June 4, 2005 by Jeff Schroeder
HENDERSON, N.C. - Pro golf has its "Tiger Slam." Now pro fishing has what you could call a "Powers Slam." Craig Powers of Rockwood, Tenn., became the first pro bass angler ever to win consecutive EverStart Series tournaments when he caught yet another limit Saturday and claimed victory in the Northeast Division opener at Kerr Lake.
Powers caught five bass on the final day at Kerr that weighed a collective 11 pounds, 15 ounces, pushed his two-day total to 27-14 and won $10,000 plus a new Ranger boat. It was the second time in just two weeks that he has collected that bounty, since he also won the EverStart Southeast Division closer at West Point Lake on May 21.
Powers not only becomes the first pro to win consecutive tournaments, he will go down in the books as the first champion of the new Northeast Division. The only comparable feat that immediately comes to mind was the run made by Rick Clunn on the Wal-Mart FLW Tour in 2000 when he finished first-second-first in consecutive events.
"I'm going to go out and eat with my family in a little bit, and I'm going to hold onto this feeling as long as I can," Powers said Saturday afternoon. "Because it doesn't get any better than this."
But it wasn't just that he pulled off the Powers Slam, it was how he did it that was impressive. Powers won by a mere 3 ounces over a charging Chris Baldwin on the final day. In one of the most thrilling weigh-ins on record, Baldwin amassed the day's second-heaviest limit - 14 pounds, 10 ounces - and looked to be in position for his first big win. But he trailed Powers, the day-three leader, by 2-14 coming into the day. That proved to be the difference; Powers' limit of 11-15 weighed just 2-11 less than Baldwin's.
"As happy as I am to win this, I hate it for Chris because I know how much he's going through right now," said Powers, himself a past runner-up on the FLW Tour. "I'm very lucky to be standing where I am right now."
That could be the understatement of the week. Powers lost two fish that almost cost him victory Saturday. Near the end of the day, a big 5-pounder came off on his Pop-R topwater bait, then he proceeded to lose another 3 1/2-pounder on a crankbait shortly afterward. To hear him tell it, he thought he'd lost right there.
"He had the whole plug in his mouth," he said of the lost crankbait fish, "but I don't think he was hooked at all. Man, I'll tell you what, I was cussing after that."
Powers fished the same way Saturday that he had all week long: mainly throwing a Pop-R around shallow bushes in pockets. It was a departure from what almost everybody else was doing, which was targeting bass feeding on shad on points. Conditions changed somewhat today, however, when the clouds thinned, the wind died and the temperature rose, so Powers also managed to catch one of his keepers on a jig.
"When the fish are in the bushes, it's just the way I like to fish," he said. "It's the same way I caught them at West Point. It was great for me here because the fish on the bank had zero pressure on them. I spent all my time on the trolling motor not far from where we took off (at Satterwhite Point). There's just a ton of fish in the bushes right now."
With today's catch, Powers also caught his eighth consecutive five-bass limit in eight days of fishing on the EverStart Series, going back to West Point. His winning limit today at Kerr - 11 pounds, 15 ounces - was the smallest one over that amazing stretch.
"These guys I fished with this week, just to be in the top 10 with these guys, that's a great compliment," he said. "Win, lose or draw, I'm just happy to be here."
For the record, Powers has exactly 30 FLW Outdoors top-10 finishes, including 13 of them spread out across the EverStart Series and seven on the FLW Tour. He also has one FLW victory (Red River, 2001) in addition to his two recent EverStart wins.
Baldwin a bridesmaid again
Baldwin just can't catch a break. The pro from Lexington, N.C., finished with an impressive 27 pounds, 11 ounces and collected $10,000 for second place.
But it was second place - again. A heavyweight on the Wal-Mart BFL with 25 top-10s to his name, Baldwin has finished second at the All-American twice (1998 and 1999). To make matters worse, he finished second in BFL Piedmont Division competition right here at Kerr Lake just two weeks ago.
"I came in second at the BFL, and I think that made a difference and helped me do well here this week," he said, obviously a little dejected. "This second place can only help me do well at the next one."
Still, this week was by no means a loss for Baldwin. Each day, he started throwing a topwater, then would switch over to a fluke when conditions changed during the day. The pattern almost worked to perfection.
"By the time we made the cut, we pretty much went out and had any spot that we wanted to fish," he said. "I've caught so many fish this week that my hands hurt."
Thomas surges for third
Catching the heaviest pro limit of the day was Jeffrey Thomas of Broadway, N.C., a Kerr Lake standout and rising star on tour. He caught 15 pounds even Saturday, finished with a final total of 26-15 and took third place. He earned $9,000.
"Yeah, I'm pretty pleased," he said. "I picked up the big stick and went to find me some dirty water. It was the only way I knew how to beat C.P. (Powers)."
He landed 17 keepers in his dirty water and, like many at Kerr this week, found himself stricken with a case of raw hands - in a good way.
"My hands were so sore from catching fish, I couldn't even tie a knot," he said.
Day-one pro leader Pete Gluszek of Franklinville, N.J., finished in the fourth slot and collected $8,000. He caught a limit weighing 12 pounds, 14 ounces Saturday, but it wasn't enough for victory as his total settled on 26-5.
"Obviously, I'm a little disappointed because I thought I had my chances," he said, indicating that he caught his fish Saturday on a Gambler Super Stud soft-plastic jerkbait. "On day one, on more than one occasion, there were schools - and I mean schools - of 5-pounders busting on the herring (shad). What a thrill. I'm certainly going to be coming back here next May and June."
Chris Daves of Hopewell, Va., son of Bassmaster Classic champion Woo Daves, finished in the fifth position in the Pro Division with a final-round weight of 21 pounds, 4 ounces. He earned $7,500.
"Today, I did lose two good ones, and that probably cost me," he said. "But to lose only two fish over four days of fishing is a pretty good week."
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 Pro Division finishers at Kerr Lake:
6th: Brian Wilhoit of Oxon Hill, Md., nine bass, 20-1, $6,500
7th: Rodney Sorrell of Stokesdale, N.C., eight bass, 18-1, $5,500
8th: Bob Plemmons of Kernersville, N.C., six bass, 12-10, $5,000
9th: Jack Gadlage of Benton, Ky., six bass, 12-4, $4,500
10th: Brent Brannon of Cumming, Ga., five bass, 9-2, $4,000
The next EverStart Series event is a Central Division contest at Kentucky Lake near Benton, Ky., June 15-18.
The next Northeast Division tournament will be held on Lake Erie at Cleveland, Ohio, July 27-30.