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Toughing it out

Toughing it out
Weather prevented him from reaching his primary objective, but local favorite David Kromm still caught enough to win a decisive victory.

TRI-CITIES, Wash. - We've all heard what the tough do when the going gets tough, but for FLW Series National Guard Western Division finalists, a bumpy day on the Columbia River meant the tough would have their hands full.

The final round capped three days of calm, sunny weather with chilly, rainy, windy conditions that blocked access to key spots, pushed around fish and fishermen, and just made things downright frustrating.

Nevertheless, everyone played on the same wet field, and for some, the combination of skill, good First place pro David Kromm, along with FLW Outdoors president and CEO Charlie Evans and Director of Angler Management Aaron Hall received the Commanderdecisions and luck turned out to be a potent formula. None saw this more than top pro David Kromm, who began the last day in first place with a 3-pound, 3-ounce lead and ended with a commanding 4-pound, 2-ounce margin of victory.

The local pro hailing from Kennewick, Wash., compiled a 3-day weight of 44 pounds, 13 ounces and bolstered that score with 10-15 in the final round. His tournament total of 55-12 earned him a $100,000 payday along with the impressive FLW Series trophy and a truly unique honor, courtesy of the Washington National Guard.

After the weigh-ins concluded, Col. Dan Kern presented Kromm with the Commander's Coin of Colonel Dan Kern of the Washington National Guard presents the CommanderExcellence. Delivered on behalf of Maj. Gen. Tim Lowenberg, the coin recognizes integrity, honesty and respect. FLW Outdoors president and CEO Charlie Evans and Director of Angler Management Aaron Hall also received coins for their support and leadership during the tournament.

"This coin says, `You've been recognized as having the same beliefs and values as the National Guard, and we appreciate you,'" Kern said.

Kromm earned his coin by being a good guy, but he earned his tournament victory by being a good fisherman. He had initially planned on running downriver, locking through at the McNary Dam and fishing the Boardman Pool. However, gusty winds that plagued the area all day convinced him that pounding through an angry river was unnecessary.

"I wasn't going to risk it because I felt like I could catch a limit up here (locally)," he said. "I wanted wind today, but we got a little more than I asked for."

Local knowledge borne of his 30-plus years on the Columbia River gave Kromm plenty of options, but Top pro David Kromm culled three fish in the last half hour and that weight gave him the margin of victory.even this insight offered no foolproof plan. With shorelines pummeled by wind-driven water and 4- to 6-foot waves in the river's open areas, Kromm found himself looking at a lean limit late in the afternoon. Fortunately, he got the right baits in front of the right fish at the right time.

"I struggled today really badly," he said. "It was big out there today. I tried fishing in the biggest part of the river, but I couldn't hold the boat on any spot. I had to bag all of that and come fish parts of the river I don't particularly like really well, but I have a couple of areas where I catch big ones.

"I ended up culling three fish in the last 25 minutes, and one of them was my biggest fish. The three I threw out were tiny little rats."

Kromm focused most of his time on ledges, break lines and rock piles in 20 to 25 feet. A shallower spot yielded the last-minute gems.

Richland Walmart store manager Brent Bannan presents the first place trophy to David Kromm. "The ones I caught at the end of the day - the ones that made the difference for me - were on a little ledge that ran from 4 to 15 feet. They didn't want to bite. I was there for a while, and I couldn't get them to bite. I finally switched to a tiny little finesse worm and caught two in a row right away, and about two casts later, I caught the other one."

Kromm's winning rig was a green-pumpkin worm with a nail weight rigged wacky style on a small drop-shot hook. An ultraslow presentation was the key.

"It had to be natural, with almost no movement," he said. "I had to just throw it out there and let the current do what it did. That's hard to do when you're talking about something that weighs maybe an eighth of an ounce.

"It took a lot of patience because I was sitting there on a 4 1/2-pound limit, thinking that I had blown the tournament. But I knew if I threw that worm, I could get one or two to bite and I got three."

Hobbs hops into second

Graham, Wash., angler Ronald Hobbs Jr. entered the final round in fifth place but climbed three notches Dropshotting with a 4-inch Senko raised Ronald Hobbs Jr into second place.to second with the day's largest stringer. His 12-pound, 5-ounce effort, which included a pair of whopper smallies, gave him a tournament total of 51-10 worth $32,849.

Hobbs caught all of his final-round fish on a drop-shot with a 4-inch green-pumpkin Senko. Starting at the mouth of the Yakima River, he had no trouble finding a limit, but most were small fish, so the hunt for weight intensified with each passing hour.

"I went to one of my best spots - fished it, fished it, fished it - but couldn't catch a fish," Hobbs recalled. "I went to another of my really good spots where I had seen some big ones, and (around 1 p.m.) I was lucky enough to hook one of the big ones."

With only one kicker fish in his well and the rest considerably smaller, Hobbs said he decided to roll the dice on something he observed earlier in the event: "I thought to myself, `I'd better go back to where I saw a big fish late in the day yesterday. I pulled in there, picked up that 4-inch Senko, threw it in there and caught that fish. It was right by the (tournament) ramp."

Late bite key for third-place Russell

Nampa, Idaho, angler Neil Russell caught a 9-pound, 4-ounce limit and slipped one spot to third with a Finishing third, Neil Russell got off to a good start by bagging a smallmouth in the 4-pound range early.total weight of 50-14 worth $26,280. His day started with a bang when a big smallmouth in the 4-pound range ate a Super Fluke that Russell was working at the surface.

The river was stingy after that, but Russell remained diligent and worked the rest of the day with a football-head jig and green-pumpkin or cinnamon-purple flake grub or a drop-shot bearing a 4-inch watermelon worm.

Russell said that he, too, was limited by the weather. Similar to Kromm's story, a late-day bite helped him in the final standings.

"I spent more time this morning running the banks just to see if the wind had pushed any bass up shallow," he said. "That didn't seem to be the case, so I just went deep and hit those places where I've caught bass here and there over the years. I caught a key bass that took me from fourth to third on the Super Fluke with 45 minutes to go right by the launch."

Bennett celebrates b-day with fourth

Roseville, Calif., pro R.J. Bennett caught a limit weighing 10 pounds, 15 ounces for a fourth-place total ofAfter fishing tournaments on his birthday for the past five years, third place pro R.J. Bennett finally received a check on his birthday weekend. 50-10. When he realized his primary game plan was not going to happen, he committed his day to drop-shotting with Berkley Gulp 3-inch minnows and 5-inch leeches.

"My No. 1 spot had 6-foot rollers on top of it, so I wasn't able to fish it. I just did a backup-backup pattern and caught all my fish on bridge pilings. I got on that in practice, and I knew that there were quality fish there if you just weeded through the smaller ones."

Returning to a group of fish he found during the first day of the tournament paid off with a fifth place paycheck for Ken Wick.With his birthday falling the day after his top-10 finish, Bennett explained an interesting trivia point: "For the past five years, I've fished a tournament on my birthday weekend, but I've never cashed a check. This year, I'll cash a check."

That check for $19,710 likely made for a nice birthday present.

Wick takes AOY lead

Ken Wick of Star, Idaho, caught a limit weighing 11-10 and gained two spots to finish fifth with 45-14 worth $13,138. Wick moved into the lead for the Land O'Lakes Angler of the Year race in the Western Division.

Best of the rest

Rounding out the top 10 pros at the FLW Series Columbia River event:

6th: Paul Hall of Soap Lake, Wash., 45-10
7th: Clint Johanson of Benton City, Wash., 44-8
8th: Roy Hawk of Salt Lake City, Utah, 43-1
9th: Wade Headrick of Draper, Utah, 41-1
10th: Cameron Smith of Dana Point, Calif., 40-10

Tags: david-a-brown  headline-story  2008-09-17-columbia-river 

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