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Entries in Bassmaster Classic (32)

Saturday
Jun172017

Svebek Overtakes Broussard to Win Bassmaster Central Open

ORANGE, Texas — Carl Svebek III has been a professional angler for most of his life.

He cut his teeth fishing tournaments on Sam Rayburn Reservoir, and he went on to fish in several major series as an adult. Eight years ago, Svebek dropped out of sight. He stopped fishing professionally. He had lost his title sponsor and was going through a divorce. So he decided to give up the sport he loved to spend more time with his children who hadn’t seen much of dad while he was on the road fishing.

Svebek returned to pro angling 18 months ago. He made the biggest splash of his professional career today by winning the Bass Pro Shops Central Open on the Sabine River here on the Texas/Louisiana border. Svebek weighed a limit of five bass on Saturday that totaled 12 pounds, 3 ounces. It gave him a three-day total of 36-12, which was just enough to vault over T-Roy Broussard, who led the tournament the first two days.

Svebek, who also moved to Orange last year, was in second place heading into Saturday’s competition, and he took the hot seat with only Broussard remaining to weigh-in. The Port Arthur, Texas, resident had only 10 pounds in his sack, which sealed the win for the 50-year-old Svebek. An ecstatic Svebek leaped into the air and pumped his fist repeatedly as the hometown crowd burst into celebration.

Svebek was choked with emotion as he spoke to the crowd, and he spent at least 10 minutes hugging family and friends before breaking free to discuss his victory.

“This is absolutely a dream come true,” he said. “To be able to win this tournament in front of all these people from Orange is really special to me. I’ll never forget it.”

He won’t have much time to forget the big win. Svebek now will prepare for the final Central Open of the season which will be held on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in October. If he fishes in that tournament, he will earn a berth in the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.

No way he’s missing the final Central Open, he said.

“I’m fishing the Bassmaster Classic,” he marveled aloud to the large crowd who greeted him offstage. “Can you believe it?”

To get there, Svebek fished the marshes just on the Louisiana side of the Sabine River, which was about a 20-minute run downriver. He eased into an extremely dense area crowded with “just about every kind of grass you can imagine,” he said.

“There were a lot of lily pads, especially on the shorelines,” he said. “There was milfoil and hydrilla. I was in about a foot and a half of water, and it was clear. That was key; getting the clean water. There was very little tidal movement in there, and that kind of helped me.”

Svebek said his key bait for the week was a Zoom Super Fluke (bluegill color) rigged Texas-style with a Bass Pro Shops XPS EWG hook. He also put a swivel about 1 foot up the line to help keep his line from twisting on long casts he was making to open pockets inside the foliage.

“I really liked the way the bait worked with the swivel,” he said. “It sounds ridiculous, but it was just enough weight that when it hit, if I paused for a minute, it would give it time to go down. I know I caught two 4-pounders this week on the initial fall. After 12 noon, I would put on a Bass Pro Shops frog. I wouldn’t get many bites doing that, but when I got one, it was a game-changer. The 4-pounder I had today was on that frog.”

That kicker may have been the bass that pushed Svebek to the Central Open win. As he held the championship trophy aloft on Saturday, he realized just how far he had come since his return to professional angling.

“To be honest, I didn’t know where I was going a year and a half ago,” he said. “I was struggling. I was having a hard time finding a job in the oil business. And then my good friend David Jones (whose Orange-based Gopher Industrial sponsored the Central Open) called me up and offered me a job. And he gave me a chance to go fishing again. I missed it, and I’m eternally grateful for him for letting me do this again.”

Svebek won a Skeeter ZX200/Yamaha SHO200 boat and motor package worth approximately $45,000, as well as $7,893 in cash. He picked up an additional $500 by winning the Power-Pole Captains Cash Award.

Broussard seemed destined to win the Central Open after his strong start, but he finished a hard-luck second. He weighed a respectable bag on Saturday (the fifth heaviest of the 12 anglers,) but it wasn’t enough to hold off Svebek’s hard charge. Broussard did split the $750 Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award with Johnny Nguyen. Both anglers weighed a 5-5 bass, which tied for the heaviest in the tournament. Broussard also won the Livingston Lures Leader Award of $250 for holding the Day 2 lead.

The remaining pros in the Top 12 were third, Chad Morgenthaler, 34-10; fourth, Jeff Avery, 34; fifth, Shane Cormier, 33-12; sixth, Randy Sullivan, 33-10; seventh, Josh Bertrand, 29-14; eighth, Matthew Delaney, 29-9; ninth, Trey Smith, 29-8; 10th, John Garrett, 29-2; 11th, Jonathan Simon, 28-6; and 12th, Terry Luedtke, 26-8.

Michael Soliz of Orange won the co-angler division with a three-day total of 19-2. Soliz actually tied with Jordan Burks of Joplin, Mo., for first place, but Soliz won the tiebreaker as he had a higher single-day total than Burks. Soliz won a Triton 179 TrX Mercury 115 ELPT four-stroke boat and motor package with his victory.

In the nonboater division, Burks received the Phoenix Boats Big Bass award of $250 with a 5-15 bass. Mark Powers of Platteville, Colo., received the Livingston Lures Leader Award of $250 in merchandise for being the Day 2 leader in the co-angler division.

Tuesday
Jun062017

Kennedy Wins Bassmaster Elite at Lake Dardanelle

Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., wasn’t dominating the event until he weighed 16 pounds, 9 ounces of bass during the final weigh-in to take home $100,000 and the third championship of his career at the GoPro Bassmaster Elite at Lake Dardanelle presented by Econo Lodge.

A big bass late in the day on Monday that weighed 5-10 anchored his five-bass limit and pushed his four-day winning weight to 63-12. The last time Kennedy topped a Bassmaster Elite Series field was in 2011 at Georgia’s West Point Lake.

“I’ve been so close so many times before, and I’ve usually lost tournaments because of a missed bite, or losing a fish before I could get it inside the boat,” Kennedy said. “It sure feels good to win one, especially after nearly winning this year’s Classic on Conroe.

Kennedy won $50,000 for an impressive second-place finish at the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods in March on Lake Conroe in Texas.

The 48-year-old veteran made a 100-mile round trip each day to fish a small backwater just below the Ozark Dam on the Arkansas River.

“I found that spot during practice, and since the water is over 20 feet high right now, I was able to get my Bass Cat into the small pond-like area,” he said. “Once I got in there, I was impressed with the amount of life that was present. There were gar surfacing everywhere, shad flicking and bass feeding, which told me it was worth a visit each day.”

On Friday’s opening round of competition, he made the run to the dam and caught 16-10, which had him quietly in ninth place. Saturday morning he went to the same location, caught 14-3 and moved up the leaderboard into fifth place.

“On Sunday I caught 16-6, which had me in third place and I knew I had a real shot,” he said. “After I caught that big fish today I felt like I had it locked up, but Mark Davis kept it too close for comfort.”

Davis of Mount Ida, Ark., led the event on both Saturday and Sunday, but could only manage 13-10 on the final day and finished second, only 1-10 behind Kennedy.

Most of the fish that Kennedy brought to the scales this week were caught on a 3/4-ounce D&L Advantage flipping jig with a white plastic trailer.

“I used the exact same program at the Classic back in March,” he said. “There was still a bit of a shad spawn going on this week, and by swimming the jig through the willows, stopping it and letting it fall along the edge of the weeds, the bass would absolutely smoke it. I also caught several fish on a green pumpkin swim jig, and a few on topwater.”

With Kennedy’s wife and children there to congratulate his victory, he was elated.

“It’s been a while,” he said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform and do well, and when I don’t succeed I take it hard. It means a lot to my family and me to bring home one of those coveted blue trophies.”

Other top finishers included Kevin VanDam, third with 60-11; Mark Menendez, who won here in 2009, fourth with 57-9; and Dean Rojas, fifth with 56-7.

Ott DeFoe, who finished 15th at Dardanelle with 41-12, has a slight lead over Jacob Wheeler and Brandon Palaniuk for Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year with three more regular season tournaments remaining in the Elite Series. He was awarded $1,000 for leading the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race at the end of the event.

David Mullins of Mount Carmel, Tenn., claimed the $1,500 Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award for a 6-pound, 8-ounce largemouth he caught during Friday’s opening round.

Davis won the Livingston Lures Day 2 Leader Award of $500 for leading the tournament on Saturday’s second day of competition.

Jamie Hartman of Newport, N.Y., won the Toyota Bonus Bucks Award of $3,000 for being the highest-placing eligible entrant in the program. The second-highest-placing eligible entrant, Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss., received $2,000.

Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., earned the Power-Pole Captain’s Cash Award of $1,000 for being the highest-placing angler who is registered and eligible and uses a client-approved product on his boat.

Monday
Mar272017

Alabama's Jordan Lee Wins Bassmaster Classic

HOUSTON — In 2013, Jordan Lee was a member of the Auburn University fishing team.

Today, he’s on top of the professional bass fishing world.

The 25-year-old pro from Guntersville, Ala., stayed within striking distance all week at the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. Then during Sunday’s final round at Minute Maid Park, he caught five bass from Lake Conroe that weighed 27 pounds, 4 ounces, pushing his three-day total to a tournament-best 56-10.

Lee earned $300,000 and the most coveted trophy in the sport, while Steve Kennedy — a resident of Auburn, Ala. — finished second with 55-1.

“To all of the guys fishing the college tournaments right now, this just says you can do it,” Lee said. “It’s hard work — and you’re going to have a lot of days out here that aren’t good.

“On this lake, I wasn’t sure there was any way I could do it. But you’re never out of it here.”

Lee had every reason to fold after Friday’s first round when he caught only three fish that weighed 8-6. But Saturday provided a revelation that would ultimately lead to his first B.A.S.S. victory.

He was fishing a point with a hard bottom that he found during practice, and he believed it would pay off during the tournament. After failing to catch a fish there in windy, cloudy conditions on Friday, he returned to the spot in calmer weather on the following day.

“With zero fish in the box at noon on the second day, I went back to that spot and caught a 7 1/2-pounder on the first cast,” Lee said. “When I was landing that fish, there was a whole school of 5- and 6-pounders that came with it.

“Right then, I knew something was about to happen — and I caught two more that were both big.”

Lee still didn’t manage a five-bass limit on Saturday, but the four fish he brought to the scales weighed 21-0.

That moved Lee into 15th place with 29-6 and guaranteed him a spot in Sunday’s Top 25. But he still didn’t feel good about his chances of catching California angler Brent Ehrler, who had led the first two rounds of the event and entered Championship Sunday with 43-4.

Sunday began with Lee planning to fish his magic point all day — even if the fishing had fizzled. As it turns out, he didn’t have much of a choice.

Engine troubles left him without the ability to run from spot to spot and forced him to milk every possible bite out of the point. He eventually had to hitch a ride back to the weigh-in with a spectator that he knew from Cullman, Ala. — a legal ploy in the Classic, as long as no fishing takes place in the spectator’s boat.

Lee’s main baits were a Strike King 5XD crankbait in the citrus shad color pattern, a football jig with a Rage Craw and a Space Monkey for a trailer and a Bullworm on a magnum shaky head.

“I stuck with it all day and caught fish on a football jig with a Rage Craw and a Space Monkey,” Lee said. “I threw the 5XD and the Bullworm and didn’t really get any bites on them. I caught all 27 pounds on that football jig.”

Of the hundreds of points on Conroe, Lee said it was one section of hard bottom that seemed to make his point special. Casting across the point — rather than parallel to it — was the better play all week.

“I never caught any shells or anything, so I think it was a gravel or a rock bottom,” he said. “It was really subtle. There was no brush. It was just kind of a flat point, and I was fishing probably 100 yards offshore.”

Lee had to sweat through the final few anglers, including Kennedy who weighed in 21-15 and fell just 1-9 short of the title. The final angler with a chance to unseat Lee from the top of the leaderboard was Ehrler, who weighed in just 11-10 and finished third with 54-14.

Ehrler was trying to become just the sixth angler in Classic history to lead the event from wire-to-wire and the first since Cliff Pace in 2013. Instead, he became the second angler in a row to lead the first two days, only to fall short in the end.

“I’m disappointed,” Ehrler said. “But what I really wanted to do coming in was be in position to win on the final day. I did that, but things just didn’t work out today.”

Ehrler earned the Berkley Big Bass Award of $2,500 for the largest fish of the event with a 9-12 largemouth he caught on Friday.

Ehrler also earned the GEICO Everyday Leader Award of $1,000 and the $1,500 GEICO Everyday Leader Bonus for leading both Friday and Saturday.

The event itself drew thousands of people to morning takeoffs at Lake Conroe Park, the Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods and the daily weigh-ins at Minute Maid Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros.


Monday
Mar202017

Fish Will Receive 'Major League' Care at Upcoming Bassmaster Classic

B.A.S.S. provides "major league" care for fish at every event. But at the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic March 24-26 here, that phrase takes on added and historic meaning. For the first time, in the event's 47-year history, bass will be weighed in at the home field of a professional baseball team.

Anglers and fish alike must remember to "keep off the grass" at the Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros. But that won't be an impediment to continue the excellent record of fish survival at Classic venues, which typically is 97 to 100 percent, according to National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland. "We certainly expect to achieve the same level of success at Lake Conroe," he added.

Of course, "major league" fish care begins with the 52 anglers competing at 21,000-acre Conroe.

"Our anglers are very conscientious when it comes to keeping their fish alive," the conservation director said. "Dead fish mean penalties and, in the most important bass tournament in the world, they don't want any deductions!"

When competitors return to Lake Conroe Park for afternoon takeout and the 49-mile trip to Minute Maid Park, they will be met  by B.A.S.S. staff, as well as state conservation directors from the B.A.S.S. Nation who have volunteered and been trained to help.

First, they will look for dead fish and make sure bass meet the legal minimum length of 16 inches for largemouth and 14 inches for smallmouth. Also they will check to make sure livewells are full and the recirculating aerators are on full time to maximize oxygen in the water. "If water temperatures are above 70 degrees, we will add a little ice to help stabilize the temperature for the trip to Houston," Gilliland said. "It's not so much to cool the water as it is to maintain it."

Barring a cold front, that's likely to be the case. Lake Conroe water temperatures that time of year typically are in the mid to upper 70s.

Then drivers will take the anglers, their boats, and fish to the ball park, which should take at least an hour. If, as expected, they are allowed to use an inbound HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lane on I-45, travel time could be shortened a bit.  An hour's drive is more the norm that the exception for a Bassmaster Classic.

Outside Minute Maid Park, the fish will be checked again by B.A.S.S. staff and volunteers, more ice will be added if necessary, bass will be fizzed if needed (not likely), and the boats will be washed. Anglers will place their bass in mesh bags, which stay in the livewells.

When the weigh-in begins, each boat will enter the stadium from right field. It will drive onto the warning track and, from there, travel on an elevated platform down the right field line, go around home plate, and stop at third base.

"The stage will be set on the baseball infield between second and third base, facing the third-base line and stands," Gilliland said. "There will be a bridge there for anglers to cross over the grass and carry their bags of fish to the stage and scales."

At a Classic, bass typically are kept out of the water less than a minute total from the time the anglers check in at the takeout site until they are released into their home waters after the weigh-in. The longest part of that is as the fisherman carries his catch in a mesh bag to the stage.

"That time out of the water is usually 10 to 20 seconds at a time," the conservation director said. "For the Elite tournaments, the average total time was 49 seconds. We want to handle the fish as little as possible and keep them out of the water as little as possible. At the ramp, they might not even need to be handled and the same goes for the boat yard."

Occasionally, anglers will take bigger fish out of the mesh and hold them up for the crowd and media to see. As the remainder of the bass are passed off so that they can be more quickly placed in water, those photo fish will receive a few extra seconds in the spotlight before being placed in separate bags and moved along in the process.

For this Classic, the bass will be hustled out of Minute Maid Park to hatchery hauling trailers provided by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).

"The most common question we get is 'Will those fish go home?' and they will," Gilliland said. "People who live around lakes are possessive of their fish and we understand that. For this Classic, the exception would be a ShareLunker (13 pounds or better), which would go to the hatchery in Athens."

TPWD will use those trailers to transport the bass to Conroe each evening where they will be released at undisclosed locations, according to Dave Terre, chief of management/research for Inland Fisheries. "I will staff those with four people.

"I will likely have two other fish transport vehicles as well," he added. "One for transporting fish back for the high school/college tournament and one for dealing with a ShareLunker if one is caught at Lake Conroe during the tournament. Each of those vehicles will have a staff member assigned to them."

Water in the trailers will be oxygenated and temperature maintained as close as possible to that of Lake Conroe, Gilliland said.

The conservation director added that the entire fish care process from takeout to placement in the hatchery trailers requires 10 to 12 B.A.S.S. staff and volunteers.

"Space is tight and time is tight, and that's all we need to keep the process moving, to handle the fish as little as possible and get them back to the lake."

Friday
Mar172017

New Kids' Program Set for Bassmaster Classic in Houston

Children attending this year’s GEICO Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods will be in for a special treat March 24-26 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston
 
Fishing, games, competitions, seminars, special guests, raffles, giveaways and more await them at the Shell Bassmaster Get Hooked on Fishing presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors. Kids can get in on the fun from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, while 52 of the world’s best bass anglers compete at nearby Lake Conroe. All activities are free and open to the public.
 
“Shell takes great pride in our partnerships and in the events we support throughout the year that are nationally respected, help protect our environment and have a positive impact on local communities,” said Bruce Culpepper, Shell Oil Company president.
 
“The Bassmaster Classic and Get Hooked on Fishing are both prime examples of getting people personally involved with the outdoors and understanding how important conservation and caring for our environment is for all of us.”
 
While children of all backgrounds and ages will enjoy Get Hooked on Fishing, special emphasis will be on introducing multicultural youth and their families to the joys of fishing and instructing them in the basics, as well as teaching them about nature, conservation, and stewardship. Kids in grades 2 through 6 will get to experience the real thing too, angling in a pond filled with catfish. Nine hundred students from the Houston Independent School District will test their luck on Friday.
 
Activities also will include interactive exhibits and presentations by Coastal Conservation Association, Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Additionally, renowned anglers like Pedro Sors and Billy Murray will share their knowledge, while the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Paw Patrol characters will entertain at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., on Saturday and Sunday. Those who want to test their skills can compete in Casting Kids events, while attendees can sharpen their casting and catching skills in Learn From the Pros seminars.
 
Dogs on the Dock, meanwhile, will feature long-jumping competitions by retrievers, with many local canines expected to compete.

For more information, go here.