Friday, February 15, 2019

2019 Bassmaster Elite Lake Lanier Day 1: Jeff Gustafson Grabs Lead with 19-02lbs!

Chris Johnston 27th & Cory Johnston 57th
By Bryan Brasher

Gustafson fishing like back home!
(Photo: BASS)

Jeff Gustafson said coming into this week that Lake Lanier on the historic Chattahoochee River was probably his favorite fishery in the lower 48 United States.
Thursday didn’t do a thing to change his mind.
The 36-year-old first-year Elite Series pro from Keewatin, Canada, caught five bass that weighed 19 pounds, 2 ounces and took the lead in the Toyota Bassmaster Elite at Lake Lanier. He said the lake reminds him of home — even though he is more than 2,000 miles away, fishing for green spotted bass instead of brown smallmouth.
“Obviously, today was a lot more fun for me than last week when I had two fish to start out my Elite Series career in Florida,” Gustafson said. “I’m not catching a lot of fish, but I got some good ones today.”
Gustafson learned to love Lake Lanier last year when he finished seventh here in an FLW Tour event. He said that prior knowledge told him what was swimming in the lake — but not how to catch them this week.
“It’s completely different this year,” he said. “I didn’t catch fish off any of the places that I did last year.
“But I like fishing for spots. These things act a lot like the smallmouths do up at Lake of the Woods, where I live.”
Gustafson’s two biggest fish — both spotted bass in the 4-pound range — were the first two he put in his livewell. His finesse tactics included a jerkbait, a swimbait and other lures he said were “really no secret.”
His biggest obstacle of the day was the light line he’s using to target fish in the clear water. He said he broke off two bass in brushpiles that could have helped him eclipse the 20-pound mark.
Gustafson’s bag topped a day that was dominated by healthy spotted bass that looked like they had all swallowed footballs. David Mullins of Mount Carmel, Tenn., was second with 17-12, followed by Virginia pro Rick Morris with 17-6 and Californian Chris Zaldain with 16-15.
Like Gustafson, Mullins said his experience with smallmouth — albeit on Tennessee’s Cherokee Lake — played a role in his Day 1 success.
“This lake fishes a lot like home, where you have a window in the morning for about an hour and half to two hours and then it kicks back up in the evening,” Mullins said. “It’s the same way at home — and if you have wind, it seems like they’ll bite all day long.
“The wind just didn’t blow much today.”

Thursday, February 14, 2019

2019 BPT Lake Conroe Pool 1 Day 2: Wesley Strader Seal the Deal with 56lbs!

Strader rallies in skinny water
By Joel Shangle

Wesley Strader put enough fish on SCORETRACKER to finish on top of Group A.
(Photo: BPT)

With the first Elimination Round of the MLF Bass Pro Tour Huk Stage Two presented by Favorite Fishing officially in the books, Wesley Strader can take a quick breath of relief and rest up for Saturday’s Knockout Round.
Even more importantly, he can let his best water rest, too.
After adding 23 pounds to to his Shotgun Round total of 33-0 – bringing his two-day total to 56-0 – Strader heads into the semi-final round on top of the 40-man Group A, exactly 1 pound ahead of Bobby Lane (55-0). But Strader is quick to acknowledge that the competition has now become as much a game of strategy as of picking apart the water at Lake Conroe.

The East Tennessee pro summed it up best right after he put his last fish of Period 2 – a 4-4 – on SCORETRACKER: “I don’t care who passes me, I’m out of here,” Strader said as he Power-Poled up and backed his way out of the narrow creek he had been fishing to go scout new water. 

Strader would eventually add another three fish to his total in Period 3 to claim the top spot in the group, but used the entire period as a scouting exercise, hoping to find “the juice” for Saturday, when the weights zero.

“I looked around more than I fished today,” Strader admitted. “I have a real specific (condition) I’m looking for – when I see it, I catch one about 75 percent of the time. But this thing I’m looking for is really hard to find, and I have to cover a lot of water on the trolling motor to find it. I feel like I can go behind guys and catch them, though, because I have a real specific bait that they really like. Hopefully I can make that work again on Saturday.” 
The majority of the Top 10 – most of whom were in good shape on SCORETRACKER when competition began, anyway – followed Strader’s lead.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

2019 BPT Lake Conroe Pool 1 Day 1: Brent Ehrler Leads with 33-12lbs!

Conroe tricky for MLF anglers
By Luigi De Rose

Ehrler caught them early and stayed with it all day long.
(Photo: BPT)
Under dark clouds and 20 to 30 mph winds, the 40 anglers in Pool A headed out to start Stage 2 of the BPT tour. Muddy water kept the catch rate down but someone always figures them out and Brent Ehrler was that guy all day long. Docks, canals and corners were all key for consistent bass fishing. Brent Ehrler jumped into an early lead and held it right to the finish.  Wesley Strader and Jason Christie rallied in the afternoon periods to threaten the leader but to no avail. Pool B starts tomorrow with 40 new anglers giving Conroe another try. Live action starts at 10am CT time.

Pool A Top 5

Total Weight
Total # Fish
33 - 12
33 - 00
29 - 11
29 - 04
29 - 02

Monday, February 11, 2019

Buddy Gross Wins 2019 FLW Tour Lake Toho with 85-12lbs!

2nd win for Gross
by Curtis Niedermier

Key grass bed and current secure win for Buddy!
(Photo: FLW)
Buddy Gross says his experience today on Lake Toho for the final round of the FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats was nothing but a blessing. If you watched FLW Live this morning, you understand why. Gross rolled down to the spot that produced 14 of the 15 keepers he brought to the scale to get into first place coming into today, and he quickly banged out about 18 or 19 pounds in the rain. There were some slow periods mixed in for Gross, but not slow enough to stop him. The Chickamauga, Ga., pro culled his way up to 23 pounds, 12 ounces to cap off an 85-12 performance to handily finish his second FLW Tour victory by a margin of 4-10 over John Cox, who led the first two days.

“I still can’t believe they were there like that,” Gross says. “It was crazy, dude. I am not but kidding you it was the craziest thing I’ve seen.”

Gross came down to Toho to pre-practice before the cutoff and spent the entire time graphing the grass to learn and how it all set up. He pieced together enough good-looking spots that it took him three days of official practice to fish them all. During that time, Gross found about 10 spots where he could get bit, but only the one really paid off for him. He did catch one kicker from a shallow ditch on the way in on day three.

The winning spot was on the main span of Lake Toho just north of the lock at the lake’s southern end. It was identifiable on the surface by a V-shaped notch in a grass mat. The notch was about 30 yards wide and jutted into the mat by about 50 yards. However, it’s what was below that was really key to Gross’ success.

“[It was] two ditches with clumps in the middle,” Gross says. “Those fish were sitting in the clumps, but there was 20-foot gaps in between each clump. They’d set up in them [the clumps]. I’ve never seen this before: I could take a swim jig and my swimbait, and usually if you come out of a clump you get bit, but this particular place here I’d throw it up on top of the farthest clump away from me, reel it through the open water where there’s no grass, and as soon as I’d hit the other clump, almost like a dead-end stop, they’d eat it right off the clump. The first day that I caught them it was in the ditch. After that everything was on the clumps.”

Though Gross describes the area as having two ditches, he says the “ditches” weren’t any deeper than the surrounding area. They were just open lanes with no grass. The entire spot was about 7 feet deep.
The spot produced both prespawn and postspawn fish. Interestingly, in a tournament that will be celebrated for its parade of 8-plus-pounders, not a single one of Gross’ keepers weighed more than 5 1/2 pounds in four days. He found giants in practice, but none in the tournament.
In the end, his victory was due to consistency and finding a spot that would reload with fish every day. 
“Yesterday, I thought it was done, and I went there this morning and they fired,” Gross says. “It was a whole other school of fish. This thing was loading every day. It loaded yesterday more with postspawn fish. Today was all for the most part prespawn. I had one skinny [postspawn] fish there. If that thing had had a body on it, it would’ve been a 7-pounder.”

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Rick Clunn Wins 2019 Bassmaster Elite St. Johns River with 98-14lbs

Canadians finish 2nd and 8th!
By Bryan Brasher

Mega limit with two 9 pounders seal Clunn's 16th BASS victory!
(Photo: BASS))
After becoming the oldest angler ever to win a Bassmaster Elite Series event in 2016 on the St. Johns River, Rick Clunn provided what has become one of the most famous quotes in professional bass fishing history when he said, “Never accept that all of your best moments are in your past.”
On Sunday, he walked it like he talks it.
Clunn, who turned 72 in July, broke his own record for agelessness, winning the Power-Pole Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River with a four-day total of 98 pounds, 14 ounces. His amazing week was punctuated on Championship Sunday with a tournament-best limit of five bass that weighed 34-14.
It was the 16th career victory for Clunn, whose $100,000 first-place paycheck put him over $2.5 million in career earnings with B.A.S.S.
“I think this just reinforces what I said after I won here in 2016,” Clunn said. “A long time ago, I stopped paying attention to timelines. The terrible twos, the ugly teens, the midlife crisis, retirement time — I don’t pay any attention to any of that.
“If you listen to everybody else, you’ll get premature notions about who you really are.”This week, there was no doubt about it. He was “Rick Clunn: Legend.”
The Ava, Mo., angler started modestly with a limit of 17-5 on Day 1. But he inched his way up the standings with 23-11 on Day 2 and then caught 23-0 on Day 3 to make Sunday’s Top 10 cut in eighth place with a three-day total of 64-0.

2019 FLW Tour Lake Toho Day 4: Buddy Gross Take Over Lead with 62lbs!

Open water angler take lead!
Curtis Niedermier

We’ve seen some incredible bags weighed in through three days of competition at the FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats at Lake Toho, but it seems like every angler who’s weighed a mega-bag has also had at least one mediocre day.

Consistency key to Buddy Gross's success!
(Photo: FLW) 

Consistency has eluded everyone except Buddy Gross. While the Georgia pro hasn’t landed the kind of Florida hawg that it takes to weigh in a mid-20s bag, he’s stacked together quality limits of 21-7, 20-13 and 19-12 to put himself in the lead going into the final day.
With 62 pounds, Gross is up on Florida’s Darrell Davis by just 1 pound, 1 ounce.
Of the 15 fish the leader has brought to the scale so far, 14 have come from one spot on the outside edge of the grass in Lake Toho.
“It’s very precise,” he says. “It’s almost like a little funnel where the wind’s blowing the bait and stuff up in, and it just goes up there and dead ends. They’re just sitting there, kind of hovering.”
Gross figures both prespawn and postspawn bass are moving through this spot. He hit the spot five or six times today, mixing in some other holes and hard spots in the grass in between. No other area produced anything of value until, on the way in, Gross swung by a secondary area he’s been checking on all week. There, he caught a 4-pounder to cap his limit.
“I’ve fished it every day on the way back in, and I’ve been having bites,” he says of the final spot. “They just ain’t been takin’ it. They’ve been knocking it. Today, I didn’t fish it 10 minutes and caught a 4-pounder. I’m hoping there might be some fish that are pulling out to that one.”

Saturday, February 9, 2019

2019 Bassmaster Elite St. Johns River Day 3: Chris Johnston Leads with 75-13lbs!

Canadian atop mega big bass fest!
By Bryan Brasher
Chris' 28-13lb limit sets him ahead of wild day as big bass bite.
(Photo: BASS)

The one word used most often by the anglers weighing in during today’s semifinal round of the Power-Pole Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River was “special.”
“Magical” was also floated around. So was “awesome.”
They all fit, and yet somehow they didn’t do justice to a day that saw 14 limits of bass totaling 20 pounds or more brought to the scales. Of those catches, six topped the 25-pound mark and three eclipsed the almost-unattainable 30-pound benchmark.
Canadian Chris Johnston caught 28-13 and held on to the lead with a three-day total of 75-13. But after standing in a weigh-in line surrounded by giants, Johnston said he knows he still has work to do if he hopes to earn his first Elite Series win.
“I did the same thing I did the last three days, but you don’t normally catch 7- or 8-pounders unless you’re on the St. Johns River,” Johnston said. “Apparently, everyone caught them today. I was hoping to have a little bit of a cushion, but I’m gonna have to catch them again tomorrow.
“I think I’m gonna need probably at least another 23-pound bag tomorrow to win this.”
With at least 24-3, Johnston could break the 100-pound mark and earn one of the coveted “Century Belts” awarded by B.A.S.S. to anglers who reach triple digits. But for the moment, he has much more important things to worry about.
The bags weighed in by the anglers just behind him in the standings were astounding.

2019 FLW Tour Lake Toho Day 2: John Cox Retains Lead with 48-13lbs!

Canadians Sim 50th & Richardson 59th.
by Curtis Niedermier

Cox sight fishing bedding bass to the lead.
(Photo: FLW)
There was no “dirty 30” today; no “Big 3-0.” John Cox didn’t even break 20 pounds on day two of the Lake Toho FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats. He weighed in 17 pounds, 4 ounces today to go with 31-9 yesterday for a two-day total of 48-13, halving his lead from the previous day.

While Cox didn’t need a big bag to stay on top, he’ll definitely need to step it up over the weekend if he wants to hold off young guns such as Aaron Britt (second place), who cracked 24-2 today, Braxton Setzer (third), who weighed 23-5, and a heap of other mega-hammers who are lined up in the standings behind him.
The main difference in Cox’s performance today compared to yesterday is that his best areas have been worked over, and he didn’t spy any more quality bass on beds to tempt with sight-fishing tactics.
“[Yesterday] I didn’t see any fish to go to for today, so I just went and started trolling and looking in all different areas,” Cox says. “I never saw anything that would help me. I saw some small keepers and ended up around 10 o’clock really, really scrambling because I had nothing. I mean, I might’ve had two pound-and-a-halfers. Then I went around, and I caught a couple other pound-and-a-halfers. I just went and pulled them off beds, but still never saw any good ones.”
Cox adapted and “fished out” midday with a Berkley PowerBait Wind Up, which is the same thing he did yesterday.
“I just chunked it,” he says. “I was reeling it fast, and they’d come up behind it, and I just killed it and they ate it.”
At around 1, he caught a 5-pounder and then one that was close to 4. By sticking with the Wind Up he was able to cull out his smaller fish and get up to 17-plus pounds.
It was a mental and physical grind for Cox, who’s been a bit run down and under the weather this week.

Friday, February 8, 2019

2019 Bassmaster Elite St. Johns River Day 2: Chris Johnston Leads with 47lbs!

Cory Johnston 6th  & Gustafson 61th
By Bryan Brasher

Sight fishing key for young Canadian.
(Photo: BASS)
During the weeks leading up to the Power-Pole Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River, brothers Chris and Cory Johnston insisted the Florida fishery reminded them a lot of the waters they grew up fishing back home in Canada.
Those who may have doubted them know better now.
Chris Johnston, who had fished a grand total of four B.A.S.S. events prior to this week, caught five bass during Friday’s round that weighed 25 pounds, 11 ounces and took the lead in the season-opening Elite event with a two-day total of 47-0.
Lee Livesay of Texas is second with 46-2, followed by Mark Menendez of Kentucky (45-14), Brandon Cobb of South Carolina (42-14) and Rick Clunn of Missouri (41-0).
Cory Johnston, who has teamed with his brother to dissect the fishery for months, caught 21-1 himself Friday and moved into sixth place at 41-0.
“I just hope I’m a couple of ounces ahead of him after tomorrow and then hopefully again on Sunday,” Chris said of his brother. “We always have a rivalry between us. We’re always trying to beat each other for bragging rights.
“I’ve got a little lead on him now, and hopefully I can carry it through the rest of the week.”
Chris said he’s been fishing for mixture of bedding bass that he can’t see and prespawn fish that are still working their way onto the beds. Like most of the field, he expects the weather to be a factor on Saturday, when the forecast calls for a shift from the sunny, clear conditions of the past two days to somewhat cooler temperatures and 10- to 20-mph winds.