Canadians: Chris Johnston 23rd, Gallant 31st, Gustafson 42th
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Canadians: Chris Johnston 15th, Gustafson 48th, Gallant 60th & Cory Johnston 67th
Matt Robertson of Kuttawa, Ky., is leading after Day 1 of the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at Santee Cooper Lakes with 28 pounds, 1 ounce. ( Photo:Seigo Satio)
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Benton battles back to win action-packed Bassmaster Elite Series event at Lake Murray
After claiming the Day 2 lead with back-to-back bags over 23 pounds, Benton barely made the cut for the final day after catching just 14 pounds on Semifinal Saturday.
He felt like he had cost himself a potential win. But in his restlessness, Benton had a revelation.
“I woke up four times last night just mad,” he said. “I woke up and I looked at the weights and I was about 5 pounds back. Someone weighed in 26 pounds this week. That was my goal weight, 25 or 26.”
Benton accomplished that goal Sunday, landing a five-bass limit that weighed 26 pounds, 7 ounces coming from behind to win with a four-day total of 87-0. He earned his second career blue trophy and a $100,000 first-place prize.
“I started to — not doubt myself — but wonder if it was ever going to happen again,” said Benton, who earned his first Elite Series victory five years ago on Lake Travis in Texas. “I finished second in an Elite; finished second in an Open I should have won. Am I snakebit? Can I close the deal anymore? So, this feels great.”
Benton’s strategy this week revolved around sight fishing for spawning bass. After seeing 30 pounds of bass on bed the first day of practice, he caught bags of 23-0 and 23-9 the first two days of the tournament.
His primary area not far from takeoff had water temperatures that maxed out around 70 degrees, several degrees cooler than the rest of the lake. That set up perfectly for him to target largemouth with a Texas-rigged watermelon red/green pumpkin laminate Big Bite Baits Fighting Frog rigged with a 5/16-ounce Elite Tungsten sinker and a 4/0 Owner Wide Gap worm hook.
Canadian: Cory Johnston 41st
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Kyoya Fujita has been a star in Japan for several years, winning four Angler of the Year titles in his home country. Now, the 27-year-old is starting to make a name for himself here in the United States.
Fujita caught 20 pounds, 12 ounces on Day 3 of the Marathon Bassmaster Elite at Lake Murray — and with a three-day total of 65-8, he became the event's third leader. He also guaranteed his second-straight Top 10 finish after a second-place showing at Lake Seminole in February.
After catching 22-6 each of the first two days, Fujita is now the only angler to top the 20-pound mark each day this week. Tennessee pro Hunter Shryock is in second with 64-3 and South Carolina’s Patrick Walters is third with 62-8.
While the rain and storms were not as heavy as expected, clouds and wind were more prominent Saturday morning than they were on Days 1 and 2. As Semifinal Saturday wore on, the clouds cleared and sunny skies prevailed. That led to a great day of bass fishing, as 48 of the 50 anglers competing caught limits.
With several different LiveScope transducers, Fujita has been picking out bass that are suspended in open water near a creek channel in 6 to 18 feet. He said he has been using one bait primarily, a Jackall RV DriftFry with a 1/8-ounce Keitech jighead.
“The LiveScope wasn’t showing me fish,” said Fujita, who added through an interpreter that he will not make a cast unless there is a fish on the screen. He said he is also seeing a lot of stripers swimming around his area. He can tell the difference between the two if they are sitting still, but if the fish is swimming he cannot tell which species he is seeing.
“I am still figuring out the difference,” he said.
Fujita was hampered by boat problems to start the morning and the fishing wasn’t stellar when he got to his first spot. Although he caught one over 5 pounds around 8:30 a.m., he was not seeing a lot of activity on his Garmin LiveScope and changed areas.
Canadians: Cory Johnston 36th, Gallant 58th, Gustafson 59th & Chris Johnston 63th
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COLUMBIA, S.C. — Drew Benton had never fished a tournament on Lake Murray before this week, but the conditions are making him feel right at home.
With the bass right in the middle of their spawning cycle, Benton has fished his strengths and took the lead Friday in the Marathon Bassmaster Elite at Lake Murray with a two-day total of 46 pounds, 9 ounces. After landing in second with 23-0 on Day 1, the Panama City, Fla., pro added 23-9 on Day 2 and holds a slim lead over Tennessee angler Hunter Shryock, who is second with 45-14.
“If I spent time on (a bedding bass), I caught it today,” said Benton, who earned his only career Elite Series victory on Lake Travis in Texas in 2018. “Yesterday I spent a lot of time on a couple I didn’t get to catch. You have to find them in the right mood. It isn’t just, go down the bank and you see one and catch it. A lot goes into it, and I was really fortunate today.”
Anglers once again fished under warm and sunny conditions on Friday, with winds picking up as the afternoon progressed. That allowed several of the competitors to see the cruising bass they were targeting.
Though there was also plenty of schooling activity across the lake, Benton has ignored schoolers for the most part this week. Instead, he’s cruising around the shallows looking for bass that are locked on bed. According to BassTrakk, he caught 11 total bass and made important culls throughout the day.
Canadians: Gallant 26th, Cory Johnston 48th, Chris Johnston 65th & Gustafson 75th
Matt Robertson of Kuttawa, Ky., is leading after Day 1 of the Marathon Bassmaster Elite at Lake Murray with 25 pounds, 8 ounces. ( Photo: Seigo Saito/ BASS)
COLUMBIA, S.C. — At mid-morning, things were far from perfect for Matt Robertson.
With three little bass in his livewell, the Kuttawa, Ky., pro was back at the ramp at Dreher Island State Park trying to work out some motor issues and calm more than a few frustrations.
Fortunately, he was able to get them fixed and had one of his best days on the water this season, catching 25 pounds, 8 ounces. That has him leading the Marathon Bassmaster Elite at Lake Murray with a 2-8 advantage over second-place angler Drew Benton.
Robertson's five-bass limit was anchored by the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Day, a 6-14 largemouth.
“You know what? I’m happy my boat broke down,” he said. “Because if it hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t have caught those fish. Some things just happen for a reason.
‘I’m telling you, I can take a lot of credit for a lot (of stuff), but today wasn’t me. It was something else. We’ll just roll with it.”
As many anticipated, Lake Murray is showing out so far. The weather was almost as good as the fishing, with 16 bags over 20 pounds hitting the scales on the warm, calm April day. Of the 103 anglers competing, 97 limits were recorded and every angler caught at least two bass.
Poche fished in a tournament on South Carolina's Lake Murray April 2-5, placing him in violation of the off-limits period for the Elite Series tournament at Murray.
Bassmaster Elite Rule C3. I, for Practice and Competition states: “Off-limits for Elite events begins on the Monday closest to 28 days prior to the first practice day.”
According to B.A.S.S. officials, “Keith Poche violated the 28-day off-limits rule which has deemed him ineligible to compete in the Lake Murray Elite event."
Poche knew going into the season that he had a scheduling conflict between the two tournaments. He told B.A.S.S. tournament officials about the conflict early in the year, knowing that he would need to take a DQ for the Elite on Lake Murray.
EUFAULA, Okla. – Weighing the biggest bag of the tournament on Championship Sunday – 22 pounds, 9 ounces – Kelly Jordon vaulted from fourth to the win in Epic Baits Stop 3 Presented by B&W Trailer Hitches on Lake Eufaula. With Ron Nelson faltering on the final day, the door was open, and Jordon blasted through it.
Even partway through the day with an incomplete limit, Jordon was in contention thanks to the quality of his fish. When he made two last-minute culls despite dead trolling motor batteries, the veteran pro slammed the door. Totaling 57-3 on the event, Jordon earned $83,500 and locked up qualification for next year’s REDCREST.
A founding angler on the Bass Pro Tour, this was Jordon’s first foray into the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals, and it turned out to be a great move. The veteran pro has struggled on the BPT, and was overshadowed a bit in the Top 50, with young guns and rising stars all around him in the standings. But, while the fishing got harder for most on Day 3, the wily Texan saved the best for last.
Having fished a tournament or two at Eufaula before, Jordon came into the event a fan of the lake, but admitted that he had an idea how he wanted to fish it. It turned out that he was pretty much right on from the get-go.
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Originally published in Angling International
A sit-down with Canada's newest bass fishing legend
BASS Elite angler and Kenora, Ontario, Canada native Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson won the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota on the Tennessee River. Capturing the wire-to-wire win was a monumental achievement but for Canadian bass fishing fans, Gustafson brought the title home. Only a handful of Canadians have qualified to fish the Classic since its inception in 1970 but none have won. For Canadians and all international fans, this victory reignited their dream of stardom. I spoke with Jeff and got a chance to relive Classic week, tap into his mindset for the Classic and his focus on the rest of the 2023 Elite season.
Hi Jeff. Thanks for taking time for IBASSIN.com. Congratulations of course and wow! How crazy has it been?
Thanks Luigi for giving me a call. I just finished another interview 8-minutes ago. I still cannot believe it. I haven’t even got to my text messages or social media feeds. It’s been that busy. It can be overwhelming but I am so glad and I’ve gotten so many text messages from special people. It’s been really great.
It must be such a cool feeling.
I’m looking at the trophy right now. The names on it are unreal. I’m looking at Guido and Dion’s names here. They came to the KBI (Kenora Bass International, a huge tournament in Gussy’s hometown) in 1993 and I met them. They’re such legends. They finished 2nd and it was a big deal for them to come.
I did fish when Guido was still with FLW when I first started out but he was much older then. I did become friends with Dion. I spoke to Dion and mentioned the KBI and Dion told me it was the funnest trip he and his dad Guido ever had together. That’s special.
Yeah, there’s Brauer’s name and Ken Cook on the trophy. It’s amazing.
During the weigh- in, you explained that the driver back to the arena on Championship Sunday was horrible. Waiting backstage, did you get a feeling that you didn’t blow it? Or were you kept in isolation?
The ride back was horrible. I didn’t give myself a 10% chance. Someone always has a record day and wins. It was my camera man who told me I was close. I didn’t want to lose by 4oz! I would rather it was 4-pounds. I knew I would be just over 42 pounds. While I was sitting in the tunnel, waiting to weigh-in, I knew I was going to win when I heard Dave announce that Canterbury didn’t have 42.
I’d like to focus more on the mindset of your mental approach going into the 2023 Classic. Many said that the timing of the Classic, being later than your previous win, the warmer weather and the added fishing pressure on the smallmouth made the gamble to fish for them in the Classic too risky. Your thoughts.
The Classic isn’t a regular Elite 4-day event. It's about fishing to win. I don’t fish that way. I try to get my 10-grand (the minimum payout for finishing in the Top 50) and that is a win for me. Early in my career, I would fish and practice just to get my cheque. Here, I fished to win. I knew I’d have to take my chance at a win. It happens so infrequently that you just have to take it.