atkins said. “I had some followers on black, but the brown, for whatever reason seemed to get them to trigger.”

Clark Wendlandt of Leander, Texas, finished third with 88-10. On Day 1, the 2020 Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year tied Stetson Blaylock of Benton, Ark., for sixth place with 21-12.

Wendlandt added 23-3 on Day 2 and moved up to fourth. Catching 20-10 on Semifinal Saturday kept him in that spot until his final-round limit of 23-1 advanced Wendlandt one more spot.

“I fished the lake and used a lot of different depths, but the shallowest I caught one was probably 12 feet and the deepest was 28,” Wendlandt said. “The best seemed to be about 20 feet.”

Wendlandt caught his fish on a 3/16-ounce Ned rig and a drop shot with a green pumpkin minnow-style bait.

Patrick Walters of Summerville, S.C., won the $1,000 Phoenix Boats Big Bass award for the week with a 6-5. Walters also claimed the $1,000 daily Big Bass award for Day 2.

Bernie Schultz of Gainesville, Fla., who led Days 1 and 2 and finished eighth, won the $1,000 daily Big Bass award for Day 1.

Schultz took home an additional $3,000 for being the highest-placing entrant in the Toyota Bonus Bucks program, while Chris Groh of Spring Grove, Ill., earned $2,000 for being the second-highest placing entrant.

As part of the Yamaha Power Pay program, Ito also earned $4,000 for winning while Wendlandt claimed an additional $1,500 for being the second-highest placing entrant.

The Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River was hosted by the Village of Waddington and St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce. This tournament is supported by a Market New York grant from I LOVE NY/New York State’s Division of Tourism awarded as part of the Regional Economic Development Council initiative. The tournament and all associated festivities were planned to ensure the safety of anglers, marshals, staff and fans. 

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Berkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Ranger Boats, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Bass Pro Shops, Garmin, Huk Performance Fishing, Marathon, Rapala

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Conservation Partner: AFTCO

2021 Farmers Insurance Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River Local Hosts: Village of Waddington, St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce

Categories
BASSMASTER Elite Series/Opens

Johnston Moves Into Lead Of Bassmaster Elite At St. Lawrence River

WADDINGTON, N.Y. — For the past three days, Cory Johnston has mentioned saving certain fish he’d previously located for when he needed a big bite. On Saturday, he started with a trio of those difference-makers and took over the Day 3 lead of the Farmers Insurance Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River with a three-day total of 68 pounds, 10 ounces.

Hailing from Cavan, Canada, Johnston tied his younger brother Chris for second place on Day 1 with 23-7. He added 22-2 on Friday and slipped to third before moving into the top spot with Saturday’s limit of 23-1. Heading into Championship Sunday, Johnston leads Alabama pro Justin Atkins by 12 ounces.

Johnston said the smallmouth he targeted first were bed fish in about 8 feet. Picking off three solid keepers in short order gave him an early cushion and allowed him to “go fishing.”

“I fished a lot of shallow stuff today — 15 feet or less,” Johnston said. “Every spot was different; some were rock, some were sand, some were weed. It was a mix of everything.

“The strategy was: hit as many spots as you can and hope you get the right ones to bite.”

As he’s done the first two days, Johnston said he fished multiple spots throughout a 90-mile stretch from the take-off area to Chaumont Bay outside the mouth of the St. Lawrence. He caught his fish on a drop shot with an 8- to 10-inch leader.

“I had a limit by the noon hour,” Johnston said. “I upgraded a little bit, but not much. I didn’t want to burn too many fish.”

Essential to his execution was Johnston’s use of a Flogger — a cone-shaped device with a clear, flat screen that sits at the water’s surface and allows him to view details below. Similar to looking through a dive mask, without the submersion, the Flogger provides key perspective that aids in presentation.

“It shows you your bait, it shows you where the fish is and it shows you the sweet spot,” Johnston said. “You’re seeing how the fish reacts to your bait. I can catch them eventually, but it just speeds up the process.”

Looking ahead, Johnston said he’ll follow a game plan similar to the one he employed Saturday.

“I’m excited to get back out there tomorrow; I left a few out there,” Johnston said. “I probably could have culled a few more times, but I’m trying to play the game and save as many fish as I can.

“I should have three good ones saved for tomorrow and then I’m going to have to go fishing. I’m hoping for 23 pounds tomorrow; that’s my goal. I think if I got 23 I’d be hard to beat.”

Hailing from Florence, Ala., Atkins is in second place with 67-14.  After tying Gerald Swindle for eighth place on Day 1 with 21-6, Atkins added 22-14 and rose to fifth. On Saturday, he weighed 23-10 and gained three more spots.

Spending his day in Lake Ontario, Atkins targeted a range of spots he’d previously fished along with a few new areas. One of his new spots yielded a 5-pounder.

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Atkins caught his fish on a drop shot with a Berkley MaxScent Flat Worm and a 1/16-ounce brown Marabou jig. The latter also benefitted from the MaxScent appeal.

“I’m cutting a piece of a MaxScent The General (stick worm) and threading it onto the hook of the jig,” Atkins said. “That adds bulk to the Marabou, but I’m using a piece that’s even with the bottom of the feathers, so the fish can smell it and taste it when they bite.

“Those fish are really bad about just nipping at the Marabou jig and not getting it. I use a really limber rod, so you can tell when they get it. I think with a little bit of MaxScent on that jig, it helps them get it.”

Chris Johnston, of Peterborough, Canada, is in third place with 65-11. The first Canadian to win an Elite title at last year’s St. Lawrence River event, Johnston added 19-6 to his first two days’ weights of 23-7 and 22-14.

“I caught four of my five in the river today,” Johnston said. “I lost a big one in the lake and I lost a big one in the river — that hurt.

“I was targeting the transitions of sand patches and grass in 15 feet or less. Sometimes, you’d pull up to a spot and there’d be five or six fish there and sometimes, it would be a ghost town. They move a lot, so you’re just hoping to run into them on that stuff.”

Johnston caught his fish on a drop shot, a wacky-rigged 4-inch Senko and a 1/8-ounce black Marabou jig.

Patrick Walters of Summerville, S.C., leads the Phoenix Boats Big Bass standings with a 6-5 caught on Day 2.

Josh Stracner of Vandiver, Ala., won the Rookie of the Year title with 547 points. Edging fellow Alabama pro Justin Hamner (536), Stracner said he focused on maintaining a strong mental game, even when his chances of winning the ROY title appeared bleak.

“Just keeping my head screwed on right was probably the biggest key,” Stracner said. “I held my own the first part of the season, but at the halfway point, I kind of got behind. Going into (Lake Champlain) last week, I was in fifth place and all I was worried about was making the Classic.

“Today, I did both; I made the Classic and got Rookie of the Year. It’s pretty hard to believe.”

Sunday’s takeoff is scheduled for 7 a.m. ET from Whittaker Park. The weigh-in will be held at the park at 3:15 p.m. The Top 10 remaining anglers will be vying for a $100,000 first-place prize.

Live coverage can be streamed on Bassmaster.com and the FOX Sports digital platforms. FS1 will also broadcast live with the tournament leaders beginning at 8 a.m. ET.

The Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River is being hosted by the Village of Waddington and St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce. This tournament is supported by a Market New York grant from I LOVE NY/New York State’s Division of Tourism awarded as part of the Regional Economic Development Council initiative. The tournament and all associated festivities are being planned to ensure the safety of anglers, marshals, staff and fans. 

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Berkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Ranger Boats, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Bass Pro Shops, Garmin, Huk Performance Fishing, Marathon, Rapala

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Conservation Partner: AFTCO

2021 Farmers Insurance Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River Local Hosts: Village of Waddington, St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce

Categories
BASSMASTER Elite Series/Opens

Schultz Commits To Protected Spot For Lead In Bassmaster Elite At St. Lawrence River


WADDINGTON, N.Y. — A patient approach to what Bernie Schultz described as a slow area rewarded the Gainesville, Fla., pro with a five-bass limit that weighed 25 pounds, 5 ounces to lead Day 1 of the Farmers Insurance Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River.

“I found a spot near where I fished last year,” Schultz said of his upriver area, near Chippewa Bay. “I haven’t seen another tournament boat in two years and I hope I don’t — unless it’s a camera boat.”

Schultz, whose best finish on the St. Lawrence was sixth place in 2013, described his spot as a flat approximately 200 yards long with depths of 3 to 8 feet. Starting on one end of the flat in practice, he quickly caught a 4-pounder, and by the time he’d completed his drift, he had another 4- and two 3-pounders.

“It’s a really good area and it’s protected,” Schultz said. “That’s what I like about it — it has everything the fish want and it has everything I need to fish, no matter what the weather does.

“There are numerous islands and I’m cradled right in the middle of them. I decided to start there today and it was a good call. It started quickly and I left them biting.”

Despite an impressive performance, which included the day’s Phoenix Boats Big Bass — a 6-2 — Schultz said the spot he fished required such a laborious effort that he believes most anglers would have abandoned it.

“It’s a precise drift that I’m making,” he said. “It’s slow enough that if anyone practiced there, they probably would have gotten discouraged.

“The fish are in certain sections of the flat and I had to locate them today because they moved a little bit. I had a 5, that 6-2 and a 3-pounder pretty quickly, but after that I had to move around on the flat to find them.”

Schultz fished a diverse arsenal of baits including a 1/2-ounce Hildebrandt Drum Roller spinnerbait, a Shimano jerkbait (debuting next week at ICAST), a 1/8-ounce black Marabou jig, a drop shot with a green pumpkin Yamamoto Shad Shape Worm and a Ned rig with a 3-inch green pumpkin watermelon laminate Yamamoto Senko.

It is a well-known truth that two of the biggest obstacles to winning on the St. Lawrence share the same last name. Today, brothers Chris and Cory Johnston, of Peterborough and Cavan, Canada, respectfully, strengthened that lore by catching identical 23-pound, 7-ounce limits and sharing second place.

Adding to the statistical oddity, the Johnstons nearly matched one another’s top fish. Chris caught a 5-5, while his older brother had a 5-4.

Chris Johnston, who won last year’s St. Lawrence River Elite, started his day by running upriver to the Clayton, N.Y., area and targeting fry guarders — male bass that hover near the spawning bed to protect recent hatchlings — on flats in 8 to 10 feet. He found a handful of these fish early in practice but noticed Wednesday that a couple of them had left.

“I was a little disappointed yesterday, so today I thought I’d better go catch the ones that are left in that area,” he said. “That gave me a good start to the day, so I could relax a little bit.”

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Around midmorning, Johnston left this area and added a few keepers, including a 5-8, in Lake Ontario’s Cape Vincent area. Contrasting his 2020 victory, he said the fish are significantly less concentrated this week.

“They’re not set up good like they were last year,” he said. “They’re scattered anywhere from 5 feet to 25 feet. I don’t have a spot that has a big group of them so I’m looking and trying to find random fish.

“The reason is that there are still fish spawning. There are fish that are guarding fry and fish that finished spawning a month ago and they’re already making their way out. There are fish up shallow trying to do their thing, and they’re everywhere in between.”

Cory Johnston devoted his day to the river and fished a hodgepodge of locations. Covering a 90-mile stretch from Waddington to Lake Ontario, he fished traditional rock reefs and shoals from 5 to 35 feet.

“I just kind of ran all over the place, wherever the wind allowed me to go,” he said. “I caught all of my fish in the river; I didn’t weigh a fish out of the lake.

“I didn’t have any specific area, I just hit 30 spots. I have a game plan and I have something in my back pocket where if I need a fish I can grab one quick in a couple of little areas. I needed a couple today and that’s what I did.”

Seth Feider of New Market, Minn., maintained his lead in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 795 points. With a 66-point margin over Chris Johnston (729), Feider just needs a decent showing Friday to conclude his best professional season with an AOY title.

Former AOY (2017) Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, is in third place with 702 points, followed by Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La., with 676 and Caleb Sumrall of New Iberia, La., with 669.

Friday’s takeoff is scheduled for 7 a.m. ET at Whittaker Park. The weigh-in will be held back at the park at 3:15 p.m. After Friday’s weigh-in, only the Top 45 anglers will advance to Saturday’s semifinal round.

Live coverage for each day of the event can be streamed on Bassmaster.com and the FOX Sports digital platforms. FS1 will also broadcast live with the tournament leaders beginning at 8 a.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday.

The Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River is being hosted by the Village of Waddington and St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce. This tournament is supported by a Market New York grant from I LOVE NY/New York State’s Division of Tourism awarded as part of the Regional Economic Development Council initiative. The tournament and all associated festivities are being planned to ensure the safety of anglers, marshals, staff and fans. 

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Berkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Ranger Boats, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Bass Pro Shops, Garmin, Huk Performance Fishing, Marathon, Rapala

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Conservation Partner: AFTCO

2021 Farmers Insurance Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River Local Hosts: Village of Waddington, St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce

Categories
BASSMASTER Elite Series/Opens

Schmitt Slams The Door On Bassmaster Elite Series Event At Lake Champlain

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — Bryan Schmitt talked all week about “special little things” that were happening to help him maintain the lead at the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Lake Champlain.

But the most special one happened just 15 minutes before Sunday’s final weigh-in, as Schmitt landed a 3 1/2-pound smallmouth that gave him a 12-ounce upgrade and allowed him to secure his first Elite Series win with a four-day total of 78 pounds, 5 ounces.

Call it luck. Call it fate. But the win seemed meant to be for the second-year Elite Series pro from Deale, Md.

“I pulled up to a buoy cable this afternoon right before time to come in and saw two fish on my (Garmin) LiveScope,” Schmitt said. “I threw that drop shot in there, felt the bite and didn’t really think it was a bass. But it turns out it was a bass — and without that fish I don’t win.

“When things like that are happening, man, it’s a special week.”

Schmitt talked each day about a waning bite, but he still managed to catch 21-11, 21-5 and 19-4 the first three rounds. Then on Championship Sunday, things did get tougher and he only managed to bring in 16-1.

That barely helped him stave off a hard charge from Texas pro Keith Combs, who finished with 77-13 — just 8 ounces behind the leader.

To catch his bass, Schmitt used a Spro Spin John, a Neko-rigged Missile Baits Quiver Worm and a Missile Baits Ned Bomb on a drop-shot rig.

“I caught a couple of key fish on the spinbait, but the Quiver Worm produced the bulk of my fish for sure,” he said. “I was fishing it on a Hayabusa Spin Muscle Guard Hook with a little nail weight just to get it down.

“These fish are smart, I guess. You could throw a jig in there and they wouldn’t bite it, but they would eat that Quiver Worm.”

For the Neko setup, Schmitt used a 6-9 Fitzgerald Stunner Rod and a spinning reel spooled with 10-pound braid and a 10-pound fluorocarbon leader. For the drop-shot rig, he used a drop-shot wacky hook from Hayabusa, a 1/4-ounce Reins Tungsten sinker with 8-pound fluorocarbon on the same rod. The only time he picked up a baitcaster was when he used the spinbait.

Another special element for Schmitt this week was the ability to overcome several unfortunate moments.

On Saturday, he had two key fish break his line. Then on Sunday, he lost several bass because of something he says he should have never allowed to happen.

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“Today, it took me three lost fish to realize that the point on my drop-shot hook had bent in,” he said. “That’s not a smart move. Out of those three, I’ll bet you at least one of them was a big one because they were on a spot where I had caught three 4-pounders this week.

“I was able to overcome those kinds of mistakes — somehow.”

Even as he was standing in the weigh-in line, Schmitt said he thought he’d blown his chance with only 16-1 in his bag.

“I thought it was over, no way,” he said. “I knew one of these guys was going to have a good day — and Keith (Combs) did.”

Combs, who was in 16th place going into Saturday’s semifinal round, dialed in a topwater strategy for big smallmouth and caught 20-14 to jump into third heading into Championship Sunday.

The topwater pattern, which included a Strike King Sexy Dawg and another unnamed walking bait, produced again Sunday, as Combs caught 19-3 and held the unofficial lead on BassTrakk for a while.

Combs, who also used a couple of different jerkbaits, caught a pair of large fish that swallowed his lures so deeply he was forced to release them for fear of receiving a 4-ounce dead-fish penalty at the scales.

“With those two fish, I might have actually had enough to win,” Combs said. “I hate that it worked out that way, but it is what is.”

Minnesota pro Seth Feider, who came into the event just needing to avoid a total crash and burn to maintain his lead in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, did far more than simply survive. He finished in fourth place behind Schmitt, Combs and Texas pro Chris Zaldain.

With his fourth Top 10 of the season, Feider now has 699 points and holds a commanding lead over his closest competitors, Patrick Walters of South Carolina (644) and Canadian Chris Johnston (630).

Feider believes it will take something catastrophic to keep him from winning the AOY title now — and for that reason, he plans to stay close to the takeoff site during next week’s season-ending Farmers Insurance Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River.

“I’m not going to take any chances, and that definitely means I won’t be making the long run to Lake Ontario,” Feider said. “I probably won’t get more than 30 miles from the takeoff site anytime during the week.”

Another Minnesota pro, Austin Felix, took Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the day honors with a 4-13. Oklahoma pro Dale Hightower had Big Bass of the week with the 5-15 he caught on Day 1.

Combs took home an additional $3,000 for being the highest-placing entrant in the Toyota Bonus Bucks program, while Zaldain earned $2,000 for being the second-highest placing entrant.

Combs also earned $2,500 for being the highest-placing entrant in the Yamaha Power Pay program, while Zaldain claimed an additional $1,500 for being the second-highest placing entrant.

Categories
BASSMASTER Elite Series/Opens

BREAKING NEWS – Hank Cherry Wins Second-Straight Bassmaster Classic Win At Ray Roberts

FORT WORTH, Texas — Hank Cherry now occupies some rare air in the sport of professional bass fishing, and he has the bank statements to prove it.

The Lincolnton, N.C., pro, caught five bass Sunday that weighed 13 pounds, 1 ounce and won the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk with a three-day total of 50 pounds, 15 ounces.

He is only the fourth angler in the 51-year history of the Super Bowl of Professional Bass Fishing to win the event in back-to-back years. He earned another of the iconic Classic trophies and his second $300,000 check in 18 months.

Another North Carolina pro, Matt Arey, finished second with 49-1 and lost at least one big bass on Championship Sunday that might have put him over the top.

“I feel bad for Matt, and I told him I’ve been where he was,” Cherry said. “I had the same thing happen to me and mine happened a lot closer to the boat.

“I’m not giving it back — not apologizing for it. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.”

Cherry, a nine-year veteran of the Bassmaster Elite Series, finished third in his first Classic back in 2013 on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees. Like Arey, he lost a crucial fish in that event that would have given him the trophy.

He went through a tough stretch in the Classic after that, finishing no higher than 27th in three tries. But then he put the bad memories of 2013 behind him last year on Lake Guntersville when he caught 29-3 on the first day and rode that mammoth bag to a wire-to-wire victory.

He didn’t quite go wire-to-wire this year, starting in third place on the first day with a limit of 20-4. But as suffocating heat moved into the area, the fishing got tougher and Cherry remained consistent enough to stay on top with a Day 2 catch of 17-10 and a final-round bag of 13-1 that was just enough.

He caught the bulk of his weight during the week flipping flooded bushes along the shoreline and throwing a jerkbait around riprap along the dam.

“The bite in the bushes is going away,” Cherry said. “It’s so hot out there right now. The water temperature was 71 degrees when we got here for practice, and I saw it as high as 87 today. A lot of those bushes are starting to break down, and those fish just don’t want to be there.

“I was fortunate to get enough out of them to win.”

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For flipping the bushes, Cherry used a 3/4-ounce tungsten weight with a 4/0 flipping hook and a variety of soft-plastic baits, including a Berkley Pit Boss, a craw lure and a beaver-style bait.

“I would just alternate between five or six baits, back and forth,” he said. “That probably wasn’t as much for the fish as it was for me. Whatever I was using, I was doing the same thing. But it felt like I was doing something different.”

When the bass got extremely lethargic in the 99-degree heat Sunday, Cherry did actually make a change to his flipping setup, switching to a 1/4-ounce tungsten weight with a 3/0 hook. He had two fish in his livewell at the time but caught three bass to fill his limit within 30 minutes after making the switch.

“I caught maybe the dumbest bass in the lake,” Cherry said. “I flipped into a bush and instead of going into the bush, that lighter bait kind of ricocheted off of it. The bass actually swam out of the bush to get the bait and swam back in with it.”

That fish weighed almost 4 1/2 pounds and helped Cherry recharge on a day when he said sweat was constantly rolling into his eyes and blinding him.

When Cherry fished the rocks along the dam, he used a new jerkbait called a Berkley Stunna in the stealth shad color. He believes he caught the tail end of the jerkbait bite, just as he did with the flipping bite.

“The bushes I was fishing, if the lake was at normal pool, they wouldn’t even be in the water,” Cherry said. “So, you know the fish are probably itching to move away from there and go offshore.

“I think the same is true around those rocks. The heat is just radiating off those things — and if it makes us miserable, you know it probably makes them miserable, too.”

Cherry joins Rick Clunn (1976-77), Kevin VanDam (2010-11) and Jordan Lee (2017-18) as the only back-to-back Classic winners. This marks his fourth victory with B.A.S.S., including last year’s Classic, an Opens win on Smith Lake in 2012 and an Elite Series victory on Muskegon and White Lakes in 2013. He was the 2013 Bassmaster Elite Series Rookie of the Year.

Cherry said he enjoyed his reign as the 2020 Classic champion even though the year was marred by the COVID-19 pandemic and many of the personal appearances he might have made as Classic champ didn’t happen.

Whether this next reign will be different, he couldn’t say for sure.

“I don’t know what to expect, I really don’t,” Cherry said. “I’ll just take it as it comes — and I’ll never doubt just how blessed I am.”

Frank Talley of Temple, Texas, took home Berkley Big Bass honors and an additional $2,500 for his 8-3 caught on Day 1. 

As part of the Yamaha Power Pay program, sixth-place finisher Scott Canterbury of Odenville, Ala., earned a $20,000 bonus.

Cherry took home an additional $7,500 for being the highest-placing entrant in the Toyota Bonus Bucks program, and Chris Jones of Bokoshe, Okla., earned $2,500 for being the second-highest placing entrant.

The Bassmaster Classic was hosted by the Fort Worth Sports Commission and Visit Fort Worth.

Categories
BASSMASTER Elite Series/Opens

Cherry Takes Lead On Weather-Shortened Day At Bassmaster Classic On Lake Ray Roberts

FORT WORTH, Texas — The 54 anglers competing in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk had planned to start fast and take advantage of an early-morning shad spawn bite that has been extremely reliable this week on Lake Ray Roberts.

But Mother Nature threw up an electric stop sign.

Freak thunderstorms with dangerous lightning delayed the tournament by more than two hours and negated much of the morning bite. While many of the Day 1 leaders struggled, North Carolina pro Hank Cherry landed 17 pounds, 10 ounces to move from third place into the lead with a two-day total of 37-14.

The winner of last year’s Classic on Alabama’s Lake Guntersville, Cherry will now begin Championship Sunday with nearly a 5-pound lead and a chance to become only the fourth angler in the 51-year history of the event to claim back-to-back titles.

“There was definitely more pressure to win the first one last year,” Cherry said. “Winning is one thing, but to win it twice, it’s got to all go right.

“What’s eerie about this is that it’s the same feeling as last year. I’m out there on the dam today and people are stopped all the way down the dam getting out watching me fish — it just feels the same.”

Despite the late takeoff, Cherry got off to a fast start, catching two bass in the 4-pound range flipping a jig into wooden structure. The fish came only four or five casts apart and gave Cherry the shot in the arm he needed to fish confidently all day.

That was especially important when he lost a big bass later in the day on a jerkbait.

“Of course, Day 2, in Hank Cherry fashion, I lose the biggest fish I’ve hooked in the two days of competition and it breaks me off on a jerkbait,” Cherry said. “I don’t know how big it was, but I’ve caught thousands of them on a jerkbait and I know when they bite how big they are. When I set the hook, it didn’t move. When it started diving down, I knew it was gonna go right to the rock and brush.

“It would have been a great fish to have, but I didn’t let it bother me.”

Cherry said he’s taking the same approach with the pressure of leading the Classic once again going into the final day.

“I’ve played in a lot of big games,” Cherry said. “I’ve won this big game — and I’m not going to cry if I don’t win it tomorrow.

“I’ve got my trophy at home. I’ll hand the trophy to the winner tomorrow and go hard at it again next year.”

The biggest mover of the day was B.A.S.S. Nation qualifier Justin Kerr, who rose from 22nd place to second with four bass that weighed 19-12. Kerr put together the day’s biggest limit flipping submerged bushes and using an Evergreen JackHammer ChatterBait.

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Though his bag was one shy of a limit, one of his bass weighed 7-2 and another weighed 6-12.

“I have this one area that has a bunch of big ones in it, and I got two bites there yesterday and lost one of them,” Kerr said. “Today, with the half day that we had, I was hoping for two bites that would put me in the 11-pound range, but they just happened to be 7-pounders.”

An Arizona resident and longtime successful angler in the western United States, Kerr has not been exploiting the early-morning shad spawn bite like much of the field. That’s a big part of why he weighed in only a small five-bass limit (13-6) on Day 1 and missed a limit on Day 2.

But he believes he’s around the bass to win — he said he’s seen another bass in the 10-pound range this week — and he realizes the gravity of his situation.

Kerr is vying to become just the second Nation qualifier ever to win professional fishing’s biggest event. Connecticut angler Bryan Kerchal claimed the title in 1994 on North Carolina’s High Rock Lake but was killed in a plane crash months later.

“To represent the Nation this way is an awesome deal,” he said. “It shows that people like me who don’t get the opportunity to fish the Elites or get on tour because of financial or personal reasons … It doesn’t matter who you are, you can get a chance to compete in the Classic.

“It’s a pretty humbling experience to be in this position, for sure.”

Perhaps no one was hurt more by the late start than Auburn, Ala., pro Steve Kennedy.

After catching a big limit of 23 pounds — mostly before 7 a.m. — on Day 1, Kennedy managed just four bass that weighed 9-11 Saturday and tumbled to third with 32-11. He said he plans to spend all day on Championship Sunday fishing for deep suspended bass he found in practice.

He lost a bass he estimated at 8 pounds fishing that way Saturday.

“It was on a jig on standing timber out in the middle of the lake,” Kennedy said. “I got him to the boat without a problem, and the way I remember it, he just kind of laid there for a second like he wasn’t even going to fight. Then he took off and pulled off. Huge fish.”

Though Kennedy had major success fishing the early-morning shad spawn bite on Day 1, he said he may mostly forego that action Sunday to target those big suspended bass.

“I may spend 30 minutes up shallow,” Kennedy said. “But I’ve had this other deal in my back pocket, and you only get so many chances like this. There aren’t big numbers out there, but those big females are there.

“Those are the ones I want to fish for.”

Frank Talley of Temple, Texas, still holds the lead for Berkley Big Bass of the week with the 8-3 largemouth he caught on Day 1. Chad Pipkens of Holt, Mich., came close to topping that mark Saturday with an 8-1.

The Top 25 anglers will take off at 6:15 a.m. CT Sunday from Lake Ray Roberts State Park – Isle du Bois Unit in Pilot Point, Texas. The weigh-in will be held at 4 p.m. at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth.

The winning angler will claim a life-changing title, a $300,000 first-place check and the iconic trophy that only a handful anglers have ever had the privilege to hold.

The final day of the annual Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo will be held Sunday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Exhibitors are on-site selling a variety of merchandise for fishing, hunting, camping and more. As part of the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo, the Go Out{side} Experience will offer fun options for families, including inflatable archery, cornhole, jumping dogs and knot tying. Kids can even catch their first fish at an on-site catfish pond.

Categories
BASSMASTER Elite Series/Opens

Kennedy Starts Fast, Takes Day 1 Lead At Bassmaster Classic On Lake Ray Roberts

FORT WORTH, Texas — Steve Kennedy caught a five-bass limit that weighed 23 pounds Friday to take the lead during the opening round of the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk.

And the scary thing is, he said he didn’t even get to go to the biggest bass he found in practice.

The Auburn, Ala., pro made the most of an early-morning shad spawn bite, putting the bulk of his limit in the livewell before 7 a.m. Then with the winds blowing hard across Lake Ray Roberts, he decided he wouldn’t be able to proceed with the second part of his game plan.

On Saturday, he hopes to exploit that morning bite again — and hopefully move on to Phase 2.

“I kind of got stuck up on one end of the lake because the wind was blowing so hard,” said Kennedy, a 10-time Classic qualifier who has finished as high as second in the event. “I didn’t go anywhere near where I was planning on fishing my second deal.

“Maybe I will tomorrow. Maybe I won’t have to. If I don’t have to show that until the final day, I sure don’t want to.”

During Kennedy’s final day of practice, he said he got 18 bites the first two hours of the morning. But those came during cloudy conditions — and since he didn’t know if there would be cloud cover Friday, he said he tried to cover water as quickly as he could.

“I was trying to condense that two hours into 30 minutes,” he said. “I was fishing a jig, and they were just eating it like crazy. The morning went just like I had hoped it would.”

After the morning bite died down, Kennedy had hoped to move to deeper water and target larger bass with big glide baits. But the weather nixed those plans.

“It was extremely rough,” he said. “My core was hurting. There were times when I was on my tippy-toes and times when I was on my heels trying not to go over.

“I was headed to my other fish and taking waves over the bow. If I had gone all the way there, I might not have been able to stand up.”

South Carolina pro Patrick Walters is right on Kennedy’s heels in second place with 22-7 — and like Kennedy, Walters found the morning conditions much more favorable.

“I was really hoping for an afternoon bite, but the wind made that nonexistent,” said Walters, who earned his first Bassmaster Elite Series victory last season on Lake Fork in Texas and finished second in another event on Fork earlier this year. “I planned to spend the entire afternoon fishing offshore, but you really couldn’t position on the fish and present your bait the way you needed to.”

That left him to rely on the early-morning bite — and, as it was for most of the field, that was short-lived.

“The shallow bite is good first thing,” Walters said. “But then about 9 o’clock, it cuts off like a light switch. I don’t know what happens, if they just move out or what. But you have until about 9, and then you have to go do something different.”

Walters — who earned Bassmaster Century Belts in both Fork events with four-day limits that weighed more than 100 pounds — did so by targeting big suspended bass in standing timber. He said Ray Roberts features a different kind of structure than Fork, but he’s counting on those same suspended fish to earn the biggest win of his career.

“You have to cover so much water out there offshore just to get a bite or two,” Walters said. “If you can’t fish efficiently, it’s just not worth it.”

But if conditions allow, Walters said the tournament could certainly be won offshore.

“You’re talking about isolated bass that are eating white bass and crappie instead of the ones up shallow that are eating little shad,” Walters said. “A fish that suspends owns the water column. When they get up that high in the water column, they’re usually pretty big fish — and in Texas, they’re especially big.

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“I only need 15 fish to win this tournament, so those are the ones I’m looking for.”

A familiar name — reigning Classic champ Hank Cherry of North Carolina — finished the day in third after landing five bass that weighed 20-4.

“This was actually my worst day since I’ve been here,” said Cherry, who caught 29-3 on the first day of last year’s Classic at Lake Guntersville. “I never got comfortable today. The situation, the water color, the wind.

“I kept second-guessing myself and thinking I should be somewhere else.”

It was a midmorning revelation that finally made Cherry feel at home.

“I kind of slowed down and started kind of retracking how the morning went and noticing that I got more bites on the trees than I did in the bushes,” Cherry said. “So, I picked up a jig and kind of went back to that and started getting bit.”

Though he weighed in 20-plus pounds, Cherry said fans shouldn’t confuse Friday’s bag with the big opening-round total he weighed in last year’s event.

“This was a lot of work,” he said. “I spent a lot of time wondering what was going on, and I tried to force it. I tried to get up on some of those shallower points and really fish it, but I just wasn’t comfortable there.

“I figured out what I needed to be doing, and I’m not leaving the area I fished today.”

The full field of 54 anglers will take off again at 6:15 a.m. CT Saturday from Lake Ray Roberts State Park – Isle du Bois in Pilot Point, Texas. The weigh-in will be held at 4 p.m. CT at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth. After Saturday’s weigh-in, only the Top 25 anglers will advance to Championship Sunday with a chance at the $300,000 first-place prize.

FOX network will broadcast four hours of live coverage with tournament leaders beginning at 7 a.m., and full event coverage is available on Bassmaster.com.

The annual Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo will be held Saturday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Exhibitors are on-site selling a variety of merchandise for fishing, hunting, camping and more. As part of the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo, the Go Out{side} Experience will offer fun options for families, including inflatable archery, cornhole, jumping dogs and knot tying. Kids can even catch their first fish at an on-site catfish pond.

The Bassmaster Classic is being hosted by the Fort Worth Sports Commission and Visit Fort Worth.

Angler                   Hometown              No./lbs-oz  Pts   Total $$$

1.  Steve Kennedy          Auburn, AL               5  23-00    0
  Day 1: 5   23-00   
2.  Patrick Walters        Summerville, SC          5  22-07    0
  Day 1: 5   22-07   
3.  Hank Cherry Jr         Lincolnton, NC           5  20-04    0
  Day 1: 5   20-04   
4.  Chris Jones            Bokoshe, OK              5  17-02    0
  Day 1: 5   17-02   
5.  Drew Cook              Cairo, GA                5  16-10    0
  Day 1: 5   16-10   
6.  Jamie Hartman          Newport, NY              5  16-04    0
  Day 1: 5   16-04   
6.  Matt Robertson         Kuttawa, KY              5  16-04    0
  Day 1: 5   16-04   
8.  Jordan Wiggins         Cullman, AL              5  16-03    0
  Day 1: 5   16-03   
9.  Cory Johnston          Cavan CANADA             5  16-02    0
  Day 1: 5   16-02   
10. Chris Johnston         Otonabee Ontario CANADA  5  16-00    0
  Day 1: 5   16-00   
11. Drew Benton            Blakely, GA              5  15-14    0
  Day 1: 5   15-14   
11. Hunter Shryock         Ooltewah, TN             5  15-14    0
  Day 1: 5   15-14   
13. Todd Auten             Lake Wylie, SC           5  15-12    0
  Day 1: 5   15-12   
14. Frank Talley           Temple, TX               4  15-10    0
  Day 1: 4   15-10   
15. Cody Bird              Granbury, TX             5  15-08    0
  Day 1: 5   15-08   
16. Ed Loughran III        Richmond, VA             5  15-08    0
  Day 1: 5   15-08   
17. Matt Arey              Shelby, NC               5  15-05    0
  Day 1: 5   15-05   
18. Paul Mueller           Naugatuck, CT            5  15-01    0
  Day 1: 5   15-01   
19. Scott Canterbury       Odenville, AL            5  14-11    0
  Day 1: 5   14-11   
20. Brandon Palaniuk       Rathdrum, ID             5  14-04    0
  Day 1: 5   14-04   
21. Chris Zaldain          Fort Worth, TX           4  13-11    0
  Day 1: 4   13-11   
22. Justin Kerr            Lake Havasu, AZ          5  13-06    0
  Day 1: 5   13-06   
22. Luke Palmer            Coalgate, OK             5  13-06    0
  Day 1: 5   13-06   
24. David Mullins          Mt Carmel, TN            5  13-03    0
  Day 1: 5   13-03   
25. Austin Felix           Eden Prairie, MN         4  12-15    0
  Day 1: 4   12-15   
26. Stetson Blaylock       Benton, AR               5  12-13    0
  Day 1: 5   12-13   
27. Trevor McKinney        Benton, IL               5  12-12    0
  Day 1: 5   12-12   
28. Clent Davis            Montevallo, AL           5  12-11    0
  Day 1: 5   12-11   
29. Seth Feider            New Market, MN           5  12-10    0
  Day 1: 5   12-10   
30. Jason Williamson       Wagener, SC              5  12-07    0
  Day 1: 5   12-07   
31. Chad Pipkens           Dewitt, MI               4  12-05    0
  Day 1: 4   12-05   
32. Brandon Card           Salisbury, NC            5  12-02    0
  Day 1: 5   12-02   
33. Taku Ito               Chiba JAPAN              3  12-02    0
  Day 1: 3   12-02   
34. Kyle Welcher           Opelika, AL              4  11-14    0
  Day 1: 4   11-14   
35. Bryan New              Belmont, NC              4  11-08    0
  Day 1: 4   11-08   
36. Clark Wendlandt        Leander, TX              5  11-01    0
  Day 1: 5   11-01   
37. Keith Carson           DeBary, FL               5  10-15    0
  Day 1: 5   10-15   
38. Shane LeHew            Catawba, NC              5  10-11    0
  Day 1: 5   10-11   
39. Chad Morgenthaler      Reeds Spring, MO         5  10-03    0
  Day 1: 5   10-03   
40. Matt Herren            Ashville, AL             4  10-02    0
  Day 1: 4   10-02   
41. Brock Mosley           Collinsville, MS         4  08-10    0
  Day 1: 4   08-10   
42. Jeff Gustafson         Keewatin Ontario CANADA  4  08-08    0
  Day 1: 4   08-08   
43. Bill Lowen             Brookville, IN           3  08-04    0
  Day 1: 3   08-04   
44. Brandon Cobb           Greenwood, SC            3  07-05    0
  Day 1: 3   07-05   
45. Brandon Lester         Fayetteville, TN         2  05-15    0
  Day 1: 2   05-15   
46. Jake Whitaker          Fairview, NC             2  05-10    0
  Day 1: 2   05-10   
47. Masayuki Matsushita    Tokoname-Shi JAPAN       3  05-09    0
  Day 1: 3   05-09   
48. Buddy Gross            Chickamauga, GA          2  05-08    0
  Day 1: 2   05-08   
49. Brad Whatley           Bivins, TX               2  04-10    0
  Day 1: 2   04-10   
50. John Cox               Debary, FL               3  04-00    0
  Day 1: 3   04-00   
51. Pat Schlapper          Eleva, WI                2  03-09    0
  Day 1: 2   03-09   
52. Micah Frazier          Newnan, GA               2  03-00    0
  Day 1: 2   03-00   
53. Tommy Williams         Shepherdsville, KY       1  01-05    0
  Day 1: 1   01-05   
54. Blake Sylvester        Plaquemine, LA           0  00-00    0
  Day 1: 0   00-00   
———————————————————————–
Totals
Day   #Limits    #Fish      Weight
 1        32       224       648-05
———————————-
          32       224       648-05

Categories
BASSMASTER Elite Series/Opens

Local Pro Wes Logan Gets First Bassmaster Elite Series Victory At Neely Henry Lake

GADSDEN, Ala. — Wes Logan said memories came flooding back to him throughout the Whataburger Bassmaster Elite at Neely Henry Lake.

That’s bound to happen when you’ve fished a place since you were 5 years old.

Logan now has countless new reasons to think fondly of his home water after claiming the tournament title here on Championship Monday. The 26-year-old from Springville, only a 30-mile drive from the Gadsden City Boat Docks, caught a four-day total of 20 bass weighing 57 pounds, 9 ounces. He capped the competition with a 14-1 limit Monday, the third-heaviest of the day.

Logan earned $100,000 for the win, his first in 26 B.A.S.S. events.

The second-year Elite Series angler charged into the lead on Day 3 with a 16-15 bag that tied for the heaviest of the tournament. That made him the last man to weigh in Monday and the only one with a chance to knock Connecticut pro Paul Mueller from the hot seat.

Logan peeked silently at the scale while his bass were weighed. When his winning total flashed on screen, he let out a victorious yell and pumped his right fist over his head. Then he hugged Mueller and hoisted his first blue trophy for his home-based fans to see.

“I started tournament fishing with my dad when I was 5,” Logan said. “We’d come here, Logan Martin and Weiss … I went into practice trying to not put pressure on myself. I wanted to fish like I’d never seen the place before. I wanted to figure out a pattern.”

Having an open mind, even on water he knows so well, was critical this week. Neely Henry was a difficult read for most of the 98 anglers who started the tournament on Friday, postponed by a day because of heavy rains earlier in the week. The storms sent the water table rising and shot sediment throughout the lake. The Elites scrambled to find stable water, many relying on junk fishing to see which lures and techniques produced the best bites.

A trio of lures worked best for Logan — a 5/8-ounce Dirty Jigs Matt Herren flipping jig (black/blue skirt) with a Zoom Big Salty sapphire blue Chunk; a Dirty Jigs No Jack swim jig with a Zoom Super Speed Craw trailer; and a frog, which he used to fill his Day 3 limit.

Logan started the tournament strongly, putting 14-1 on the board Friday, good enough for ninth place. He caught 12-8 on Day 2, climbing to eighth and surviving the cut to 48. He made his move on Day 3 with the 16-5 haul, pointing to a pair of unusual catches as the turning point.

“I caught two bass under a bridge right by the Gadsden City Boat Docks on a crankbait,” he said “I’m not a crankbait fisherman. It was about 11:30, and I only had two keepers at the time. But I caught a 2 1/2 there, and then two casts later, I caught a 5 1/4. I only got one more bite that day.

“When you get that kind of bite when you’re not supposed to, that let me know I had a chance to win. Stuff like that just doesn’t happen all the time.”

Logan didn’t divulge specifics on the crankbait, other than to say it’s specially painted, similar to a black/chartreuse combo.

“I keep that one in my hand around here,” he said. “It’s a confidence thing.”

Logan planned to fish down-lake from the start, but low water in that area made him choose otherwise. Each of the 20 bass he weighed was caught between Cove Creek and Minnesota Bend — both only a 10-minute run from the Gadsden City Boat Docks.

Mueller, meanwhile, went straight for the lower end of Neely Henry and found success. He seized the lead after Day 2 and was in second place going into Day 4, trailing Logan by just more than a pound. Mueller caught the heaviest bass of the tournament Monday, a 6-6 largemouth, but his 13-13 closing weight wasn’t enough to overtake Logan.

“My pattern went away today and I knew that would be the deal,” Mueller said. “I had to fish new water. I was able to catch some fish, and I had a good day. I’m glad at the way this turned out. As short as the morning bite was, I could have been sitting in sixth or seventh right now.”

Mueller caught his best bass, including the 6-6, on a Deps Evoke 2.0 squarebill crankbait (chartreuse/brown back). He earned an additional $2,000 for having the Phoenix Boats Big Bass on Day 4 and overall.

Alabama native Gerald Swindle caught the second-heaviest bag on Day 4 (a 15-0 limit) and finished third with 54-2 overall.

Mueller took home an additional $3,000 for being the highest-placing entrant in the Toyota Bonus Bucks program, and fourth-place finisher Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., earned $2,000 for being the second-highest placing entrant.

As part of the Yamaha Power Pay program, Logan earned $4,000 for winning while Christie claimed an additional $1,500 for being the second-highest placing entrant.

Minnesota pro Seth Feider finished 12th in the derby and didn’t qualify for Championship Monday, but he still left Gadsden with a commanding lead in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. His season total of 525 points gives him a 41-point cushion over Patrick Walters of Summerville, S.C., (484) with three tournaments remaining.

Brock Mosley of Collinsville, Miss., is third with 464, followed by Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, with 462 and Christie with 457.

Bryan New of Belmont, N.C., is leading the Rookie of the Year standings with 372 points.

The City of Gadsden and the Greater Gadsden Area Tourism hosted the event.

HOTTEST NEW LURES FOR 2020

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Berkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Ranger Boats, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Bass Pro Shops, Garmin, Huk Performance Fishing, Marathon, Rapala

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Conservation Partner: AFTCO

Categories
BASSMASTER Elite Series/Opens

Monster Bag Lifts Livesay To Bassmaster Elite Series Victory At Lake Fork

QUITMAN, Texas — For three days, Lee Livesay caught quality fish, but nothing close to the Lake Fork potential he intimately knows. On Championship Sunday, the third-year Elite Series pro and local guide showcased his home lake’s treasures by winning the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Lake Fork with a phenomenal four-day total of 112 pounds, 5 ounces.

As the 32nd individual to enter the prestigious Bassmaster Century Club (a five-fish limit of 100 pounds or more), Livesay outpaced Day 1 leader Patrick Walters by a 10-pound margin. Along with his second Elite trophy — his first came last fall at Chickamauga Lake — Livesay won a first-place award of $100,000.

For Livesay, it was a monster final-day limit that weighed 42-3 and ranks as the third-heaviest, single-day weight in Bassmaster history that sealed the deal.

“I have no words right now, it’s amazing,” he said. “I’ve been around them, but I haven’t caught any big ones all week; I just survived. Everything just worked out and it never goes like that.”

Hailing from Longview, Texas, Livesay made no assumptions and fished hard until the last minute. But when the smallest bass in your five-fish limit goes 7 pounds, 6 ounces, good things are likely.

“I caught big ones everywhere I went,” he said. “I started off with big ones (a 9-2 at 7:14 a.m.) and ended with big ones (7-14 at 1:10 p.m.). It was just one of those surreal days, and it was amazing because I’ve spent a lot of time on this lake.”

Spending his tournament in Little Caney Creek, Livesay rotated among several secondary points where bass were chasing big gizzard shad. His main spot — a bar extending off a small island — allowed him to sneak into range of bass schooling on the opposite side without spooking them.

Throughout the tournament, Livesay caught fish on a mixed arsenal that included a 3:16 Lure Company line-through Rising Son swimbait, a 3:16 Lure Company Work Horse glidebait, a Megabass Vision 110 jerkbait, a Carolina rig with a Netbait Little Spanky, a 6th Sense Magnum Squarebill and a bone color Heddon Saltwater Super Spook.

On Sunday, the latter produced all of his weight fish. A 7-foot medium-heavy Halo HFX cranking rod and 40-pound braided line was essential for reaching distant fish and keeping them connected.

“Those fish are wanting to feed up and they’re seeing so many swimbaits, they’re just not eating them,” he said. “I kept getting bites and I kept throwing it.

“Working that big topwater really erratic and just getting them to react was the deal. I think they really think it’s a shad.”

Livesay kept himself in the hunt all week, starting with a seventh-place bag of 25-6 on Day 1. He slipped two spots on Day 2 after catching 17-14, but put himself within striking distance on Semifinal Saturday by adding 26-14 and improving to fifth.

Overcoming the hometown curse — succumbing to the pressure of local expectations — made Livesay’s victory even sweeter.

“I’ve spent thousands of days with clients and fun fishing on this lake,” Livesay said. “I never thought I had it. I knew I was around them, but I never thought I’d catch 42 pounds.

“So, doing it in front of family and friends, and a lot of sponsors were here, too, it’s just amazing. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Notably, Walters claimed his second Century Club belt after earning his first at last November’s Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department with a four-day Lake Fork total of 104-12.

Hailing from Summerville, S.C., Walters started strong this week by leading Day 1 with 32-14. He slipped to third on Day 2 with a smaller limit of 15-7.

Walters got back on track Saturday with 22-13 and reached the final round in fourth place. Adding 31-3 Sunday, he tallied 102-5 and was the only competitor to break 30 pounds twice.

He did most of his work at the mouth of Little Caney where prespawners were staging on the breaks. Leveraging his forward-facing Garmin Panoptix LiveScope, he fished a mix of jerkbaits, swimbaits and topwaters.

After a slow start, Walters got rolling with a midmorning rally that produced several big topwater bites. He steadily chipped away at the lead Livesay had built for much of the morning until the leader’s midday rally put the event out of reach.

“If you’re going to get beat on Lake Fork, it has to be a 40-pound bag,” Walters said. “Big hats off to Lee, he is the man. I had a great week; I really do love this place.”

Quentin Cappo of Prairieville, La., held the second-place spot for the first three days and finished third with 99-6. He turned in daily weights of 28-15, 25-13, 19-4 and 25-6.

Cappo targeted shallow areas with shell bottom in Caney Creek looking for submerged root masses, where deflecting a Strike King KVD 4.0 squarebill triggered strikes. When bass drove gizzard shad topside, he threw a Strike King Sexy Dawg topwater.

“The topwater came into play huge today, as expected,” he said. “One to 3 o’clock has been my window. I was just pacing around, hitting as much as I could and looking for bait activity.

“When that water temperature got warm throughout the day, they would come up and get active. And when the wind pushed those shad against the bank, they showed themselves.”

HOTTEST NEW LURES FOR 2020

Clifford Pirch of Payson, Ariz., won the $1,000 Phoenix Boats Big Bass award for his 9-13 largemouth. He also won $1,000 for the biggest bass of Day 2. Walters claimed Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors for Days 1 and 4 (8-14 and 9-5), while Australian pro Carl Jocumsen took the award on Day 3 with a 9-5.

Brandon Card of Salisbury, N.C., took home $3,000 for being the highest-placing entrant in the Toyota Bonus Bucks program, and Chris Zaldain of Fort Worth, Texas, earned $2,000 for being the second-highest placing entrant.

As part of the Yamaha Power Pay program, Walters earned $2,500 for being the highest-placing entrant, while Cappo claimed an additional $1,500 for being the second-highest placing entrant.

Seth Feider of New Market, Minn., leads the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 436 points. Walters is in second with 432, followed by Drew Cook of Cairo, Ga., with 387, Livesay with 385 and Chris Johnston of Peterborough, Canada, with 384.

Josh Stracner of Vandiver, Ala., leads the Rookie of the Year standings with 333 points.

The tournament was hosted by the Sabine River Authority and Wood County Economic Development Commission. 

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Berkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Ranger Boats, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Bass Pro Shops, Garmin, Huk Performance Fishing, Marathon, Rapala

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Conservation Partner: AFTCO