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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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Categories
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

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BASSMASTER News

B.A.S.S. ANNOUNCES NEW NATIONAL TOURNAMENT SERIES FOR KAYAK ANGLERS

November 14, 2019B.A.S.S. Announces New National Tournament Series For Kayak AnglersBIRMINGHAM, Ala. —

The popularity of kayak fishing is at an all-time high, just one of the reasons B.A.S.S., the world’s largest fishing organization, has formed a new tournament trail aimed specifically at kayaking enthusiasts.

Today, B.A.S.S. officials announced the schedule for the inaugural Huk Bassmaster B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series powered by TourneyX presented by Abu Garcia. The trail will feature five regular-season events in 2020 on well-known bass fisheries across the country with a championship to be held in conjunction with the 2021 Academy Outdoors + Sports Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk.

“You don’t have to look very hard these days to find a kayak in the bed of a truck or strapped to the roof of a SUV,” said Bruce Akin, CEO of B.A.S.S. “People are bass fishing from kayaks all over the world — and they’re doing it everywhere from big lakes and rivers to small creeks and ponds.

“With this new trail, we wanted to give those anglers an opportunity to show what they can do from a small craft.”

The inaugural tournament will be held in conjunction with the 50th edition of the Bassmaster Classic on Logan Martin Lake in Pell City, Ala., on March 5. Classic competition kicks-off on nearby Lake Guntersville the next morning. Other events will be held on Lake Fork in Lake Fork Marina, Texas (March 14), Chickamauga Lake in Dayton, Tenn. (May 23), the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wis. (Aug. 15) and Clear Lake in Lakeport, Calif. (Aug. 29).

Entry fees for all of the events will be $250, and each will pay 30 places. Based on a full field of 150 kayaks, the total purse for each event will be $30,000.

“Huk is proud to work with B.A.S.S. on this exciting new tournament series designed to push the limits of kayak fishing,” said Melinda Hays, Freshwater Community Manager for Huk. “Bass fishing is an integral part of our DNA here at Huk and we endeavor to inspire anglers to explore their home waters by kayak.”

In addition to title sponsor Huk and presenting sponsor Abu Garcia, the kayak series is partnering with Old Town for the inaugural season.

“Abu Garcia is always looking for a way to connect with passionate anglers,” said Jon Schlosser, VP of marketing for Abu Garcia. “With so many people fishing for bass from kayaks now, this was the perfect partnership, allowing our brand to help serve a growing segment in the sportfishing community.”

Instead of a standard weigh-in that uses scales to measure pounds and ounces, anglers will practice “catch, photograph and release” to determine the standings.

When an angler catches a bass, he or she will photograph the fish lying on a standard-issue measuring board and submit the photo through a special mobile app provided by TourneyX. The boards will measure each fish in inches down to a quarter of an inch, and the angler with the longest five-bass limit will win.

“There will be certain criteria for the photograph to be deemed a valid photograph,” B.A.S.S. Nation Director Jon Stewart said. “It will have to show the fish’s nose touching a certain part of the board and the fish’s tail touching a line. It will also have to show the identifying mark on the board that is specific to that tournament.”

Once the photograph is submitted via the TourneyX app, a tournament director and judges will deem them legal or not and enter an official length. A real-time leaderboard will be available online during the tournament until an hour before weigh-in.

“This is pretty standard procedure for kayak tournament fishing,” Stewart said. “In fact, most tournament trails use this very same app when hosting kayak events.”

The Bassmaster B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series Championship will be held in conjunction with the 2021 Bassmaster Classic at a site to be determined. The top finishers from the kayak season will be recognized during Classic festivities.

“It’s just one more opportunity for bass anglers,” Stewart said. “That’s what we’re all about.”

Registration is now open online at https://ssl.palmcoastd.com/app/bass/registration/kayak/2020. Anglers must be a B.A.S.S. member to sign up.

2020 Huk Bassmaster B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series powered by TourneyX presented by Abu Garcia

March 5, Lake Logan Martin, Pell City, Ala.

March 14, Lake Fork, Lake Fork Marina, Texas

May 23, Chickamauga Lake, Dayton, Tenn.

Aug. 15, Mississippi River, La Crosse, Wis.

Aug. 29, Clear Lake, Lakeport, Calif.

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BASSMASTER News

CANTERBURY LOCKS UP BASSMASTER ANGLER OF THE YEAR TITLE ON LAKE ST. CLAIR

October 1, 2019 HARRISON TOWNSHIP, Mich. —

As a child, Scott Canterbury always spent his Saturday mornings watching The Bassmasters television program.

To him, the stars of that show — people like Bob Cobb, Ray Scott and Denny Brauer — are the true legends of professional bass fishing.

Now, he has forever claimed his own spot alongside them in B.A.S.S. history.

With five bass that weighed 19 pounds, 12 ounces during Tuesday’s final round, Canterbury pushed his three-day total to 59-4 and finished in 14th place for the week at the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship on Lake St. Clair.

More importantly, he finished at the top of the season points standings with 848 points, earning one of the most coveted titles in professional fishing and the $100,000 check that goes with it.

“My first goal coming into the season was to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic next year,” Canterbury said. “Angler of the Year is always there on the radar. It’s just way out there.

“You always set goals that you don’t think you can reach — because if they’re easy to reach, you didn’t set them high enough.”

Canterbury was faced with his share of hurdles throughout the year, but he always seemed to have just enough in his tank to clear them.

After a tough first day at the regular-season opener on the St. Johns River in Florida, he rebounded with a ninth-place finish. From there, he placed 11th at Georgia’s Lake Lanier, 22nd at South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell and finished just 10 ounces shy of a victory during a second-place finish at Winyah Bay.

Then he had the kind of tournament that often sinks a competitor’s bid for the AOY crown, placing 49th at Lake Fork. But he followed it with a solid 22nd-place finish on Lake Guntersville in his home state of Alabama, and wowed fishing fans across the country by finishing third and 11th, respectively, in New York events at the St. Lawrence River and Cayuga Lake.

Before those New York events, he had never fished either lake

“I went into those events just hoping to survive,” he said. “But I ended up doing really well. I think that’s the way it happens sometimes in this sport. We deal with so many things that are completely beyond our control. If you just keep fishing hard, your day will come.”

Canterbury was thrown another curveball when the final regular-season Elite Series event that was scheduled for Fort Gibson Lake in Oklahoma had to be moved to Lake Tenkiller due to flood conditions. Again, he survived, finding two small offshore schools of smallmouth that landed him in 19th place.

Things beyond his control struck again Sunday, as he was forced to fish the entire first round without the use of depthfinders on the front of his boat. Canterbury still caught almost 18 pounds and managed to hold off hard charges from Arkansas pro Stetson Blaylock (840 points), Canadian Cory Johnston (840) and Texas pro Chris Zaldain (838).

Canterbury caught the majority of his bass for the week on a tube.

“That first day was such a challenge, and it could have caused me to fall apart,” he said. “But I managed to get through that and then used that tube to catch just enough fish to get by.

“It was anything but an easy tournament.”

The AOY Championship featured a total purse of $1 million, including the $100,000 that went to the season points winner and the $25,000 that went to the angler with the heaviest three-day weight for the week. The latter honor was claimed by Minnesota pro Seth Feider.

Feider found a gigantic school of smallmouth on a flat with substantial current, and used a Rapala DT-10 crankbait in the Helsinki shad pattern to catch a three-day weight of 77-15. It was his second career Bassmaster Elite Series victory.

“It was basically just a flat with scattered rocks and sand, so I think the current was the biggest thing,” Feider said. “I’ve never seen anything like it before on Lake St. Clair.

“That DT-10 ran just the right depth. I was fishing 11 to 12 feet of water, and I don’t like hitting the bottom for smallies.”

One race that had already been decided before Tuesday’s round began was DICK’s Sporting Goods Rookie of the Year. That award went to Florida pro Drew Cook, who finished with 798 ROY points despite finishing just 36th for the week.

The tournament also decided the 42 Elite Series anglers who will fish the 2020 Bassmaster Classic, scheduled for March 6-8 on Alabama’s Lake Guntersville.

The last three anglers to make the Top 42 cut were Skylar Hamilton, Brian Snowden and Jake Whitaker. The first three out were Garrett Paquette, Clark Wendlandt and Kelley Jaye.

Feider claimed Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the week honors with the 6-12 smallmouth he caught on Day 1.

But the big story of the event was Canterbury and his AOY crown.

“I think about my wife, Dixie, and my daughter, Taylor,” Canterbury said. “I think about all of those days and weeks I’ve had to spend on the road away from them, and I can’t help but get emotional over this.

“As pro fishermen, this is why we do what we do.”

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BASSMASTER News

BASSMASTER OPEN SCHEDULE AND FORMAT RELEASED FOR 2020 SEASON

September 26, 2019 BIRMINGHAM, Ala. —

Next year’s tournament schedule continues to take shape, as B.A.S.S. officials announced the 2020 Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens schedule on Thursday.


The schedule will once again feature four events in two divisions — Eastern and Central — with the winners of each event earning an automatic berth into the 2021 Bassmaster Classic, provided he or she has fished all four events in that division.

The Top 4 anglers from each division’s final points standings will receive an invitation to fish the 2021 Bassmaster Elite Series. But as a new addition, Elite Series invitations will also be extended to the Top 4 anglers from the cumulative standings for both divisions.

That means 12 competitors can earn a chance to pursue their dreams as Elite anglers.

“The Opens have always been about opportunity, and there are more opportunities available this year,” said B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin. “Not only do we feel like we have a great lineup of lakes in each division, we’re excited about the idea that 12 anglers could have their lives changed by finishing strongly in these events.”

The schedule for the Eastern Division will begin in Kissimmee, Fla., at the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes on Jan. 15-17. Then the trail will wind its way North with trips to Cherokee Lake in Jefferson County, Tenn., on May 7-9 and Oneida Lake in Syracuse, N.Y., on Aug. 6-8.

The Eastern Division points race and the Elite Series berths that go with it will be decided at Lake Hartwell in Anderson, S.C. — site of three previous Bassmaster Classics and six major B.A.S.S. events — on Sept. 24-26.

“When you think about the Eastern Division side of the schedule — Florida in January, trips to awesome fisheries like Cherokee and Oneida where B.A.S.S. has had some great events and a finish at Hartwell, which is deeply entrenched in B.A.S.S. history — it’s hard not to be excited,” said Chris Bowes, tournament director for the Bassmaster Opens. “That’s a slate that will give anglers a chance to prove themselves — and one that fans across the country will be able to appreciate, I’m sure.”

To accommodate cooler geographic temperatures, the Central Division will begin its slate later in the year, with its season-opening event on Lewisville Lake in Lewisville, Texas, on April 9-11. Lewisville has been the site of major B.A.S.S. events only three times and hasn’t hosted an Open since 2012.

After Lewisville, the Central Division will visit Neely Henry Lake in Gadsden, Ala., on May 21-23, the Arkansas River in Muskogee, Okla., on June 18-20 and the giant-bass haven that is Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Jasper, Texas, on Sept. 10-12. The City of Jasper will serve as the local host for the Sam Rayburn event.

“The Central slate offers a fantastic variety of fisheries,” Bowes said. “Lewisville is an urban fishery that’s located right outside of Dallas. Then you have Neely Henry, a classic Coosa River fishery known for big spotted bass, the Arkansas River, which offers about every kind of structure you can imagine, and a September finish at Sam Rayburn — a place we know is capable of producing 30-pound limits.”

The payout per event will be $250,400 (based on a field of 150 anglers), giving the eight-event circuit a total payout of just over $2 million. Seven of the eight tournaments on this year’s Opens schedule topped the 150-angler mark, with five easily topping 200.

As in the past, the full field will fish the first two days, with only the Top 12 pros and co-anglers advancing to the final round. All final-round weigh-ins will be held at the nearest Bass Pro Shops location, except for at the final Central Division event at Sam Rayburn.

For the first time since 2013, entry fees will increase on the Opens circuit. Pro anglers will pay $1,800 per event with an $800 deposit due up front, while co-anglers will pay $475 per event with a $200 deposit.

Entry for pro and co-angler linking will begin online Oct. 29 for B.A.S.S Nation and Life members and B.A.S.S. members Oct. 31. The Top 30 pros and co-anglers from each Opens division standings in 2019 will receive early entry, as well as current Elite Series pros and B.A.S.S. Nation Championship qualifiers. Any former Elite anglers who are interested in fishing the 2020 Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens should contact Chris Bowes at [email protected] before Oct. 8 for registration instructions.

“You’re talking eight events from mid-January to late September with trips to some of the best fisheries in the country,” Bowes said. “I’m sure a lot of anglers will agree with me when I say I wish it all started tomorrow.”

2020 Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Schedule

Eastern Division:

Jan. 15-17, Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, Kissimmee, Fla.

May 7-9, Cherokee Lake, Jefferson County, Tenn.

Aug. 6-8, Oneida Lake, Syracuse, N.Y.

Sept. 24-26, Lake Hartwell, Anderson, S.C.

Central Division:

April 9-11, Lewisville Lake, Lewisville, Texas

May 21-23, Neely Henry Lake, Gadsden, Ala.

June 18-20, Arkansas River, Muskogee, Okla.

Sept. 10-12, Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Jasper, Texas

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BASSMASTER News

AUSSIE PRO CARL JOCUMSEN CAPTURES ELITE SERIES WIN ON TENKILLER

September 22, 2019 TAHLEQUAH, Okla. —

Relentless determination and commitment to his game plan paid off big for Carl Jocumsen, who turned in a catch of 19 pounds, 12 ounces on Championship Sunday and scored a career-defining victory at the Cherokee Casino Tahlequah Bassmaster Elite at Lake Tenkiller.


His four-day total weight of 54-15 was worth $100,000 and made a nice birthday gift for the Queensland, Australia angler, who turned 35 Sunday.

Jocumsen said his first Elite win — which is also the first by an Aussie — has been a lifelong dream.

“Since I was four years old, I’ve loved fishing and I’ve dreamed of the day I would do this,” Jocumsen said. “Today is that day. This is a lifetime of work; a lifetime of passion and loving this sport with every ounce of my body.”

Yesterday, after placing third and trailing leader Kyle Monti by 4-8, Jocumsen boldly stated that he believed he was on the fish to win. He predicted he needed five keepers to have a legitimate shot, and he blew away that expectation with a limit of 19-12 that ranked as the tournament’s heaviest single-day catch.

Jocumsen’s winning program stood out from much of the field, in that he committed his tournament to fishing offshore. Relying heavily on his electronics to break down the lake and identify the most promising spots, he targeted six different offshore drop-offs with brush and other cover.

Day 3 revealed a particularly productive piece of cover that delivered his final-round magic.

“I used my Humminbird 360, side imaging and mapping to break down this lake in two and a half days. I stayed out here from daylight until dark,” Jocumsen said. “Yesterday afternoon, I found this one tree off this island. It was one late in the day, and I caught one keeper. But I said, ‘I want to hit this early on the final day to see if they’re biting.’”

His intuition was spot-on, and Jocumsen experienced a phenomenal morning that saw him catch four quality largemouth by 8:30, including three in span of approximately seven minutes. Jocumsen would suffer through a long dry spell before completing his five-fish limit, but the 4-pound smallmouth that sealed his fate gave Bassmaster LIVE viewers a look at pure bass fishing emotion.

“I’ve waited my life to catch that fish,” said a visibly emotional Jocumsen. “I had gone three hours without a bite and I said, ‘It can’t go down this way. I have to finish it.’ When I caught that smallmouth, the weight of the world came off my shoulders.”

Adding a 5-pound largemouth late in the day increased Jocumsen’s total and gave him a 3-pound, 10-ounce margin of victory.

Jocumsen, who will marry fiancee Kayla Palaniuk in two weeks, caught all of his bass on a 3/4-ounce Molix football jig with a green pumpkin Strike King Rage Craw trailer. He made a couple of brief visits to fish the bank, mostly to let his offshore sites rest, but did all of his heavy lifting offshore.

In second, Day 2 leader Chris Zaldain of Fort Worth, Texas, switched tactics Sunday and caught a limit of 14-7 to finish with 51-5. After focusing mostly on running shallow points for smallmouth the first three days, Zaldain spent the first half of the final day throwing a 1/2-ounce Santone wobblehead jig with a green pumpkin creature bait trailer.

“I caught two 16-inch-plus largemouth in the morning, and that kind of relaxed me to go fish all new water and search out those smallmouth,” he said.

Zaldain added three smallmouth to his final bag. He caught those with a Megabass Spark Shad swimbait on a 1/8-ounce Megabass Okashira Screw Head.

Cory Johnston of Cavan, Cananda, finished third with 48-6. For the first three days, he spent most of his time working covered boat docks with jigging spoons and a Neko rig. But today’s conditions kept the fish from positioning in predictable spots, so Johnston switched to his backup pattern.

“With the cloudy skies, the fish didn’t position on the boat slips like I needed them to, so I ended up cranking rock banks with squarebills,” Johnston said. “I caught one in a boat slip on the Neko rig and the rest came on squarebills.”

In the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Race, Scott Canterbury took the lead with 761 points. Canterbury finished 19th this week, but maintained a slim advantage in the points race, which will be decided next week at the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship on Lake St. Clair.

Zaldain follows closely in second with 752, while Johnston is third with 747. Stetson Blaylock of Benton, Ark., is fourth with 741 and Drew Cook of Midway, Fla., is fifth with 733.

Cook also leads the DICK’S Sporting Goods Rookie of the Year race.

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BASSMASTER News

BASSMASTER ELITE SERIES 2020 SCHEDULE SET ITS SIGHTS ON SOME OF THE BEST BASS FISHERIES IN THE NATION

September 12, 2019Bassmaster Elite Series 2020 Schedule Puts Emphasis On Big Bass FisheriesBIRMINGHAM, Ala. —

B.A.S.S. officials have announced the schedule for the 2020 Bassmaster Elite Series, a nine-tournament slate that will take the world’s best bass anglers to six states and some of the most storied fisheries in the sport’s history.

For fans who love watching professional anglers catch giant bass, the schedule is likely to be love at first sight.

“This year, we unveiled the mantra ‘Big Bass. Big Stage. Big Dreams.,’” said B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin. “We’ve certainly delivered on that in 2019 — and with the schedule we’ve put together for 2020, we’re ready to take another giant step on that path.

“Fans will have an opportunity to see our anglers compete on some of the best big-bass lakes in America.”

The season will start once again in Palatka, Fla., with an event at the St. Johns River on Feb. 6-9. Last year’s tournament on the St. Johns was one of the most exciting in B.A.S.S. history, with legendary angler Rick Clunn weighing 34 pounds, 14 ounces — a bag that included two bass over 9 pounds — on Championship Sunday to come from behind and win with 98-14.

That amazing tournament, along with an in-depth study of weekend tournament results on the fishery, earned the St. Johns River a fourth-place ranking in the Southeastern Division of Bassmaster Magazine’s annual list of Top 100 Best Bass Lakes.

It will be B.A.S.S.’s third trip to the Putnam County, Fla., fishery in five years — and the organization’s 21st visit to the St. Johns, dating back to 1973.

“We are extremely pleased to welcome back the B.A.S.S. Elite tournament to Putnam County,” said Dana C. Jones, president of the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a great way to start 2020, and we are grateful that they continue to choose us as a partner.

“Tourist Development Council members carefully evaluate the return on investment of all the events they fund, and it was an easy decision to host the B.A.S.S. Elite. The economic impact into our local economy by an Elite event easily equates to over $2 million dollars, and the media value of well over $500,000 is a huge value-add.”

After visiting one big largemouth factory in Florida, the Elite Series anticipates shifting to another fishery that was recently ranked as one of the best in the country on Bassmaster Magazine’s annual Top 100 Best Bass Lakes list. That event is scheduled for Feb. 14-17, but the site won’t be announced until a later date.

The Elite Series schedule will pause during March for the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing, the 2020 Bassmaster Classic. Competition will be March 6-8 on Alabama’s Lake Guntersville (second place overall, 100 Best Bass Lakes), with daily weigh-ins and the annual Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo in Birmingham.

When Elite competition resumes, B.A.S.S. will take a trip down memory lane with a return visit to Alabama’s historic Lake Eufaula (12th place, Southeastern Division, 100 Best Bass Lakes) in Eufaula, Ala., on April 2-5.

B.A.S.S. hasn’t visited the 45,000-acre Chattahoochee River fishery since a Southern Open was held there in 2006. But the lake on the Alabama/Georgia border has been the site of 18 major B.A.S.S. events, dating back to 1968 — just the second year of the Bassmaster Tournament Trail.

With the emergence of abundant aquatic vegetation, Eufaula has evolved through the years from a place where nearly all big-money tournaments were won on the ledges into a fishery with a little bit of everything. Options should be especially diverse during the early April visit, when temperatures in the Chattahoochee Valley should be as pleasant as they’ll be all year.

“Anyone who follows professional bass fishing is familiar with Lake Eufaula’s reputation for producing big bass,” said B.A.S.S. Tournament Director Trip Weldon. “As an organization, B.A.S.S. has had some great events there through the years, and it’ll be a lot of fun going back.”

The fourth Elite Series event will be in Manning, S.C., on the Santee Cooper Lakes April 16-19 (ninth place overall, 100 Best Bass Lakes). The fishery has hosted 13 major B.A.S.S. events, but none since the 2009 Southern Open.

Massive lakes Marion and Moultrie, which measure 110,000 and 60,000 surface acres, respectively, have been on fire recently. A BFL event held on the Santee Cooper Lakes in March was won with five bass that weighed just over 30 pounds.

The next fishery on the schedule is known for producing some of the biggest crowds in B.A.S.S. history — the Sabine River in Orange, Texas. The fifth Elite Series event on the 2020 slate will be held at Orange on May 29-June 1 and could challenge the Elite Series fan attendance record of 36,200.

It’ll be the fourth time the Elite Series has visited the Sabine River system — and in three previous visits, the crowds totaled more than 96,000.

For earlier events at the Sabine River, catch rates were somewhat low. But the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department has worked tirelessly to create a zone that is good for both the Orange, Texas, area and anglers. Thanks to those efforts by TPWD, tournament waters for the 2020 event will be expanded to include that new five-county zone.

“The Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce is excited to partner with B.A.S.S. to bring the Bassmaster Elite Series to Orange County once again,” said Ida Schossow, president of the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce. “This tournament has brought Orange County waterways to the forefront in the fishing world. The tournament is an economic boost to our community and creates a sense of pride for our citizens.”

The site for the annual Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks & Wildlife Department will be announced at a later time. But the dates have been tentatively set for June 5-9 — just before the Elite Series makes its New York swing.

That swing will begin with another trip to smallmouth bass fishing’s holy country, the St. Lawrence River in Waddington, N.Y., on July 23-26. The fishery was named the top bass fishing destination in America on Bassmaster Magazine’s list of Top 100 Best Bass Lakes, and this year’s Elite Series event on the river was won by Georgia pro Micah Frazier with an average of more than 20 pounds of smallmouth each day.

The pros will leave Waddington and head to Plattsburgh, N.Y., for an event at Lake Champlain (sixth place, Northeastern Division, 100 Best Bass Lakes) on July 30-Aug. 2. When B.A.S.S. last visited Champlain — for an Eastern Open on Aug. 2-4, 2018 — Vermont angler Bryan Labelle won with an average of almost 20 pounds of largemouth per day.

With the Bassmaster Angler of the Year title and numerous Bassmaster Classic berths hanging in the balance, the Elites will finish their season in Macomb County, Mich., at Lake St. Clair (eighth place overall, 100 Best Bass Lakes) on Aug. 20-23.

It will mark the eighth time B.A.S.S. has brought a major event to St. Clair since 1994, and the last three — in 2014, 2015 and 2017 — were all won with better than 20-pound daily averages.

“We set out to put together a schedule that would be pleasing to our anglers, our sponsors and the fans who’ve supported us for more than 50 years as an organization,” Akin said. “This is a schedule that takes us to some incredible fisheries, and every single weigh-in will be held lakeside.

“That means history will be made in some of the best settings imaginable.”

2020 Bassmaster Elite Series schedule

Feb. 6-9, St. Johns River, Palatka, Fla.

Feb. 14-17, TBA

March 6-8, Bassmaster Classic, Lake Guntersville, Birmingham, Ala.

April 2-5, Lake Eufaula, Eufaula, Ala.

April 16-19, Santee Cooper Lakes, Manning, S.C.

May 29-June 1, Sabine River, Orange, Texas

June 5-9, Texas Fest, TBA

July 23-26, St. Lawrence River, Waddington, N.Y.

July 30-Aug. 2, Lake Champlain, Plattsburgh, N.Y.

Aug. 13-16, Elite makeup date

Aug. 20-23, Lake St. Clair, Macomb County, Mich

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BASSMASTER News

BUCK TRIUMPHS AT EASTERN OPEN ON ONEIDA, EARNS BERTH FOR 2020 BASSMASTER CLASSIC

SYRACUSE, N.Y. —

The Basspro.com Bassmaster Eastern Open at Oneida Lake attracted its share of local legends, and two of the biggest were in the Top 12.

But Oneida crowned a possible legend-in-the-making Saturday when Grae Buck brought his 15-pound, 6-ounce limit to the scales and clinched not only the trophy for the Oneida event, but an even bigger prize as well — a berth in the 2020 Bassmaster Classic.

His three-day winning total was 50-10.

“I’m ecstatic,” Buck said, shortly after he left the stage a winner. “I can’t believe I made my dream come true of fishing the Bassmaster Classic. I fished all the Bassmaster Eastern Opens this year just to come to Oneida Lake, because this is the lake I know the best in the country. It’s about 3 1/2 hours from my house, and I’ve made a lot of money up here.

“I remember being 7 or 8 years old. I played ice hockey, and I remember being at an ice hockey game and all I wanted to do was watch the Classic on the TV there. It’s always been my dream.”

The bite turned tough Saturday — a factor of the relentless fishing pressure, as well as wildly shifting winds (they were stiff and out of the West). Four of the final Top 12 failed to catch a limit, and only one pro weighed more than 17 pounds during the Championship round.

Buck not only had to move ahead of Day 2 leader Kameron Harbin of Abbeville, S.C., he also had to fend off local hammers like Jamie Hartman and Stanley Sypeck Jr., both of whom struggled Saturday. Hartman finished in third place, where he started the day. Harbin finished ninth.

Brisbane, Australia, pro Dean Silvester weighed the day’s heaviest bag at 17-5, which pushed him all the way from ninth to second. He fished a green pumpkin Z-Man ChatterBait all three days.

Buck hails from Harleysville in eastern Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. He won a BFL here at Oneida four weeks ago, and another several years ago. He’s got the lake wired, and he fished the same pattern that earned him last month’s win.

“I was fishing between 6 and 9 feet all tournament,” Buck said. “I was throwing a drop shot with a Cornerstone Baits Shimmy Shot. It’s been a strong pattern here for a month. When you get around the fish, they eat it.

“The only difference from how I won the BFL is that this week, I switched to the ghost color, which is white. I think before they were eating a lot of perch fry and gobies. Now they were probably focused more on shad. I also caught quite a few yesterday on a Ned Rig, which was a Shimmy Shot on a 1/10th-ounce Hyabusa Brush Easy jig.”

Buck made long casts with the Ned rig and precise drops with the drop shot into mixed areas of rock and grass.

Buck drop shotted with a Dobyns 7-foot, 3-inch Champion Extreme drop-shot rod and Ardent C-Force 3000 spinning reel. He used a size 2 Hyabusa DSR hook, 1/4- and 3/8-ounce Eco Pro Tungsten drop-shot weights, 18-pound Ardent Gliss braid in hi-vis yellow and 8-pound Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon as a leader.

“I think the most important thing for me was finding concentrations of fish,” Buck said. “I had three spots I found in practice and they held through the tournament.”

Sylvester, with his second-place check money, now faces a decision. He sold his house in Brisbane and used the proceeds to fund his four-event experiment in the Eastern Opens.

“I’m amazed I finished second,” Silvester said. “I had a really good practice and a really good tournament. My goal was to catch a limit each day, and I did that. But I think I probably cost myself on Day 2, when I lost three or four fish that really could have helped me.”

Silvester said his Eastern Open campaign cost him more than $35,000. He still has $8,000 left from selling his house, but needs to purchase a bass boat in order to keep competing. He said he’s going to start looking for financial sponsors immediately.

White was a key color all week, along with the ever-effective green pumpkin, and most pros fished some form of white at least part of the time, whether it was a ChatterBait, drop shot, frog, topwater or swim jig. Buck was fairly alone among the top finishers in his 100 percent reliance on plastics.

This was the final 2019 Eastern Open. The Top 5 finishers in the points standings, who are not already qualified through the Elite Series, will earn a berth in the 2020 Bassmaster Elite Series. Anglers must have fished all four Eastern Opens to qualify.

Alex Prince of Blue Ridge, Ga., won the co-angler division. Prince’s 8-4, three-fish limit today pushed his three-day total to 26-6.

“I don’t know what to say,” Prince said, with trophy in hand. “This means the world to me. I live in Georgia. It took 17 hours to get here. I’d never caught a smallie before this week. To come here and get a check like this — I didn’t expect that.”

Prince drop shotted a 4-inch Berkley Power Minnow in green pumpkin the first two days and threw a white swim jig the final day.

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BASSMASTER News

BUCK BAGS 17-12 AND TAKES THE LEAD ON DAY1 AT THE ONEIDA LAKE BASSMASTER EASTERN OPEN

SYRACUSE, N.Y. —

Smallmouth bass ruled a slick-calm day at the Basspro.com Bassmaster Eastern Open on Oneida Lake, and Day 1 leader Grae Buck of Harleyville, Pa., bagged 17 pounds, 12 ounces of brown bass to establish the lead pace.

He holds a 4-ounce advantage over second-place Ben Nielsen of Lowell, Mich., and Patrick Walters of Summerville, S.C., both of whom weighed five-fish limits for 17-8. Walters actually anchored his bag with a largemouth, which was the only green bass caught by the Top 3.

A strong storm front swept through the area mid-week, which colored the water, and overcast conditions gave way to sun and slick-calm conditions most of the day. The famous schools of Oneida smallmouth failed to materialize, and several of the day’s top limits were caught junk fishing, while several others came through slow and meticulous finesse fishing.

Only 12 pros will earn the right to fish Day 3, and such tough conditions should paint a backdrop full of drama during Friday’s second round, as the junk fishermen battle the finesse fishermen, again under high, clear skies and light winds.

Buck has only fished one previous B.A.S.S. event at Oneida, an Open in 2013 that produced a 16th-place finish. But fans who follow Oneida events closely will no doubt recognize his name because he’s won two BFLs here, the most recent of which was four short weeks ago.

Buck has a lot of Oneida history, which he said helped him after missing more than a day of practice due to his cousin’s wedding. Overall, Buck described his practice as “tough.”

“In practice I checked two main areas I knew — one had them, one didn’t — so I fished that one today and hit them hard,” Buck said. “There were a few other boats in there, but I was the only one who caught them, so I hope I can fish there tomorrow.

“I’ve spent a lot of time here, and I’m just sort of out there picking at them. The lake has mixed rock and grass, which I love, and I just hope I can keep catching them.”

Buck caught most of his weight during a morning flurry, but added a 4-plus-pounder around 1:30 p.m., which he caught in deeper water. His goal is to make the 2020 Bassmaster Classic, he said, and a win here would put him in.

“Overall, I’m very happy with how the day went,” he said. “I drop shotted a Cornerstone Baits Shimmy Shot, which is what I won the BFL on.”

Nielsen made the trek from Michigan and things started slowly for him this morning, he said. But he eventually moved into one patch of water that produced four of the five smallmouth he weighed. With a fairly decent sack of fish, he decided against going to his remaining two areas, in anticipation of Friday.

There were a few other boats in his primary area, but given his competitive position, Nielsen hopes he’ll have some room to move around more there tomorrow, in addition to fishing his two other spots held in reserve.

He noted he’s fishing a moving bait and he’s “fairly optimistic about tomorrow.”

Walters, a Bassmaster Elite Series pro, likewise mentioned the slow nature of the fishing overall, and estimated he boated just one fish per hour. He culled only four times on his way to 17-8, and each time he replaced a largemouth with a smallmouth.

“I fished half-half,” Walters said. “I fished half the day on my practice water and half the day on new water. I have 14 rods on my deck — seven casting, seven spinning — and I’m junk fishing. You just have to run around and work hard and hope to get lucky.

“I’m going to do the same thing tomorrow,” Walters added. “I feel good about it. Sometimes you cull 10 times and things don’t work out. Sometimes you cull five times and they do work out. Today it worked out.”

Kyle Welcher (Opelika, Ala.) and Chris Kingree (Inverness, Fla.) tied for the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Day with a 4-13.

Japanese angler Dai Kitajima leads the co-angler division with a three-fish limit that weighed 11-14. He doesn’t speak English, but his pro Trevor Fitzgerald did note that Kitajima is a “remarkably patient and skilled finesse angler, and he spent the day dropshotting.”

Also notable is that Elite Series pro Jamie Hartman, a native of nearby Baldwinsville, N.Y., continues his roll and currently sits in fourth with 17-6. He has won two of the past three Elite events (Cayuga Lake and Lake Guntersville).

“I fished very settled today,” Hartman said. “I caught probably 25 bass, and I never felt any pressure out there. It was a great day.”

The tournament resumes Friday with takeoff at 6:30 a.m. ET from Oneida Shores Park. The Friday weigh-in begins there at 2:30 p.m. The final weigh-in on Saturday is at 3:30 p.m. at Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Auburn, N.Y., near the north tip of Owasco Lake.

The event is hosted by Visit Syracuse and Onondaga County Parks.