Slam-dunk

GALLATIN, Tenn. - All week long, top-tier tour veterans with already well-stocked trophy cases dominated the leaderboard at a tough-fishing Old Hickory Lake. But in the end, it was a 44-year-old concrete contractor from Celina, Ohio, who barely qualified for this week's tournament taking home the 2003 EverStart Series Championship trophy.

Dick Shaffer won Saturday's final round with an astonishing five-bass total weighing 14 pounds, 8 ounces, crushing the rest of the pro finalists. He collected $25,000 in cash plus a new Ranger boat for his efforts.

"It feels great," he said. "I wasn't expecting anything like this. Somebody was definitely looking out for me this week. Whether it was Connie or whoever, somebody was looking out for me."

"Connie" is Connie Stakely, the wife of EverStart Series tournament director Jerry Stakely who passed away the day before the championship began. This week's tournament was dedicated to her and the Stakely family.

And it was a memorable event. A tough bass bite stymied the pros all week long on Old Hickory. The Nashville-area lake receives a lot of fishing pressure and, combined with the unpredictable fall fishing patterns, it proved difficult to catch sacks weighing in the double digits. A mere 12 pounds, 3 ounces by Michigan's Art Ferguson led on day one, and Texan Jim Tutt's 16-12 sack on day two turned out to be the heaviest one-day catch of the tournament. Tony Christian of Hull, Ga., led day three with just a three-bass catch of 10-11.

With the field pared down to just 10 pros for the final round, few expected many limits, much less a limit weighing 14 1/2 pounds. But Shaffer pulled off just that Saturday after three days prior where he failed to catch more than 10 pounds, but he caught enough to make the cuts.

"I just had a great day today," he said. "It was a beautiful day to go fishing."

The winner caught his limit using a 3/8-ounce black-and-blue rattleback jig with a blue Zoom Superchunk trailer. He pitched the jig around laydown logs and focused mainly on water less than 4 feet deep. His winning fishing spot? Well, Shaffer's not saying, but he did admit that it was "out on the main lake" and that he "fished pretty much the same area all week."

Wherever it was, the location was key for Shaffer Saturday. Interestingly, he found the spot by doing some reconnaissance at the Wal-Mart BFL Regional that was held here two weeks ago. After zeroing the first two days of that tournament, he followed the leader the third day out to the spot that would ultimately give him the EverStart Series Championship trophy.

He had to work for it, though. Shaffer has five BFL tournament victories to his name, but has only sniffed at an EverStart final round once before when he finished 10th in the championship last year. He just barely qualified for this year's championship by finishing 38th in the Central Division standings.

In today's finals, he had a limit by late morning - one of only two caught on the day - but it was the 4-pound kicker he caught around noon that may have made all the difference. Shaffer beat the always-dangerous Christian by just over 3 pounds.

"It kept entering my mind," Shaffer said about the prospect of winning his first EverStart tourney at the championship. "But I just didn't let it affect me."

Christian's double whammy defeated

Shaffer's 14 pounds surprised no one else more than Christian. His bid to become the first person ever to win both the BFL All-American and the EverStart Championship in the same season seemed a good bet when he came off the water Saturday - that is, until Shaffer weighed in his fifth fish and Christian came up just one short.

Christian caught four bass weighing 11 pounds, 3 ounces and collected $20,000 for second place.

"I had a good finish. I had a good weight for the last day," he said. "On a lake like this, a good bag like that is usually a winning bag. I lost one (bass) at the end that got hung up in a tree, but I thought I still had it. I thought it was no big deal. I mean, I already had 11 pounds."

Christian caught the bulk of his fish on docks using a 3/8-ounce root-beer jig with a green-pumpkin swimming chunk trailer.

"I was keying on docks all week," he said. "Especially when the sun came up, those fish needed a place to hide."

For a while, it looked like the "Big-Fish Magician" from Georgia who romped through the BFL Savannah River Division into the EverStart Eastern Division over the last year and a half was ready to put on another show, especially when he heaved another one of his signature lunkers on the scale Saturday. But, he ultimately needed that fifth fish.

"I couldn't quite pull that rabbit out of the hat this time," he said.

He did, however, win an extra $10,000 for being the highest-placing Ranger Cup finisher of the championship. He also won the Shop-Vac High Performance award for notching the heaviest total weight over the first three days, which was 24 pounds, 1 ounce.

Lefebre third

Dave Lefebre of Erie, Pa., has contended for FLW and EverStart titles throughout the 2003 season, but he couldn't quite win one. He came up short again this week by finishing third and collected $15,000 with four bass weighing 8 pounds, 1 ounce.

"You don't know just how bad I wanted this one," he said. "It was a tough day for me, but I thought I had a chance. It's not bad, though, for the last tournament of the year. Man, (Shaffer's) 14 pounds is stout. At least that's better than losing by a couple of ounces, which has happened to me before."

Eakins, Vatalaro round out top five

Nixa, Missouri's Troy Eakins finished fourth and collected $12,500 by catching the only other limit of the day on his namesake Eakins jig. His five bass, however, were of the smallish variety and weighed a total 7 pounds, 10 ounces.

"I'm tickled to death," he said. "I just came up a little short."

Vic Vatalaro of Erie, Pa., took fifth and collected $10,000 for his two-bass effort weighing 5 pounds, 11 ounces Saturday.

"I was using a Mann's Minus-1 crankbait and fishing across the outside of a flat," he said. "But we needed more wind today."

Rest of the best

Rounding out the rest of the top 10 pro finishers at the 2003 EverStart Championship are Tommy Dillon of Manhattan, Kan., with two bass weighing 3 pounds, 5 ounces (sixth place, $9,000); Scott Sills of Dahlonega, Ga., with two bass weighing 2-7 (seventh, $8,000); Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., with two bass weighing 2-0 (eighth, $7,000); Kevin Vida of Clare, Mich., with one bass weighing 1-6 (ninth, $6,000); Clifford Pirch of Payson, Ariz., with no bass (10th, $5,000).

- Dedicated to the memory of Connie Stakely

Tags: headline-story  jeff-schroeder 

/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 »

/news/2015-03-20-top-5-patterns-from-guntersville-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Guntersville Day 2

The second day of the Rayovac FLW Series Southeast Division tournament on Lake Guntersville proved as remarkable as the first – or perhaps better, considering today’s parade of big fish included a 12-pound, 10-ounce behemoth caught by fourth-place pro Trevor Fitzgerald for the day’s Big Bass prize. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-20-hall-holds-steady-for-lead

Hall Holds Steady For Lead

Joe Hall of Lake City, Minn. wasn’t confident about his chances going onto the second day of competition of the Rayovac FLW Series Southeast Division event on Lake Guntersville. Nonetheless, he held steady with a 27-pound, 5-ounce catch that only barely fell short of the 28-1 he weighed on the first day. With a two-day total of 55 pounds, 6 ounces, Hall holds a 1-pound, 12-ounce lead over Cameron Gautney going into the final day of the Mercury presented tournament. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-20-missouri-anglers-lead-college-open

Missouri Anglers Lead College Open

Andrew Nordbye and Adam Almohtadi of Northwest Missouri State University of Maryville, Mo., took the lead in the opening round of the FLW College Fishing Open on Kentucky Lake with 25 pounds, 2 ounces. Heading into Saturday’s second and final round, the University of Kentucky’s Ryan Collins and Hunter Fulcher sit in second place with 22-14, while Ethan Flack and Konnor Kennedy of the University of Alabama are currently third with 22-9. Details to follow. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-20-day-1-patterns-from-the-college-open

Day 1 Patterns from the College Open

The Northwest Missouri State University team of Andrew Nordbye and Adam Almontadi took the day-one lead in the FLW College Fishing Open on Kentucky Lake. While their pattern seems to be effectively refined – they were using only one lure and had no others out on the deck – Nordbye and Almontadi don’t have this one sewed up yet. The rest of the top five is just a few pounds behind the leaders. Here’s how they made it into contention going into the final day. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-20-gautney-under-pressure

Gautney Under Pressure

Day two of the Rayovac FLW Series Southeast Division event on Guntersville is just as misty and nasty as the first. Lucky for us, the first day of the Mercury-presented event featured huge catches throughout the field. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-20-college-open-day-1-midday-update

College Open Day 1 Midday Update

“You should have been here yesterday” might have been the motto for the first day of fishing in the FLW College Fishing Open on Kentucky Lake. Though many of the 194 teams entered in the two-day event out of Moor’s Resort & Marina reported good to excellent practices, many of the same anglers were complaining about a lack of fish on opening morning of the competition. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-19-gautney-cranks-up-the-lead

Gautney Cranks Up The Lead

Gautney says he keyed on staging fish in several very specific locations and one specific depth. He and co-angler Antoni Bicy caught 59 pounds, 8 ounces off of his spots, and he seems confident about his ability to keep catching them the rest of the event. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-19-top-5-patterns-from-guntersville-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Guntersville Day 1

The first day of the Rayovac FLW Series event on Lake Guntersville was a welcome departure from the grumblings of practice. Though fans weren’t treated to multiple 30-pound limits on the pro side, like at the Walmart Bass Fishing League event at Guntersville a couple of weekends ago, it still took more than 25 pounds to get into the top five on day one of this Mercury-presented tournament. READ MORE »