Fifth time’s a charm

Pro Ken Ellis of Bowman, S.C., landed more than $50,000 in cash and prizes including a Yamaha-powered Ranger boat Saturday with five bass weighing 27 pounds, 14 ounces in the EverStart Series Eastern Division tournament on lakes Marion and Moultrie.

Local fishing guide Ken Ellis wins EverStart Santee Cooper with almost 28 pounds

MANNING, S.C. - For five straight years Ken Ellis of Bowman, S.C., has been fishing in EverStart Series competition at his home waters of lakes Marion and Moultrie, and for the first four he was always a contender - but never the winner. He changed all that Saturday when he hauled in five big largemouths weighing a collective 27 pounds, 14 ounces and won the Pro Division by more than 7 pounds over last year's champion Ricky Shumpert.

For Ellis, who collected $15,000 and a new Ranger boat for first place, this week's win was sweet reward after five long years of solid tournament performances at Santee Cooper culminating in near misses. A 51-year-old former Navy officer who has lived and guided on Santee Cooper lakes for the last 12 years, he seemed to carry the burden of being the local favorite very heavily every time the EverStart Series came to town.

"It's tough when you're considered the local heavy. It's a lot of pressure," an emotional Ellis said following today's weigh-in. "If you win, it's like you're supposed to. If you don't, it's like, why can't I beat these out-of-town guys?"

It's not like he hasn't beaten the bulk of the out-of-towners before today. He has one of the best records at Santee Cooper since the EverStart Series began in 1998; he just hadn't won it all. He has made every cut past the opening round, finishing second in 1998, fourth in 1999, seventh in 2000, 13th in 2001 and now first in 2002. The runner-up finish in 1998 still gnawed at Ellis even today because he lost by a mere 8 ounces to Roger Crafton of Boca Grande, Fla., who also competed in the finals this year and finished in 10th place.

At that 1998 tournament, Ellis set the then opening-round EverStart weight record with 43 pounds, 4 ounces. (Only two pros have since topped the mark: Rick Gunter of Holly Hill, Fla., with 43-15 at Lake Okeechobee in 2000 and William Smith of Moncks Corner, S.C., who smashed Gunter's record this week at Santee Cooper with 48-10.) Ellis also holds the single-day five-bass weight record at Santee Cooper lakes for a stringer he caught in a local tournament that weighed 40-4.

But all that is water under the bridge now. Tournament records and runner-up finishes are no longer a monkey on the back of Ellis, who is now simply - and deservedly - a tournament champion.

"This is just a big load off of my mind," he said.

The pro winner caught his championship bass by focusing exclusively on cypress trees. He used a combination of Hawg Caller plastics - a straight worm, finesse worm and trick worm - on 6-pound test line with a 1-ounce hook and threw it into roughly 3 feet of water all day. His biggest fish, the first one he caught, weighed 8 pounds and he had another one around 7 pounds. He even lost one today that he estimated weighed 6 pounds. He sought out bass in a post-spawn pattern.

"The key was finding the good spawning areas with a few cypress trees nearby," he said. "The fish were wanting to get off the beds and recover from the spawn. But they weren't really aggressive. I had to make eight to 10 casts to a tree to get a bite."

While he said he probably fished a hundred trees throughout the tournament, Ellis caught all of his keepers today off of just four of them.

Shumpert second again

With the exception of Ken Ellis, no one has a more enviable track record at EverStart Santee Cooper than Ricky Shumpert. In 1999 the Lexington, S.C., pro began to display his mastery of this fishery with a 15th-place finish. Since then, he finished second in 2000 and first in 2001.

Shumpert continued that trend Saturday with a final-round five-bass performance weighing 20 pounds, 2 ounces to take his second runner-up finish, worth $10,000, in three years. And while he was happy with his effort, the 2001 champion was a little frustrated that he couldn't come through with the repeat win.

"It's always a disappointment when you come so close and don't win, especially here," he said. "The three largest fish I had were the first three fish I caught."

Shumpert's encouraging start to the day forced him to move around a lot and continue looking for big kicker fish with his plastic lures. He knew it would take a monster stringer to win.

"My goal was to go get that big fish and move on," he said. "I went to a bunch of different little ponds and cuts that I've fished all my life. I have an advantage in that I know where (the bass) will be at before I get there."

But for Shumpert, who prefers sight-fishing, today's weather put a damper on his efforts, especially later in the day. Cloud cover and a breeze made below-surface visibility a difficult proposition.

"With the overcast skies, I had to run around and find the fish," he said. "If the sun would have come out and wind lied down, things would have gone differently. I probably could have had 28 or 29 pounds."

The rest of the top five

Steve Kennedy turned in his best performance ever as a pro and took third place and collected $9,000 with five bass weighing 19 pounds, 15 ounces. While he is a standout on the Wal-Mart BFL with five victories to his name, the Hoover, Ala., native's previous best at the EverStart level was an 18-place finish as a co-angler.

"Every day when I woke up, I said I was just going fishing," he said. "I fished a different spot each day."

Fourth place went to Henry McFadden ($8,000) of Kingstree, S.C., with five bass weighing 18 pounds, 7 ounces and fifth place went to Vince Ingle ($7,500) of Maryville, Tenn., with five bass weighing 16-3.

Past winners report

The other two previous EverStart Santee Cooper champions besides Shumpert who fished Saturday finished in the bottom half of the final-round field. William Smith (2000 winner) caught four bass weighing 7 pounds, 15 ounces and finished eighth ($5,000). He also fell well short of the 100-pound four-day mark that initially looked reachable Saturday morning. Still, his four-day total of 78-4 topped all anglers.

"Yesterday, I had to go to isolated cypress trees to find the fish," he said. "Unfortunately, that's what I wanted to do today."

Roger Crafton's (1998 winner) 10th-place finish ($4,000) was motivated by a two-bass output that weighed 3 pounds even.

"It was a tough day," said Crafton, who led day one. "I just couldn't get it going."

What's next

The next EverStart Series tournament is a Central Division affair to be held at Kentucky Lake, Ky., May 1-4.

The next Eastern Division tournament is the fourth and final one of the season. It is scheduled for Guntersville Lake, Ala., June 5-8.

Day-four links:

Close to the Vest
Photos
Final results
Press release

Tags: headline-story  jeff-schroeder 

/news/2015-04-26-arey-does-it-again

Arey Does it Again

Quaker State pro Matt Arey of Shelby, N.C., wowed the crowed in Rogers, Ark., today with an incredible 17-pound, 3-ounce five-bass limit to come from behind and win the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake. This is Arey’s second consecutive Beaver Lake FLW Tour victory. Arey’s final-day surge was enough to surpass two-time reigning Angler of the Year Andy Morgan, who led yesterday but weighed in only 9-08 today and fell to third. Arey’s four-day total was 55-06, earning the pro $125,000. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-26-beaver-lake-day-4-coverage

Beaver Lake Day 4 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-25-morgan-maintains-his-lead

Morgan Maintains His Lead

One of Andy Morgan’s fishing mottos is to make the best of what you have got “in front of you” to survive and fish another day. Beaver Lake doesn’t give much. So when an angler as resourceful as Morgan gets to a lake that doesn’t give out many resources, the two work well together. Instead of worrying about hitting it out of the park or putting immense pressure on himself to come up with a grand winning strategy, Morgan just scraps, scrapes and claws at the ground right in front of him, making the best of what he’s got. Morgan’s performance on day three of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake was a prime example of his “make the best of it” attitude. After burning up the spawning fish he had located in practice during the first two days of the tournament, he was forced to fish by the seat of his pants today – something he thoroughly enjoys. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-25-gordon-and-gagner-crowned-tbf-champs

Gordon and Gagner Crowned TBF Champs

Two more anglers qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup today by winning the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship on Grand Lake in Grove, Okla. Shawn Gordon of Russellville, Ark., earned the TBF crown on the boater side by catching a three-day limit of 50 pounds, 2 ounces, capped by the largest limit caught today – 18 pounds, 10 ounces. Gordon earned $5,000 for his win, but more importantly, he’ll be competing against the best pros in the business in August at the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. Gordon also won the TBF “Living The Dream” package, which includes paid entry into the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour, a travel stipend, and use of a wrapped truck and Ranger bass boat. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-25-top-5-patterns-from-beaver-lake-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from Beaver Lake Day 3

Andy Morgan didn’t light up the world on day three of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake, but he caught what he needed to maintain the lead and put a 1-pound, 9-ounce cushion between he and Matt Arey. Most of the rest of the top 20 scrambled today, abandoning their patterns and trying new options to try and make the final-day cut. Here’s how the top five got it done. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-25-beaver-lake-day-3-coverage

Beaver Lake Day 3 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-24-make-way-for-morgan

Make Way for Morgan

“Hidden largemouths” is quickly becoming the buzz term at the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac, as those atop the leaderboard are using the term to refer to spawning largemouths that are so well hidden that other competitors never found them. These hidden fish are covered by thick brush, hidden so deep that they were only found during the very rare windows of sunshine during practice or located off the beaten path. The latter are not in obvious pockets or places where one would expect to find beds, but rather out on the main bluff channels where few ever look. On day one, Jacob Wheeler caught hidden largemouths to take the lead. On day two, former Beaver Lake champion Andy Morgan caught hidden largemouths to take over the pole position going into the weekend. His catch of 15 pounds, 7 ounces today gives Morgan a two-day total of 28-09 to take the lead by just 11 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-24-top-5-patterns-from-beaver-lake-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Beaver Lake Day 2

At halftime of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac, the top five reads like a who’s who of Beaver Lake. Leader Andy Morgan is a former Beaver Lake champion. Behind him, Darrel Robertson has been very close to winning here with a runner-up finish in 2005. In third is 2014 Beaver Lake champion Matt Arey. Bryan Thrift, in fourth, has never won on Beaver Lake, but has led here before. And finally, fifth-place pro Stetson Blaylock knows his way around this lake pretty well, too, with a couple of top 10s. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-24-heckman-heads-up-tbf-championship-field

Heckman Heads up TBF Championship Field

Some bass are still spawning in Grand Lake, and others are yet to make their way up to the shallows, but none of that interests Sam Heckman. Diligent commitment to his postspawn plan here Friday landed Heckman atop the boater field with 34 pounds, 3 ounces and locked up his Southwest Division win at the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship. Saturday, the top boater from each of seven TBF divisions will vie for the TBF National Championship and the “Living the Dream” package that goes with it. The package includes paid entry in the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour as a pro, a Forrest Wood Cup berth and use of a custom-wrapped truck and Ranger boat on Tour for the year, as well as a travel stipend for each event. Seven non-boaters – one from each TBF division – also will fish in tomorrow’s final round for a chance at paid entry into a Rayovac FLW Series division of choice. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-24-beaver-lake-day-2-coverage

Beaver Lake Day 2 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-wheeler-with-a-slim-lead

Wheeler with a Slim Lead

Jacob Wheeler has a plan to win the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake this week. That plan involves primarily the largemouth species, a target weight of 14 pounds per day and a lot of fish management. Today, Wheeler surpassed his target by nearly 2 pounds with a 15-pound, 14-ounce catch that puts him in the driver’s seat at Beaver Lake, in the lead by just a scant 5 ounces over second-place pro Bryan Thrift. “Largemouths are the way to win here at Beaver Lake,” Wheeler says. “They are the fish to go the distance here, and that’s what I’m focusing on.” READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-top-5-patterns-from-beaver-lake-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Beaver Lake Day 1

Though there were plenty of fish caught off beds at Beaver Lake on day one of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac, the top five is rounded out by a group of anglers who relied on sight-fishing very little. Opinions on where exactly bass are in the spawning cycle at Beaver Lake vary greatly from angler to angler, but a few common denominators did come to light on day one. For starters, most agree that one major spawning cycle has already occurred. Plenty of empty beds and a lot of gaunt, postspawn fish at the scale were evidence of that. Second, there are still some bass (of all species) trying to spawn, but the ones left on beds are extremely wary. Finally, the order of difficulty to catch each species ranks as follows: smallmouth bass – extremely easy; spotted bass – not as easy; largemouth bass – extremely difficult. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-griffith-grabs-tbf-lead-

Griffith Grabs TBF Lead

By midday, the prospects were unclear for Jon “Scooter” Griffith here in The Bass Federation National Championship on Grand Lake, but in a roundabout way it provided just the clarity he needed to dial in a pattern that helped him take the day-one lead with an 18-pound, 13-ounce limit. Griffith began his day by sight-fishing the clear water down by the Pensacola Dam. This opening move, he says, gave him some early comfort, as it matched the transparent water he’s used to fishing near his home in Mesa, Ariz. Targeting windblown points, Griffith got his early bites with reaction baits in about 4 to 8 feet of water. Unfortunately, the plan turned out to be less productive than he had expected. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-beaver-lake-day-1-coverage

Beaver Lake Day 1 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-tbf-championship-tips-off

TBF Championship Tips Off

The spawn is on at Grand Lake, but that’s not the only game in town. As the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship plays out for the next three days, anglers will find this northern Oklahoma impoundment abounding with lots of fishing options. Brian Maloney, the 2012 Walmart Bass Fishing League All-American champion, says he was impressed with what he found in practice. “The quality of fish on Grand is just amazing,” notes the Missouri angler. “This lake continues to put out 3- and 4-pounders, and right now there’s a variety of things we can do. “There are guys sight-fishing for spawning fish, and we’re probably looking at another wave or two of fish coming in soon. I’m sure the full moon coming up in another week or so will move them in.” Adding that the lake currently has fish in all prespawn, spawning and postspawn stages, Maloney thinks that TBF contenders will be greeted by a mix of water conditions typical for Grand this time of year. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-20-top-10-baits-from-lake-murray

Top 10 Baits from Lake Murray

Competitors in the FLW College Fishing National Championship mostly targeted bass feeding on spawning blueback herring on shallow points and main-lake pockets. Across the board, herring-imitating baits such as soft jerkbaits, swimbaits, topwaters, wake baits and umbrella rigs dominated the event. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-20-jig-bite-carries-holmes-on-wateree

Jig Bite Carries Holmes on Wateree

READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-20-bryan-slows-down-for-chickamauga-win

Bryan Slows Down for Chickamauga Win

READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-20-morfis-dominates-with-34-pound-limit

Morfis Dominates With 34-Pound Limit

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. – Joshua Morfis of Cape Coral, Florida, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 34 pounds, 14 ounces Saturday to win the fourth Walmart Bass Fishing League Gator Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Okeechobee. For his victory, Morfis earned $6,336. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-20-salzman-cracks-31-pounds-on-guntersville

Salzman Cracks 31 Pounds on Guntersville

READ MORE »