Strader triumphs on Lake Ouachita

Wesley Strader of Spring City, Tenn., proudly displays his first-place trophy after winning the FLW Tour event on Lake Ouachita. Strader, who won the first FLW title of his career, turned in a catch weighing 14 pounds, 10 ounces.

Tennessee native captures first FLW title, upsets bevy of top-ranked pros in the process

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Fishing in the finals of an FLW tournament is difficult enough. However, the prospect of winning an FLW title against some of the greatest bass-fishing legends of all time is nearly an impossible task. Impossible, that is, unless your name happens to be Wesley Strader. Bolstered by a 14-pound, 10-ounce catch, Strader managed to pull off one of the greatest upsets of the year - out-fishing and outfoxing the likes of Kevin VanDam, Rick Clunn, Gary Klein and Paul Elias on route to a $110,000 payday, the largest of Strader's young career.

What made the feat even more impressive was the fact that, with only two anglers remaining in the weigh-in, Strader wound up going head to head with VanDam - arguably the world's number-one ranked angler - and still walked away with the victory. In the end, Strader had not only captured the very first FLW title of his career, but he also did so by beating the best in the business.

"I've always had confidence in myself," said Strader, who fought back tears as he accepted his trophy and congratulatory hugs from his peers. "I knew I had to stay loose and confident, because if I had started focusing on the fact that I was fishing against Gary Klein, Rick Clunn and Kevin VanDam, I would have gotten too nervous. It was just me against the fish today."

Strader, who has made significant strides over the past year - finishing in sixth place at the EverStart event at Lake Okeechobee in January, placing ninth at the FLW tour event on Lake Wheeler in February and coming in 17th place at the $3.6 million Ranger M1 earlier this month - clearly had been waiting for this moment for a long time.

"Man, I finally got that monkey off of my back," said Strader, a resident of Spring City, Tenn. "I really don't know what to say. It hasn't sunk in yet."

Adding to the remarkable nature of Strader's storybook ending was the fact that with less than 30 minutes to go in the tournament, the Tennessee native only had enough weight for a sixth-place finish.

"I caught three fish up river earlier in the day that weighed about 7 pounds. It was about 12:15 p.m. and I knew I didn't have that much longer to fish," said Strader, who was facing a 12:45 p.m. check-in time. "That's when I looked into the sky and said, `Lord, if you could just show me a 6-pound fish, I could win this thing.' I barely got the words out of my mouth when I saw it."

What Strader saw was a 6-pound, 10-ounce largemouth bass lurking in the shadows near a bank.

"I pitched a Lake Fork Tackle Mega jig with a pig claw trailer toward the bank and bang, the fish hit it," he said. "When I got that fish in the boat, I knew that I had 13 or 14 pounds. Gary Klein had said yesterday that he thought 12 pounds would be enough to win the tournament. So, I knew I had a good chance to come out on top."

Although Strader couldn't have known for sure at the time, at that very moment, the tournament was his for the taking.

VanDam comes up a few pounds short of the title ... again

With a 2001 FLW Angler of the Year title under his belt and three second-place finishes in nine FLW tour events coming into Lake Ouachita, Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., had only one goal in mind during today's weigh-in - to capture the first FLW title of his career. And for a few fleeting minutes during the finals, it looked as if VanDam was all but certain to accomplish that goal. However, like VanDam's four other trips to the top-10, it was not meant to be.

Despite a hearty 13-pound, 5-ounce catch, VanDam fell short by 1 pound, 5 ounces to claim the fourth, second-place FLW finish of his career. Although VanDam could have been excused for feeling somewhat bitter about the result, he showed once again why he is one of the most liked and well-respected anglers on the tour today.

"All you can do is to go out there and do your best," said VanDam. "One thing I've learned over the years is that you're going to lose a lot more times than you're going to win. Today, I just got beat by a better performance. If you beat yourself, that's a different story. Wesley is a good guy and he's worked really hard for this. He deserves it."

Overall, VanDam said he could live with the result.

"It's been a really neat tournament for me. And this is the best day I've had all week," said VanDam, who won $40,000 for this efforts. "I knew the final was going to be close. All I needed was one more good-sized largemouth. Overall though, I had a great tournament."

VanDam said that he used a red, shallow-running crankbait all week to mimic the crawfish hatch, targeting rocky banks and "transition" points.

"I was fishing bank changes in about 2 to 5 feet of water, usually on points where a bluff met a flat," he said. "The fish really liked the transition areas. And any time I could find two types of cover that met, I knew that it increased my chances of catching a fish. I also tried to fish as many spots as I could as fast as I could. Because with a 16-inch (minimum) size limit, you really have to weed through a lot of smaller fish to get that big bite."

Powers nabs third place

For Craig Powers of Rockwood, Tenn., the day couldn't have started off any better. With his first five-fish limit of the year in the boat by 10:30 a.m., Powers thought he had as good of a chance as anyone to take home the title. But in the end, Powers had to settle for a $24,500 payday.

"Unlike the other three days, I never got that big bite," said Powers, who used a combination of crankbaits and spinnerbaits to land his limit. "But I was really consistent all week, so I'm happy about that."

"I really can't complain," continued Powers. "I had a terrible practice, so I'm pretty happy to be where I am."

Powers, who never finished the day lower than third place all week, ultimately turned in a catch weighing 9 pounds, 5 ounces.

Execution, execution and execution

Shad Schenck of Waynetown, Ind., finished the day in fourth place, weighing in a catch of 8 pounds, 7 ounces and taking home a check for $20,000 in the process.

"I really had a great tournament," said Schenck, who fished a rattletrap near inside grass lines on secondary points. "I've never been to this lake before and it's just phenomenal to be here. It's been quite an experience."

Ultimately, Schenck said that it wasn't the competition that did him in, just his execution.

"When you're with this elite group of fishermen, you really have to concentrate," he said. "I was on fish. But my problem was that I wasn't able to convert the bites today. And you really have to execute if you're going to win a tournament like this."

Coming up roses

Mark Rose of Marion, Ark., grabbed fifth place and a check for $17,500 after landing a total catch weighing 8 pounds, 5 ounces.

"I've been really fortunate to make the last three (top-10) cuts," said Rose of his recent string of final-day appearances at Lake Wheeler, the Mobile-Tensaw Delta (Ranger M1) and Ouachita. "I've been fishing really hard and I've really learned a lot. And as long as I'm doing that, I feel alright."

Best of the rest

Rounding out the top-10 pro finishers were Curt Lytle (sixth) of Suffolk, Va., with a catch of 6 pounds, 12 ounces; Paul Elias (seventh) of Pachuta, Miss., with a catch of 6 pounds, 7 ounces; Rick Clunn (eighth) of Ava, Mo., with a catch of 5 pounds, 7 ounces; Ken Strickland (ninth) of Oak Ridge, N.C., with a catch of 2 pounds, 9 ounces; and Gary Klein (tenth) of Weatherford, Texas, with a catch of 0 pounds.

FLW action resumes April 17-20 at Beaver Lake in Rogers, Ark.

Related links:

Quick Bites: FLW Lake Ouachita, Day 4
Results
Photos
Press releases

Tags: headline-story  gary-mortenson 

/news/2015-06-29-dobson-sticks-with-jerkbait-for-win

Dobson Sticks With Jerkbait for Win

Scott Dobson of Clarkston, Michigan, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 21 pounds, 6 ounces Saturday to win the first Walmart Bass Fishing League Michigan Division tournament of 2015 on Lake St. Clair. For his victory, Dobson earned $5,804. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-29-johnston-targets-beds-for-big-limit

Johnston Targets Beds for Big Limit

Cory Johnston of Cavan, Ontario, Canada, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 25 pounds, 13 ounces Saturday to win the second Walmart Bass Fishing League Northeast Division tournament of 2015 on 1000 Islands. For his victory, Johnston earned $5,632. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-29-football-jig-helps-bates-net-title

Football Jig Helps Bates Net Title

Matthew Bates of Greenville, Mississippi, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 20 pounds even Saturday to win the fourth Walmart Bass Fishing League Mississippi Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Ferguson. For his victory, Bates earned $3,963. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-29-hipsher-hops-ledges-for-victory

Hipsher Hops Ledges for Victory

Craig Hipsher of Benton, Kentucky, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 22 pounds, 8 ounces Saturday to win the fourth Walmart Bass Fishing League LBL Division tournament of 2015 on Kentucky and Barkley lakes. For his victory, Hipsher earned $4,385. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-29-lauer-wins-on-ohio-river

Lauer Wins on Ohio River

David Lauer of McConnelsville, Ohio, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 12 pounds, 5 ounces Saturday to win the second Walmart Bass Fishing League Buckeye Division tournament of 2015 on the Ohio River. For his victory, Lauer earned $6,289. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-29-creature-bait-does-it-for-berhorst

Creature Bait Does it for Berhorst

Dennis Berhorst of Holts Summit, Missouri, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 16 pounds, 12 ounces Saturday to win the fourth Walmart Bass Fishing League Ozark Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Truman. For his victory, Berhorst earned $5,963. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-28-wendlandt-back-at-the-top

Wendlandt Back at the Top

It’s been 14 seasons since Clark Wendlandt last stood on a Walmart FLW Tour stage and hoisted a tournament championship trophy. Since that time, the Texas pro has experienced ups and downs, including an Angler of the Year title (his third) in 2009 and a major medical issue that sidelined him for most of the 2014 season. All that’s in the past now, however, and Wendlandt is right back where he belongs in the world of bass fishing – in first place after the final day on the Potomac River in the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-28-top-10-patterns-from-the-potomac-river

Top 10 Patterns from the Potomac River

Clark Wendlandt didn’t pull off any secret techniques to win the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats on the Potomac River. He simply found an area with the right quality of bass to win and managed it perfectly despite facing a medley of Mother Nature’s toughest challenges. The rest of the top 10 stuck with the standard Potomac targets too, namely grass, docks and wood cover. The only underlying trend of the top 10 is that they found areas to themselves. Here’s how the rest of the top 10 got it done at the 2015 Tour finale. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-28-potomac-river-day-4-coverage

Potomac River Day 4 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on the Potomac River presented by Ranger Boats. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-27-wendlandt-receives-helping-hand

Wendlandt Receives Helping Hand

Not to discredit Clark Wendlandt’s skills as a bass fisherman, but if it wasn’t for an extreme act of kindness on the part of fellow competitor Shin Fukae, Wendlandt wouldn’t be where he is this evening – leading through three days of competition at the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats on the Potomac River. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-27-top-5-patterns-from-potomac-river-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from Potomac River Day 3

Pouring rain, gusting winds, a remarkable act of kindness, an Angler of the Year title on the line – day three of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats on the Potomac River certainly was not boring. To say the top 20 anglers were waterlogged after Saturday would be any understatement, but as nasty as the weather was, it wasn’t the biggest story of the day. Shinichi Fukae generously helped Clark Wendlandt retain his lead, while Scott Martin sealed the deal on his first AOY title. Meanwhile, a number of other anglers scrambled to adjust with what the weather and the Potomac are throwing at them. Here’s how the rest of the top five caught their fish today. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-27-potomac-river-day-3-coverage

Potomac River Day 3 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on the Potomac River presented by Ranger Boats. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-26-wendlandt-in-familiar-territory

Wendlandt in Familiar Territory

A lot of flip-flopping took place on the second day of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats on the Potomac River. When the scale closed, it was three-time Tour Angler of the Year Clark Wendlandt who found himself on top with a two-day total of 32 pounds, 10 ounces. Wendlandt caught 17-13 today – the day’s second-heaviest limit – and leads Potomac local Bryan Schmitt by 1-12 going into the weekend. Wendlandt missed part of last season after suffering a heart attack but has rebounded with good success this season. He has won three times on Tour but hasn’t finished in first place since Beaver Lake in 2001. Details to come on the patterns of the top five. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-26-potomac-river-day-2-coverage

Potomac River Day 2 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Chickamauga presented by Ranger Boats. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-25-jersey-boy-leads-the-pack

Jersey Boy Leads the Pack

Talk about a traffic jam. And, no, we’re not talking about the streets around the Washington, D.C. area. We’re talking about the standings at the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats on the Potomac River. Adrian “Jersey Boy” Avena leads the way with a 16-pound, 12-ounce limit, but a total of 41 pros weighed in at least 12 pounds. Many pros lamented the tough bite today, but the results say otherwise as 114 limits were brought to the scale on the pro side. Troy Morrow trails Avena by just 1-06, and 1 ounce behind Morrow is one of the most successful tidewater bass anglers of all time, Bryan Schmitt. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-25-top-5-patterns-from-potomac-river-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Potomac River Day 1

It might seem impossible for 405 miles of water to fish small, but space was hard to come by on day one of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats on the Potomac River. The creeks near takeoff at Smallwood State Park have seen as much traffic as a Washington, D.C. highway at rush hour. On the flip side, anglers who were able to develop patterns that got them away from the crowds, such as day-one leader Adrian Avena, have been able to reap the benefits of what has been a stingy fishery. Here’s how the rest of the pros in the top five caught their fish today. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-25-aoy-shake-up-martin-makes-his-move

AOY Shake-Up: Martin Makes His Move

Scott Martin has been talking about winning the Angler of the Year title since before the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour season started. It’s on his mind and for good reason: Angler of the Year is the only major FLW title he hasn’t won in what Martin has built into one of the most decorated professional fishing careers in FLW Tour history. Today, on the first day of competition at the Tour finale on the Potomac River, Martin has unofficially moved into the lead in the AOY race for the first time all season. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-25-potomac-river-day-1-coverage

Potomac River Day 1 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Chickamauga presented by Ranger Boats. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-20-richardson-wins-all-american

Richardson Wins All-American

Curtis Richardson has a way of surprising people – even himself. The Ontario angler had all but written himself off in the championship round of the Walmart Bass Fishing League All-American, thinking his limit of five bass wouldn’t hold up for long with the likes of Jeremy Lawyer and Bill Schroeder breathing down his neck. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-20-all-american-midday-update-day-3

All-American Midday Update Day 3

Big changes might be coming in the standings of the Walmart Bass Fishing League All-American on Kentucky Lake, as some of the top 10 leaders struggled this morning to catch limits. Canadian angler Curtis Richardson, who currently is leading, had only one 3-pound keeper by midmorning. And second-place boater Billy Schroeder, who had fished just below the Paris Landing Bridge for the first two days, finally bailed out from there after catching four keepers this morning. READ MORE »