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Matsushita Rallies For Victory At Bassmaster Central Open On Sam Rayburn

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JASPER, Texas — A stellar start positioned Masayuki Matsushita to overcome a Day 2 stumble and mount a final-round surge to win the Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Open on Sam Rayburn Reservoir with a three-day total of 60 pounds, 14 ounces.

Hailing from Tokoname Aichi, Japan, Matsushita took the Day 1 lead with 27-10 — the event’s largest catch — but slipped to second after adding 15-5 on Friday. On Saturday, he rallied and added 17-15 to win by a margin of 1-9.

Speaking with the assistance of fellow angler Calvin Balch of Porter, Texas, Matsushita said he was fishing midlake, just south of the 147 Bridge. He targeted a mix of brushpiles and trees in 20 to 30 feet of water.

“I was fishing fast and (making a milk run) between my spots,” Matsushita said. “My Humminbird MEGA 360 was very important for finding my spots.”

Matsushita caught several of his fish on an 8-inch golden shiner-colored Deps Sakamata Shad Texas-rigged on a 7/0 Owner wide-gap hook. He also fished a Texas-rigged redbug Zoom Ol’ Monster worm.

His key bait Saturday was a Neko-rigged Zoom Magnum Trick Worm in the redbug and green pumpkin colors. This bait produced his biggest bite — an estimated 5-pounder — shortly after takeoff around 7:30 a.m.

“I was staying far away from my spots and made long casts,” Matsushita said.

The tournament’s varying weather patterns factored into his success. Day 1 saw mostly sunny conditions, while Days 2 and 3 brought more of a partly cloudy complexion.

“On Day 1, clouds were very good,” Matsushita said. “Day 2 and Day 3, clouds were not good. Sun was better. Maybe it put fish in the brushpile shade.”

For his efforts, Matsushita won a first-place prize of $50,167 and earned a spot in the 2021 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic, which is scheduled for March 19-21 on Lake Ray Roberts. His Classic berth is contingent on his fishing the final two Central Opens of the season.

In a moving display of pure triumphant emotion, Matsushita doubled over with his hands on his knees when Tournament Director Chris Bowes announced his victory.

Moments later, the winner held his trophy aloft and let out a triple chorus of victory screams that won over the Jasper, Texas, crowd nearly as much as Matsushita’s moving statement of his lifetime goal.

“My dream has always been to fish the Bassmaster Classic,” he said. “This tournament made that happen.”

Josh Douglas of Isle, Minn., improved from third place on Day 2 by adding a final-round sack of 17-6 to finish second with 59-5. Douglas also buoyed his performance with a big Day 1 weight of 22-5. He weighed 19-10 on Day 2.

Douglas targeted brushpiles in 8 to 22 feet. Throughout the week he caught most of his bass on a Texas-rigged 10-inch Biospawn ExoRibbon Worm. On Saturday, his top baits were a drop shot with a Roboworm in redbug and morning dawn colors and a Keitech swimbait on a 3/4-ounce swim jig with the skirt removed.

“The depth range changed for me and as the tournament progressed, I started catching them better in the shallower range, like 15 and under,” Douglas said. “I don’t know if that’s because the water’s coming down a little, but those 17- to 20-foot spots got a lot of pressure and those bigger fish were just sliding out.
 

“I was just fishing areas like The Canyons, the Deer Stand and Jackson Hill; areas (where) I know fish want to live shallow in the grass. But with the dropping water, they were just coming out to me.”

Kris Wilson of Montgomery, Texas, saved his best for last and finished third with 57-11. After placing 11th on Day 1 with 18-5, Wilson improved to seventh on Friday by adding 19-6. On Saturday, he weighed in 20 pounds — the final round’s heaviest catch.

Noting that he has approximately 3,000 waypoints on Rayburn, Wilson came into the event with a preselected set of offshore targets. Running as many of his spots as possible in practice helped him dial in the productive ones.

“After two days of practice, I figured out that I couldn’t get bit deeper than 20 feet, so I started concentrating on everything less than that,” Wilson said. “I caught my fish on a 6th Sense C-10 crankbait in a shad color and a Texas-rigged 11-inch hand-poured purple worm.”

Bryan New of Belmont, N.C., took the lead in the Falcon Rods Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year standings with 547 points. Gerald Swindle of Guntersville, Ala., is in second with 543, followed by Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., with 541, John Hunter Jr. of Simpsonville, Ky., with 505 and Randy Blaukat of Joplin, Mo., with 484.

Albert Collins of Nacogdoches, Texas, won the $750 Phoenix Boats Big Bass prize for his 9-7 largemouth. Shaine Campbell of Brookeland, Texas, who placed sixth overall with 51-12, won the $500 Garmin Tournament Rewards.

Hayden Heck of Lufkin, Texas, won the co-angler division with a three-day total of 28-5. Overcoming a slow start, which found him placing 51st with a Day 1 bag of 5-11, Heck rocketed into fourth after adding 13-11 on Friday.

Weighing 8-15 in Saturday’s championship round pushed him across the finish line by a margin of 1-12.

“Drop shotting and dragging a 10-inch worm and a trick worm out deep did it for me,” Heck said.

William Young of Livingston, Texas, won the $250 Phoenix Boats Big Bass prize in the co-angler division for his 9-0.

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BASSMASTER News

Palaniuk Comes From Behind To Win Bassmaster Elite Event At Lake Champlain

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — Turning in his best performance of the week, Brandon Palaniuk leveraged a blistering afternoon bite to sack up 21 pounds, 6 ounces and win the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Champlain with a four-day total of 80-1.

This is the fourth B.A.S.S. win for the 2017 Angler of the Year from Rathdrum, Idaho. He earned a first-place prize of $100,000.

After a strong start yielded a pair of 4-pound-class fish by 8:30 a.m., Palaniuk continued catching quality smallmouth throughout the day. A key move and a heads-up response led him to the gold mine that produced a 4-4, a 4-6 and a 4-8 between 12:10 and 1:56 p.m.

“I had one boulder and I shut down before I got to it and as I came off pad, I see a dot on my (Humminbird) Down Imaging and I’m like, ‘Holy cow, that looks like a giant smallmouth,’” Palaniuk said. “I grabbed my rod, threw my bait back before I even dropped my trolling motor.

“The boat’s drifting away, I drop my trolling motor, I pick up and my line’s swimming off. I set the hook and a 4 1/2-pounder goes airborne — way back there. After I caught that fish, I rolled up to the boulder and they were stacked on top of it. Then, every single boulder on that flat in 28 to 32 feet of water had a 4-plus-pounder on it.”

Sticking with what produced the majority of his bites this week, Palaniuk caught his final-round fish on a drop shot with a green pumpkin/blue fleck X Zone Finesse Slammer. He used a No. 2 drop-shot hook and a 3/8-ounce VMC tungsten teardrop weight.

After three days of mostly calm conditions, Championship Sunday brought strong winds, clouds and occasional showers. Noting that the wind likely moved schools of baitfish into the areas he fished, Palaniuk said his game plan came together as well as he’d hoped.

Keeping himself within striking distance all week, Palaniuk placed eighth on Day 1 with 19-12, slipped to 11th on Day 2 with a limit of 18-10 and made the final Top 10 cut on Day 3 by rising to fifth with 20-5.

“It was just one of those days where everything worked out,” he said. “All week long, I said, ‘Just give me a shot,’ because I looked at the weather and I knew we were going to get that windy weather we got in practice.

“I had a really good practice and I felt like I could literally drive around, look at my (Humminbird) LakeMaster charts, pull up on a spot and catch big ones. I think the wind this morning helped push those baitfish up and it moved a lot of those fish up. Those fish aren’t resident fish; they chase schools of bait.”

Spending his day targeting flats with scattered rock and boulders within the Inland Sea (Champlain’s northeast section), Palaniuk said his pattern was so reliable he actually moved with the bait schools. He started on a likely spot and drifted with the wind until he no longer spotted fish on his Humminbird 360.

“When I started not seeing them, I’d jump to the next place and catch another big one,” Palaniuk said. “I hit one magical school this afternoon and every single boulder I could see on with Mega 360 (Imaging) had a big one on it.

“I literally started laughing while I was fighting them, because it was that good.”

Seth Feider of New Market, Minn., finished second with 78-14. After mixing it up with largemouth and smallmouth for three days, he focused on the latter Sunday and caught a limit of 19-14 to go with his previous bags that went 20-1, 21-7 and 17-8.

Feider caught his bass on a flat with a grassline point in 12 feet. He used a medium-diving crankbait and a Carolina-rigged Zoom Speed Craw.

“It’s where I’d been starting every day and then leaving and going largemouth fishing (around marina docks),” Feider said. “I knew with the cloudy skies my largemouth bite was out today, so I leaned on it as hard as I could.

“I got really lucky and caught two great big ones that gave me a chance. It just wasn’t enough.”

Jamie Hartman of Russellville, Ark., finished third with 78-5. Hartman took the lead on Day 1 with 22-1 — the event’s biggest bag — and held the top spot for two more days with bags of 20-3 and 17-8. He added 18-9 Sunday.

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Focusing on a rocky point with grass, Hartman caught his fish on a Carolina rig with a craw bait and a 3/8-ounce peanut butter and jelly color Riot Baits Lil’ Creeper jig with a twin-tail trailer. Today’s dim weather seemed to stifle the hot morning bite he had experienced the previous three days.

“The bites were slow; very spaced out — it took me until 11 before I had a decent weight,” Hartman said. “The mornings had been slow, but when the sun would come up, it was like a light switch and they started eating good. We didn’t get that today.”

Feider won the Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with a 6-6 largemouth he caught on Day 2, earning an additional $1,000.

Hartman took home $3,000 for being the highest-placing entrant in the Toyota Bonus Bucks program, and Jason Williamson earned $2,000 for being the second-highest placing entrant.

The tournament was hosted by the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau, City of Plattsburgh and Clinton County with support from the Office of the Governor of the State of New York.

2020 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota

2020 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Abu GarciaBerkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Ranger Boats, Skeeter Boats, Talon, Yamaha

2020 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops,Carhartt, Garmin, Huk Performance Fishing, Mossy Oak Fishing, Rapala

2020 Bassmaster Elite Series Conservation Partners: AFTCO, Huk

2020 Bassmaster Elite At Lake Champlain Local Hosts: Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau, City of Plattsburgh, Clinton County 

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BASSMASTER News

Hartman Maintains Lead At Bassmaster Elite Series Event On Lake Champlain

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. —

Reversing his game plan, Day 1 leader Jamie Hartman of Russellville, Ark., added 20 pounds, 3 ounces to Thursday’s weight of 22-1 and retained the top spot in the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Champlain with a two-day total of 42-4.

Hartman ended Day 1 by stopping on a rocky point close to the tournament site and catching a 4-pounder 10 minutes before the 3 p.m. weigh-in began. Friday, he started on this spot and quickly lit up the BASSTrakk leaderboard by securing a solid limit of smallmouth in less than two hours.

“I took a lot of pressure off this morning in the first hour and a half, I had 18 1/4 pounds,” said Hartman, a New York native who moved away from his home state to pursue a career in professional bass fishing. “Then I figured I only needed two more 4-pounders, but it took all the way to the last two hours to do it.

“That spot was on my way to a big flat I wanted to fish in the lake’s north end, so I just said I’m going to start there and see if the fish were there, and they sure were. Hopefully, they’ll reload and I’ll get on them tomorrow morning.”

Having fished this spot in years past, Hartman said his nearly immediate bite on Day 1 told him the point held greater potential than he had anticipated. With Friday’s calm, clear conditions contrasting Thursday’s partly cloudy and increasingly breezy complexion, he started Day 2 expecting fireworks and the bass mostly cooperated.

Hartman caught those early fish on a Carolina rig with craw bait on a 3/0 Owner extra-wide gap hook. He used a 1-ounce weight and a 3-foot leader, which helped him keep his bait above the grass.

“The spot had scattered grass and rock, so the Carolina rig was absolutely perfect, and my hookup to landing ratio is really good,” he said. “I said I was going to put it in my hand this week before we started because I lost so many fish last week [at the SiteOne Bassmaster Elite on the St. Lawrence River]. I said I’m going to swing with the big one this time.

“I was using a steady retrieve and whenever I’d come through a patch of grass, I’d pop the rig to snap it out of that grass. They’ll whack it every time when I do that.”

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By midmorning, he decided he was not going to upgrade on his starting point, so he made a move to avoid burning up too much of the spot’s population. Heading to his northern flat, he focused on scattered grass in about 10 to 15 feet.

“I didn’t want to keep hammering my starting spot,” Hartman said of his plan to manage the bass. “I didn’t even go back to it on the way in. I didn’t want to catch another one off that spot; I need them for tomorrow.”

When the Carolina rig failed to produce, Hartman went to a 1/2-ounce Riot Baits Lil’ Creeper jig with a swimbait trailer. He was again targeting smallmouth but ended up making a key cull with a largemouth around 2:30 p.m.

Seth Feider of New Market, Minn., is in second place with 41-8. After anchoring his fourth-place Day 1 catch of 20-1 with a 5-4 largemouth, Feider added a limit of 21-7 Friday that included another huge largemouth that went 6-6.

Feider caught Friday’s big fish by targeting boat docks with milfoil and flipping a 5/8-ounce Outkast Tackle jig with a chunk-style trailer. While largemouth on marina docks produced most of his Day 1 weight, today told a different tale.

“I did most of my damage this morning on smallies; I ended up weighing four smallies and one buckethead (largemouth),” Feider said. “My smallmouth spot was a grass point in 10 to 12 feet on a big flat. I caught two on drop shot and two on a crankbait.”

Koby Kreiger of Alva, Fla., is in third place with 40-1. After posting 18-1 Thursday, he added 22 pounds on Day 2. Noting that a Heddon Super Spook Jr. and two jerkbaits — a Lucky Craft Pointer 100 and a Megabass Vision 110 — produced his fish, Kreiger said today’s calm, sunny conditions plus a cleaner performance yielded a better sack.

“It slicked off, which made it easier for me to see the fish and for them to see my bait,” Kreiger said. “Yesterday, I jumped off a couple and today, I fished clean.

“I’m fishing a great big flat in 10 feet with isolated rocks and isolated grass patches on it. I can see them pretty far out with my Humminbird 360; that shows me what’s in front of the boat when I’m drifting.”

Feider is in the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with his 6-6 largemouth.

Saturday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6:45 a.m. ET at Plattsburgh City Marina. The weigh-in will be held at the marina at 3 p.m.

Live coverage of the event will be available starting at 8 a.m. on Bassmaster LIVE at Bassmaster.com with simulcasts on ESPN2 and ESPN3. Check local listings for ESPN2 times.

The tournament is being hosted by the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau, City of Plattsburgh and Clinton County with support from the Office of the Governor of the State of New York.

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Late-Day Bonus Helps Hartman Take Lead At Bassmaster Elite On Lake Champlain

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. —

An afternoon decision paid off big for Jamie Hartman of Russellville, Ark., who nabbed a day-ending bonus that helped him claim the Day 1 lead of the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Champlain with 22 pounds, 1 ounce.

At the day’s conclusion, Hartman’s name appeared next to three of the Top 10 Big Bass — a 5-pounder, a 4-14 and a 4-4. He also added a 4-0 just 10 minutes before the weigh-ins opened at 3 p.m.

“I upgraded in the last few minutes on the way in; I was pretty much done and I just hit something on the way in, made three casts and caught a 4-pound smallmouth,” said Hartman, a native New Yorker. “That spot was just a steep drop with some grass on top of it.

“I’ve fished it in the past and I’ve never caught a big fish off of it, but I’ve caught some decent fish. I was basically scouting for tomorrow, so after catching a 4-pound smallmouth, I think they’re there.”

Hartman’s late-day bonus spot exemplified the type of habitat he eventually settled into. Finishing his day with a mixed bag of three smallmouth and two largemouth, Hartman actually got off to a slow start but eventually turned his day around by adjusting his location.

“I went up north and the water was so calm that it was tough for me to get bit at all,” he said. “I ground it out for a while, got a couple of bites and made one move. When I finally made the move to go fish what I wanted to fish, it all came together. I bounced around to several different spots within the same area, making decisions on what to fish.”

Hartman generally described his area as a mix of rock and grassbeds in 12 to 15 feet. The key, he said, was targeting the right type of grass, specifically taller patches of milfoil.

“I was watching my electronics and making sure I was around patches of grass,” he said. “I was making sure I was in the high enough grass.”

Hartman caught his bass on a mix of soft-plastic presentations. Although he tried to get the fish interested in reaction baits early, a Carolina rig proved most productive.

“I tried to catch them on a swimbait like I did in practice. But there was no wind, so they wouldn’t eat it,” he said.

With the grassy shallows of the Ticonderoga area at Champlain’s lower end presenting the tempting potential for big largemouth, Hartman admitted he considered making the 70-mile run.

“When I had a slow start, I thought I had made the wrong decision by not running to Ti, but I slowly started to put it together,” he said. “I just kept reminding myself: pick off one at a time. They’re good ones, so we’ll keep going.”

Buddy Gross of Chickamauga, Ga., is in second place with 21-2. Noting that Champlain’s smallmouth have often confounded him in the past, Gross mainly focused on largemouth Thursday. But with the lake about 4 feet below normal, he caught them in places where he has targeted smallmouth.

“I had spent a lot of time looking for structure for smallmouth, but the largemouth took over some of my spots and it’s really helping a lot,” Gross said. “As low as the water is, it’s pulling the largemouth out to the first places on the drops, and it’s making them a little easier for me to find them.”

Fishing the lake’s north end, Gross caught his fish on a prototype bullethead jig from Nichols Lures with a Zoom Chunk trailer and a Z-Man Jack Hammer ChatterBait with a Zoom Z-Craw trailer. The latter, he said, proved most strategic in finding his bites.

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“I used moving baits to cover a lot of water,” he said. “I haven’t been getting a ton of bites, but when I do, it has been quality. So, I’m having to run a whole lot of water.”

Micah Frazier of Newnan, Ga., is in third place with 20-8. Targeting solely smallmouth, he committed to the lake’s north end where he targeted offshore humps, shoals and boulders in 15 to 40 feet.

“I caught my fish on a drop shot with a Yum Warning Shot and a 3/8-ounce weight,” Frazier said. “I had a midmorning flurry, and then I caught a couple of bigger ones later once the sun came out.”

Bryan Schmitt of Deale, Md., is in the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with his 6-2 largemouth.

Friday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6:45 a.m. CT at Plattsburgh City Marina. The weigh-in will be held back at the marina at 3 p.m.

Live coverage of the event will be available starting at 8 a.m. on Bassmaster LIVE at Bassmaster.com with simulcasts on ESPN2 and ESPN3. Check local listings for ESPN2 times.

The tournament is being hosted by the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau, City of Plattsburgh and Clinton County.

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BASSMASTER News

Johnston Battles Rough Water To Win Bassmaster Elite At St. Lawrence River

CLAYTON, N.Y. — His home waters were off-limits this week, but that didn’t stop Canadian standout Chris Johnston from winning the SiteOne Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River with a whopping four-day total of 20 smallmouth bass that weighed 97 pounds, 8 ounces.

The first Canadian to claim an Elite title, Johnston was the only competitor to break 20 pounds each day. Hailing from Peterborough, Ontario, he placed second on Day 1 with 27-0 and held that position for two more days with weights of 24-12 and 23-0.

Entering Championship Sunday a little more than 2 pounds off the lead, Johnston added a final limit of 22-12 to surge ahead of Connecticut pro Paul Mueller and win by a margin of 1-10. Mueller had led the event all three days going into the final round.

“This has been a crazy year fishing-wise for me; I had two of the worst tournaments probably in my career and to bounce back and win on the St. Lawrence, of all places, is just incredible,” said Johnston, who finished 71st and 59th in the first two Elite Series events this year. “I’ve wanted a big tournament win on the St. Lawrence River bad, and it finally came together.

“I’ve watched Bassmaster my whole life and even if you’d asked me three or four years ago, I didn’t think I’d be here in this position. It’s been surreal. I can’t even describe how cool it feels.”
 

Throughout the week, Johnston used several baits, including a tube, a Ned rig and a black hair jig. On Sunday, he caught his fish on a drop shot with a green pumpkin Berkley Flat Worm. He needed a 3/8-ounce tungsten weight for proper presentations on Lake Ontario, where steady 6- to 8-foot waves made everything more difficult than it had been the three previous days.

The first two days saw Johnston plucking early keepers from a rocky point inside the river and then moving out to fish Lake Ontario rockpiles in 20 to 40 feet. On Saturday and Sunday, he did the majority of his work in the Great Lake.

The tournament’s first three days offered mostly calm conditions, but Sunday saw strong southwest winds which created conditions so rough that many anglers who qualified for the Championship round elected to stay in the safer confines of the St. Lawrence River. A lifetime of experience told Johnston Lake Ontario held his best opportunity to catch a winning bag, so he committed to one key area with several rockpiles in 20 to 50 feet of water along a 500-yard stretch.

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“The biggest thing with the weather is just getting to your spot,” Johnston said of his safety-conscious navigation. “Once I got there, I just went upwind and drifted into the spot and then held on the spot as long as I could. Then I’d blow off the spot and do another drift.”

In 2019, Johnston experienced the inverse of this year’s finish, leading the St. Lawrence event for three days before settling for the runner-up position.

“Finishing second last year makes this win all that much sweeter,” Johnston said. “I can’t wait to get home and celebrate with family and friends.”

Johnston earned $102,000 for his victory. 

Mueller finished in second place with 95-14. After leading the event for three days, he found the rough waters of Lake Ontario less generous. In the Championship round, he added 18-15 to his previous weights of 27-1, 25-1 and 24-13.

He targeted rockpiles and rock breaks in 17 to 21 feet and caught all of his fish on a drop shot with a Berkley Flat Worm in the natural shad color. Uncertain of how long it would take him to run back through the rough water to the weigh-in site, Mueller left the lake around 1:45 p.m. and ended up with time to fish the river.

“Honestly, I think I feel like I left too early because I didn’t know how rough it was going to be,” Mueller said. “I felt like everything else I did today was flawless. I should have pushed it to the max, but I had no idea how long it was going to take to get back and that’s just inexperience on a body of water with that type of wind.”

Mueller’s second prize earnings came to $27,000. He will also take home $3,000 for being the highest-placing entrant in the Toyota Bonus Bucks program.

Brock Mosley of Collinsville, Miss., finished third with 84-2. His daily weights were 24-2, 19-13, 20-4 and 19-15.

Celebrating the birth of his second child on Wednesday, Mosley bucked the overwhelmingly smallmouth-heavy trend and targeted St. Lawrence’s robust, but largely overlooked, largemouth population around residential docks and flat rock shoals.

“I caught all of my fish on a 3/8-ounce green pumpkin Z-Man Jack Hammer ChatterBait because I could cover a lot of water,” Mosley said. “That was the key. I had to cover a lot of water to run into a good one.

“I used a couple of different trailers so I could fish an area with one trailer and then go back through it with a different trailer. I ended up catching a few smallmouth, too, but I caught them fishing for largemouth.”

Mueller won the race for Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the week with his 7-13 smallmouth. The bass, which he described as the “fish of a lifetime,” was just 7 ounces shy of the New York state record and is believed to be the largest smallmouth ever caught in a B.A.S.S. event.

The tournament was hosted by Jefferson County in cooperation with the Village of Clayton and the 1000 Islands Clayton Chamber of Commerce.

2020 SiteOne Bassmaster Elite At St. Lawrence River Title Sponsor: SiteOne

2020 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota

2020 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Abu GarciaBerkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Ranger Boats, Skeeter Boats, Talon, Yamaha

2020 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops,Carhartt, Garmin, Huk Performance Fishing, Mossy Oak Fishing, Rapala

2020 Bassmaster Elite Series Conservation Partners: AFTCO, Huk

2020 SiteOne Bassmaster Elite At St. Lawrence River Local Hosts: Jefferson County, Village of Clayton, 1000 Islands Clayton Chamber of Commerce

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BASSMASTER News

Clear Lake Named Best Bass Fishery Of The Past Decade

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Since 2012, Bassmaster Magazine has released annual rankings of the country’s best bass fisheries. While tournament data could not be gathered because of the COVID-19 pandemic, crunching numbers gathered over the past eight years revealed a surprising Best Bass Lake of the Decade — California’s Clear Lake. 

“Typically, creating the rankings takes more than two months as we dig through current tournament data as well as state fishery information on stocking efforts, catch rates and angler access,” explained Bassmaster Magazine Editor-in-Chief James Hall. “Instead, we used all of this research and rankings from the past eight years to create an incredible — and somewhat surprising — ranking of bucket-list destinations for anglers.”

While long-considered a West Coast powerhouse, Clear Lake has never topped the Best Bass Lakes list until this year. However, in the past decade, California’s largest natural lake has also never ranked below 10th in the country and has been the top-ranked Western fishery for the past three years. Anglers can expect to consistently catch big bass in a fishery where an average bass weighs in at over 5 pounds. In fact, a bass over 16 pounds was landed at Clear Lake last year. Combine that production with a pristine setting in California’s wine country, and you have the definition of a bucket-list fishing destination.

Alabama’s Lake Guntersville, home of the 2020 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk, took the No. 2 spot, matching its 2019 rank. Like Clear Lake, the Big G has never been named the Best Bass Lake in the nation, but it is rarely out of contention. Guntersville is known for its breathtaking scenery and easy access, but big fish swim there as well. Most big-bass prizes are awarded to fish topping the 8-pound mark, with 10-plus-pounders taking center stage on occasion.

True giants call our third-place fishery, Lake Erie, home. While most of the tournament data comes out of Buffalo, N.Y., anglers can expect smallies in the 6-pound range anywhere along the shoreline, which includes New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Michigan’s Lake St. Clair, where you can catch the smallmouth of a lifetime surrounded by Instagram-worthy scenery, is in the fourth spot.

Rounding out the remainder of the Top 10 lakes are California’s Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta at fifth; Toledo Bend, on the Louisiana/Texas border, at sixth; Texas’s Sam Rayburn Reservoir at seventh; Texas’s Falcon Lake at eighth; Idaho’s Lake Coeur d’Alene at ninth; and Florida’s Lake Okeechobee at tenth.

The rankings identify the Top 25 lakes in the nation based on head-to-head comparisons, as well as the top lakes in four geographical regions — CentralWesternSoutheastern and Northeastern.

“We divide the nation into four regions and rank the lakes in each region to give anglers perspective on the fisheries they can most likely reach,” Hall explained.

As for bragging rights on which state has the most fisheries in the all-decade rankings, that title goes to Michigan with seven lakes. Right behind the “Great Lake State” there is a three-way tie with California, Florida and Texas each placing six lakes on the list.

 

Bassmaster Magazine’s 100 Best Bass Lakes of the Decade     

Top 25   

Clear Lake, California

Lake Guntersville, Alabama

Lake Erie, New York/Ohio/Pennsylvania/Michigan

Lake St. Clair, Michigan

Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta, California

Toledo Bend, Louisiana/Texas 

Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas

Falcon Lake, Texas

Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

10 Lake Okeechobee, Florida

11 Lake Champlain, New York/Vermont

12 St. Lawrence River (Thousand Islands), New York

13 Pickwick Lake, Alabama/Mississippi/Tennessee

14 Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees, Oklahoma

15 Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee

16 Lake Fork, Texas

17 Lake Havasu, Arizona/California

18 Oneida Lake, New York

19 Candlewood Lake, Connecticut

20 Columbia River, Oregon/Washington

21 Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota

22 Lake Seminole, Georgia/Florida

23 Santee Cooper Lakes (Marion/Moultrie), South Carolina

24 Lake Charlevoix, Michigan

25 Sturgeon Bay (Lake Michigan), Wisconsin

Get the rest of the Top 100 @ Bassmaster.com

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BASSMASTER News

Huge Bag Lifts Jones To Bassmaster Central Open Win On Arkansas River

MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Chris Jones knew he had his work cut out for him, but he stuck to what he knows best and overcame a significant deficit to win the Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Open on the Arkansas River with a three-day total of 42 pounds, 13 ounces.

Starting Championship Saturday in eighth place, Jones’ biggest decision was whether to stay local or make the long run downriver to the Kerr Lake Pool. The latter option requires locking, which greatly diminishes a competitor’s fishing time, but this fertile reservoir’s renowned fish population often justifies the sacrifice.

After drawing the last flight on Day 1, the pro from Bokoshe, Okla., fished Kerr and placed 17th with 12-10. The next day’s reversed checkout order gave him a shorter day, so he stayed in local waters and secured a final-round spot after adding 11-3.

Championship Saturday allowed him a longer fishing day, so he returned to Kerr and locked up the win by adding a 19-pound limit — the tournament’s second-largest behind Keith Poche’s 19-5 on Day 2.

“I knew the wind was going to blow today, I knew a front was coming and I knew there was a chance to catch a giant bag [in Kerr] and I just wanted that chance,” said Jones, who earned $45,300. “I knew I was 4 pounds behind [Day 2 leader] Dale Hightower, so I knew I had to go.

“I really should have [weighed in] 24 to 25 pounds. I weighed two little fish today, but I broke my rod on a big one and lost her and had another one tied up in some grass that came off. But it was just one of those magical days. Things have to go right for you to win and it happened today.”

Although he weighed a couple of fish on a YUM Bad Mamma that he Texas-rigged on a 4/0 Owner Beast hook with a 1/4-ounce weight, Jones did most of his work with a prototype Booyah swim jig set for release in July. Targeting water willow, he fished the 3/8-ounce black/blue bait with a 3.25-inch YUM Craw Chunk trailer in black neon.

“I did what I’ve always learned to do on this river — swim a jig, swim it some more and whenever they aren’t biting, you swim it some more,” Jones said. “I had my trolling motor on 70 or 80 and we just went.”

After two days of mostly sunny conditions, Championship Saturday brought dim, overcast conditions, which favored Jones’ game plan. While fish tend to tuck into cover in brighter conditions, they’re more active throughout the low light periods.

“I’ve been waiting on this cloud cover to get here for two days and it finally showed up,” Jones said.

John Garrett of Union City, Tenn., finished second with 42-7. Garrett finished 6 ounces short of the win after self-reporting a rules violation. After catching his sixth fish, he continued fishing without culling. Tournament rules stipulate that an angler cannot continue fishing with more than five fish in the livewell.

The gaff resulted in a 2-pound penalty.

“I made a mistake, but I could not have asked for a better day,” Garrett said of his strongest performance this week. “Today, I was either going to go to Kerr and swim a jig in grass or stay [local] and try to catch release fish. I fished for about an hour and a half and hit a magic stretch where all those fish had pulled up.

“All my fish this week came on a Texas-rigged Strike King Rage Bug with a 3/8- or a 1/2-ounce Strike King Tour Grade Tungsten weight. Out here in the clear water, I was throwing green pumpkin and in Spaniard Creek, I was throwing black/blue. I got good bites and got a lot of bites.”

Hightower added 13-12 to his previous weights of 13-1 and 15-0 and finished with 41-13. Foregoing the run to Kerr in favor of maximum fishing time, the Bassmaster Elite pro from Mannford, Okla., fished about half a mile from takeoff and meticulously worked shallow wood cover with a 7-inch YUM blue fleck worm with a 1/4-ounce Wicked Weights sinker and a Sixgill straight-shank hook.

“I just fished back and forth, up and down stretches, throwing at laydowns,” Hightower said. “I had a little flurry on the spot I fished yesterday, but they just seemed to all be the same size — little cookie-cutters. But I moved around a little bit and picked up a couple of good fish later in the day after I moved across the river.”

Scott Pellegrin of Chippewa Falls, Wisc., won the Phoenix Boats Big Bass award with his 5-13 largemouth, which he caught on Day 2.

William Young of Livingston, Texas, won the co-angler division with 21-6. He caught his winning fish on a Texas-rigged green pumpkin Zoom Baby Brush Hog with the tails dyed chartreuse.

“I flipped every piece of wood I could get to and capitalized on my bites,” Young said. “My boater and I caught fish from 6 inches of water to 2 feet. I caught more fish today than the whole time I’ve been here. It was a great day.”

Young also won the Phoenix Boats Big Bass award among co-anglers with a 5-2 largemouth, which he caught in the final round.

The event is hosted by Visit Muskogee and Three Forks Harbor.

Categories
BASSMASTER News

HANK CHERRY JR. – 2020 Bassmaster Classic Champion

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Across the country, there are thousands of ultra-talented bass anglers who would have loved to compete in this week’s 50th Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk.

Only 53 got the opportunity — and from start to finish, there was no doubt which one of them owned the event.

Hank Cherry, a 46-year-old pro from Lincolnton, N.C., and an eight-year veteran of the Bassmaster Elite Series, caught five bass on Championship Sunday that weighed 19 pounds, 8 ounces. It gave him a three-day total of 65-5 and put the exclamation point on a dominant wire-to-wire victory that netted him a $307,500 first-place prize and the title of 2020 Bassmaster Classic Champion.

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The competition was held at historic Lake Guntersville, but Cherry’s raw emotion shined through most back at the final weigh-in, which was held at Legacy Arena inside the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

“I talked to (fellow competitor) Paul Mueller in the boatyard, and he told me the devil was gonna try to get in my head today,” Cherry said. “He said just tell the devil to get out of your boat. He said tell him you don’t have time for him.

“That’s what I did. I caught my first fish and then I lost a big one. I could hear those voices in my head, but I didn’t listen to them. I just went and caught four more.”

This was the fifth Classic appearance for Cherry, and he had come close to hoisting the trophy once before — back in 2013 on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake, when he came in third after losing a key fish on jerkbait.

That same lure was one of his weapons of choice this week during three days of fishing that saw him catch 29-3, 16-10 and 19-8.

He did most of his damage during Friday’s first round with a Z-Man Jack Hammer ChatterBait. The bait allowed him to cut through a strong wind on his way to a tournament-best bag that featured a pair of 7-2 largemouth.

On Days 2 and 3, he relied mostly on his own Hank Cherry Signature Series Jig from Picasso in green pumpkin with a matching Berkley MaxScent Chunk trailer and the jerkbait — a Megabass 110+1 in the French pearl OB color. He replaced the factory hooks on the jerkbait with Berkley Fusion EWG No. 5s.

“I changed the hooks out to make it sink just the right way,” Cherry said. “About 90 percent of the fish I caught would be when it was directly falling. I had it heavy enough that I could see it falling, and if I saw one following it, I could watch them kill it.”

Cherry suffered an arm injury on Day 1 that he said may have limited the amount of running he did the rest of the week. But the major factor in his limited travel, he said, was the wind that blew hard on Lake Guntersville for most of the tournament.

He spent practically the whole event fishing one causeway and one grass flat.

“I never put gas in the boat all week,” Cherry said. “Y’all know me. If it’s windy, I’m not going to be making a lot of long runs — and anyway, I just didn’t need to.”

Cherry said Garmin LiveScope allowed him to keep track of the giant schools of gizzard shad that were drawing fish to the area. He also said a solid understanding of the way bass use causeways helped him catch big limits each day.

“Everybody has a misconception about those causeways,” Cherry said. “They think they should just fish the four corners. But bass use those causeways like highways. When they’re coming in, they come through the causeways and go down the rocks and to the back. Then they go exactly the same route when they come back out.

“That Garmin LiveScope just made them easy pickings.”

The win brought Cherry’s career earnings with B.A.S.S. to $934,500. He now has three career victories and 10 Top 10 finishes and the 2020 Bassmaster Classic Champion.

Perhaps more important than any statistic, however, was the fact that he exorcised some old demons that had lingered in the back of his mind since his near miss at Grand in 2013.

“When I caught that biggest bass on a jerkbait (Sunday), I felt some redemption,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot — and I’m still learning. I learned from this event how to handle the situation when you start with a big lead and have to protect it. I learned that your body will do wild things when you need that last fish to seal the deal, but you have to work through it.

“Those kinds of things make for an amazing feeling — and once it sinks in that I won this thing, I think that will be the most amazing feeling of all.”

South Carolina pro Todd Auten finished second with 58-10, and Arkansas angler Stetson Blaylock was third with 58-1.

Hank Cherry added an additional $7,500 to his winnings for being the highest-placing eligible angler in the Toyota Bonus Bucks program. Todd Auten was awarded an additional $2,500 for being the second-highest placing eligible angler in the Toyota Bonus Bucks program.

Virginia pro John Crews took the Berkley Big Bass award for the day with a 6-10 largemouth. But the Berkley Big Bass award for the week went to Auten for the 7-9 he caught on Day 1.

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2020 Bassmaster Classic Title Sponsor: Academy Sports + Outdoors

2020 Bassmaster Classic Presenting Sponsor: Huk Performance Fishing Apparel

2020 Bassmaster Classic Platinum Sponsor: Toyota

2020 Bassmaster Classic Premier Sponsors: Abu GarciaBerkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Ranger Boats, Skeeter Boats, Talon, Yamaha

2020 Bassmaster Classic Local Partners: Alabama Power, Black Rifle Coffee, Books-A-Million, Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, Jack’s Family Restaurants, Thompson Tractor, TNT Fireworks, TVA, Wind Creek Casino

2020 Bassmaster Classic Hosts: Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau, Alabama Tourism Department and Marshall County Convention & Visitors Bureau

Hank Cherry Dominates From Start To Finish At 50th to become the 2020 Bassmaster Classic Champion

Categories
BASSMASTER News

MUELLER’S FINAL-DAY AUDIBLE LEADS TO BASSMASTER ELITE SERIES WIN ON ST. JOHNS

PALATKA, Fla. — Paul Mueller’s crucial decision delivered a key fish on Championship Monday that propelled the Connecticut angler to a three-day total of 47 pounds, 6 ounces and what he described as a most unlikely victory at the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at Florida’s St. Johns River.

After grinding most of the day in Trout Creek, about 25 miles downriver from Palatka, Mueller called an audible and relocated to nearby 6-Mile Creek where he had found a key stretch of pads with 25 feet of water. 

Punching this thick vegetation with a craw bait rigged on a 4/0 Strike King Hack Attack hook with a 1-ounce weight yielded a 6-11 bass — the day’s largest — that dramatically changed his outcome.

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“That was the horse that brought me here, no doubt about it,” said Mueller, who earned $101,000 for his second career Elite Series victory. “A big bite is the best thing you can have on the final day. I knew I was leading, but I got off to such a bad start, throughout the entire day, I didn’t think I had enough.

“All day long, I never felt like I had a shot. It wasn’t easy today, but when it’s God’s will, everything works out.”

Mueller kept himself in contention throughout the event by remaining consistent. He placed second on Day 1 with 20-8 and took over the lead a day later by adding 16-2.

During Monday’s final round, Mueller fell short of a limit by one fish, but four bass that weighed 10-12 were enough to deliver the win by a 3-2 margin.

All three days, Mueller punched pads when he found sufficient water for prespawn staging fish to move into the cover. His punching bite consistently improved later in the day, as the week’s tide schedule brought higher water to the relatively shallow pads in the afternoon.

With wind advisories from the National Weather Service postponing the tournament’s official start by two days, B.A.S.S. officials shortened the event to three days total instead of four. The final day’s shorter schedule afforded Mueller a smaller window of the rising tide, so moving to the deep spot in 6-Mile Creek allowed him his shot at a big bass suspending beneath the cover.

He also caught fish on a 1/2-ounce green pumpkin Strike King Hack Attack swim jig with a junebug color Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Craw trailer.

Strike King Hack Attack Hook
Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Craw
Strick King Hack Attack Swim Jig

Mueller, who finished 62nd at last year’s St. Johns Elite tournament, said he was pleased to fare better this time — particularly considering the significant difference between the mostly shallow Florida fishery and the deep, clear waters he considers his specialty.

“I don’t feel like this is a place that sets up to fish my strength,” Mueller said. “When I looked at this year’s schedule, there were tournaments where I said ‘I may have a chance to win that,’ and then there were tournaments where I thought: ‘Man, I just hope I have a good finish.’ This was one of them. 

“This is not my style of fishing, so it’s amazing that I caught enough weight to win here.”

John Crews of Salem, Va., rose four spots to finish second with 44-4. Crews caught 16-13 on Day 1, 15-5 on Day 2 and finished with 12-2 on Monday. He earned $25,000.

Crews, who placed fifth at last year’s St. Johns event, caught his fish on a 1/2-ounce Z-Man Jackhammer ChatterBait trailed with a 3.5-inch Missile Baits Shockwave swimbait and a new Missile Baits Quiver worm, which he used on a drop-shot rig and wacky style. He anchored his day with a 4-13.

“Today, I could hardly get bit on anything slow; everything was on the reaction bait,” Crews said. “I used a bluegill-colored ChatterBait when it was cloudy, and then I switched over to a black and blue. I used a shrapnel-colored trailer — it’s kind of a bluegill color — with both.”

Missile Baits Shockwave
Z-Man Jackhammer

Day 1 leader Kelley Jaye of Dadeville, Ala., slipped a couple of spots to finish third with 41-10. With daily weights of 21-7, 14-3 and 6-0, Jaye earned $21,000.

The jerkbait guru mostly stuck with his signature technique, catching the majority of his fish on a Berkley Skinny Cutter. He also caught a Day 3 keeper on a Texas-rigged Berkley MaxScent General stickworm.

Berkley Skinny Cutter
Maxscent General

“Where I was fishing was like 6 to 7 feet when the water was up during practice, but it dropped down to 4 feet during the tournament,” Jaye said. “That Skinny Cutter doesn’t go very deep so it allowed me to keep off the bottom.”

Kyle Welcher of Opelika, Ala., earned $1,000 for Phoenix Big Bass of the week with his 10-1 largemouth.

Mueller also took home $3,000 for being the highest-placing entrant in the Toyota Bonus Bucks program, and John Crews took home $2.000 for being the second-highest placing entrant. 

2020 AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River 2/8-2/11
St. Johns River, Palatka  FL.
(PROFESSIONAL) Standings Day 3

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

1.  Paul Mueller           Naugatuck, CT           14  47-06  100 $101,000.00
  Day 1: 5   20-08     Day 2: 5   16-02     Day 3: 4   10-12   
2.  John Crews Jr          Salem, VA               15  44-04   99  $25,000.00
  Day 1: 5   16-13     Day 2: 5   15-05     Day 3: 5   12-02   
3.  Kelley Jaye            Dadeville, AL           15  41-10   98  $21,000.00
  Day 1: 5   21-07     Day 2: 5   14-03     Day 3: 5   06-00   
4.  Cliff Prince           Palatka, FL             15  41-06   97  $15,000.00
  Day 1: 5   10-10     Day 2: 5   14-12     Day 3: 5   16-00   
5.  Jake Whitaker          Fairview, NC            14  41-01   96  $15,000.00
  Day 1: 5   16-12     Day 2: 5   16-03     Day 3: 4   08-02   
6.  Scott Canterbury       Odenville, AL           15  40-09   95  $15,000.00
  Day 1: 5   17-14     Day 2: 5   12-06     Day 3: 5   10-05   
7.  Matt Arey              Shelby, NC              15  40-01   94  $15,000.00
  Day 1: 5   16-02     Day 2: 5   10-12     Day 3: 5   13-03   
8.  Kyle Welcher           Opelika, AL             14  39-11   93  $17,000.00
  Day 1: 5   11-13     Day 2: 5   20-12     Day 3: 4   07-02   
9.  Stetson Blaylock       Benton, AR              15  39-09   92  $15,000.00
  Day 1: 5   11-01     Day 2: 5   16-11     Day 3: 5   11-13   
10. Patrick Walters        Summerville, SC         15  38-13   91  $15,000.00
  Day 1: 5   09-09     Day 2: 5   22-15     Day 3: 5   06-05   

11. Buddy Gross            Chickamauga, GA         12  36-10   90  $12,000.00
  Day 1: 5   15-05     Day 2: 5   15-14     Day 3: 2   05-07   
12. Harvey Horne           Bella Vista, AR         14  36-00   89  $12,000.00
  Day 1: 4   08-07     Day 2: 5   17-08     Day 3: 5   10-01   
13. Robbie Latuso          Gonzales, LA            15  35-11   88  $12,000.00
  Day 1: 5   17-05     Day 2: 5   08-08     Day 3: 5   09-14   
14. Jamie Hartman          Newport, NY             15  34-14   87  $12,000.00
  Day 1: 5   07-14     Day 2: 5   18-05     Day 3: 5   08-11   
15. Brandon Palaniuk       Rathdrum, ID            15  34-13   86  $12,000.00
  Day 1: 5   10-05     Day 2: 5   15-06     Day 3: 5   09-02   
16. Clark Wendlandt        Leander, TX             11  33-10   85  $10,000.00
  Day 1: 5   20-00     Day 2: 4   08-03     Day 3: 2   05-07   
17. Todd Auten             Lake Wylie, SC          13  32-12   84  $10,000.00
  Day 1: 5   17-11     Day 2: 5   09-09     Day 3: 3   05-08   
18. Drew Cook              Midway, FL              13  32-06   83  $10,000.00
  Day 1: 5   09-10     Day 2: 5   17-14     Day 3: 3   04-14   
19. Jay Yelas              Lincoln City, OR        13  32-02   82  $10,000.00
  Day 1: 5   13-15     Day 2: 5   14-01     Day 3: 3   04-02   
20. Steve Kennedy          Auburn, AL               8  27-14   81  $10,000.00
  Day 1: 5   19-00     Day 2: 3   08-14     Day 3: 0   00-00 

———————————————————————-

PHOENIX BOATS BIG BASS 
Day
 1   Kelley Jaye              Dadeville, AL       09-02          $0.00
 2   Kyle Welcher             Opelika, AL         10-01          $0.00
 3   Paul Mueller             Naugatuck, CT       06-11      $1,000.00

———————————————————————–
PHOENIX BOATS BIG BASS
     Kyle Welcher             Opelika, AL         10-01      $1,000.00
———————————————————————–
Totals
Day   #Limits    #Fish      Weight
 1        44       322       762-08
 2        47       332       831-07
 3        11        80       164-14
———————————-
         102       734      1758-13

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BASSMASTER News

NORTH CAROLINA’S BRYAN NEW WINS BASSMASTER EASTERN OPEN ON KISSIMMEE CHAIN

January 17, 2020
 

Bryan New Wins Bassmaster Eastern Open On Kissimmee Chain
 

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Knowing when to adjust proved essential for Bryan New of Belmont, N.C., who admits he employed a disjointed fishing regimen to win the Basspro.com Bassmaster Eastern Open on Florida’s Kissimmee Chain with a three-day total weight of 49 pounds, 8 ounces, cementing a spot in the 2021 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk..

“I’ve said it all week, I haven’t been dialed in to one thing, it was junk fishing at its best,” said New, who earned $52,500 and claimed the early lead in the race for the Falcon Rods Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year award. “I’ve fished a lot in Florida and I’ve never been able to junk fish. But you have five lakes in this chain, and I junk fished three of them (Toho, Cypress and Kissimmee).”

New kept himself in the hunt from start to finish. He caught 21-0 on Day 1 to place second and backed that up with a Day 2 limit of 13-7 that put him in third. Catching the heaviest bag of Day 3 — a five-bass limit that weighed 15-1 — pushed him across the finish line with a winning margin of 4-6.

New spent part of Day 3 working the offshore hydrilla spot in Lake Toho where he caught part of his big Day 1 catch. The first day saw him locking down to Lake Kissimmee. But when that failed to produce anything significant for him, he decided to maximize his fishing time by spending the next two days in Toho.

The junk-fishing mentality came into play when he realized his offshore spot was not going to be enough. From there, he went shallow and bounced from spot to spot in an effort to establish consistency.

New caught his bass on a Texas-rigged green pumpkin magic Damiki Stinger, a 1/2-ounce green pumpkin Z-Man ChatterBait with a green pumpkin Zoom Speed Craw and a Greenfish Tackle G2 squarebill in High Rock shad. The latter, he said, proved to be his biggest producer.

“That G2 is a balsa bait that floats a lot higher than all the plastic baits, and it’s awesome for cranking this grass,” New said. “I know a lot of people throw (lipless baits) around the grass, and I actually found my main spot by throwing a (lipless bait). But once I switched to that squarebill, I started catching bigger fish.”

After two days of warm, stable conditions, Day 3 brought cooler temperatures and blustery winds of up to 20 mph, which muddied the Kissimmee Chain. Before the big winds picked up mid-morning, New got his final day off to a strong start by catching a 6-1 around 7:18 a.m.

From there, he said keeping his head down and focusing on productivity dominated his thoughts.

“I knew it was a good start, but honestly, I had no idea how big it was,” he said. “I caught it, put it in the livewell and made another cast. It didn’t matter at the time because I knew it wasn’t enough.

“I filled my limit about 10 minutes after that and it took me a little while, but I finally culled the 12-incher that was my first fish. After that, I said let’s go try to bust the dirty-30 (a 30-pound limit), but we didn’t do that.”

Joshua Stracner of Vandiver, Ala., placed second with 45-2. After placing third on Day 1 with 19-5, Stracner added 12-10 on Day 2 and slipped to seventh. He boosted his performance in the Championship round by adding 13-3.

“I had one offshore place — a 50-yard stretch of hydrilla in Lake Toho — and I could only catch them in the first hour or two,” Stracner said. “I’d catch a few of my better fish on a ChatterBait out there and after that, they’d shut down.

“They’d start back up later in the day, so in between, I’d go to the bank and punch mats with a junebug Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver and a 1 1/2-ounce weight.”

Greg Alexander of Hebron, Md., finished third with 45-2. (Ties are broken by heaviest single day catch.) His was the biggest comeback of the Top 12, as he rebounded from a 34th-place effort on Day 1 and reached the final day in sixth. Alexander turned in daily weights of 13-7, 19-1 and 12-10.

“I tried to focus on stuff that didn’t look like everything else,” Alexander said. “There are miles of lily pads, miles of Kissimmee grass, miles of gator grass, big piles of bulrushes, big piles of reeds. So, if I saw a bunch of the same, I’d just keep on going.

“I was trying to pinpoint those areas that had a uniqueness to them, or had a really good blend of different vegetation. Then, I’d try to pick out the most isolated cover in that spot.”

Alexander caught his bass on a watermelon/green fleck Senko and a junebug Zoom Speed Worm.

Jerrod Albright of Kissimmee, Fla., won Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with his 10-3 largemouth.

Don Harvey of Franklin, Tenn., won the co-angler division with 28-2. Entering the Championship round in third place, Harvey added a limit of 8-12.

“I was fortunate, I got to do the same thing with my pros each day,” Harvey said. “Every fish I weighed in, I caught on a Megabass 110.”

Harvey believes the larger profile tempted bigger bites, but he also made sure he was using an effective retrieve.

“It was a jerk-jerk-pause,” Harvey said. “Some of the people I was fishing with were really fishing (their baits) fast; I just wanted the fish to have an opportunity to see my bait.”

Jeff Queen won the Phoenix Boats Big Bass award among co-anglers with his 8-6.

2020 Basspro.com Eastern Open at Kissimmee Chain Of Lakes 1/15-1/17
Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, Kissimmee  FL.
(BOATER) Standings Day 3

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

1.  Bryan New              Belmont, NC             15  49-08  200  $52,500.00
  Day 1: 5   21-00     Day 2: 5   13-07     Day 3: 5   15-01   
2.  Joshua Stracner        Vandiver, AL            15  45-02  199  $25,500.00
  Day 1: 5   19-05     Day 2: 5   12-10     Day 3: 5   13-03   
3.  Greg Alexander         Hebron, MD              15  45-02  198  $18,000.00
  Day 1: 5   13-07     Day 2: 5   19-01     Day 3: 5   12-10   
4.  Keith Carson           Debary, FL              15  41-08  197  $15,500.00
  Day 1: 5   14-04     Day 2: 5   16-04     Day 3: 5   11-00   
5.  Scott Martin           Clewiston, FL           13  41-01  196  $13,050.00
  Day 1: 5   11-05     Day 2: 5   19-14     Day 3: 3   09-14   
6.  Jason Casteel          Winter Garden, FL       12  40-04  195  $12,000.00
  Day 1: 5   14-03     Day 2: 5   22-05     Day 3: 2   03-12   
7.  Gerald Swindle         Guntersville, AL        15  39-12  194  $11,250.00
  Day 1: 5   12-11     Day 2: 5   18-02     Day 3: 5   08-15   
8.  Cody Detweiler         Orlando, FL             15  38-03  193  $10,500.00
  Day 1: 5   09-09     Day 2: 5   20-15     Day 3: 5   07-11   
9.  John Hunter Jr         Simpsonville, KY        11  37-15  192   $8,250.00
  Day 1: 5   18-06     Day 2: 5   18-13     Day 3: 1   00-12   
10. Justin Hamner          Northport, AL           15  37-13  191   $6,750.00
  Day 1: 5   10-10     Day 2: 5   19-08     Day 3: 5   07-11   
11. Patrick Walters        Summerville, SC         13  36-03  190   $6,000.00
  Day 1: 5   21-04     Day 2: 5   11-06     Day 3: 3   03-09   
12. Wyatt Burkhalter       Coker, AL               12  36-03  189   $5,250.00
  Day 1: 5   16-15     Day 2: 5   16-03     Day 3: 2   03-01   
———————————————————————–
PHOENIX BOATS BIG BASS
     Jerrod Albright          Kissimmee, FL       10-03        $750.00
———————————————————————–
Totals
Day   #Limits    #Fish      Weight
 1       163       968      2072-08
 2       161       954      2083-11
 3         7        46        97-03
———————————-
         331      1968      4253-06
 

2020 Basspro.com Eastern Open at Kissimmee Chain Of Lakes 1/15-1/17
Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, Kissimmee  FL.
(NON_BOATER) Standings Day 3

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

1.  Don Harvey             Franklin, TN             9  28-02  200  $25,500.00
  Day 1: 3   08-08     Day 2: 3   10-14     Day 3: 3   08-12   
2.  Harry Linsinbigler IV  Dover, FL                9  27-09  199   $6,000.00
  Day 1: 3   12-00     Day 2: 3   04-11     Day 3: 3   10-14   
3.  Jeff Queen             Catawba, NC              9  27-00  198   $4,750.00
  Day 1: 3   04-07     Day 2: 3   16-05     Day 3: 3   06-04   
4.  Cody Stahl             Griffin, GA              9  26-09  197   $3,375.00
  Day 1: 3   06-05     Day 2: 3   10-08     Day 3: 3   09-12   
5.  Nic Rand               Kalamazoo, MI            8  26-08  196   $3,150.00
  Day 1: 3   08-03     Day 2: 3   10-07     Day 3: 2   07-14   
6.  Mike Spears            Jasper, AL               9  24-03  195   $3,000.00
  Day 1: 3   09-09     Day 2: 3   08-03     Day 3: 3   06-07   
7.  Alexandre Jelev        Petawawa CANADA          9  23-08  194   $3,050.00
  Day 1: 3   15-07     Day 2: 3   05-02     Day 3: 3   02-15   
8.  Russell Phillips       Guilford, VT             9  21-09  193   $2,700.00
  Day 1: 3   05-04     Day 2: 3   12-11     Day 3: 3   03-10   
9.  Jarvis Ellis           Albany, GA               9  20-11  192   $2,475.00
  Day 1: 3   07-14     Day 2: 3   09-08     Day 3: 3   03-05   
10. Nicholas Wink          Mohrsville, PA           7  20-05  191   $2,250.00
  Day 1: 3   14-00     Day 2: 1   02-11     Day 3: 3   03-10   
11. Jeffrey Worthy Jr      Lakeland, FL             8  20-03  190   $2,100.00
  Day 1: 3   13-00     Day 2: 3   04-01     Day 3: 2   03-02   
12. Erik Tilson            Auburndale, FL           7  20-00  189   $1,950.00
  Day 1: 3   09-06     Day 2: 3   09-03     Day 3: 1   01-07   
———————————————————————–
PHOENIX BOATS BIG BASS
     Jeff Queen               Catawba, NC         08-06        $250.00
———————————————————————–
Totals
Day   #Limits    #Fish      Weight
 1       123       462       947-15
 2       121       461       948-00
 3         9        32        68-00
———————————-
         253       955      1963-15