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/2015-03-29-lefebre-lands-on-top

Lefebre Lands on Top

He left the dock this morning in 7th place, eight and a half pounds off the lead. And when he returned this afternoon, Dave Lefebre shocked the weigh-in crowd with a come-from-behind Walmart FLW Tour win that left his competitors shell-shocked. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-29-lewis-smith-lake-day-4-coverage

Lewis Smith Lake Day 4 Coverage

Day 4 reports from the Walmart FLW Tour on Lewis Smith Lake READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-28-birge-buzzes-ahead

Birge Buzzes Ahead

Today started off with a slightly miserable 31-degree air temperature, but it didn’t take long for the top 20 pros to really heat up on Lewis Smith Lake at the second stop of the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour presented by Evinrude. Reports poured in throughout the day of big bass – especially big largemouths – being caught off beds. It looked at first as if one of the “largemouth lookers” might piece together a big enough bag to snatch the lead away from Oklahoma rookie Zack Birge, who struggled early to make his shallow topwater pattern work. Unfortunately for the rest of the field, the young gun Birge has the coolness and patience of a veteran, and he stuck with his game plan of throwing a buzzbait and soft jerkbait rig until the sun had time to warm the shallows and spur the fish to become more active. Birge tallied 17 pounds, 11 ounces today, raising his three-day total to 54-8 and giving him a lead of 3-11 over Texas veteran Clark Wendlandt in second place. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-28-top-5-patterns-from-lewis-smith-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 3

After three days, it looks as if tournament leader Zack Birge has the quality largemouth bite in the bushes wired. But behind him on the leaderboard are nine pros doing everything from sight-fishing to catching schooling bass and everything in between. Even with all the patterns in play, few have fizzled. The sight-fishers have reported finding new bedders, the schoolers are still schooling and a couple of guys have even started tapping floating docks. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-28-millsaps-wins-on-lake-sinclair

Millsaps Wins on Lake Sinclair

MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. – David Millsaps of Ranger, Georgia, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 20 pounds, 10 ounces Saturday to win the second Walmart Bass Fishing League Bulldog Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Sinclair. For his victory, Millsaps earned $6,009. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-28-walters-nets-third-victory-on-wylie

Walters Nets Third Victory on Wylie

LAKE WYLIE, N.C. – Todd Walters of Kernersville, North Carolina, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 17 pounds, 2 ounces Saturday to win the second Walmart Bass Fishing League North Carolina Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Wylie. For his victory, Walters earned $4,350. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-28-lewis-smith-lake-day-3-coverage

Lewis Smith Lake Day 3 Coverage

Day 3 reports from the Walmart FLW Tour on Lewis Smith Lake READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-28-mosley-on-top-at-arkansas-river

Mosley on Top at Arkansas River

MUSKOGEE, Okla. – Brandon Mosley of Choctaw, Oklahoma, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 19 pounds, 13 ounces Saturday to win the second Walmart Bass Fishing League Okie Division tournament of 2015 the Arkansas River. For his victory, Mosley earned $5,349. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-27-topwater-takes-birge-to-the-top

Topwater Takes Birge to the Top

On a day when chilly, windy post-front conditions challenged many Walmart FLW Tour anglers who were relying on sight-fishing for spawning bass, Zack Birge bucked the trend and pulled out a pair of topwaters to haul in 17 pounds, 14 ounces. Birge jumped from third place past day-one leader Drew Benton to take over the top spot on Lewis Smith Lake in the event, which is presented by Evinrude. Birge’s two-day total of 36-13 has him positioned 1 pound ahead of Benton. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-27-top-5-patterns-from-lewis-smith-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 2

While air and water temperatures plummeted on day two of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lewis Smith Lake presented by Evinrude, the big surprise came in the stability of the fishing patterns amidst such change. Zack Birge found plenty of production on his primary pattern to send him to the top of the leaderboard, and those under him held true to their patterns as well to secure a ticket to day three’s top 20. Among the biggest surprises was the number of pros who were still able to pluck fish off beds. Most pros that were sight-fishing say the bass are committed to beds and that the cold snap will not run them off at this point in time. Despite the cold, some even found new fish on beds that were not there yesterday. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-27-lewis-smith-lake-day-2-coverage

Lewis Smith Lake Day 2 Coverage

Day 2 reports from the Walmart FLW Tour on Lewis Smith Lake READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-26-benton-blasts-20-12-on-lewis-smith

Benton Blasts 20-12 on Lewis Smith

Panama City, Fla., pro Drew Benton jumped into the early lead at the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lewis Smith Lake presented by Evinrude with a five-bass limit weighing 20 pounds, 12 ounces. Benton caught a mix of largemouths and spotted bass, and revealed that both black bass species are spawning. He leads a tight top 20 that includes 18 pros that caught more than 15 pounds each. The first day was an absolute fish-fest. Of the 154 pros fishing this tournament, 138 weighed limits. Brad Roberts of Faubush, Ky., has a 2-ounce lead in the co-angler division with a 13-pound, 4-ounce limit. Tomorrow he’ll try to defend his lead on the final day of co-angler competition. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-26-top-5-patterns-from-lewis-smith-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 1

While Drew Benton was busy bugging bedding fish for his day-one tournament lead, several others behind him were scoring big with other fishing options on Lewis Smith Lake. Sight-fishing also played a role in the top limits produce by Tracy Adams, Scott Martin and Ish Monroe, but Clayton Batts and Zack Birge both brought in big bags with other patterns. Click here to read about Benton’s day-one performance at the second Walmart FLW Tour event of 2015, which is presented by Evinrude. Here’s how the rest of the top five got it done. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-26-lewis-smith-lake-day-1-coverage

Lewis Smith Lake Day 1 Coverage

Day 1 reports from the Walmart FLW Tour on Lewis Smith Lake READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-22-arkansas-anglers-win-college-open

Arkansas Anglers Win College Open

Consistency was the key for the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville here in the FLW College Fishing Kentucky Lake Open as Zachary Pickle and Drew Porto won the event with a two-day total of 43 pounds, 12 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-21-kendrick-king-on-guntersville

Kendrick King On Guntersville

Kendrick, who is fishing the Rayovac FLW Series in hopes of qualifying for the FLW Tour, caught more than 25 pounds each day of the event and finihsid in fine fasion when it counted. Kendick was catching nearly all of his bass around big schools of bait with a Houdini pearl-colored Scottsboro Tackle swimbait from 15- to 25-feet of water. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-21-epting-s-30-pounds-tops-on-santee-cooper

Epting's 30 Pounds Tops on Santee Cooper

SUMMERTON, S.C. – Chris Epting of Chapin, South Carolina, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 30 pounds, 2 ounces Saturday to win the second Walmart Bass Fishing League South Carolina Division tournament of 2015 on Santee Cooper. For his victory, Epting earned $3,679. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-21-wood-rock-key-for-middleton-s-victory

Wood, Rock Key for Middleton's Victory

HUDDLESTON, Va. – Dennis Middleton of Madison Heights, Virginia, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 19 pounds, 11 ounces Saturday to win the first Walmart Bass Fishing League Shenandoah Division tournament of 2015 on Smith Mountain Lake. For his victory, Middleton earned $7,199. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-21-johnson-wins-on-dale-hollow

Johnson Wins on Dale Hollow

BYRDSTOWN, Tenn. – Robby Johnson of Byrdstown, Tennessee, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 22 pounds, 7 ounces Saturday to win the first Walmart Bass Fishing League Mountain Division tournament of 2015 on Dale Hollow Lake. For his victory, Johnson earned $5,689. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-21-griffin-gets-win-on-ross-barnett

Griffin Gets Win on Ross Barnett

BRANDON, Miss. – Jason Griffin of Benton, Mississippi, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 23 pounds, 2 ounces Saturday to win the first Walmart Bass Fishing League Mississippi Division tournament of 2015 on Ross Barnett Reservoir. For his victory, Griffin earned $5,349. READ MORE »