March 1, 2003 by Rob Newell
Bass-fishing world take note: Tony Christian has arrived. Today Christian furthered his reputation as a big-bass expert when he laid a five-bass limit of 19 pounds, 11 ounces on the scales to win the EverStart event on Lake Martin.
Christian has been red hot on the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League circuits, and now he is taking the EverStart Series Eastern Division by storm. In 2002, Christian won five BFL events including the regional on Lake Gaston.
The EverStart rookie finished seventh at Lake Okeechobee in January, and now has claimed his first EverStart title in just his second tournament on the trail.
His secret: an uncanny ability to catch big bass.
Christian won the big-bass honors at Okeechobee with a 9-pound, 7-ounce bass.
At Martin he caught a 6-pound, 6-ounce bass on day one; a 4-pound bass on day two; and a 5-pound, 12-ounce fish on day three. Today, he brought in two Lake Martin giants in the 6-pound class.
Christian is from the small town of Hull, Ga., near Athens. He owns a construction business and started tournament fishing five years ago.
"I was a co-angler just a couple of years ago," said Christian. "I fished the BFL last year, and now I am fishing EverStarts. If things keep going good, I'd like to have a crack at the big boys on the FLW Tour. But I am not going to starve myself to death to do this. If things work out, great."
Christian attributes his success to forcing himself to learn fishing techniques, even ones he does not like. "I work hard at learning every technique," he said. "Even if I don't like it, I'll force myself to do it and catch fish with it, mainly because I want to understand what the fish like about that technique."
At Lake Martin, Christian fished a Rapala Shad Rap (#7) in a perch color and a 3/8-ounce jig teamed with a Zoom Swimming Chunk (black/blue) to catch his fish. The bigger fish came on the jig.
Christian fished in Britt Creek all week. He located some submerged laydowns and trees out in about 6 to 8 feet of water. "This stuff was completely under the water," he explained. "I think most of the shallow stuff up on the bank had been beat to a pulp and these trees were out deeper."
Including his $3,000 Ranger Cup bonus and his Garmin Grand Giveaway incentive, Christian took home $14,000 cash and a certificate for a Ranger Boat.
Local takes second
Wayne Waldrop of Alexander City, Ala., fished Martin's deep water for spotted bass all week to make his way into the finals and finish second with a catch of 12 pounds, 9 ounces.
Waldrop focused on deep water brushpiles and deep drops in 20 to 30 feet of water to catch his chunky spots. He used a Texas-rigged black grape Zoom finesse worm with 1/4-ounces weight on 12-pound-test line.
"I had a good limit by 9 a.m.," he said. "I probably should have tried to catch some big largemouth, but fishing deep for spots is my strength on this lake, so I stuck with it all day. Besides, I really wanted my co-angler to catch some."
Another local takes third
Ted Caldwell of Alexander City, Ala., rose to the occasion and came from 10th to finish third with four fish that weighed 11 pounds, 6 ounces. Caldwell used X-wire spinner baits and Davis jigs all week.
He estimates that he was fishing about 40 to 50 places per day. Most of the places were points, brushpiles and docks. "I would fish the points and docks with the jig and throw the spinner bait around the brush," Caldwell said. "I fished from Pleasure Point all the way down to Kowliga Creek."
Johnny Crase of Lexington, Ky., brought in another bag of spotted bass today that weighed 9 pounds, 11 ounces to finish fourth. Crase said he drop-shotted all week on Martin's deeper waters to catch his spots."
David Dudley of Manteo, N.C., finished fifth with 9 pounds, 4 ounces.
Carpenter back on top
Tommy Carpenter of Senoia, Ga., won the Co-angler Division with the day's only co-angler limit of 8 pounds, 2 ounces.
Carpenter lead the event after the first two days, dropped to fourth yesterday and went out on top today. His back-deck secret this week was a green pumpkin Zoom Dead Ringer Texas-rigged with a 3/16-ounce sinker and 8-pound-test line.
Carpenter took home $5,000 for his co-angler win.
Rest of the best
Land O' Lakes co-angler Judy Israel worked a tube and an Awesome crankbait to finish second with 6 pounds, 5 ounces. "This was a satisfying finish because I caught my biggest fish, about a 3-pounder, by flipping, which is a technique I don't prefer to do," she said. "But I am getting better at it."
Bobby Scharber of Pulaski, Tenn., finished third with 5 pounds, 7 ounces.
David Holland of Loganville, Ga., took fourth with 4 pounds, 11 ounces.
Sean Stepp of Dumfries, Va., ended up fifth with 4 pounds, 2 ounces.
A different kind of pain
All anglers know the pain of losing a big fish. But today co-angler Donnie Simms of Talladega, Ala., experienced a different kind of pain - a kidney stone. He had a kidney stone "drop" at about 9 a.m. this morning and was writhing in pain.
Pro Ted Caldwell could not stand to see his co-angler in such agony and called tournament director Chris Jones and told him he was bringing Sims in. Jones arranged to have an observer go back out with Caldwell, and Sims later passed his stone.
Needless to say, Sims did not catch a fish today, but at least he had a good excuse.