August 12, 2006 by Brett Carlson
FORT MADISON, Iowa - Post-front conditions on day four of the Stren Series Midwest Division event on the Mississippi River left the door cracked open for a spectacular come-from-behind victory. Mother Nature's curveball was David Junk's gain as the local pro seized the opportunity and sacked up 14-3 to win his first pro-level bass tournament.
On a day when weights were down considerably, the Quincy, Ill., resident registered the heaviest limit of the day and squeezed by the nine remaining pros in nail-biting fashion. Along with two Wal-Mart BFL wins, Junk now possesses three victories in his angling career. But he said this one was by far the sweetest.
"I knew I had enough to make it interesting," said Junk. "I knew I had a shot if somebody stumbled. What an awesome place to do it, being only an hour from home."
Only half of the top-10 pros registered five-bass limits Saturday. Several accomplished anglers stumbled, in particular the frog fishermen. They were still getting the bites, but the change in weather made the fish extremely picky. Several pros reported bass blowing up their baits, but not eating them entirely. That can make for a frustrating day when this much money is at stake.
Junk never had to worry about the frog bite. He caught his bass throughout the week junk fishing, no pun intended.
"I figured that would be a fitting style of fishing since it is my last name and all."
He fished deep, shallow and everywhere in between, throwing nearly everything in his tackle box. His key baits were a white and chartreuse Fat Free Shad crankbait, a homemade spinnerbait and a black and blue Crawpappy. At one point, his co-angler counted 16 rods on the deck of his boat.
In preparation for this event, Junk fished a few local tournaments on the river. That added knowledge and experience made a big difference in his success. While he was fishing in Pool 19 near the city of Montrose, Iowa, he caught most of his keepers in one little area off a laydown and a piece of driftwood.
The biggest fish of his stringer weighed roughly 5 pounds and was a true testament to perseverance. The kicker bit the Crawpappy with about 20 minutes left in the day and anchored his two-day total of 10 bass weighing 26 pounds, 4 ounces.
"It was awesome and I can't wait to do it again," Junk added. "I set my goal for at least 15 pounds everyday."
At 6:30 Saturday morning, Junk departed Captain Kirk's Marina as boat No. 6. The seemingly implausible task ahead of him was never a deterrent.
"I knew I had a strong enough pattern to hold fish through the entirety of the event but I just had to go fishing and catch them, that was my biggest worry."
For eliminating 143 Stren Series pros, Junk earned a check worth $8,600, and a fully rigged 519VX Ranger Comanche bass boat.
Mr. Consistency takes second
Pro Bill Walker, who caught at least 13 pounds in each of the prior three days, had his 13-pound streak end on day four. Walker still caught the second-heaviest limit of the day, and finished only 6 ounces behind the winner. His limit Saturday weighed 12 pounds, 6 ounces and gave him a final-round total of 25 pounds, 14 ounces. His second-place finish earned him a check for $8,600.
"I had the fish on to do it," said Walker. "I missed one, a solid 4-pounder that I couldn't get out of the pads."
Throughout the week, the Mulkeytown, Ill., pro flipped a 5-inch, green-pumpkin Tiki Stick to catch his fish.
Rose slips to third
Mark Rose of Marion, Ark., caught 10 pounds, 15 ounces, tallied a final weight of 24-12 and finished third for the pros earning a $8,100 check. Rose was the only angler locking into Pool 20. Each day he ran 20 miles south to an area that had a good mix of both smallmouth and largemouth bass. Plus, he had the spot completely to himself all four days of the tournament.
"I didn't have the smallmouth bite today," Rose said. "My partner got the 4-pound smallmouth early this morning. Like I said yesterday, I'm not disappointed at all. Post-front conditions can be really tough and the sun really hurt me."
Up until Saturday, Rose was enjoying a near flawless tournament. He was fishing rock piles on the edge of the current and had the perfect setup to work his 1/4-ounce spinnerbait. Rose also used a little green-pumpkin worm to finesse the smallmouths.
"You knew right where the fish were positioned."
Morgenthaler needed one more
Chad Morgenthaler, a pro from Coulterville, Ill., brought 10-10 to the scale Saturday even though he only had four keepers. Had he boated one more, he could have taken the title away from Junk. As it is, Morgenthaler finished in fourth place with a final weight of 23-6 and collected $7,400.
"I had the fifth one stuck five times," he said. "They'd jump over the bait, knock it around but they wouldn't eat it. I had to have all five of the key bites."
Morgenthaler used a black and white Reactions Innovations Shark to catch his bass.
Day-three leader William Davis experienced the same problems as Morgenthaler. Despite receiving numerous topwater blowups, Davis only caught four bass on day four that weighed 8 pounds, 8 ounces. His final-round total registered at 22 pounds, 14 ounces, but he claimed the tiebreaker over sixth-place pro Nathan Huss. According to the FLW rulebook, ties on days three and day four are resolved by day-two standings.
"I had the fifth fish stuck and I had about five more bites," the Russellville, Ala., pro explained. "Usually if they miss it, I can come back with a different bait and make them bite."
Davis' topwater bait of choice was the Zoom Horny Toad. The two other baits in his arsenal were a spinnerbait and a 12-inch worm.
His consolation prize is not only a $6,900 check but also a likely berth in the $1 million Stren Series Championship in his backyard on Wheeler Lake. Heading into the final qualifying event on the Detroit River, Davis will have a two-point lead over pro Jim Jones in the Midwest Division Angler of the Year race.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pro finalists in the Stren Series Midwest Division event on the Mississippi River:
6th: Nathan Huss of Elkhart Lake, Wis., 22-14, $5,900
7th: Wesley Strader of Spring City, Tenn., 20-0, $4,900
8th: Gary Colassessano of Indianapolis, Ind., 18-15, $4,400
9th: Jason Leuenberger of La Crosse, Wis., 17-9, $3,900
10th: Bobby McMullin of Pevely, Mo., 15-14, $3,400
The next Stren Series event is a Northeast Division contest on the Potomac River in La Plata, Md., Aug. 16-19.
The next Midwest Division event is scheduled for the Detroit River near Trenton, Mich., Sept. 6-9.