Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Bryan Schmitt Wins 2022 Bassmaster Elite Series Event On Mississippi River!

Canadian Chris Johnston 2nd by ounces!

Bryan Schmitt of Deale, Md., has won the 2022 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Mississippi River with a four-day total of 63 pounds, 4 ounces. (Photo: Seigo Saito/ BASS) 


LA CROSSE, Wis. — Persistent refinement put Bryan Schmitt on track to sacking up a four-day total of 63 pounds, 4 ounces and claiming his second blue trophy at the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Mississippi River.


Hailing from Deale, Md., Schmitt took the Day 1 lead with 17-0 — the event’s second heaviest bag — and followed that with bags of 14-3 and 14-12.


Schmitt, who won his first Elite on Lake Champlain in 2021, started Championship Monday in third place, trailing Canadian pro Chris Johnston by 2-1. Adding 16-11 in the final round, Schmitt edged Johnston by just 4 ounces and won the $100,000 prize. He also earned an automatic berth into the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic scheduled for March 24-26 in Knoxville, Tenn.


“I’d rather have a blow-out win because this is too stressful,” Schmitt said of the dramatic finish. “When Chris brought his bag up, it looked big — I thought he had it!


“I can’t believe it. I’m 2-for-2 here. (Schmitt also won a 2017 FLW Tour event on the Mississippi River).”


Throughout the event, Schmitt focused his efforts on a 200-yard stretch of eelgrass in Pool 8. With multiple wins on grassy tidal fisheries from the Potomac River to the James River, he leveraged his vast knowledge of how bass relate to moving water and vegetation to progressively whittle down his spot.


“When you have a fishery with a lot of grass, it’s always about finding something different,” Schmitt said. “The first day, it was about depressions and edges. Then, it got so flat calm that I realized the fish would pick a place on that grass edge or depression and that was the only place you could get bit.”


Seeing the bass were not randomly strolling through the eelgrass, Schmitt dissected his area until he identified the money spot. Amid the grass flat’s consistent 6-foot depths, he identified an 8-foot trench measuring about 20 feet wide by 100 yards long.


“There was about a 50-foot section where, whenever I would get a bait on the bottom, I could feel rock,” Schmitt said. “So, there was rock meeting grass in a depression.”


The key to the spot’s attraction was the very detail that derailed many anglers’ game plans. Heavy rains from a storm that delayed the Day 2 launch by one hour muddied much of Pool 8. However, Schmitt’s area was shielded from the mud plume, while the eelgrass filtration left only beneficial water flow.


“It’s a challenge, but I enjoy fishing in current because I feel current makes fish predictable,” Schmitt said. “When I won here in 2017, it flooded. It was just like this — my spot got better and better.”


Schmitt caught most of his keepers on a Carolina-rigged Missile Baits Baby D Stroyer in green pumpkin flash. He added one of his limit fish on a bone-colored Spro Fat Papa Walker.


“I used a 3 1/2- to 4-foot leader and I think that’s why they would bite that bait,” Schmitt said. “There was so much eelgrass, the weight would get down and the bait would float above the grass for a minute and that’s when you would get bit.”


Schmitt said his win was perfectly timed, as he’ll head home and celebrate his son Dylan’s 9th birthday Thursday.


Johnston, who makes his home in Otonabee, Ontario, turned in limits of 16-4, 15-10, 16-12 and 14-6 for a second-place total of 63-0. Spending his tournament in Pool 8, he did most of his work by throwing a chartreuse/white Spro Bronzeye Frog around shallow eelgrass mats.


“I had to adjust in one area today; the fish moved on me a little bit,” Johnston said. “I just went frog fishing and today I lost the most fish of any day in this event. It was one of those days and it wasn’t meant to be.


“I fished clean the first three days, but today I just had (several) come unbuttoned.”


Mats with current exposure proved most productive for Johnston. In addition to the largemouth he caught on the frog, Johnston also caught keeper smallmouth on a bone-colored Zara Spook.


Keith Combs of Huntington, Texas, finished third with 61-15. His daily weights were 14-5, 17-7, 15-1 and 15-2.


Combs fished Pools 8 and 9 each day, but only the former produced Monday. His main pattern involved sandbars and other current breaks where fish would position to feed.


“I had several different areas, but everything was current-related; it had to have a little current trickling through,” Combs said. “Today, I caught my fish on a current seam and I caught a ton of fish. This morning, I caught them on every cast for 45 minutes. It was insanity.


“I never could dial into the big fish this week. I caught a ton of fish in the 3- to 3 1/2-pound range, but I never could figure out how to catch those 4-pounders.”


Combs caught his bass on a black/blue Strike King swim jig with a black Strike King Caffeine Shad trailer. He also caught keepers on a Texas-rigged junebug Strike King Cut-R Worm.


Brock Mosley of Collinsville, Miss., won the overall $1,000 Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with his 5-8 and also claimed the $1,000 daily big-fish prize for Day 1. Tennessee’s Brandon Lester claimed Monday’s daily big-fish prize with a 4-11.


Lester also won the $2,000 VMC Monster Bag prize for his final-day catch of 18-7.


Combs took home an additional $3,000 for being the highest-placing entrant in the Toyota Bonus Bucks program, and Drew Benton of Blakely, Ga., earned $2,000 for being the second-highest placing entrant.

As part of the Yamaha Power Pay program, Combs also earned an additional $2,500 as the highest-placing entrant and Scott Martin of Clewiston, Fla., claimed an additional $1,500 for being the second-highest placing entrant.

North Carolina’s Brandon Card won the $1,000 BassTrakk Contingency award for the most accurate weight reporting.

The tournament was hosted by Explore La Crosse.


2022 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota

2022 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Progressive Insurance, Ranger Boats, Rapala, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha

2022 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Daiwa, Garmin, Huk Performance Fishing, Marathon, Strike King, Triton Boats, VMC

2022 Bassmaster Conservation Partners: AFTCO, Yamaha Rightwaters

Sunday, August 28, 2022

2022 Bassmaster Elite Series Event On Mississippi River Day 3: Chris Johnston Continues Lead!

Canadians Gustafson 26th & Cory Johnston 52th.

Chris Johnston of Otonabee, Ontario, is leading after Day 3 of the 2022 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Mississippi River with a three-day total of 48 pounds, 10 ounces. (Photo: Seigo Saito/ BASS) 


LA CROSSE, Wis. — Chris Johnston believed in his sweet spot enough to give it a second chance, and that call paid off in a big way, as the pro from Otonabee, Ontario, tallied a three-day total of 48 pounds, 10 ounces and maintained the lead on Day 3 of the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Mississippi River.


After tying for fourth place on Day 1 with a limit of 16-4, Johnston added 15-10 on Day 2 and took over the top spot. He entered Semifinal Sunday 2 ounces ahead of Texan Keith Combs — and with a third-round limit of 16-12, Johnston now heads into Championship Monday with an advantage of 1-13 over Combs.


“I ran to a spot that I’d fished in the morning, but I never got a bite because it was raining,” Johnston said. “There was a lot of bait in the area, and I think the rain had the bait all pushed down to the bottom and the fish weren’t active.


“I stopped there again with about 15 minutes to go because I know there’s a lot of fish in there. It’s just hard to get them to bite.”


Johnston said he usually has to see fish blowing up (surface feeding) in the spot’s matted grass, but his first cast drew a bite. He missed that fish, but five casts later he caught a 3 1/4-pound largemouth a little before 2:30 p.m.


“It was hard because the wind was blowing in, but they were in these little pockets,” Johnston said. “The wind had my frog kind of going across sideways, but that (3 1/4-pounder) grabbed a hold of it and that was huge.”


Johnston’s key spot comprised a break in the vegetation with sand next to a current edge. The week’s rainfall has raised the water level, and Johnston said that has expanded the spot’s opportunity.


Saturday, August 27, 2022

2022 Bassmaster Elite Series Event On Mississippi River Day 2: Chris Johnston Score 1 Ounce Lead!

Canadians Gustafson 13th & Cory Johnston 52th.

Chris Johnston of Otonabee, Ontario, is leading after Day 2 of the 2022 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Mississippi River with a two-day total of 31 pounds, 14 ounces. (Photo: Seigo Saito/ BASS) 


LA CROSSE, Wis. — Chris Johnston owns a well-documented reputation for smallmouth savvy, but drawing on his largemouth bass roots helped the pro from Otonabee, Ontario, take over the lead on Day 2 of the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Mississippi River with a total weight of 31 pounds, 14 ounces.


Johnston caught 16-4 on Day 1 and tied fellow Canadian Jeff Gustafson for fourth place. Then, despite an hour storm delay and dim, rainy conditions, Johnston added 15-10 today. He heads into Semifinal Sunday with a 1-ounce margin over Day 1 leader Bryan Schmitt and a 2-ounce lead over Keith Combs of Huntington, Texas.


Johnston, who won the 2020 SiteOne Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River, said the Upper Mississippi River’s shallow, weedy habitat presented very familiar scenarios. This week’s success has come through applying the engrained techniques of his Canadian youth.


“Believe it or not, I grew up fishing largemouth; flipping reeds and milfoil and frogging,” Johnston said. “For the first 20 years of my life, it was all largemouth fishing. The smallmouth didn’t take off in our area until I was about 17 to 18 years old.


“I love this style of fishing; putting on 65-pound Seaguar Smackdown braid and just going and having fun. I did mix in a few smallmouth. They’ve been good to me lately, so I couldn’t ignore them.”


2022 Bassmaster Elite Series Event On Mississippi River Day 1: Schmitt Grabs Lead with 17-10lbs!

Canadians Chris Johnston 4th, Gustafson 4th , Cory Johnston 43rd.

Bryan Schmitt of Deale, Md., is leading after Day 1 of the 2022 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Mississippi River with 17 pounds, 10 ounces. (Photo: Seigo Saito/ BASS) 


LA CROSSE, Wis. — Put Bryan Schmitt on a grassy river and he’s a happy man, even when a little meteorological meddling requires an adjustment.


Such was the case, as the Potomac River stick from Deale, Md., overcame a water quality issue and caught a limit of 17 pounds, 10 ounces to lead Day 1 of the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Mississippi River.


“It was a blessed day; I almost missed it,” Schmitt said. “I had a pretty good practice and never went back to these fish and they changed (because of muddy inflow from Thursday night’s rain). It took me a while to change with them.


“They didn’t want what I did in practice. But I was lucky enough to make the right presentation, and once it happened, I was like, ‘I see what’s happening.’ Tomorrow’s going to be windy and they might be getting back on what I did in practice.”


Schmitt withheld specifics, but he said one particular presentation — a slower technique — with a new Missile Baits plastic delivered all of his weight. He had his limit by about 10 a.m. and stopped fishing around 1:30.


Anchoring his bag with a 4-2 largemouth, Schmitt said his fish came off three different grassy spots, all within eyesight of one another. Each, he said, comprised nearly identical habitat.


One of the challenges he faced was the proliferation of tiny baitfish moving through the grass.


“You’ll see the little baitfish running through and every now and then, you’ll see one (come up and eat), but they are devils to (try and) trick,” Schmitt said. “There’s a bunch of bait where I’m fishing.”

Monday, August 22, 2022

Spence Shuffield Wins 2022 Title Championship!

By Sean Ostruszka 
Tackle Warehouse Pro Curcuit

MASSENA, N.Y. – Spencer Shuffield always knew – he didn’t know when or the rough road of heartbreak and near-misses he’d travel to do it, but he knew one day he’d get that major victory.

Today, that knowing finally became reality. Shuffield is the Tackle Warehouse TITLE Presented by Mercury champion.

The Arkansas pro brought in 22 pounds, 12 ounces to take home the TITLE belt and $200,000. But that hardly tells the whole story, because in doing so, he not only bested the other nine anglers in the Championship Round. He battled and beat a lifetime of nemeses, from Mother Nature to the snake-bitten curse he’s seemingly carried since reviving his career only a few years back.

“I knew I was going to do it,” Shuffield said of his win. “I didn’t know when or how hard I was going to have to work to do it, but when you set your mind to something, you’re going to accomplish it, and I did.

“I really thought (the 2020 Tackle Warehouse TITLE) at Sturgeon Bay was the one. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t my time, but it was today.”

Shuffield admits he got a feeling it could happen while launching this morning.

Austin Felix Wins 2022 Bassmaster Elite Series Event On Lake Oahe!

Canadian Chris Johnston 2nd!

Austin Felix of Eden Prairie, Minn., has won the 2022 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Lake Oahe with a four-day total of 71 pounds, 9 ounces. (Photo: Seigo Seto/BASS)


MOBRIDGE, S.D. — Austin Felix views himself as a well-rounded angler but he loves to fish for smallmouth. So, it’s fitting Felix’s first Bassmaster Elite Series title would involve catching those big, beautiful brown fish.


With a five-bass limit that weighed 16 pounds, 3 ounces on Championship Sunday, the Eden Prairie, Minn., native secured the victory at the Guarantee Rate Bassmaster Elite at Lake Oahe with a total of 71-9, earning $100,000.


Felix overcame a disappointing Day 1 performance of 14-2 that put him in 34th and then rebounded with the VMC Monster Bag of the tournament at 23-3 that lifted him to second place after Day 2 and earned him an additional $2,000. Felix took the lead on Day 3 with 18-1 and held off a hard-charging Chris Johnston on the final day.


“I feel like I have an advantage on a smallmouth event over the field, at least most of them,” the 2020 Bassmaster Rookie of the Year said. “It is my wheelhouse, I would like to think. I had never been here before but when I came here for (pre-practice) it was the most incredible fishing in the world.


“I fully expected driving out here that the 23-pound bag would be what you had to have to compete. But, when we got here, these fish have gotten a lot of pressure over the last year.” 


While he had close to 18 spots marked, two main-lake points on Lake Oahe produced the bulk of Felix’s weight, one above the Highway 212 Bridge that crosses the lake south of takeoff in Mobridge and one below the bridge. These points had an important characteristic: they dropped off sharply into deeper water and had rockpiles on the bottom.


For the most part, Felix’s smallmouth were relating to the bottom or close to the bottom. If he found they were set up on the bottom, he could stay off his spots and cast to them. But on many occasions, they would be constantly on the move and that’s when his Lowrance Active Target came into play.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

2022 Bassmaster Elite Series Event On Lake Oahe Day 3: Austin Felix Takes Leads Heading Into Championship Sunday


Austin Felix of Eden Prairie, Minn., is leading after Day 3 of the 2022 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Lake Oahe with a three-day total of 55 pounds, 6 ounces. (Photo: BASS)


MOBRIDGE, S.D. — Thanks to a late-day push, Austin Felix secured a limit of smallmouth weighing 18 pounds, 1 ounce on Day 3 of the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Lake Oahe, pushing his three-day total to a tournament-leading 55-6.


A lackluster Day 1 that included losing a big smallmouth put Felix in 34th place with 14-2, but he rocketed up the leaderboard with the VMC Monster Bag of the Tournament so far, a 23-3 sack of smallmouth that put him in second entering Semifinal Saturday.


The Eden Prairie, Minn., native now holds nearly a 3-pound lead over Kentucky pro Matt Robertson in second and nearly a 4-pound advantage over Day 2 leader Chris Johnston of Canada, who dropped to third.


On a volatile fishery that has seen anglers move up and down the standings each day, Felix is trying not to think about his status entering Championship Sunday.


“I’m just trying to keep my head down because I know I have another day, and that’s the most important thing,” Felix said. “I need to catch five more good ones. It isn’t easy out there right now. A lot of guys struggled today. I was fortunate enough to figure out something late and caught a few good ones.”


Felix, the 2020 Bassmaster Rookie of the Year and a two-time Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic qualifier, started where he caught his monster bag Friday with two other competitors and found the smallmouth were not loaded up like they had been previously.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

2022 Bassmaster Elite Series Event On Lake Oahe Day 2: Chris Johnston Takes Over Lead!


Chris Johnston of Otonabee, Ontario, is leading after Day 2 of the 2022 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Lake Oahe with a two-day total of 37 pounds, 12 ounces.(Photo: Seigo Saito/BASS)


MOBRIDGE, S.D. — Chris Johnston’s primary spot on Lake Oahe doesn’t look particularly special, but it holds big smallmouth that have lifted him to the lead at the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Lake Oahe with a two-day total of 37 pounds, 12 ounces.


Entering Day 2 in seventh place with 18-15, the Otonabee, Ontario, native caught 18-13 Friday and holds a 7-ounce lead over second-place Austin Felix and a 10-ounce lead over third-place Patrick Walters.


“I’m thrilled with it,” Johnston said. “I caught them all right where I caught them yesterday. I had them by about 9:30. There’s not a lot of fish there and I wasn’t seeing many left. But after I caught them yesterday morning, I didn’t see any fish. So, some new ones moved up today and I was able to catch them.”


While the north wind raced across Lake Oahe the entirety of the day, creating rough and wavy conditions, the 2021 St. Lawrence River Elite champion caught a limit quickly using mostly the new Spro CJ Smasher as well as a couple of other baits. A key adjustment, however, led to two big bites late in the morning.

Friday, August 19, 2022

2022 Bassmaster Elite Series Event On Lake Oahe Day 1: Card Grabs Lead with 21-10lbs!

Canadians Gustafson 4th, Chris Johnston 7th & Cory Johnston 58th

Brandon Card of Salisbury, N.C., is leading after Day 1 of the 2022 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Lake Oahe with 21 pounds, 10 ounces. (Photo: Seigo Saito/BASS)


MOBRIDGE, S.D. — Capitalizing on several different flurries throughout the day, Brandon Card landed 21 pounds, 10 ounces to claim the Day 1 lead at the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite on Lake Oahe.


The Tennessee native turned North Carolinian holds narrow advantages of 1-4 over Georgia's Drew Cook in second and 1-5 over South Carolina angler Patrick Walters in third. With his Day 1 bag, Card exceeded the biggest bag weighed at the 2018 Elite Series event on Oahe, a 20-11 sack brought in by Clifford Pirch.


“I didn’t know how good it was going to be. I had high hopes, and it turned out to be a lot better than I thought,” Card said. “It was weird. I had several flurries, but then lots of just nothing. There were hours of no bites and then several in a row. It was like there were small little feeding windows.”


With a rotation of baits, Card caught quality bass that were consistent in size, with his biggest smallmouth weighing 4-14.


Despite seeing miles of dead water, Card located six or seven areas in practice that held decent schools of smallmouth. One of those areas produced most of his action on Day 1, while he didn’t end up going to another of his better areas.


Fishing what he called “pretty deep,” Card landed a limit early and culled several times throughout the day.