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Homer knocks one out of the park

Homer knocks one out of the park
Co-angler Homer Stephens' jubilant reaction upon winning his first EverStart title.

ESCANABA, Mich. - Homer Stephens knows a thing or two about winning. Five years ago on the Red River, Stephens earned the Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship co-angler title. For a back-of-the-boat angler, it doesn't get any sweeter than that - or so one would think.

With a two-day total catch of 30 pounds, 7 ounces, the Noblesville, Ind., angler took home his second trophy today with an EverStart Series Northern Division win on Lake Michigan, and to hear him tell it, this victory was every bit as sweet as his championship run on the Red River.

"It's just breathtaking," said Stephens, who has a slew of FLW Outdoors top-10 finishes to his credit, including three in the last two months. "I've been after this a long time. I won the FLW championship, and I thought that was the greatest thing I could master. But when I started catching these smallmouths up here, it's addictive. All you want to do is come up here and catch these brown fish."

Indeed, Stephens has certainly established himself as a master of the bronzeback. His 13 career top-10s in FLW Outdoors tournament trails include today's win, the 10th-place finish in the previous Northern Division event on the Mississippi River and a third-place showing at the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League event on the Detroit River in early July. He's also currently seventh in Northern Division co-angler points.

Lake Michigan co-angler champion Homer Stephens poses with his trophy."I think I've been blessed," he said. "I've made a comeback. I've cried every day this week, but today I said I wasn't going to do it."

And sure enough, he didn't - on stage, at least. Stephens kept his undoubtedly swelling emotions in check as he claimed his winning prize of $5,000 cash plus a brand-new Ranger boat.

Stephens finished the two-day opening round in seventh place with a two-day total of eight bass that weighed 20 pounds, 14 ounces. He stepped it up in the final rounds, though, collecting five bass on day three that weighed 13 pounds, 14 ounces and snagging another five on the final day that weighed 16 pounds, 9 ounces.

"I was simply dragging a tube behind the boat," he said. "I had to modify the tube a little bit. I cut the tail off pretty short to get them closer on the hook."

He said his basic color was green pumpkin, with the occasional use of purple with gold flakes. His tube modification is a trick that not everyone knows about, he says - a trick much needed since the bass tended to strike a little short.

Stephens has obviously found much success from the back of the boat and says it takes close observation of the pro's methods to bring in fish as a co-angler.

"They all have a pattern," he said. "It's always wise to be throwing the same color and the same bait."

Sturgill happy with second

Co-angler Mark Sturgill took second place with a two-day total of 29-12.Finishing in the No. 2 spot on the co-angler side is yesterday's leader, Mark Sturgill of Wyandotte, Mich. He brought in four bass weighing 13 pounds, 11 ounces today to bring his two-day total to 29 pounds, 12 ounces. He earned $3,325 for his runner-up position.

"I had four bites and caught all of them," he said. "Homer is one of the toughest fishermen around. When he's behind you, you know you're in trouble."

Sturgill said the key for him this week was using very light line and, of course, fishing green-pumpkin tubes, though he modified his with rattles. His 8-pound-test line was spooled on 7 1/2-foot rods to help him get the fish in from the back of the boat.

"The back of the boat had a disadvantage because of the wind," he said. "I never felt a fish bite the whole time. But I'm blessed to be here, if it's first or last. I'm happy I got that close."

Jones hauls in day's heaviest stringer

Jim Jones zeroed on day three but rebounded on day four to take third on the co-angler side.With solid weights brought in on the co-angler side on day three, Jim Jones of Big Bend, Wis., was basically considered out of contention after bringing in a goose egg. That all changed, however, with the day's heaviest stringer in either division - 21 pounds, 4 ounces - brought in by none other than Jones on day four. The one-day weight was good enough for third place and $3,050.

Jones caught his bass today dragging an ISG Dream Tube with a 3/8-ounce weight along the bottom - the exact method of his pro partner, Gary Adkins, who finished seventh on the pro side.

"We did exactly the same thing; I just got the luckier bites," Jones said. "When you're dragging tubes, there's no advantage to be a boater or co-angler. It's the luck of the bite."

Adkins and Jones fished Washington Island today, and Jones said he knew how lucky he was to finish in third after zeroing on day three.

"After yesterday I didn't expect to take third," he said. "I just wanted to catch some fish and get a respectable finish."

Jones, Goodwin round out top five

Co-angler Scott Jones caught 18-6 over two days to end the tournament in fourth place.Coming in fourth is co-angler Scott Jones of Louisville, Ky., who brought in four bass weighing 11 pounds, 8 ounces for a two-day total of 18 pounds, 6 ounces worth $2,220.

Behind him in fifth is Dave Goodwin of Marseilles, Ill., with a two-day catch of 18 pounds, 3 ounces. Goodwin brought in 12-11 yesterday, but mustered only three bass for 5-8 today, still enough to earn him $1,720 as the fifth-place finisher.

Best of the rest

Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers on Lake Michigan:

6th: Scot Keefe of Hinesburg, Vt., six bass, 12-3, $1,620
7th: Andy Jenkins of Elkhart, Ind., two bass, 7-0, $1,520
8th: Paul Nogalski of Germantown, Wis., two bass, 5-6, $1,420
9th: Jeff Zeisner of Arva, Ontario, one bass, 1-14, $1,320
10th: Jeff Bratonia of Rapid River, Mich., one bass, 1-12, $1,220

Coming up

The next EverStart Series event is a Northeast Division contest on Lake Champlain near Plattsburgh, N.Y., Sept. 14-17.

The next Northern Division tournament will be the fourth and final event of the regular season, held on the Detroit River near Trenton, Mich., Sept. 21-24.

Tags: jennifer-simmons  co-angler-headline  2005-08-24-lake-michigan 

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