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

Faith Carries Fitts to the Top

Faith Carries Fitts to the Top

In a field of 190, going from 90th place to first isn’t exactly a zero-to-hero deal, but c’mon – how could you not be impressed with the incredible comeback victory Jeff Fitts orchestrated with a winning weight of 48 pounds, 10 ounces at the Costa FLW Series Central Division tournament presented by Mercury on Lake Dardanelle.

When Tournament Director Ron Lappin announced Fitts’ victory, the winner’s head-in-hands expression bespoke an obvious convergence of joy, relief and amazement. Tournament winners are always happy, yes, but this win was different. It was an unabashed, odds-defying triumph for which Fitts ultimately thanked divine intervention.

A recap will help solidify the story: Day one, Fitts weighs three fish for 7 pounds, 7 ounces. He follows a day later with 23-15 – the event’s heaviest limit – and races up from 90th to sixth. In the final round, Fitts turns in the top performance and seals the deal with a 17-pound, 4-ounce limit.

“After the first day, I would’ve said, ‘No way I’d be standing here the winner,’” says the champ, who now has 10 top-10 finishes with FLW. “From my practice, I knew I had the potential to catch a 25-pound bag, but until you do it, that’s just potential.”

A slow start in the lower end of the lake on day one prompted him to run up the Arkansas River to the heralded backwaters of Spadra Creek. That’s when things started heading downhill.

“I picked up a rod with 12-pound line and started pitching treetops,” Fitts recalls. “I broke off a 5-pounder in a treetop, and I lost a couple of 3-pounders. I don’t even know why I had 12-pound line on my rod. I was down on myself because I knew I should have had 16 to 17 pounds.”

Fitts eventually scratched up three keepers on day one, but as if starting the second day in 90th place weren’t tough enough, he experienced engine trouble right out of the gate on Friday morning.

Bummer … or was it?

Unable to run, Fitts limped over to a couple of pockets between Lake Dardanelle State Park and Illinois Bayou. Noting that these adjacent areas produced all of his day-two and day-three fish, Fitts says he instantly liked what he saw.

“I’m from Florida, so grass plus cold front equals bass,” the Keystone Heights resident says. “When I pulled into the first pocket, I saw grass mats, and I knew I could catch fish there.”

Armed with a 7-foot, 8-inch Vexan heavy flipping rod and 65-pound-test Seaguar Smackdown braid, he flipped and pitched a Strike King Rage Bug in black/blue or summer craw rigged on a 5/0 Trokar Big Nasty flipping hook with a 1 1/2-ounce Strike King Tour Grade Tungsten weight. The day-two bite started quickly and ended up delivering a dream day for an angler who really needed a shot of positive.

“On my third flip, I caught a 3-pounder. I went 10 feet and caught a 5. I went another 10 feet and caught a 5 1/2,” Fitts recalls. “By then I had 13 to 14 pounds in the boat, and I hadn’t been fishing 10 minutes. I was on top of the world.

“At 10:10, I put my fifth fish in the boat, and at 3:10 I flipped my last 4-pounder and culled the 3-pounder that was my first fish. That gave me the 23-15.”

With no compelling reason to ditch what was working, Fitts ran back to those special pockets on day three and closed out a Cinderella performance with a 12-ounce margin of victory over second-place pro Daniel Kweekul.

“In my opinion, it was 100-percent God talking to me, because I was on my way to Spadra Creek,” Fitts says of his day-two turnaround. “I was going to come back down around 12 o’clock and finish out the day flipping. I couldn’t go, so I went flipping, and there it was.”

Complete results

 

Top 10 Pros

1. Jeff Fitts – Keystone Heights, Fla. – 48-10 (13) – $48,000

2. Daniel Kweekul – Bryant, Ark. – 47-14 (15) – $19,500

3. Teddy Bogard – Pine Bluff, Ark. – 47-00 (15) – $14,000

4. Todd Castledine – Nacogdoches, Texas – 45-03 (11) – $12,000

5. Evan Barnes – Hot Springs, Ark. – 44-12 (15) – $11,000

6. Zach King – Clarksville, Ark. – 43-00 (13) – $9,000

7. Christopher Jones – Bokoshe, Okla. – 40-02 (14) – $7,800

8. Greg Jones – Wentzville, Mo. – 39-07 (13) – $6,800

9. Joe McClary – Kirkwood, Mo. – 32-02 (11) – $5,800

10. Brandon Hunter – Benton, Ky. – 31-14 (11) – $4,400

 

Tags: lake-dardanelle  flw-series  jeff-fitts  david-a-brown  headline-story  2016-03-31-lake-dardanelle 

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