UPCOMING EVENT: Walmart Bass Fishing League - 2015 - Ohio River

Sweet Vic-tory

CLEVELAND - Throughout the entire week, Lake Erie did everything in its power to put its stamp on the four-day Stren Series Northest Division event. And today was no different. After wreaking havoc on the field over the first three days of competition, Lake Erie made sure to save its best for last. Not only did anglers have to battle driving rains for seven straight hours, but the top-10 finalists in Saturday's competition also tangled with a combination of 7-foot waves, high winds and even a few waterspouts. Yes, waterspouts. And like the first three days of tournament action, Lake Erie claimed yet another first-place qualifier - actually, make that two. Kevin Bishop, who was leading the Pro Division heading into today's finals with a 21-pound, 2-ounce sack, only managed three fish in today's competition, falling all the way down to seventh place by the time weigh-in had concluded. "It was tough out there," said Bishop. "We saw two waterspouts today, and one went right over our boat. But honestly, I didn't lose any fish that hurt me. I just didn't get the bites today. Overall though, I had an awesome week." Throw in the saga of day-three co-angler leader Stephen Semelsberger Jr., who carried a nearly 4-pound cushion into the finals only to wind up losing by almost 5 full pounds, and it was clear that Lake Erie was the ultimate arbitrator in today's competition - as usual. Vatalaro survives game of attrition When the rain finally settled down at about 5:30 p.m., one pro was left standing on the podium in first place - hometown favorite Vic Vatalaro of Kent, Ohio. Bolstered by a two-day catch of 38 pounds, 10 ounces, Vatalaro claimed victory as well as his third Stren Series title on Lake Erie - a remarkable accomplishment to say the least. "I never thought I'd win my second title on Lake Erie, but to win a third one, that's just out of control," said Vatalaro, who walked away with the title as well as a brand-new Ranger boat and cash and prizes totaling nearly $65,000. "It was a long, hard ride, and it was really rough out there today. The funny thing is that I almost played it safe and stayed close (to the marina). But in the end I decided to go for it. But I'll tell you, I'm really tired right now. I'm completely worn out." Like seemingly ever angler to venture out onto Lake Erie this week, Vatalaro also managed to return to weigh-in with quite a story of his own. After making a brutal, 55-mile run, Vatalaro discovered that a number of boaters from a Wal-Mart BFL tournament were holed up on his prime spot. "I thought I was in real trouble when I got there, but the guys were great and let me fish," said Vatalaro. "But even still, I only had about two hours and 15 minutes to fish because I really wanted to make sure that I got back in time." With a decent sack in the boat, Vatalaro decided that he couldn't risk staying any longer and departed. "I still didn't think I had enough to win because I figured the fish were biting for everybody. And to be honest, I was hoping to God, at that point, I had enough time to get back," said Vatalaro. "It was really rough out there until I got about 25 miles away. And then, I finally started to relax." Pro Vic Vatalaro of Kent, Ohio, used a two-day catch of 38 pounds, 10 ounces to capture the 2006 Stren Series title on Lake Erie. Vatalaro won nearly $65,000 in cash and prizes in the process.Unfortunately for Vatalaro, Lake Erie was far from done with the Ohio native. "So we get to about three miles away from the marina, and I run out of gas," he said. "Luckily, I knew I'd saved some gas in my second tank. So I switched tanks, and wouldn't you know it? We ran out of gas again with like three-quarters of a mile to go. At that point there was nothing to do but hook up my trolling motor and try to get back in. And that's what I did. I trolled all the way back in on Lake Erie. Can you believe it? And to top it off, I got back with five minutes to spare!" Vatalaro, who has now won Stren Series titles on Lake Erie in 2001, 2003 and 2006, said he targeted smallmouth bass on deep ledges near 30-foot drop-offs with a combination of Mizmo Goby imitation baits, Berkley minnows and "thin" worms. "But I think the key was fishing with light line," he said. "I was using 10-pound-test line early in the tournament and wasn't catching anything. But after I switched to 6-pound-test, I started catching them." In the end, after battling the elements and overcoming seemingly every obstacle thrown his way, it was clear that Vatalaro earned every penny of his winning check. "Like I said, it's just been an unbelievable week," he said. Balog finds bittersweet success Pro Joe Balog of Harrison Township, Mich., recorded a two-day catch of 37 pounds, 12 ounces to fish the Lake Erie event in second place.Although Joe Balog of Harrison Township, Mich., is one of the most accomplished anglers on Lake Erie, he fell short yet again in his quest for a Stren Series title on his "hometown" lake - a pattern that's been repeated more times than he'd care to remember. "This is my home lake, so I really thought I'd have a chance this time," Balog said. "I've won about 12 or 13 major tournaments on this lake. And I've finished in the top 10 at least five times at Stren Series events here. But for whatever reason, I just can't seem to close the deal." According to Balog, his plan of attack during the four-day event worked out perfectly - with one small exception. "I made about a 120-mile roundtrip today, so I was fishing far away from everyone else," said Balog, who ultimately recorded a two-day catch of 37 pounds, 12 ounces. "I had the area to myself, the fishing was good, and the weather forecast looked decent today. I really thought I could outlast the competition. And everything went as planned. But the big difference was that over the last two days, I hooked five big fish, but only managed to get two of them in the boat. And that was the difference. When you have guys like (Vatalaro) and Lefebre in the field, you can't slip up at all. And that's what I did." Balog, who fished a combination of ISG Dream tubes and Poor Boy's Drop Shot Goby baits, walked away with a check for $9,200 for his efforts - not that that lessened the pain of seeing yet another tournament title slip through his fingers. "I really thought I was going to do it this time," he said. "It really is just a game of ounces." King survives harrowing trip to net third Pro Christopher King of South Amherst, Ohio, won $8,500 after finishing in third place with a total catch of 36 pounds, 13 ounces.Although Christopher King of South Amherst, Ohio, won $8,500 after finishing in third place with a total catch of 36 pounds, 13 ounces, he seemed just as happy to be standing on dry land by the time weigh-in had concluded. "It was really tough out there," said King. "We basically ran out there, got a few bites and ran back. We probably could have stayed longer, but at the time, we didn't know if we were going to make it back. At one point I looked at my co-angler, and his eyes just kept getting bigger and bigger. I told him, `I'm really not sure if we're going to make it back.' It was scary." Lefebre feels ache of finishing fourth Pro Dave Lefebre of Union City, Pa., finished the Stren Series Lake Erie event in fourth place.Pro Dave Lefebre of Union City, Pa., said he had some deeply felt pain after finishing the tournament in fourth place. However, if truth be told, it wasn't because he'd just lost out on a tournament title. "I think every muscle in my body hurts today. My teeth even hurt," said Lefebre, of the grueling nature of traveling 150 miles roundtrip each day on Lake Erie. "It was brutal out there. I was ready to call it quits after day two. I had a triple root canal a few days ago, and I'll tell you, that didn't help either." For his pain and effort, Lefebre (35 pounds, 10 ounces) walked away with $7,550 in prize money. Hoskings fifth Meanwhile, Mike Hoskings of Dumfries, Va., finished the tournament in fifth place with a catch of 33 pounds, 7 ounces. "This is some sweet revenge," said Hoskins, who claims that Lake Erie has been the bane of his fishing existence for quite some time. "This tournament was tough, but it's been very rewarding at the same time." Hoskins, who turned in his best-ever performance on Lake Erie, was rewarded with $7,050 in prize money. Best of the rest Rounding out the top 10 pro finalists at the Lake Erie event: Pro Chris Baldwin of Lexington, N.C., netted a catch of 31-pounds, 9-ounces to capture sixth place at the Stren Series event at Lake Erie.6th: Chris Baldwin of Lexington, N.C., 31-9 7th: Kevin Bishop of Hilton, N.Y., 31-3 8th: Nate Wellman of Jenison, Mich., 29-6 9th: Kenny Holloway of Eatonton, Ga., 25-15 10th: Ben Felton of Marshall, Mich., 21-3 Coming up The next Stren Series event is a Midwest Division contest on the Mississippi River at Fort Madison, Iowa, Aug. 9-12. The next Northeast Division tournament, the third event of the 2006 season, will be held on the Potomac River in La Plata, Md., Aug. 16-19.

Tags: headline-story  gary-mortenson 

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Top 10 Patterns from Lake Erie

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Matual Masters Erie

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Webster Runs and Guns for Win

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Experience Pays for Boggs

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Jig, Crankbait Carry Gray to Victory

Brandon Gray of Bullock, North Carolina, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 14 pounds, 3 ounces Sunday to win the Walmart Bass Fishing League Piedmont Division Super Tournament on Kerr Lake with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 32 pounds, 14 ounces. For his victory, Gray earned $5,886. READ MORE »

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Hemken Searched Deep for Bigger Bites

Shawn Hemken of Walshville, Illinois, brought a five-bass limit to the scale Sunday weighing 11 pounds, 6 ounces to win the Walmart Bass Fishing League Illini Division Super Tournament on Lake Shelbyville with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 26 pounds, 1 ounce. For his victory, Hemken earned $6,882. READ MORE »

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Topwater Lifts Ragan to Top

Thadeus Ragan of West Park, Florida, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 26 pounds, 8 ounces Sunday to win the Walmart Bass Fishing League Gator Division Super Tournament on Lake Okeechobee with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 47 pounds, 10 ounces. For his victory, Ragan earned $6,922. READ MORE »

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Martinkovic Runs Away with Title

Chris Martinkovic of Hamilton, Ohio, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 12 pounds, 9 ounces Saturday to win the fourth Walmart Bass Fishing League Hoosier Division tournament on the Ohio River. For his victory, Martinkovic earned $6,244. READ MORE »

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Lake Erie Day 3 Midday Update

Lake Erie put on a different face for day three of the final Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division event. After a rough day one, yesterday’s calm and mostly sunny conditions offered comfortable running and fishing conditions. Today was still a far cry from the brutal waves of day one - and prior practice days - but windier conditions and overcast skies seemed to present a more challenging scenario. READ MORE »

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Top 5 Patterns From Lake Erie Day 2

Pennsylvania pro Dave Lefebre and Ohio pro Jared Rhode tied for the day-two lead in Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division action on Lake Erie with 43 pounds, 9 ounces. Both pros caught their fish on drop-shots. Here are the details of the rest of the top five. READ MORE »

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Lefebre, Rhode Tied at the Top

Notching his second day of 20-plus pounds, FLW Tour pro Dave Lefebre tallied 43 pounds, 9 ounces and tied day-one leader Jared Rhode for the day-two top spot at the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division event on Lake Erie. Lefebre caught his 22-3 limit on Rapala DT-10 crankbaits, while Rhodes tempted his 19-15 catch with drop-shots. READ MORE »

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Lake Erie Day 2 Midday Update

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Rhode Cracks 23-10 for Erie Lead

Jared Rhode played his cards and the gamble paid off better than expected, as the pro from Port Clinton, Ohio, took the day-one lead at the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division event on Lake Erie with a limit catch weighing 23 pounds, 10 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-27-top-5-patterns-from-lake-erie-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Lake Erie Day 1

Taking off this morning, the FLW Tour pro from Erie, Pa., knew the day’s north wind would keep him from making a long run to a big-fish spot close to his home. However, keeping it local and fishing a little past Pelee Island to the west delivered a solid second-place catch. READ MORE »

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Lake Erie Day 1 Midday Report

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/news/2015-08-25-top-10-patterns-from-the-forrest-wood-cup

Top 10 Patterns from the Forrest Wood Cup

If you don’t believe that summertime bass fishing in the dog days of August is all over the map, just take a look at the top 10 patterns from the best bass pros on earth at the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. Brad Knight captured the Cup by mining one small creek end for four days. But beyond that, the rest of the top 10 patterns ran the gamut, from targeting schoolers over 40 feet to wolf packs of bass on the bank to brush piles to grass to mud flats and everywhere in between. Here’s a rundown. READ MORE »

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Knight Slays Ouachita

Lancing, Tenn., pro Brad Knight won the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart on Lake Ouachita with a four-day total of 51 pounds, 12 ounces. In front of a standing-room-only crowd at Bank of the Ozarks Arena in Hot Springs, Ark., Knight weighed in 11-07 on day four to surpass Jacob Wheeler, who started the day with a 12-ounce lead. Fishing in just one area all four days, Knight locked up the first win of his FLW career. He earned $500,000 for his victory and pushed his career earnings total to more than $688,000. READ MORE »

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Forrest Wood Cup Day 4 Coverage

Daily updates from the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-22-wheeler-back-in-front

Wheeler Back in Front

Jacob Wheeler loves Lake Ouachita. It’s where he fished his first Forrest Wood Cup in 2011, and it’s where he’ll take the tournament lead into the final day of competition at the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart and hosted by Visit Hot Springs and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. Wheeler, the 2011 Cup champion, led this tournament on day one and slipped a couple spots on day two. He now has a very slim 12-ounce lead over Tennessean Brad Knight. The anglers will square off tomorrow on Ouachita starting at 7 a.m. against the rest of the top 10 pros for the top prize of $500,000. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-22-top-5-patterns-from-the-cup-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from the Cup Day 3

Jacob Wheeler may have regained his lead in the Forrest Wood Cup on day three, but Brad Knight is right on his heels. Going into the final day, the two pros are separated by just 12 ounces. The margin is tight, and what’s going to make the final day fun to watch is the difference in the two anglers’ strategies. Wheeler is running a topwater pattern on the main lake, and fishing new water is part of his plan. Knight, however, has caught almost all of his weight from one 250-yard stretch of bass-rich creek channel. He literally knows every target he is fishing by heart. On the surface, Knight’s area looks to be the better bet. But he has shared the general area with Brandon Cobb and Mark Daniels Jr. for three solid days. And the bad news, at least for Knight, is that both Cobb and Daniels will be sharing the water with him again on the final day as both made the top-10 cut. READ MORE »