February 18, 2006 by Rob Newell
LAGRANGE, Ga. - Coming into the Stren Series Southeast Division event at West Point Lake, Terry Tucker's enthusiasm level for tournament bass fishing was beginning to wane.
The veteran tournament angler from Gadsden, Ala., has been hard at it for two decades without a major-league win, and he was beginning to wonder if such a victory was even in his future.
That all changed today when Tucker brought in a day-four catch of 10 pounds, 13 ounces to finally clench a Stren Series victory - and in dominating fashion to boot. As it turned out, Tucker's two-day total of 25 pounds, 12 ounces gave him more than 10 pounds to spare over second place.
"I needed this, I really needed this," he said after the win. "Seriously, the last few months I'd been having some serious thoughts about hanging this fishing gig up for a while, mainly because it just wasn't fun anymore - it had lost its zip."
Indeed, Tucker filled his tank full of zip today after putting a win on his resume and collecting $64,000 in cash and prizes, including a fully rigged Ranger boat.
"I'm ready to go to Pickwick now (on the FLW Tour)," a smiling Tucker said. "This puts me back in the saddle, and I'm ready to ride again."
All week Tucker fished a big area located in Yellow Jacket Creek. The area consisted of a large, shallow flat that had a small 1- to 3-foot ditch meandering through it. The edge of the ditch was sweetened with stumps, stickups and other scattered pieces of cover.
"They are basically residential fish that live back there all year long," Tucker said. "When the water is low and cold like this, they are forced to relate to that ditch."
Tucker relied on a Davis flat-sided crankbait, a 1/2-ounce Bite-A-Bait spinnerbait and a homemade jig featuring a Prowler Pro chunk trailer to fish the isolated objects along the ditch's edge.
He fished the crankbait on 14-pound-test line with a 7-foot Kistler crankbait rod. The jig was tied to 20-pound-test line on a 7-foot, 6-inch Kistler extra-heavy-action flipping stick.
Tucker alternated between the crankbait, jig and spinnerbait as he fished through the flat.
Now that he has won on West Point Lake, the champion has suddenly grown fond of the lake.
"I used to hate West Point - now I love this place," he added.
Ott Defoe of Dandridge, Tenn., rallied into second place today with a five-bass limit weighing 9 pounds, 7 ounces for a two-day total of 15 pounds, 1 ounce worth $10,000.
Defoe stumbled across a mother lode of bass in Yellow Jacket Creek on day two of the tournament when he caught 21 pounds on a Rat-L-Trap.
"I caught those fish on Thursday in about a 300-yard stretch that featured three flat, shallow points," he said. "That's where I spent the rest of the tournament, but the fish seemed to have moved out a little deeper today and I had to go to a No. 7 Shad Rap to catch them."
Patrick Hailstones of Cincinnati finished third with a two-day total 14 pounds, 10 ounces and collected $9,000.
He fished most of the week in the middle portion of the lake throwing Shad Raps, Rat-L-Traps and square-billed crankbaits in 3 to 5 feet of water.
Today he gambled on one place up the river that paid off, allowing him to weigh in one of only three limits posted in the Pro Division.
"I feel really good about how I fished this week," Hailstones said. "I had a good area, I made good decisions, and I caught everything that bit me - no sob stories here. I made the best of what I had."
Kevin Stowers of Gainesville, Ga., rallied to fourth place today with a two-day total of 12 pounds, 12 ounces thanks in large part to a 7-pound kicker.
Stowers was one of the few anglers that figured out a deep bite on West Point this week and made it work.
"I had one place in about 30 feet of water that produced a lot of my fish," Stowers said. "It was too windy to stay on it today, but that's where my big one came from."
Stowers reported catching his fish on a 1/4-ounce Swarming Hornet finesse jig.
Stowers' finish was worth $8,000.
Artie Phillips of Monroe, N.C., finished fifth with a two-day total of 12 pounds, 12 ounces worth $7,500.
Phillips caught most of his fish this week on a Lucky Craft Pointer jerkbait.
"I was fishing red clay points with rocks," he said. "I had to have wind; no wind meant no fish. I was fishing the jerkabit extremely slow, almost like a worm.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros in the Stren Series Southeast event on West Point Lake:
6th: Charles Pearson of Auburn, Ala., with a two-day total of 11-9, $6,500
7th: Timothy Little of Acworth, Ga., with a two-day total of 11-2, $5,500
8th: Barry Isbell of Trussville, Ala., with a two-day total of 10-10, $5,000
9th: Greg Barwick of East Dublin, Ga., with a two-day total of 6-14, $4,500
10th: Jason Knapp of Uniontown, Pa., with a two-day total of 6-11, $4,000
The next Stren Southeast event takes place March 15-18 on Lake Eufaula in Eufaula, Ala., while the next event to take place in the Stren Series overall will be Feb. 22-25 when the Central Division visits Lake Amistad in Del Rio, Texas.