UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - Detroit River

Russell finally does it

Russell finally does it
Neil Russell of Nampa, Idaho, netted $105,000 in winnings after capturing the FLW Series event on the Columbia River.

UMATILLA, Ore. - In a heart-pounding finale worthy of the hard-fought competition that took place over the previous three days, Neil Russell of Nampa, Idaho, finished atop the leaderboard for the second straight day by a slim 5-ounce margin to capture the elusive Walmart FLW Series title on the Columbia River.

For his efforts, Russell netted a $105,000 payday - which, according to the Idaho pro, couldn't have come at a better time.

"This is a great confidence boost," said Russell, who had finished in third place in each of the previous FLW Series National Guard Western Division events on the Columbia River back in 2007 and 2008. "But financially speaking, this is huge. I don't have any major sponsors. So, without this win, I'm not sure I would have even been able to fish next year. I might have been working at McDonald's."

Russell, who recorded a four-day stringer of 47 pounds, 10 ounces, had no idea that he'd even won the tournament until FLW Outdoors tournament host Charlie Evans made the dramatic onstage announcement that the day-three leader had indeed pulled off the victory by the slimmest of margins.

Neil Russell of Nampa, Idaho, weighs in his winning catch at the FLW Series event on the Columbia River."I'm absolutely shocked," Russell said of his victory. "It's just unbelievable. It's really going to take a while for this to sink in."

Russell said that there were many keys to his win. However, without a fluke discovery of a prime fishing area on the Columbia River a few years back, Russell said he probably wouldn't have walked away with a tournament title.

"I was fishing a Federation Division tournament in late May about four or five years ago, and I came around this point and found a roadbed with a little depression in it," said Russell. "Most people would look it at and not realize there's anything there. But it's about 400 yards long, and it definitely has some nice fish in it. I was lucky because nobody fished it all week. But every day I went back, the fish seemed to replenish themselves. And each day I started getting more and more confidence. The first two days I caught two great bass there. Yesterday I caught four bass there. And today I caught everything on that spot.

"You have to remember that when I finished in third place at those FLW Series the last two years, those events were in the fall," Russell continued. "And I was fishing in a completely different place. And had I not found this area at that Federation event, I probably wouldn't have won."

Russell said another important factor was his key bait - a Kamikaze Treats swimbait.

"This tournament it was really important to match the hatch, and that's what those baits did," said Russell. "It's basically a 2 1/2-inch swimbait, and the fish just attacked it all week."

Neil Russell of Nampa, Idaho, proudly displays his first-place trophy after winning the FLW Series event on the Columbia River.The final piece of the puzzle was Russell's ability to remain downriver and avoid the long roundtrip runs that many of the pros atop the leaderboard were making.

"That just allowed me more time to fish," said Russell. "I'm not a big fan on making long runs on big water. I also like fishing for smallmouth bass, and I really understand river fishing and that helped out as well."

The FLW Series win also served as a big confidence boost to Russell, who decided this year to fish the Walmart FLW Tour for the very first time - with sometimes painful results.

"The Tour hasn't been very kind to me. It's been a rough year," said Russell. "It's a steep learning curve back East, and I've kind of gotten a little beat up over the last couple of months so this really helps."

Russell said that his former profession also helped him get in the mind-set that it's OK to do something different, regardless of what everyone else is doing.

"I was a commercial fisherman in Alaska for 25 years," Russell recalled. "And I learned long ago that you can have success doing things a bit differently than some other people. If you're going to win, I figure you have to do something special."

To be sure, as far as Russell is concerned, this win is about as special as it gets.

Columbia River crown just out of reach for King

Cody King of Island City, Ore., leapfrogged from sixth place to second overall on the final day of tournament action at the FLW Series Columbia River event.Despite heading into the final day of competition in sixth place, Cody King of Island City, Ore., was able to mount a spirited comeback, which fell exactly 5 ounces short of a tournament title. However, although he wasn't able to pull off the win, King said that he had no regrets.

"I'm happy with the way the tournament went," said King, who recorded a total catch of 47 pounds, 5 ounces to net second place and over $40,000 in winnings. "I didn't really think I had enough weight to win anyway. But I fished hard and never gave up."

King said that he went into the finals with a definite plan in mind and executed it almost perfectly.

"Today my plan was to catch a largemouth first and then go for a big bag of smallmouth bass, and I did that. I was pretty excited that it all came together today," said King. "I really felt like I accomplished my goals this week. I made the top 10 and really went for the gusto today. I just needed to cull out one or two of my smaller fish. And that was the difference. But overall, I'm happy."

Mace snares third place

If there was a trophy for long-distance traveler this week, Ron Mace of Kennewick, Wash., would have won the award hands down. Instead, Mace was forced to settle for a third-place finish and a check for more than $32,000 after landing a total catch of 46 pounds, 7 ounces.

"I was bed-fishing all week," said Mace, who made runs over 100 miles one way each of the four days of the event. "Unfortunately the fish were a little spooky today and it didn't work out. But I had a good week overall."

Lippincott nets fourth place

Marc Lippincott of Spokane, Wash., used a four-day catch of 45 pounds, 7 ounces to finish the Columbia River event in fourth place. Marc Lippincott of Spokane, Wash., used a four-day catch of 45 pounds, 7 ounces to finish the Columbia River event in fourth place. His effort was good enough to earn a check for nearly $25,000.

"I basically fished a different way every single day of this tournament," said Lippincott. "I really had a tough practice and wasn't on anything really at all. So I'm pretty happy with the way things turned out."

Caporuscio's amazing title run comes up short

Although Joseph Caporuscio of Coto De Caza, Calif., had never visited the Columbia River until this week, he wound up putting on quite a show - finishing each of the first three days of competition in either first or second place. Unfortunately, in the end, his fish finally ran out, sabotaging his final chance at a tournament title.

"Every day the fishing got tougher and tougher for me," said Caporuscio, who recorded a four-day catch of 45 pounds, 6 ounces. "I went to the same area all four days, but I just couldn't get the big bites today."

Caporuscio, who said that he targeted bass by drop-shotting worms in shallow water near grass, won over $16,000 for his efforts.

"I've had a great week," said Caporuscio.

Best of the rest

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

Ken Wick of Star, Idaho, used a 44-pound, 4-ounce catch to finish the FLW Series event on the Columbia River in seventh place.6th: Ronald Hobbs Jr. of Orting, Wash., 44-9
7th: Ken Wick of Star, Idaho, 44-4
8th: Cody Meyer of Redding, Calif., 38-14
9th: Randy McAbee Jr. of Bakersfield, Calif., 36-10
10th: Ishama Monroe of Hughson, Calif., 36-7

Cody Meyer also finished the Columbia River event with the overall lead in the 2009 Land O'Lakes Angler of the Year standings race in the FLW Series Western Division with 391 points. Meyer now holds a 9-point lead over fifth-place Columbia River finalist Joseph Caporuscio with two regular-season events remaining.

FLW Series Western action resumes Sept. 23-26 at the California Delta in Oakley, Calif.

Tags: gary-mortenson  headline-story  2009-06-24-columbia-river 

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