Kerr crowned champion on Havasu

Pro Justin Kerr of Simi Valley, Calif., proudly displays his first-place check and trophy at the Stren Series event on Lake Havasu.

LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. - Although he had nearly a 2-pound lead heading into today's finals on Lake Havasu, Justin Kerr knew it wasn't going to be easy to walk away with a tournament title. And he was right. Although the native of Simi Valley, Calif., turned in an impressive 12-pound, 1-ounce catch today to record a whopping four-day total weight of 53 pounds, 14 ounces, it turned out that he needed virtually every ounce to ultimately secure his very first Stren Series title. In the end, Kerr netted first place by less than a half a pound over fellow competitor Terrence Rath of Lake Havasu City, Ariz. And the victory couldn't have been sweeter. For the last four years, Kerr had qualified for five finals (a 3rd-place finish at Lake Havasu in 2004, a 4th-place finish on Havasu in 2005, a 7th-place finish at Lake Mead in 2005 and two second-place finishes on the California Delta in 2006 and 2007). However, he could never pull out the victory ... that was, until today. Pro Justin Kerr of Simi Valley, Calif., holds up his first-place check after winning the Stren Series event on Lake Havasu."I don't even know what to say," said Kerr, who walked away with a check for $25,000. "It's just been an amazing week. I've been so close before. And to finally be able to break the ice and win one of these things, I can't even describe the feeling. It's crazy. You have no idea how good this feels." But like most championship journeys, it takes a combination of skill and a little luck to finally pull out a victory. And today's contest was no exception. "I actually got really lucky today," said Kerr. "At one point, I pulled up into a little cut and was fishing a piece of wood. At first, I didn't see any fish. But then I looked again and saw one just sitting there. I was really surprised he didn't' see me and swim away." Pro Justin Kerr of Simi Valley, Calif., shows off part of his winning stringer during the Stren Series event on Lake Havasu.Kerr threw his bait at the fish and landed it. As it turned out, it was nearly a 3-pounder. "Then I realized why it didn't swim away," said Kerr. "It was blind in one eye." But as the old adage goes, you make your own luck. And that's what happened the rest of the day for Kerr. "With about 15 minutes left to go, I caught a 2 1/2-pound smallmouth and that's what won me this tournament." That, and a helpful tip from an old friend. "A good friend of mine taught me how to back-reel a few weeks ago and as it turned out, I was back-reeling all week," said Kerr. "That really helped as well." Kerr said that throughout the week he targeted bass on a combination of Pepper jigs, spinnerbaits and drop-shot/Robo worm techniques. He said that he mostly focused on shallow wood, fishing in about 2 to 3 feet of water. In the end, the 26-year-old California native didn't care if he won by 6 ounces or 20 pounds - as long as he finally got that elusive win. "This is my first major tournament win," said Kerr. "And it was a long time coming. It feels great." Rath comes up short of victory Despite a heroic effort on the final day of competition, Terrence Rath's 13-pound, 9-ounce stringer wasn't enough to overcome Kerr during final weigh-in. However, Rath said that he had few regrets. "I had an awesome week and, for the most part, everything went my way," said Rath, who recorded a four-day total of 53 pounds, 8 ounces. "At 11 a.m. I didn't have any fish in the boat. But I ran to a spot I found last week and they really bit. It just wasn't enough in the end." Rath said he threw a spinnerbait for the first three days of the tournament and the first four hours of today's competition. However, unlike the previous days, the spinnerbait came up empty in the finals. "So I decided to switch to my backup bait," said Rath. "I started dragging a 3/8-ounce football jig with a Yamamoto double-tail trailer and that worked out well for me." Although Rath didn't walk away with the grand prize, he did manage to net a nice check for $8,300 for his second-place finish. Mechanical problems on day three hinder Lee's title quest Although Robert Lee of Angels Camp, Calif., turned in a valiant effort in the finals, he wasn't able to overcome a mechanical breakdown in yesterday's competition. "As long as there was wind and clouds, I couldn't keep the smallmouth bass off of my line," said Lee, who recorded a total weight of 48 pounds, 5 ounces. "Yesterday, the conditions were perfect for me. But I had a break down and was only able to junk fish the rest of the day while I headed back to the marina. It was kind of disheartening. But overall, I had a great week. So I really can't complain." Lee, who targeted bass throwing a combination of crankbaits and jigs, ultimately walked away with nearly $7,500 in winnings for his third-place effort. Folkestad charges up the leaderboard There are few anglers more dangerous in the western United States than Mike Folkestad of Yorba Linda, Calif. And today he showed just why. Entering the final day of competition, Folkestad was in 10th place overall. However, by the time weigh-in had concluded, Folkestad had leapfrogged all the way up to fourth place on the strength of a total catch of 46 pounds, 14 ounces - leaving bass-fishing fans to wonder what might have been had he not turned in a measly 6 pounds, 3 ounces during the first day of competition. "I just love Lake Havasu," said Folkestad, who was languishing in a 68th-place tie after the first day of competition. "It's an awesome fishery. I'm seriously thinking of moving here." Folkestad said that he fished a combination of Robo worms, Folkestad Special worms and open water jigs with Yamamoto trailers to land the majority of his catch. Ultimately, Folkestad walked away with over $6,600 in winnings. "Overall, I had a really great week," he said. "I'm happy." Meanwhile, Tim Wilsterman of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., took fifth place overall with a total catch of 46 pounds, 13 ounces. Wilsterman netted $5,800 in prize money. Best of the rest Rounding out the top-10 pro finalists on Lake Havasu: 6th: Mike Phua of Chino, Calif., 46-3 7th: Gary Key of Phoenix, Ariz., 45-11 8th: Rick Francis of Cibola, Ariz., 45-6 9th: Mike Goodwin of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., 44-8 10th: Michael Rooke of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., 44-2 Wal-Mart Stren Series Western Division action resumes April 16-19 at Clear Lake in Kelseyville, Calif.

Tags: headline-story  gary-mortenson 


Morgan Maintains His Lead

One of Andy Morgan’s fishing mottos is to make the best of what you have got “in front of you” to survive and fish another day. Beaver Lake doesn’t give much. So when an angler as resourceful as Morgan gets to a lake that doesn’t give out many resources, the two work well together. Instead of worrying about hitting it out of the park or putting immense pressure on himself to come up with a grand winning strategy, Morgan just scraps, scrapes and claws at the ground right in front of him, making the best of what he’s got. Morgan’s performance on day three of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake was a prime example of his “make the best of it” attitude. After burning up the spawning fish he had located in practice during the first two days of the tournament, he was forced to fish by the seat of his pants today – something he thoroughly enjoys. READ MORE »


Gordon and Gagner Crowned TBF Champs

Two more anglers qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup today by winning the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship on Grand Lake in Grove, Okla. Shawn Gordon of Russellville, Ark., earned the TBF crown on the boater side by catching a three-day limit of 50 pounds, 2 ounces, capped by the largest limit caught today – 18 pounds, 10 ounces. Gordon earned $5,000 for his win, but more importantly, he’ll be competing against the best pros in the business in August at the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. Gordon also won the TBF “Living The Dream” package, which includes paid entry into the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour, a travel stipend, and use of a wrapped truck and Ranger bass boat. READ MORE »


Beaver Lake Day 3 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac. READ MORE »


Make Way for Morgan

“Hidden largemouths” is quickly becoming the buzz term at the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac, as those atop the leaderboard are using the term to refer to spawning largemouths that are so well hidden that other competitors never found them. These hidden fish are covered by thick brush, hidden so deep that they were only found during the very rare windows of sunshine during practice or located off the beaten path. The latter are not in obvious pockets or places where one would expect to find beds, but rather out on the main bluff channels where few ever look. On day one, Jacob Wheeler caught hidden largemouths to take the lead. On day two, former Beaver Lake champion Andy Morgan caught hidden largemouths to take over the pole position going into the weekend. His catch of 15 pounds, 7 ounces today gives Morgan a two-day total of 28-09 to take the lead by just 11 ounces. READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from Beaver Lake Day 2

At halftime of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac, the top five reads like a who’s who of Beaver Lake. Leader Andy Morgan is a former Beaver Lake champion. Behind him, Darrel Robertson has been very close to winning here with a runner-up finish in 2005. In third is 2014 Beaver Lake champion Matt Arey. Bryan Thrift, in fourth, has never won on Beaver Lake, but has led here before. And finally, fifth-place pro Stetson Blaylock knows his way around this lake pretty well, too, with a couple of top 10s. READ MORE »


Heckman Heads up TBF Championship Field

Some bass are still spawning in Grand Lake, and others are yet to make their way up to the shallows, but none of that interests Sam Heckman. Diligent commitment to his postspawn plan here Friday landed Heckman atop the boater field with 34 pounds, 3 ounces and locked up his Southwest Division win at the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship. Saturday, the top boater from each of seven TBF divisions will vie for the TBF National Championship and the “Living the Dream” package that goes with it. The package includes paid entry in the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour as a pro, a Forrest Wood Cup berth and use of a custom-wrapped truck and Ranger boat on Tour for the year, as well as a travel stipend for each event. Seven non-boaters – one from each TBF division – also will fish in tomorrow’s final round for a chance at paid entry into a Rayovac FLW Series division of choice. READ MORE »


Beaver Lake Day 2 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac. READ MORE »


Wheeler with a Slim Lead

Jacob Wheeler has a plan to win the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake this week. That plan involves primarily the largemouth species, a target weight of 14 pounds per day and a lot of fish management. Today, Wheeler surpassed his target by nearly 2 pounds with a 15-pound, 14-ounce catch that puts him in the driver’s seat at Beaver Lake, in the lead by just a scant 5 ounces over second-place pro Bryan Thrift. “Largemouths are the way to win here at Beaver Lake,” Wheeler says. “They are the fish to go the distance here, and that’s what I’m focusing on.” READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from Beaver Lake Day 1

Though there were plenty of fish caught off beds at Beaver Lake on day one of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac, the top five is rounded out by a group of anglers who relied on sight-fishing very little. Opinions on where exactly bass are in the spawning cycle at Beaver Lake vary greatly from angler to angler, but a few common denominators did come to light on day one. For starters, most agree that one major spawning cycle has already occurred. Plenty of empty beds and a lot of gaunt, postspawn fish at the scale were evidence of that. Second, there are still some bass (of all species) trying to spawn, but the ones left on beds are extremely wary. Finally, the order of difficulty to catch each species ranks as follows: smallmouth bass – extremely easy; spotted bass – not as easy; largemouth bass – extremely difficult. READ MORE »


Griffith Grabs TBF Lead

By midday, the prospects were unclear for Jon “Scooter” Griffith here in The Bass Federation National Championship on Grand Lake, but in a roundabout way it provided just the clarity he needed to dial in a pattern that helped him take the day-one lead with an 18-pound, 13-ounce limit. Griffith began his day by sight-fishing the clear water down by the Pensacola Dam. This opening move, he says, gave him some early comfort, as it matched the transparent water he’s used to fishing near his home in Mesa, Ariz. Targeting windblown points, Griffith got his early bites with reaction baits in about 4 to 8 feet of water. Unfortunately, the plan turned out to be less productive than he had expected. READ MORE »


Beaver Lake Day 1 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac. READ MORE »


TBF Championship Tips Off

The spawn is on at Grand Lake, but that’s not the only game in town. As the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship plays out for the next three days, anglers will find this northern Oklahoma impoundment abounding with lots of fishing options. Brian Maloney, the 2012 Walmart Bass Fishing League All-American champion, says he was impressed with what he found in practice. “The quality of fish on Grand is just amazing,” notes the Missouri angler. “This lake continues to put out 3- and 4-pounders, and right now there’s a variety of things we can do. “There are guys sight-fishing for spawning fish, and we’re probably looking at another wave or two of fish coming in soon. I’m sure the full moon coming up in another week or so will move them in.” Adding that the lake currently has fish in all prespawn, spawning and postspawn stages, Maloney thinks that TBF contenders will be greeted by a mix of water conditions typical for Grand this time of year. READ MORE »


Top 10 Baits from Lake Murray

Competitors in the FLW College Fishing National Championship mostly targeted bass feeding on spawning blueback herring on shallow points and main-lake pockets. Across the board, herring-imitating baits such as soft jerkbaits, swimbaits, topwaters, wake baits and umbrella rigs dominated the event. READ MORE »


Jig Bite Carries Holmes on Wateree



Bryan Slows Down for Chickamauga Win



Morfis Dominates With 34-Pound Limit

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. – Joshua Morfis of Cape Coral, Florida, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 34 pounds, 14 ounces Saturday to win the fourth Walmart Bass Fishing League Gator Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Okeechobee. For his victory, Morfis earned $6,336. READ MORE »


Salzman Cracks 31 Pounds on Guntersville



Lanter Wins on Rend Lake



Top 10 Patterns from Lake Murray

As contestants in the FLW College Fishing National Championship on Lake Murray discovered last week, fishing the blueback herring spawn can be backbreaking work. All that stooping over to grab a different rig to cast at bass busting their favorite forage, and then quickly straightening, is hard on the old spinal column. Flexing up and down is what it took to contend in the championship, however, as bass couldn’t make up their minds whether they wanted their grub served on the surface or closer to the bottom. Typically, the collegians were fan-casting Carolina rigs, umbrella rigs, hard jerkbaits and even crankbaits to likely looking points and broad flats. Sometimes they caught fish with such random prospecting, but perhaps more bass were taken when anglers found themselves within casting distance of blowups and were quick enough to grab a soft jerkbait rig or topwater lure and virtually spoon-feed it to the fish. READ MORE »


Gamecocks Win College Title