October 1, 2011
MARBURY, Md. - Heading into the 2011 EverStart Series Potomac River event, Bryan
Schmitt of Deale, Md., didn't have quite the same vibe he had a year earlier when he scored a relatively easy victory on the Potomac. For starters, he was battling a severe cold all week. Secondly, he had a horrible practice. And finally, the weather conditions that anglers faced all week were as difficult as they come.
However, in the end none of that mattered. When all was said and done, Schmitt once again was able to hoist the first-place trophy as he pulled off one of the greatest victories of his career.
"I'm just in awe right now. I'm speechless," said Schmitt, who parlayed a total three-day catch of 47 pounds, 14 ounces into a $30,000 payday as well as a brand new, fully equipped Ranger boat. "This is even better than my other wins here. Last year I had the best practice I had in a long time and the whole tournament felt very easy for me. But this year, I had one of the worst practices I can remember. The conditions changed every day and I felt sick the entire time, so I really felt like I was going to have to be very lucky to win this. But in the end, everything worked out. I'm just so thankful."
Throughout the week, Schmitt targeted a key grass flat that was populated by plenty of rival boaters.
"I was fishing this massive grass flat that had probably a quarter mile of grass coming off the bank. Most of the other guys were fishing shallow but I was more comfortable fishing a little bit deeper because I thought the fish were more stable," said Schmitt. "I was throwing a combination of a black-and-blue homemade jig and a black-and-blue Z-Man Chatterbait. That area worked really well for me until today."
While he was able to out-maneuver the field and key in on better locations within that flat, today his fish dried up. As a result, Schmitt made a fateful decision that would change the complexion of the final outcome.
"At 10 a.m. I only had two little fish in the boat and I realized, `It ain't happening,'" he said. "So I moved to my backup area - a little area in the back of a creek where I was able to catch fish when the tide was low. I knew there was fish there but the conditions weren't right to fish it all week. But today, the north wind was blowing and it pushed the water out of that area and made the fish a lot easier to locate. And that spot was the key for me today. If I don't make that move, I probably don't win the tournament."
In the end, Schmitt said that he couldn't have asked for anything more.
"I really don't know what to say," Schmitt added. "I want to thank my friends and family. I love everybody. I'm just really happy right now."
Johnston nets runner-up finish
Although Cory Johnston of Peterborough, Ontario, didn't win the event, he said he had few complaints about finishing second.
"It was a heck of a tournament and I couldn't have lost to a better guy," said Johnston. "I lost one big fish and that would have helped me, but what are you going to do? That's just fishing."
Johnston, who turned in a total catch of 45 pounds, 12 ounces, said that he targeted fish with a Spro Poppin' topwater frog throughout the three-day event.
"I threw that frog all day," said Johnston, who battled some intense winds throughout the afternoon. "I pulled into my first spot and there were 2-foot rollers and the water was chocolate milk. I turned to my partner and said, `This isn't going to work, we have to find clean water.' So we went to another spot and my partner caught a 3-pounder right off the bat. Then I caught a 4-pounder. We moved again and found some clean water. And with only about 10 minutes left, I caught about five or six more fish. If we'd had another hour, I think I could have won the tournament on that spot."
In the end, Johnston said he was satisfied with the results.
"All in all it was a fantastic tournament," he said. "Anytime you get to fish on the Potomac River is awesome. It's always a nice break to come down here."
For his efforts, Johnston walked away with over $10,000 in winnings.
McDonald snares third place
Bolstered by a total catch of 42 pounds, 7 ounces, Mike McDonald of Randleman, N.C., finished in third place overall - the same place in the standings he resided after the first day of competition.
"It's been a really good week," said McDonald. "I really thought I could win this tournament, but I just didn't get any big bites today. I probably caught between 40 and 50 keepers all week so I don't have any complaints. I had a really good time."
McDonald said that he flipped a Dave's Tournament Tackle jig and fished a Mann's 1-Minus crankbait - targeting wood and select piers - to land the majority of his catch.
"It was a tough day out there," he said. "It was really windy, the tide was extremely low and I even got stranded," he said. "I caught 16 keepers today, just no big ones. Overall though, it was tough fishing for everybody."
In the end, McDonald walked away with $8,800 in winnings.
Lefebre makes late entrance
Although Dave Lefebre of Union City, Pa., had the least amount of practice time of anyone, the Kellogg's team pro still managed to eek out a fourth-place finish with a total catch of 41 pounds, 5 ounces.
"I actually called (tournament director Ron Lappin) the day before the tournament to see if there was a spot for me," said Lefebre. "And I didn't even get here until 4:30 p.m. the day of the registration meeting so I only had a few hours of practice time. I had mechanical problems and I actually slipped on the boat ramp, wiped out and thought I broken my elbow. It's been a trying week to say the least. So I'm pretty happy with where I finished."
Lefebre said that he keyed on a rocks in 2 feet of water or less with a vibrating jig to land the majority of his catch.
"I also caught a really good fish on a Rapala crankbait yesterday. I was hoping to use it today, but a catfish ate it and I only had one to start with."
"It was definitely an interesting week for me," Lefebre continued. "But the Potomac is always a great place to fish. In the end, I had a great tournament. I'm pretty pleased."
Lefebre netted nearly $8,000 in winnings.
Meanwhile, Mickey Pettry of Manassas, Va., used a catch of 39 pounds, 4 ounces to finish in fifth place and net over $7,000 in winnings.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 pro finalists:
6th: Lance Vick of Mineola, Texas, 39-3
7th: Mike Hoskings of Spotsylvania, Va., 38-9
8th: Frank Ippoliti of Mercersburg, Pa., 36-12
9th: Edwin Jackson of Marshall, Va., 36-3
10th: Rob Webster of Janetville, Ontario, 34-8
EverStart action resumes during the 2011 EverStart Series Championship, slated for Kentucky Lake in Buchanan, Tenn., Oct. 27-30.