September 27, 2008 by Gary Mortenson
NATCHITOCHES, La. - After landing a monstrous day-three stringer weighing 19 pounds, 14 ounces, Ricky Fuqua of Effie, La., knew he was in the driver's seat heading into the final day of competition. By the same token, Fuqua also knew that a 2 1/2-pound lead on the fickle Red River was hardly enough cushion to feel too comfortable.
In the end, Fuqua apparently decided that it would be far less stressful to simply turn in another big bag and blow away the competition - which is exactly what he did. Bolstered by the second-largest stringer of the day at 9 pounds, 9 ounces, Fuqua easily outdistanced his closest competitor, winning his first-ever Stren Series Texas Division title in the process by nearly 3 full pounds.
"It really hasn't sunk in yet," said Fuqua of his victory. "But it feels good. It feels really good. Catching a sack like I did yesterday was just incredible. This win tops them all."
After treading water in 27th place after Thursday's competition, Fuqua went back to his bread-and-butter spot - a 50-yard area that he knew historically held some pretty large bass. It was there that the beginnings of a championship started to unfold.
"I fished that spot for the last three days and never left," said Fuqua. "I knew that sooner or later my fish were going to turn on. I just got lucky and caught that large sack yesterday."
Specifically, Fuqua said he was targeting bass in shallow water on wood, stumps and lay-down logs. The Louisiana native said that he was swimming a black 3/8-ounce jig with a black craw-worm trailer on 20-pound Berkley Fireline.
Heading back to today's weigh-in, Fuqua had an idea that he just might pull off his first-ever Stren Series victory.
"I knew I'd be close," said Fuqua, who ultimately recorded a four-day weight of 44 pounds, 15 ounces. "I knew (at worst) it was going to come down to a couple of ounces."
In the end Fuqua need not have worried as he cruised to a victory. However, what made Fuqua's accomplishment even more amazing was the fact that the Louisiana native was fishing in the very first Stren Series event of his career.
"When I heard there was going to be a tournament here I decided to sign up," said Fuqua. "I know this river pretty well. I've been fishing it for lots of years, and I know where the big fish are. I just had a really good week."
So did everyone else around him.
"I had good partners every day," said Fuqua. "And my co-angler partner won first place as well. We all had a good trip."
Scott climbs leaderboard on final day
Heading into the finals, Ricky D. Scott of Van Buren, Ark., was in fifth place. However, by the time weigh-in had concluded, Scott had parlayed the largest stringer of the day (a 10-pound, 12-ounce sack) into a second-place finish and nearly $10,500 in prize money.
"It's been a real good week," said Scott, who recorded a four-day weight of 42 pounds, 1 ounce. "I lost one big fish today after not having lost a fish all week. But overall, I feel pretty good."
Scott said he fished a 4-inch Berkley Power Hawg in a watermelon color as well as the occasional swim jig, targeting bushes, stump fields, lay-downs and rocks.
Scott's second-place finish also represents the second time he's finished in the runner-up position at a Stren Series event on the Red River.
"I really wanted to win," said Scott, who took second place back in 2002. "But I guess I came up short again."
Lasyone grabs third
Kevin Lasyone of Dry Prong, La., finished the Red River event in third place with a total catch of 41 pounds, 6 ounces.
"I've done really well this week," said Lasyone. "I basically fished two spots all week, and I was fortunate enough to catch a limit every day. I didn't lose a fish all week. So overall I feel really blessed."
Lasyone said he targeted bass with a 10-inch Berkley Power Worm with 17-pound fluorocarbon line.
In the end, Lasyone took home nearly $10,000 in prize money for his efforts.
Curtis nets fourth place
Using a total catch of 38 pounds, 1 ounce, veteran pro David Curtis of Trinity, Texas, finished in fourth place, capturing nearly $4,400 in the process.
"This tournament exceeded all of my expectations that I had coming in here," said Curtis. "My goal was to catch enough fish to (qualify) for the Stren Series Championship. So I'm just tickled that I was able to make the top 10."
Curtis said he landed the majority of his catch fishing a Norman shallow-running crankbait and a Texas-rigged Zoom Brush Hog.
Johnston gets a surprise, grabs fifth
Stephen Johnston of Hemphill, Texas, finished in fifth place after netting a total catch of 36 pounds, 11 ounces. However, that news seemed to pale in comparison to the phone call he got coming off the water after today's competition.
"I got to the boat ramp this afternoon, and I already had 14 calls on my cell phone," said Johnston. "I thought something was wrong at first. But as it turns out, it was my son telling me that he caught over 30 pounds in a Bass `N Bucks tournament on Sam Rayburn. Maybe he should be guiding instead of me."
Johnston, who doubles as a professional fishing guide when he's not at tournaments, said that overall he had a good time at the Red River event.
"I did everything I could," said Johnston. "It's just been a great week and a great year for me."
Indeed it has. Not only did Johnston walk away with more than $3,800 in prize money from the Red River event, but he also landed his third top-10 performance of the year in the Stren Series Texas Division - a remarkable accomplishment in its own right.
Heading into this year's Stren Series Championship, Johnston now boast an eighth-place Stren Series finish at Falcon Lake (January), a third-place finish at Sam Rayburn (February) and a fifth-place finish on the Red River.
Rounding out the top 10 pro finishers at the Stren Series Texas Division event:
6th: Chris McCall of Jasper, Texas, 30-12
7th: Tim Reneau of Del Rio, Texas, 35-11
8th: Bud Pruitt of Houston, Texas, 35-3
9th: Robert Robinson of Mobile, Ala., 34-10
10th: Robert Kenyon of Cordova, Tenn., 33-14
Next up on the schedule for Texas Division anglers is the $1 million Stren Series Championship, slated for Table Rock Lake in Branson, Mo., Nov. 5-8.