January 28, 2012 by Gary Mortenson
REDDING, Calif. - Heading into the final day of EverStart Series competition on Lake Shasta, pro K.C. Harris boasted a rather significant 4 1/2-pound lead over his next closest rival. However, in the end, Harris had to hang on for dear life, stave off a hard-charging effort from fellow California native Zack Thompson and settle for an emotionally draining 13-ounce victory.
But when all was said and done, Harris said having the opportunity to hoist the first-place trophy was worth all the anxiety, hard work and pressure that came from fishing on his home lake during the grueling three days event.
"I was very nervous heading back to weigh-in," said Harris, who managed total catch of 42 pounds, 2 ounces over three days of tourney action. "I thought after today that it was going to be pretty close and I was right. But it feels good to win. I'm just in awe right now."
Harris said he mixed up his bait selection all week, using a combination of umbrella rigs for his larger fish and soft plastics to ensure a limit each day.
"I threw the Alabama Rig with a Top Shelf swmbait the majority of the week," he said. "But I also relied on Mother's Finest worms and Senkos to fill out my limit. Basically, I just ran around catching fish on points. I also had one flat - it was about 200 yards - that was chock full of good fish. I wound up fishing anywhere from 5 to 30 feet.
"I actually found my best spot in practice. But I had no idea how good it really was until much later in the tournament," Harris continued. "This is my home lake so I'm pretty familiar with how to fish it. But overall, it was definitely a tough tournament."
Amazingly enough, Harris said he almost passed on the Shasta event entirely. But luckily for Harris, he changed his mind, registered and went to work almost immediately on procuring a tournament title.
"I just try to fish as many local tournaments here as I can," he said. "Believe it or not, I wasn't going to fish this tournament at all. But I changed my mind at the last minute. And I'm glad I did. It turned out to be a really good week."
Thompson snares runner-up title
For the third straight day, Zack Thompson of Alameda, Calif., found himself in the exact same place in the standings by the time weigh-in had concluded - firmly entrenched in second place. But while Thompson turned in a yeoman-like effort in the finals, nearly erasing a 4 1/2-pound deficit with a final day catch weighing 14 pounds, 11 ounces, he fell just a few ounces short of walking away with a tournament title.
"I had a limit early and was almost able to cull out all of my fish, but not quite," said Thompson. "And that was the difference."
Like many of the top pros, Thompson relied on an umbrella rig - specifically a Picasso umbrella rig to land the majority of his big fish. However, he also employed a 6-inch Berkley Havoc Bottom Hopper rigged with his new prototype CHT Tackle double-wacky hook.
"That hook was pretty important because when the bait balls up, you can still catch fish," he said.
Thompson also noted that the "CHT" portion of the bait name refers to his new 5-month-old daughter, Charlotte Hazel Thompson.
"She's the light of my life right now," he said. "And I'm really glad she could be here."
As far as strategy was concerned, Thompson relied on a unique stretch of the river to land most of his catch.
"I was sharing water with my travel partner (and fellow top-10 competitor) Matt Newman and it really worked out well," said Thompson. "We're basically fishing a stretch of river that had a lot of fish on it. We did a lot of hunting and pecking but the area had enough good fish to last the whole tournament."
Thompson said that despite losing out on the title by ounces, he really had few complaints.
"Overall, I had a really good week," said Thompson, who parlayed a total catch of 41 pounds, 5 ounces into $10,000 in winnings. "I fished really well and didn't lose a fish all week. It was just an unbelievable time here on Shasta."
Milligan makes a huge move in the standings
Heading into the finals, Jason Milligan of Shasta Lake, Calif., found himself in 10th place overall in the standings with plenty of work to do if he was to have any shot at a title. While it was admittedly a long-shot proposition, Milligan gave it everything he had, turning in a whopping 16-pound, 5-ounce limit on the final day to nearly complete a dramatic run at the title.
"I'm happy with third place, but it still stings a little bit," said Milligan, who recorded a total catch of 37 pounds, 7 ounces. "I had a great 5-pound kicker fish each of the first two days of the tournament, but I couldn't get any decent sized limit fish to give me a great overall total on any of those days. And that was the difference."
Although Milligan relied on Damiki BoBoss worms and Dry Creek tubes over the first two days of tournament action, he admitted that he saw the success that his fellow pros were having with the Alabama Rig - and umbrella rigs in general - and decided to switch things up on the final day.
"Today was the only day that I threw an Alabama Rig and it really came together for me," he said. "Basically I was fishing flats with small breaks, long tapering points, rock piles and shallow humps. But the key for me was the sun and understanding how the bass were positioning themselves."
In the end, after squeaking into the top 10 by a mere 8 ounces, Milligan said he had no complaints.
"It was cool to make the top 10 and finish third," said Milligan. "Overall, I had a lot of fun."
For his efforts, Milligan walked away with over $8,500 in winnings.
Newman nets fourth place
Like his travel partner Zack Thompson, Matt Newman of Agoura Hills, Calif., could not move up or down in the standings all week. As such, he completed the tournament just where he ended on the first two days of competition - in fourth place.
"I had a great week and a really good time," said Newman. "I've been coming to this lake for seven years and never caught so many fish over 3 pounds. I was fishing the Alabama Rig all week and it was a lot of fun. It was really eye-opening. And fishing with Zack was a lot of fun as well. I was pretty neat being neck and neck with your friend. For awhile there, I thought there was a good chance that we could finish the tournament one-two in the standings. But it didn't work out."
Newman, who ultimately recorded a total catch of 36 pounds, 11 ounces, took home nearly $7,700 in prize money.
Fifth place for Fancelli
Local pro Chris Fancelli of Redding, Calif., ultimately netted a top-five finish with a total catch of 34 pounds, 5 ounces.
"I had a good day and a great time," said Fancelli, who earned over $7,000 for his finish. "I really like this place. I guess that's why I live here."
Like Milligan, Fancelli saw the success other pros were having with the Alabama Rig and decided on the final day that he'd like to participate in the action as well.
"The guys were beating me up on that bait all week and today I finally decided to throw it," he said. "I had to swing for the fences so I decided to throw the A-Rig all day. It worked out pretty well but this (weight) was the best I could do."
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 pro finishers at the EverStart Lake Shasta event:
6th: Willie Church of Cottonwood, Calif., 33-6
7th: Dave Russell of Cottonwood, Calif., 31-1
8th: Kazuki Kodama of Torrance, Calif., 30-10
9th: Tony Peterson of Livermore, Calif., 28-14
10th: Aaron Cole of Salida, Calif., 26-10
EverStart Series Western Division action resumes Feb. 23-25 at Lake Havasu in Lake Havasu City, Ariz.