Vatalaro victorious again at Lake Erie

Pro Vic Vatalaro of Kent, Ohio, won $10,000 cash and a new Ranger 519VS Comanche bass boat Saturday as the winner of the EverStart Series Northern Division on Lake Erie.

Ohio pro lands biggest sack of tournament, successfully defends 2001 EverStart title

PORT CLINTON, Ohio - The last time Vic Vatalaro fished Lake Erie in competition out of northern Ohio, he won the 2001 EverStart Series Northern Division tournament launched out of Sandusky. Saturday, just up the road in Port Clinton, the 34-year-old pro from Kent, Ohio, showed why that first victory was no fluke when he went out and caught the biggest stringer of this year's Northern Division tournament here to win his second EverStart Series trophy.

"I'm pretty excited," he said. "Right now I'm still in a state of shock."

So are the other nine finalists. Vatalaro crushed the rest of the Pro Division Saturday by weighing in five beautiful smallmouth for a total of 23 pounds, 7 ounces. Not only was it the heaviest sack of fish the entire tournament, it defeated second-place Robert Sherry by over 7 1/2 pounds.

Obviously, Vatalaro was on some serious fish throughout the week. He started Wednesday in third place and never looked back, even when the wind shifted to the north on Friday - which he led - and blew a lot of competitors off their fishing holes. In four days of fishing on Lake Erie, Vatalaro weighed in 20 fish for a total of 79 pounds, 7 ounces.

Surprisingly, the winner said he was in desperation mode coming into the event. Having finished a disappointing 105th place at the previous Northern Division tourney out of Michigan's Detroit River - which fishes pretty much the same water - Vatalaro had to shift gears shortly before he arrived in Port Clinton for practice. Instead of mining the usual haunts around Pelee Island just north of Port Clinton - which he fished in the Detroit River tournament - he instead turned east and zeroed in on a spot 50 miles away that he hadn't fished in years.

"I went and practiced at Pelee, but I came back in and said, `Man, the fish are just not good enough out there,'" he said. "So, in desperation, I went to the old stuff. It's a spot that hasn't gotten pounded a lot, and it's what I'd call a sleeper spot. In practice, I caught a 7-pound smallmouth there that I thought I should have put on my wall."

The spot is area an old friend of his told him about years ago. Understandably reluctant to reveal its exact location, Vatalaro described it as a half-mile-wide, horseshoe-shaped rock pile with deep edges. In the middle is a deep hole that is a veritable bronzeback mine full of the 4- and 5-pound smallmouth that filled his livewell every day this week.

Vatalaro wasn't the only EverStart angler on the spot this week, though. Semifinalist Dwayne Horton of Knoxville, Tenn., also found the hole and worked it into a 17th-place finish. But Vatalaro said it wasn't an easy spot to fish.

"The deal is, if you don't fish it right, you won't catch any fish there," he said, adding that he didn't use a drift sock at all, just his trolling motor. "These smallmouth would just pick up the bait, put it down, pick it up, and put it down again. I easily saw 10 other pros come through there and not catch anything. The thing is, you had to hold still and cast to them like you do in the South."

Vatalaro fished pretty much the same rig all week: a green tube with a 5/16-ounce jig head on 10-pound line. Despite pounding 5-foot swells and a couple lost fish, he had a 20-pound limit by 9 o'clock Saturday morning. He eventually culled out to 23-7 even after losing five more fish and breaking his landing net.

"Those rollers almost swept my rods off my deck a couple of times," he said. "I went for broke today."

He collected $10,000 and a new Ranger 519VS Comanche for the win. But which one was sweeter, the first or the second win?

"Definitely, this one," he said, "because it makes it a double."

Sherry scrambles for second

While the incessant waves were trying to wash off the deck of the winner's boat, much of the rest of the field had trouble just reaching their prime fishing spots. Sherry knew the wind and current at his location on the east side of Pelee Island was going to be a tough customer Saturday, so he opted to stay close to home. The pro from Saint Charles, Ill., ran a couple miles just to the other side of Cedar Point and caught five bass weighing 15 pounds, 13 ounces for second place. He collected $10,000.

"I knew I couldn't get out to my original fish, so I went about two miles and just went fishing," he said. "I figured I would get more fishing in than if I tried to go out in the middle."

Dobson claims third

Scott Dobson of Waterford, Mich., did, in fact, make it out to Pelee Island where he and seventh-place pro Joe Balog were sharing a hole, and every fish Dobson weighed in was a solid 3 1/2- to 5-pound smallmouth. Unfortunately for him, he only landed four of them, worth 15 pounds, 5 ounces. He finished in third place and collected $9,000.

"On the way in I tried to stop and catch a little squeaker, but it didn't happen," Dobson said. "But I'm happy with the way things went today."

Liechty gets swamped, still claims fourth

Jim Liechty of Fort Wayne, Ind., burned through two bilge pumps Saturday and ended up fishing out of a half-submerged boat for most of the rough-water day. Fortunately, he was fishing the same area as Sherry and didn't have far to go. Liechty caught five bass weighing 12 pounds, 4 ounces, finished fourth and claimed $8,000.

Also, he pointed out how fortunate he was to be in a Ranger boat.

"A 522 holds a lot of water, I can tell you, and it still floats," he said. "Whatever it holds, about half of that was in my boat today."

Mansky takes fifth with bay bass

Dan Mansky of Youngstown, Ohio, finished in fifth place with a four-bass weight of 7 pounds, 6 ounces. He collected $7,500.

"My fish didn't bite this morning, so I kind of panicked and ran the 25 miles back and caught some in the bay with a spinner bait," he said. "It was rough going out there."

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top-10 finishers in the Pro Division are Don McCulla of New Baltimore, Mich., (sixth place, $6,500) with two bass weighing 4 pounds, 7 ounces; opening-round leader Joe Balog of Independence, Ohio, (seventh, $5,500) with one bass weighing 2-15; Daniel Dyke of Clayton, Ohio, (eighth, $5,000) with one bass weighing 2-10; Mike Trombly of Perrysburg, Ohio, (ninth, $4,500) with zero bass; and Brian Hensley of Edwardsburg, Mich., (10th, $4,000) with zero bass.

Coming up

The next EverStart Series tournament is the fourth and final Northern Division contest of the season. It will be held at Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh, N.Y., Sept. 24-27.

Day-four links:

Photos
Final results
Press release
`Cooksey claims co-angler trophy at Erie'

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 »