Todd by a tiebreaker

Ben Todd of Pierson, Fla., wins the EverStart Series event on Lake Okeechobee by a tiebreaker.

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. - When your very first fish of a three-day tournament is 9-pounder, it could be fortune. When your very last fish of that three-day tournament is another 9-pounder, it could be fate. But when you win that same three-day tournament by a tiebreaker, someone from above is looking out for you. That's exactly how the week went for EverStart rookie pro Ben Todd of Pierson, Fla. His first fish of the tournament on Thursday was 9-pounder. Then late this afternoon, with a small limit in his box and just minutes left in the fishing day, Todd hooked and landed another 9-pounder and won the EverStart Series event on Lake Okeechobee by a tiebreaker. Todd's total weight - 59 pounds, 3 ounces - was the exact total weight of runner-up Trevor Fitzgerald who mounted a gallant charge for the title with an impressive 25-pound-10 ounce catch today. But since Todd was ahead of Fitzgerald going into the final day, Todd got the winning hardware and the $40,000 check to go with it. "You see that right there," Todd said, seconds after his weight stopped at 16-3, the exact weight he needed to win. "That was not me. The Lord did that...not me." Indeed it was a magical week for the 32-year old Todd who works on his family's farm in Pierson. It started with a 31-7 limit on day one. Then waned to an 11-9 limit on day two. And then surged again with the magic digits 16-3 today, thanks to the tournament winning 9-pounder. Todd found his winning area late on Tuesday afternoon.Here "I made one quick pass down through there, had 10 bites and shook them all off," he said. "But I saw two of them as I was shaking them off and they were big. I did not return to the area until Thursday morning. My first fish of the day was 9-pounder and that kind of set the tone for the day as I kept catching big ones." Todd's key stretch included a line of reeds "in the middle" around the J&S area, which was protected from the predominant east wind that occurred throughout the event. "I was not fishing the very outside reeds," Todd detailed. "And I was not fishing all the way inside near the bank, either. This area had a line of reeds going down through the middle. The whole area was maybe three acres in size. And it's not like the fish were bunched up in a tiny spot. I caught them all the way down this line of reeds that ran north and south." Todd's key lures were a Gambler Fat Ace and a Tightlines UV UVenko. The Fat Ace was in a river bug color and the UVenko was in black and blue. He rigged the lures Texas-style with a 5/0 Gamakatsu flipping hook and topped them with 3/8-tungsten weights on 50-pound test PowerPro braid. Ben Todd"The fish were spawning around the reeds," he explained. "I couldn't see the beds and I couldn't see the fish, but I could just tell by how they were set up, they had made beds around those reeds. I'd pitch the bait in-between and around the reeds and just let it fall into where I thought a bed would be. I'd start the day with the Gambler Fat Ace and then when things got slow or I was re-fishing some of my stretches, I'd switch to the UVenko to give them a different look. I think that UV technology really gives the lure a different appearance in the water - something they've never seen before." "Today it was all the UVenko," he added. "I caught small fish early, but late in the day all the boats disappeared and things got calm and quiet and I got that indescribable feeling that maybe another big female or two was moving up. I kept looking at my watch...30 minutes left...20 minutes left...10 minutes left and then that big one bit. When I got her in the boat I knew I had a shot at winning." Fitzgerald charges hard, finishes second Trevor Fitzgerald of Belleview, Fla., treated the EverStart crowd to a special show at the final weigh-in, wowing them with an eye-popping 25-pound, 10 ounce limit of Big O bass. Fitzgerald's massive bag of bass allowed him to challenge Todd for the win, rocketing him from 7th to within a breath of victory. But in the end he had to accept the runner-up spot after Todd won by a tie-breaker, pocketing $15,000. Trevor Fitzgerald wowed the crowd with a massive 25-pound, 10-ounce catch. "It's tough to swallow," Fitzgerald said graciously. "And even tougher, considering I had 4-ounce dead fish penalty yesterday that cost me the win. I hook a fish in the tongue and usually when that happens, they expire. It was still a good week and hats off to Ben. He's a good guy and he earned it." Fitzgerald spent most of his week running the south end of the lake pitching main lake reed clumps with a big jig in search of a wave of females that had just moved in to spawn. "I had a spot I'd stop on first everyday just to get a limit," Fitzgerald said. "It was a rattle trap spot where I could catch 15 or 20 keepers pretty quick, get a limit in the box and then go hunting. I felt like if I stayed on the move and kept sampling different reed clumps, I'd eventually run into a little wad of Trevor Fitzgeraldbig ones and that's exactly what happened today. I stopped on a place where there had just been two-pounders all week and I caught four big females there that, in my opinion, had literally just moved in with the new moon last night." Fitzgerald's heavy artillery was a 1-ounce Gambler Jigzilla trailed with a Gambler MegaDaddy and tied to 80-pound Sunline FX braid. His flipping stick was his namesake 7-foot, 10-inch Fitzgerald Rods custom Big Jig/Mat Flipping stick. "One key, I think, was speed," Fitzgerald detailed. "I wasn't fishing slowly. I was making as many pitches and drops with the jig as possible, covering water. I'd drop it in once, shake it and then it was onto the next target. I was really in search mode. Once I got a big bite, then I would slow down." McMillan third Brandon McMillan of Clewiston, Fla., ended the week in third place with a three-day total of 56 pounds, 3 ounces worth $10,000. `Big Mac' (a nickname coined by McMillan's sponsor, Lionel Botha, owner of Halo rods) is usually considered a committed mat puncher but this week he sampled the big jig bite as well.Brandon McMillan of Clewiston, Fla., ended the week in third place with a three-day total of 56 pounds, 3 ounces worth $10,000. "The risk in committing to mat punching is that there is a lot of wasted time moving from one mat to another," McMillan explained. "A lot of times I kick the trolling motor on high and have to troll 30 or 40 yards to the next mat without fishing and that's a lot of down time. If the mat bite is really strong, I don't mind that kind of down time. But if the mat bite is so-so, it adds up to a lot of lost fishing time." "So I purposely stayed in water that offered a mix of both punching mats and pitching a jig to reeds," he continued. "That way, as I moved from one mat to another, I could pitch reed clumps in between with the jig. And I ended up catching a few bonus fish from the reeds, so it worked out well." McMillan's lures of choice included a Gambler B.B. Cricket and a Zoom Z-Hog on a 1-1/2-ounce tungsten for punching and a ¾-ounce 4X4 jig for pitching to reeds. Malone fourth Paul Malone of Pleasant Valley, Iowa, finished fourth with a three-day total of 55 pounds, 8 ounces worth $9,300. Paul Malone of Pleasant Valley, Iowa, finished fourth with a three-day total of 55 pounds, 8 ounces worth $9,300. Malone spent most of his week in the Monkey Box alternating between pitching reeds with a jig and punching mats. "I did catch some key fish out of the mats, but each day most of my fish came from the reeds," Malone said. "I feel like the fish were staging under the mats and spawning around the reeds and I'd kind of bounce back and forth depending on the time of day." His jig fishing was done with the 1-ounce Medlock's Double-Guard jig trailed with a big chunk and his punching was done with a beaver on a 1-1/2-ounce tungsten with a Trokar hook. Both were tied to 70-pound Daiwa Samurai braid. Brill fifth Chris Brill of Lehigh Acres, Fla., finished fifth with a three-day total of 48 pounds, 4 ounces for $8,000. Chris Brill of Lehigh Acres, Fla., finished fifth with a three-day total of 48 pounds, 4 ounces for $8,000. Brill spent the first two days of his week in Pelican Bay. On day one he casted a Gambler EZ Swimmer in McMillan's Magic and a 3/8-ounce 4X4 swimjig (black/blue) also trailed with the same EZ Swimmer. "I'd cover water casting the EZ Swimmer until I got a bite or two, then I would slow down and fish a little more thoroughly with the swimjig," Brill explained. "On day two, a lot of fishing pressure came into the area, so I switched up to pitching a 1-ounce 4X4 jig into water lettuce mats." "Today I stayed up near J&S and went back to casting the EZ Swimmer and the swimjig," he added. Rest of the best Rounding out the top-10 pros in the EverStart Series event on Lake Okeechobee: 6th: Casey Martin of New Market, Ala., three-day total of 46-4, $7,000 7th: Kyle Monti of Okeechobee, Fla., three-day total of 46-2, $6,000 8th: Brandon Medlock of Lake Placid, Fla., three-day total of 45-9, $5,000 9th: Preston Clark of Eagle Lake, Fla., three-day total of 44-15, $4,000 10th: Keith Fels of Ocala, Fla., three-day total of 36-2, $3,000

Tags: headline-story 

/news/2015-04-19-top-10-patterns-from-lake-murray

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 »

/news/2015-04-18-gamecocks-win-college-title

Gamecocks Win College Title

READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-18-gamecocks-win-national-title

Gamecocks Win National Title

READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-18-hallman-prevails-on-grand

Hallman Prevails On Grand

READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-18-lake-murray-midday-update-day-3

Lake Murray Midday Update Day 3

READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-17-top-5-patterns-from-grand-lake-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Grand Lake Day 2

READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-17-college-championship-race-tightens

College Championship Race Tightens

READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-17-hallman-out-front

Hallman Out Front

Spawning bite continues to produce for the anglers in the Rayovac FLW Series event on Grand Lake. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-17-lake-murray-midday-update-day-2

Lake Murray Midday Update Day 2

The air temperature reached a high of 53 degrees here yesterday, which tied a record for the coolest high temperature for that date. Apparently, the short-lived cold snap also had a chilling effect on the fishing at Lake Murray this morning, as several competitors in the FLW College Fishing National Championship presented by Lowrance Insight Genesis College Cup reported meager results. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-16-liberty-leads-college-championship

Liberty Leads College Championship

A 22-pound, 2-ounce stringer anchored by a 7-pound, 9-ounce largemouth boosted Liberty University’s Travis Rulle and Caleb Eppler into the opening-round lead of the FLW College Fishing National Championship presented by Lowrance Insight Genesis College Cup here on Lake Murray. Rulle and Eppler were the last anglers to weigh in on day one, and their five-fish limit gave them a lead of more than 3 pounds ahead of Eastern Kentucky University veterans Kyler Raymer and Ethan Snyder, who had 18-15. The surprise team of the tournament so far is Colorado Mesa University’s Josh Worth and Kennedy Kinkade, who brought in 18-10 despite never having fished east of the Mississippi River before. Worth and Kinkade are in third place, followed by Cade Laufenberg and Wyatt Stout of Winona State University, and Benn Curry and Tim Ward of Auburn University, both teams with 17-8. Lamar University’s Cameron Lafleur and Justin Royal in 10th place set the cut mark at 16-8. The entire field will fish again tomorrow, and only the top 10 based on two-day cumulative weight will fish in Saturday’s final round. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-16-castledine-stands-tall-on-grand

Castledine Stands Tall On Grand

Day one of the Rayovac FLW Series presented by Power-Pole on Grand Lake produced stunning weights. With “thousands” of bass on the beds, the pros brought in a total of exactly 2,240 pounds and it took 16 pounds to make the top 60. Rising above the crowd was Nacogdoches, Texas, pro Todd Castledine, renowned for his prowess in Texas, the sight-fishing master cracked 23 pounds, 13 ounces and leads second-place pro Jonathan Henry by 1 pound, 6 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-16-top-5-patterns-from-grand-lake-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Grand Lake Day 1

The first day of the Rayovac FLW Series Central Division tournament was all about the sight-bite – from day-one leader Todd Castledine on down. The event, presented by Power-Pole and hosted by the Grand Lake Association, undoubtedly featured other patterns, but every angler who did well relied in large part on bedding bass. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-16-lake-murray-midday-update-day-1

Lake Murray Midday Update Day 1

With precipitation ranging from an incessant mist to torrential downpours sweeping the area throughout the morning, the odds favored a slow start to the FLW College Fishing National Championship being presented by the Lowrance Insight Genesis College Cup here on Lake Murray. As it turns out, however, the bass apparently liked the extra water and reacted accordingly. A number of the teams that found prime spawning areas for blueback herring in practice earlier this week returned on day one and were rewarded with limit catches of largemouths and spots by midmorning. Among them was the local favorite, the University of South Carolina, which reportedly had culled up to about 13 pounds by 11 a.m. Likewise, the Oregon State University was sitting on about 15 pounds and had culled five times. Tanner Masters and Wyatt Ryan of East Central University (of Oklahoma) caught their limit fishing seawalls and riprapped banks during the sporadic herring spawns that fired up as soon as boats reached their first fishing destinations. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-11-hanselman-wins-back-to-back

Hanselman Wins Back-to-Back

Once you get Ray Hanselman going, just get out of his way. The Del Rio, Texas, pro is riding an incredible high right now after sewing up his second consecutive Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division win. Hanselman won the opener on Lake Amistad in February, then backed it up this week with a win on Sam Rayburn Reservoir in an event presented by Mercury. For his final-day limit, Hanselman plowed deep into Rayburn’s flooded cover to track down a five-bass limit worth 16 pounds, 10 ounces, raising his three-day total to 60-08 for a win by more than 7 pounds. For his efforts, Hanselman earned a cool $35,815 check and another trophy to add to his mantle. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-11-white-takes-bragging-rights-on-kentucky-lake-

White Takes Bragging Rights on Kentucky Lake

GILBERTSVILLE, Ky. – Joe White of Princeton, Kentucky, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 23 pounds, 15 ounces Saturday to win the second Walmart Bass Fishing League LBL Division tournament of 2015 on Kentucky and Barkley lakes. For his victory, White earned $5,014. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-11-taylor-targets-bluebacks-for-hartwell-win

Taylor Targets Bluebacks for Hartwell Win

ANDERSON, S.C. – Brock Taylor of Pendleton, South Carolina, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 21 pounds, 1 ounce Saturday to win the third Walmart Bass Fishing League Savannah River Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Hartwell. For his victory, Taylor earned $4,830. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-11-chenoweth-wins-on-kerr

Chenoweth Wins on Kerr

HENDERSON, N.C. – Rick Chenoweth of Fredericksburg, Virginia, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 17 pounds, 8 ounces Saturday to win the first Walmart Bass Fishing League Piedmont Division tournament of 2015 on Kerr Lake. For his victory, Chenoweth earned $5,241. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-11-rayburn-day-3-midday-update

Rayburn Day 3 Midday Update

A chilly morning greeted the top 10 pros and co-anglers for the final day of Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division competition on Sam Rayburn Reservoir presented by Mercury, but a warm sunrise filtered by scattered clouds bespoke the gorgeous conditions forthcoming. Winds have dropped off to barely a breeze, main-lake running is easy, and the coves and creeks where most anglers are fishing are glassy smooth. Fish surely pulled tighter to cover with the sunny conditions, but that probably makes little difference, as the majority of anglers have been flipping close to trees and into dense buck brush since day one. The heavy, tangled spots with vines seem to be the prime targets again today. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-11-hansen-holds-lake-of-the-ozarks-title

Hansen Holds Lake of the Ozarks Title

OSAGE BEACH, Mo. – Brian Hansen of Fenton, Missouri, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 18 pounds, 7 ounces Saturday to win the second Walmart Bass Fishing League Ozark Division tournament of 2015 on Lake of the Ozarks. For his victory, Hansen earned $4,507. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-11-frog-carries-lowery-to-victory

Frog Carries Lowery to Victory

ALEXANDER CITY, Ala. – David Lowery of Phenix City, Alabama, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 14 pounds, 8 ounces Saturday to win the second Walmart Bass Fishing League Bama Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Martin. For his victory, Lowery earned $4,385. READ MORE »