2010 R & B Bass Circuit
Points Champions:

Aaron Hochstedler & Bobby Nelson

Bobby Nelson (left) and Aaron Hochstedler were awarded plaques and $200 for winning the inaugural R & B Bass Circuit Points Championship.
Simply put, the inaugural R & B Bass Circuit season was dominated by the team of Aaron Hochstedler (Greentown, IN) and Bobby Nelson (Fulton, IN). They took the lead in the Standings after the 2nd event at Lake Maxinkuckee and never surrendered it. In 6 events, the team finished in the Top 5, five times and never weighed less than 3 fish. They won a total of $1308 and won the D’s Lures award once. They smashed the competition in total points (their closest competitors finished 33 ½ points behind) and weighed nearly 10 pounds more than any other team.

Despite a friendship spanning 8 years, this was Hochstedler’s and Nelson’s first year fishing
tournaments together. Needless to say, they work well together. Nelson knew their approaches to fishing would be an advantage, “One of our strengths is our openness to each other’s ideas.” In fact, Nelson prefers fishing with someone who has a different approach. He explains, “Everyone fishes a bit different and I enjoy learning from different anglers. Aaron and I are willing to learn from each other.”

Hochstedler elaborates further, “We use each other’s heads to figure out a pattern. We throw different baits until we figure out a pattern. In 6 tournaments, we each used our own boat 3 times.”

The team does not exert much energy on what they call “spot” fishing either. Rather, they devote their energy towards developing a pattern that can be applied throughout the body of water. According to Nelson, “We are not ‘spot’ fishermen; we are ‘pattern’ fishermen.”

They relied on each other’s different backgrounds through the year. Hochstedler admits, “Bobby has more experience on natural lakes, and that helped us several times (Maxinkuckee, Diamond, Webster, Paw Paw), but I’m more experienced on reservoirs and rivers (Winona, St. Joe River), and that also helped.”

Teamwork was pivotal to their success, but attitude also played a vital role. Hochstedler explains, “[Anglers] know [they] will not win every tournament, but we went into every tournament with a game plan to win.” It is an attitude he has learned from experience: “If you begin fishing for just a few fish, you will fall flat on your face.” The duo calls that strategy “fewer” fishing and avoids the temptation.

They also pride themselves on focusing and remaining motivated through the duration of a tournament and making the necessary adjustments. One of Hochstedler’s creeds: “Make an adjustment quick or fail quick.” Nelson reiterates, “A key to our success is our ability to stay focused and keep lures wet.”

Despite taking the lead after the Lake Maxinkuckee event, they did not spend much energy focusing on the standings until the Paw Paw Lake event when they gained a commanding 18 point lead heading into the finale. However, at the St. Joe River, they did not fish tentatively; they went for another win.

The following is a recollection of each tournament on their way to becoming the first R & B Bass Circuit Points Champions.
By: Andrew D. Buss
Nelson (left) holds a 4.78# largemouth in his right hand from Winona Lake. Despite not prefishing, the champions finished runner-up on 4 fish that weighed nearly 12 pounds.
Winona Lake 4/17/10:

Weather conditions were less than ideal for the R & B opener. Early April had been a warm month bringing water temperatures up to 60 degrees in many channels, and main lake fish had begun fattening up for the spawn. However, on tournament day, a nasty cold front moved in disrupting much of everything.

Despite the conditions and not pre-fishing, neither Hochstedler nor Nelson were deterred. They finished 2nd place with 4 fish which weighed 11.38 pounds that was anchored by a 4.78 pound largemouth.

The team considered seasonal patterns to determine which baits to throw and where to throw them. Nelson has “extensive” experience in the spring and consequently
 feels especially confident during this season. They got all 4 keepers from Eagle Lake. Nelson explains, “Eagle had a little color and the weeds were a healthy green.” This told him that this little lake held the potential to win the event.

He was right. The first place team of Joe DeNardo and Ricky Ponder, (who dominated the event with 16.02 pounds and the Starboard Choice Marine big bass [the biggest bass weighed in the R & B circuit, a 5.92 pound giant]) caught their fish from Eagle Lake. The 2 teams watched each other’s success. Hochstedler remembers, “We were sharing spots with the winners.”

Hochstedler and Nelson used a 1-2 combination to catch their fish. Hochstedler chunked a Koppers lipless crankbait while Nelson jerked a Lucky Craft Pointer 78 on 6-pound line. Their big fish was caught with the jerkbait.

After 1 event, they trailed the winners by less than 6 points. It was the only time.
Lake Maxinkuckee 5/8/10:

The weather on Winona Lake was brutal. The winds were so ferocious it made much of the Southern portion un-fishable. However, that weather was a picnic in comparison to the weather at the Lake Maxinkuckee event. There had even been discussion of cancelling this event.

The wind came from the west and was wicked at best. The eastern shoreline was hammered with legitimate 3-foot waves. Had the wind been coming due north, the conditions would have been epic. And not only was the wind vicious, but rain was also sporadic, at times falling heavy and thick. All the while, temperatures were unseasonably cold. Several teams stayed home and several others left early.

But amongst the chaos, this is where our champions made their move. Nelson had the opportunity to pre-fish Maxi several times and had been successful catching fish each time; however, they were typically little smallmouth. He had a good pattern on Mizmo tubes, but the size worried him.

Perhaps fate played a role, as amongst the typhoon-like conditions, the same grassy spots holding smallmouth, unexpectedly produced heavier largemouth during the tournament. The team got their limit quickly and spent the rest of the day upgrading; they caught 10 keepers total. The day went according to plan except the kicker fish never showed up. Their limit weighed 8.35 pounds, which landed them in 4th place. A total of 11 teams weighed 5-fish limits.

After 2 events, they were the only team to earn money in each event. They were now the sole leaders in the Standings.
Diamond Lake 6/12/10:

Arguably the best performance of the season was Hochstedler’s and Nelson’s victory on Diamond Lake. All victories are impressive. Catching the Starboard Choice Marine big bass is impressive. But to accomplish both on a body of water neither had seen before is a display of greatness.

The only exposure the team had to the ultra-clear Diamond Lake, was the previous weekend when Nelson took his wife for a few hours. They caught several “shorts” but no keepers. They did not have much to build on.

But like Maxi, the bigger fish showed up for the tournament. They caught fish everywhere they went, and worked as a team to maximize their time. Hochstedler focused on the inside edge of weedbeds while Nelson focused on the outside edge, and they both caught them. Fish bit on a number of baits, but their keepers came on tubes, senkos, and Koppers crankbaits.
Nelson (left) holds the Starboard Choice Marine big bass in his right hand. The 4.13# largemouth anchored their limit and won the event on Diamond Lake.
The team caught their big fish early, a 4.13 pound largemouth and landed several more keepers shortly thereafter. They caught 8 keepers in all, and caught more short fish than they could recall. The fish were caught at the same places Nelson caught shorts the prior weekend. Despite 6 limits weighed, they were the only team to break double-digits in weight: 10.63 pounds.

They left Diamond Lake with a commanding 15 point lead in the Standings, but also left with a big bull’s eye on their back.
Webster Lake 7/17/10:

A prior commitment kept Hochstedler from the Webster event. Nelson came with a substitute and the intent to increase their lead in the Standings. It did not happen. That bull’s eye on their back was shot at from all angles.

Webster Lake is known for producing big fish, so if any lake made it possible for a team to make up 15 points, this was the place. Nelson explained the tournament simply as a “rough day.”

During practice he was not able to locate any weeds on the main lake so he made the decision to exploit the Backwaters for all it was worth. (A weed kill removed nearly all submerged weeds from the main lake. The top 3 finishing teams located isolated pockets of weeds and cleaned house on them.)

After several hours Nelson found lots of “shorts” but his livewell empty. He was staring down the barrel of the dreaded “skunk.” But as aforementioned, Nelson commits himself to fishing hard through the duration of a tournament, and it paid off. During the last 90 minutes he caught 3 keepers along the main channel of the Backwaters.

The 3 fish weighed 5.16 pounds and landed him in 9th place. However, the team sitting in 2nd place, Steve Prange and Dennis Losee made a hard charge at the leaders. They finished 2nd place with a total weight of 12.77 pounds. They made up nearly 15 points on the leaders! They were now less than 1 point out of the lead.

Things began looking bleak as up next was a trip North to another lake neither Hochstedler nor Nelson had ever seen while Prange and Losee had extensive experience: Paw Paw Lake.
Paw Paw Lake 8/21/10:

Paw Paw Lake could not have been a bigger challenge for Hochstedler and Nelson when they arrived. Not only was the lake new to them, but Hochstedler lives nearly 3 hours away while Nelson lives nearly 2 hours. This lake too was recovering from a weed kill that occurred in June. And while known as a big fish lake with common 15-18 pound sacks, recent fishing reports were abysmal at best, and the weed kill was the culprit.

Again the team made it out to pre-fish just once and it was not productive. They caught 2 fish: a 4.5 and 3.5 pound fish, but no shorts accompanied them. Both fish were caught on different baits and locations. They left without any kind of pattern, and lots of concern.

Winona was cold and windy. Maxi took that to another level. Diamond hosted beautiful weather. Webster was as hot as an oven. So, it was no surprise that with just a small chance of rain showers, Paw Paw produced heavy rain through registration and the first several hours of the tournament.

However the rain brought hope to the leaders. Hochstedler explains, “We felt like we could get some [fish] early in the rain,” and they were nearly prophetic. Just minutes after take off, they boated their first keeper and followed that up with several shorts on a floating worm. However, that bit died – completely.

The team then struggled just to catch a fish. To put it modestly, Nelson said, “It was tough.” With the lack of weed and cover, they spent a great deal of time targeting boat docks.

They caught 2 additional solid keepers for a total weight of 7.37 pounds and a surprising 5th place finish. But to everyone’s surprise, Prange and Losee failed to bring a keeper to the scales. In fact, the leaders also beat the team in 3rd, Rybicki and Farkas, handedly.

Consequently, they built a formidable 18-point lead heading into the finale.
St. Joe River (Maggies) 9/11/10:

Those with experience on the “Mighty St. Joe” know few places are more humbling: even the best river rats in Michiana have landed on their face at one time or another. Thus, placing Hochstedler and Nelson on the river, who, admittedly, have less experience than the average R & B competitor to win the Points, seemed ironic. It also produced the best scenario for another team to pass them up in the standings.

Toss in the added challenge that Nelson would need to leave the tournament 2.5 hours early. A lot of eyebrows raised and caused a lot of anglers to salivate at the open invitation to pass them up. Not only did this place one less lure in the water, take away an extra body to net fish, but on the river, this also skews a team’s game plan. Time management becomes extra critical.

But the leaders had a plan to maximize their time. And they were not focused merely on winning the Points Championship either; they wanted to win the event on the Mighty St. Joe.

They began the tournament on target. Within 30 minutes they landed their first keeper on, what proved to be, a very tough bite. It was a champion’s move and they knew it. Hochstedler said to Nelson, “There’s the winning fish. Now let’s go win this tournament!” They nearly did.

That first fish was a dandy: a 2.38 pound largemouth pulled from a pontoon boat on a Senko. As had been the case throughout the season, the team had no trouble focusing from that point forward. They landed 3 more keepers on a variety of baits. Two others came on a small Sweet Beaver and a fourth came on a crankbait. In fact, the team thought they had a limit (only 2 teams weighed a limit, and only 4 other teams had 4 fish). A Fifth keeper was scored on a crankbait, but after carefully measuring it on the courtesy bumpstick, Hochstedler thought it best not to risk a short fish penalty. Their 4 fish weighed 5.3 pounds landing them in 4th place for the event. They were awarded the D’s Lures award for their success.

It what appeared to be a scenario that put their championship aspirations in jeopardy, they it turned into a success story – it’s a paradigm they made habit in 2010. In a championship-like performance, the supposed “underdogs” made the most on a day that found keeper fish a rarity. To the purest form, they “junk” fished by tossing a variety of baits specific to each spot making each cast a new opportunity. They increased their lead to 33.5 points: utter domination.

Just as they had at Winona Lake, Hochstedler and Nelson put together a plan to win and nearly did so. Their teamwork and ability to focus throughout the duration of a tournament were paramount and set an example for all who inspire to win the R & B Bass Circuit Points Championship.