July 8, 2017
6:30 am - 1:30 pm
1st Place: Ray Smith & Jim Wheeler
Weight: 19.95; Native Pride Tackle big bass - 6.29
Pattern: Shallow largemouth bass relating to docks and other shallow structure
Baits: Wacky rigged soft stickbaits & jigs
How it Happened: Wheeler and Smith claimed their third victory in the last seven West Division tournaments. Last year they also won the fourth stop on Lake Wawasee in an eerily similar fashion.
This time it did not start off well, but practice and other reports convinced them staying shallow was the way to go. However, at 10:30, there was only one fish in the livewell. Fortunately, persistence paid back at that time. Between 10:30-12:00 they finished their limit, landed the sixth Heaviest Sack, and third Biggest Bass in R & B History.
Docks, boats, and piers were their primary targets, but it was the ones being pounded by the wind during that time that produced. “We hit every dock on the lake, but the windy ones held most of our fish,” Wheeler confessed. By slinging both jigs and wacky rigged soft stickbaits, they were able to boat 7 total keepers. Some fish were under docks, others under boat lifts, and others in the skinny water behind the docks.
Winnings: 734 + 280 = $1,014 + Rod Bender Baits Certificate & Native Pride Tackle product
2nd Place: Mark Fennell & Teddy Bradley
Weight: 16.46; 4.54 Second Big Bass
Pattern: Shallow largemouth bass around bedding bluegill on West Lake
Baits: Zoom Horny Toads & wacky rigged soft stickbaits
How it Happened: Their fourth consecutive Top 5 this season may have been their toughest, and if they hold on to the top spot in the Standings, this one exemplifies why. The 2011 & 2012 Season Champions practiced both Thursday and Friday. They returned on Friday because they left Thursday scratching their heads.
“We didn’t have much going on Austin,” admitted Bradley. So they regrouped and located a John boat that would fit under the bridge into West Lake. On Friday, they probed the waters there and found much greener pastures. On tournament day, they had a limit by 8:30. “It was only about 8.5 pounds,” Fennell said, “but were culled through about 20 keepers. We got them around docks, shady spots, and water between docks.”
Winnings: $459 + 70 = $529
3rd Place: Kelly & Kevin Warner
Pattern: Largemouth bass relating to docks and boats
How it Happened: “We played Follow the Leader,” said Kelly. “We just used jigs around the docks going for reaction bites.” It worked. They had their limit by 8:00 and culled 9 times despite the constant pressure on the docks.
4th Place: Steve Kline & Mark Farver
Pattern: Largemouth bass relating to an isolated patch of coontail weeds with slightly deeper water
Baits: Pop-R, Swimbait, & Tube
How it Happened: “We got lucky,” said Kline. Unfortunately, no one is going to believe that. Luck has nothing to do with the team who has had 20 Top 5 finishes, by far the most, in R & B History.
Still, they did things the hard way. They were the only top 5 team not to target fish around docks, and with under an hour to go, they had just two keepers. After boating their first fish on a Pop-R, they a long time before catching their second on a swimbait. This second keeper came from a specific spot with “really green” coontail and slightly deeper water. Stubbornly, they put their faith in this spot, and waited, and waited some more. Finally, with less than an hour left, they caught their final 3, and biggest 3, fish on a tube jig to remain hot on the tails of Bradley and Fennell.
5th Place: Frank Doyle & Quintet Butters (pictured)
Pattern: Largemouth bass holding tight to seawalls
Baits: Watermelon Zoom Fish Doctors and green pumpkin Senkos
How it Happened: With the trolling motor on high, the team covered lots of water and worked the finesse baits at each seawall. In all, they caught 9 keepers.
6th Place: Dave Hoffman and Mike Minix (not pictured) landed 10.99 pounds to win $75.