Ritter reigns supreme on Mississippi River

RED WING, Minn. - Jeff Ritter of Prairie du Chien, Wis., had a simple goal heading into the $250,000 Northern Division event on the Mississippi River: to beat his highest-ever EverStart Series finish - 14th place - which, interestingly, came on the same waterway in 2002. Heading into the final day of competition, it was clear that Ritter was well on his way to achieving that goal. However, what transpired for Ritter during the final weigh-in turned out to be nothing short of a dream come true. After hauling in a two-day total of 23 pounds, 1 ounce, Ritter outpaced rival and fellow FLW Tour pro Dave Lefebre by nearly 3 pounds to capture the first EverStart title of his career. Not surprisingly, Ritter was nearly at a loss for words after realizing that he had won it all. "It's awesome. I don't know what to say," said the victorious angler, who was nearly overcome by emotion after his family poured onto the stage to congratulate him. "It's really indescribable. I'm a shaking mess right now, but it feels great." However, his victory was far from easy. "I caught a 2-pound fish right off the bat, but then I went nearly three hours without getting another bite," said Ritter, who fished the area of the Mississippi primarily below the Wabasha Bridge. "I was starting to really get nervous. But at about 10:30 a.m., I got three quick bites in a row and got back on track." To his credit, Ritter never deviated from his overall fishing strategy all week, despite enduring conditions that would make most veteran anglers hang up their rods for good. In fact, over the four days of competition, temperatures fluctuated from a high of 96 degrees to a low of 56. To make matters worse, pouring rains, high winds and severe waves over the first three days of competition finally gave way to a high-pressure system that served up its own curveball during the finals: bluebird skies, a light breeze and searing temperatures. But through it all, Ritter persevered. "I used the same technique all week, swimming a jig through the grass," said Ritter. "The key was fishing the green grass. The water dropped on me a little bit, but it really didn't affect my fish. They stayed pretty shallow the whole time. You could literally see the water move when the fished moved; that's how shallow they were." So what kind of jig wound up winning Ritter the biggest prize of his career? "It was a homemade jig," he said. "I really don't have a name for it yet. Maybe I should start thinking about one?" Once again, Ritter zigged when others zagged. While most anglers were using a combination of smallmouth and largemouth bass, Ritter decided that he would only target the largemouth bass in an effort to maximize his catch weight. "All of my fish were largemouth bass," Ritter said. "I didn't catch a smallmouth all week." With $10,000 in cash, a fully rigged Ranger boat valued at $40,000 and his first EverStart title of his career, it was clear that Ritter had had one of the best weeks of his career. "This is by far the biggest win," he said. "Hopefully, it won't be my last." Second tourney title on Mississippi barely eludes Lefebre After winning the EverStart Northern Division tournament title on the Mississippi River in 2002, pro Dave Lefebre proved yet again that he still has the Mississippi magic, turning in an impressive two-day catch of 20 pounds, 7 ounces, to grab second place overall. After winning the EverStart Northern Division tournament title on the Mississippi River in 2002, Lefebre proved yet again that he still has the Mississippi magic, turning in an impressive two-day catch of 20 pounds, 7 ounces, to grab second place overall. But with back-to-back stellar performances on the Mississippi River and $10,000 in prize money to add to his growing bank account, Lefebre said there was still room left for some good old-fashioned frustration to set in. "It's disappointing," said Lefebre, who hails from Erie, Pa. "I really thought I had this tournament won. I gambled today and I thought it was going to pay off. But I came up a little short." Fishing a Kimami Flash Senko-style bait, Lefebre said that he targeted bass in shallow water for most of the tournament. "I was fishing super, super shallow," said Lefebre. "I was targeting bass under little pieces of duckweed. But I honestly don't think I caught a fish in any water deeper than 1 foot." With strict DNR requirements that forced anglers to immediately decide whether to keep a fish or not - per state regulations, once a fish is in the livewell, it can't be exchanged for another larger fish later on - Lefebre was forced to make some tough decisions. "Heading into the finals, I was only going to keep a fish if it was over 16 inches," he said. "But then I started thinking how the recent high-pressure system was going to keep catch weights low. So I decided to gamble everything and not throw back any fish today. I really thought my gamble paid off. I really did. I guess I was wrong." Baumgardner nets third place Pro Chris Baumgardner of Gastonia, N.C., used a total two-day catch of 18 pounds, 7 ounces, to win $9,000. Chris Baumgardner of Gastonia, N.C., used a total two-day catch of 18 pounds, 7 ounces to win $9,000. However, had it not been for the sunshine, Baumgardner just might have pulled out a victory. "I caught all of my (four) fish in the first hour, but then the sun came out and everything just shut down," he said. "I never could quite get that fifth fish." Mike Feldermann of Galena, Ill., finished the tournament in fourth place after landing a total catch of 17 pounds, 12 ounces. Unfortunately for Feldermann, he met a fate similar to Baumgardner. Pro Mike Feldermann of Galena, Ill., finished the tournament in fourth place after landing a total catch of 17 pounds, 12 ounces."I was catching fish on a buzzbait all week. But then the sun came out today and the bite was just dead." Feldermann, who targeted "weeds and lily pads" most of the week, said he was generally happy with his performance despite the tough going in the finals. "Overall, I had a good tournament," said Feldermann, who pocketed $8,000 in winnings. "I had a lot of fun." Aaron LaRocque of Wabasha, Minn., took home fifth place and a check for $7,500 after landing a two-day total of 14 pounds, 4 ounces. "The day started out slow right away," said LaRocque. "The water started to drop and the sun came out and I started to realize I was in trouble. I was really hoping for rain." Best of the rest Pro Wesley Strader of Spring City, Tenn., finished seventh with a catch of 10 pounds, 3 ounces.Rounding out the top 10 pro finalists are Bob Izumi (sixth) of Milton, Ontario, with a two-day catch of 14 pounds; Wesley Strader (seventh) of Spring City, Tenn., with a catch of 10 pounds, 3 ounces; Douglas Stanton (eighth) of Winona, Minn., with a catch of 8 pounds, 14 ounces; Pete Gluszek (ninth) of Franklinville, N.J., with a catch of 7 pounds, 10 ounces; and Bill Chapman (10th) of Salt Rock, W. Va., with a catch of 7 pounds. EverStart Series Northern Division action resumes July 21 on the Detroit River in Trenton, Mich.

Tags: headline-story  gary-mortenson 

/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-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/2015-03-27-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 »