FAIRCLOTH SCORES THIRD BLUE TROPHY AT THE MISSISSIPPI
Story by Matt Pangrac and Dave Rush - Photos by Dave Rush and Matt Pangrac
La Crosse WI – 5 pounds, 15 ounces. That’s how much weight separated the top 12 anglers entering the final day of competition at the sixth Bassmaster Elite Series tournament of the season on the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
While he wouldn’t admit it until after it was all over, Todd Faircloth, who held a slim lead at the conclusion of both Friday and Saturday, was feeling the pressure to close out his third Elite Series victory. “I feel like I’m around the winning fish,” he stated on Saturday after seeing his lead shrink to just seven ounces over Aaron Martens. “To beat these guys, everything has to fall in to place and go exactly as planned.”
On Sunday, things didn’t go exactly as planned for Faircloth, but he did enough to hang on and win his third Bassmaster Elite Series trophy, besting a hard charging Cliff Pace by 1 pound, 4 ounces.
“It feels like a brick is off of my shoulders right now,” said Faircloth, who weighed in a 14-9 limit on Sunday to finish with a total weight of 62-4. “It was a pretty nerve-wracking day.”
The day started as planned for the quiet Texan, who boxed a 12 pound limit early on Sunday morning and then culled several times during the opening hours of competition. “I was feeling good about it, because it was early and I had around 13 or 14 pounds,” he explained. “After that, I really struggled for the rest of the day. I really felt like the flipping bite would turn on when the sun got up, but I couldn’t get anything going.”
In the last hour of competition, Faircloth boated a key largemouth that proved to be the most critical fish of the day. “I went back to one of my best spots and flipped up a three and a half pounder. That’s probably what won the tournament for me,” he said.
Each of the four days, Faircloth relied on two key areas. He fished one area early in the morning before moving to his second area once the temperatures warmed and the sun got higher.
“Early in the morning, I had a shallow spot that was on the point of an island,” Faircloth explained. “There was a big hole in the grass and there was also a cut through the grass. I was just easing up through the cut following a trail that I’d made because I’d been through the area so many times.
“When I got in a key area, I’d Power-Pole down and really work it hard. One of the biggest things about that spot was that there was current moving through it. It also had a good, hard bottom and a mixture of all four grasses – hydrilla, milfoil, cabbage, and duckweed.”
Faircloth’s second area was a massive grass flat located near the bottom of pool eight. The flat also featured a combination of grasses in three to five feet of water, and as the week progressed, he was able to identify several key areas within the flat.
He employed an arsenal of baits, including an unnamed hollow-bodied frog, shad-style walking bait that featured a frog hook, Yamamoto D-Shad, All-Terrain Tackle ¼ ounce swim jig, and Yamamoto Creature bait that he Texas-rigged with a 1 ¼ ounce tungsten weight.
Most of his fish early in the day came on the frog, swim jig, and D-Shad. Once the sun got up, he’d throw the frog and punch grass with the creature bait. “I know that it’s easier to name one or two primary lures, but it was really an accumulation of baits this week,” he explained.
When throwing the frog and shad-style bait, Faircloth used a 7’2” CastAway rod that he paired with an Abu Garcia Revo Premier reel and 50-pound-test Spiderwire Ultracast braided line. He flipped the creature bait on a 7’6” CastAway rod with 50-pound-test Spiderwire braid, and dropped down to a 7’ CastAway rod and 30-pound-test Spiderwire Ultracast for the jig and D-Shad.
“The rod, line, and reel were a big key in my success this week,” said Faircloth, who often had several pounds of vegetation enveloping the bass that he hooked. “If it wasn’t for braid, I don’t know if I would have landed any of my fish this week. I used fairly heavy action rods, but they all have a good parabolic bend to them, and I think that was really key.”
Faircloth said that his win this week on the Mississippi River was totally unexpected. “Coming into this tournament, I was just looking to get a check and get out of here. I’ve never been here before or seen this place. I didn’t know what to anticipate. As the tournament progressed, especially after the third day, I thought that I definitely had a shot at this thing.”
With a spot in the 2013 Classic wrapped up, Faircloth has his sights set on the Toyota Tundra Angler Of the Year title. After his performance this week on the Mississippi, he sits in 2nd place in the standings, 19 points behind leader Brent Chapman.
"We start practice on Green Bay tomorrow, and my focus now is on the AOY title,” he stated. “If other guys’ say that they’re not thinking about it, that’s all fine and dandy, but I’m thinking about it. I’ve had a great career so far, but I still have a couple of titles that I’ve yet to achieve. I’m very proud of being able to say that I now have three Elite Series wins.”
TODD FAIRCLOTH VISITS WITH THE MEDIA AFTER WINNING HIS THIRD ELITE SERIES TITLE
2nd Place: Cliff Pace (61-0)
For the second consecutive tournament, Cliff Pace was one of the last two competitors standing on the Elite Series weigh-in stage on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately for Pace, he has yet to hoist the blue trophy over his head in victory.
On Sunday in La Crosse, Pace, who entered the day in 6th place, brought in the heaviest limit of the day weighing 16-1. As a result, he occupied the Skeeter hot seat as four other competitors failed to top his total weight of 61-0. When Todd Faircloth’s 14-9 limit bested Pace by 1 pound, 4 ounces, the Mississippi pro finished in second, just two weeks after Brent Chapman edged him out at Toledo Bend for the title.
The consummate professional, Pace took many positives from his week on the Mississippi. “It has been two great tournaments. I could have won either one of them, and eventually I will. All of us go into every single tournament wanting to win, and sometimes we finish 90th. It’s a whole lot better to finish 2nd,” he explained.
This week on the Mississippi, Pace, like many of the top finishers, opted to say in pool eight with the exception of a few hours on Sunday. While he fished a loose pattern, he said that he didn’t have any specific spots that he hit each day. “I was just fishing whatever was in front of me,” he explained.
“There are so many fish in this place that you can get three or four patterns going. I fished a lot of different baits in a lot of different situations. That’s how you take advantage of everywhere you turn your key off. If you get too specific here, it can hurt you.”
Pace spent the majority of his time fishing the main river and keying on current breaks. “They would get in anything that was breaking the current,” he explained. “As the water came up, the fish would change a little bit each day. The fish were right on the edge of the current.”
On Sunday, Pace said that he emptied the tank in an attempt to win his first Elite Series trophy. “I took every risk that I could take today,” he explained. “On the first day of practice, I found a really good school of quality fish up in the Onalaska pool. This morning, I sacrificed catching a 12 pound limit and locked up to that area. I only got one bite, so I locked back down at 8:30.”
Hitting numerous current breaks for the remainder of the day in pool eight, Pace amassed his 16-1 mixed bag of largemouth and smallmouth. His arsenal included a Jackall Aska crankbait in a crawfish pattern, Jackall Iobee Frog, V&M tube in black neon color, and a Carolina-rigged V&M finesse worm.
3rd Place: Terry Butcher (60-11)
At the conclusion of Sunday’s weigh-in, Terry Butcher had settled in a familiar position. This week on the Mississippi River marks the fifth time in his Elite Series regular season career that he has finished in third place. With a final day limit weighing 13-15, Butcher amassed a total weight of 60-11.
While the other 11 competitors fishing on Sunday all keyed on pool eight for the duration of the tournament (with the exception of Cliff Pace, who locked on Sunday morning for two hours before returning to pool eight), Butcher locked up to pool seven each day, making the run to a shallow backwater area.
“I caught a lot of fish, but I never could catch a big one today,” said Butcher. “I could catch a ton of two and a half pounders, and that was the story of my tournament. I had one little backwater area up there that I spent most of my time in.”
While he had several key spots within the backwater area, one point proved to be the most fruitful. “If I got a little bored fishing my other areas, I’d just venture back over to that one spot and just whack on them some more, just to have fun.” While he caught only 12 keepers on Thursday, Butcher said that things got crazy on Friday when he located where the biomass was holding.
He relied primarily on a Booyah Pad Crasher frog and also mixed in a ½ ounce Booyah spinnerbait.
“I got off to a bad start this year, but I’ve been really consistent in the last four. It feels a whole lot better to be fishing good again,” he concluded.
4th Place: Jamie Horton (59-11)
Elite Series Rookie, Jamie Horton, jumped into Classic contention this week at the Mississippi River after recording a fourth place finish. After recording the first top 12 finish of his career last month on Douglas Lake, the Alabama pro contended for the lead for the majority of the week on the Mississippi River.
He jumped up to 3rd place on Friday with the tournament’s heaviest limit weighing 18-4, and entered championship Sunday just over two pounds out of the lead. With a final day limit weighing 14-5, he finished with a total weight of 59-11.
“I was doing something that I had fun with,” he said. “I was having a big time throwing a frog, and today, it was hard to make myself leave the fish when they were biting to try and find an area where I thought that I could get a bigger bite.”
Horton spent the majority of the tournament fishing in Minnesota, where he keyed on the mayfly hatch along a stretch of rocky bank. “There was a little stretch of milfoil there that was about 150 yards long and 10 foot wide,” he explained. “It had duckweed on the backside of it, and the fish were holding on three little places. All week long, I caught fish on those three little spots and nowhere else in the area.” He also mixed in a “big fish area,” where he caught three of his kickers on Friday.
Horton threw a variety of different hollow-bodied frogs, but eventually settled on a Booyah Pad Crasher in several different colors. “I just feel like the fish got that bait the best,” he explained.
“I knew that I wasn’t going to catch every fish that bit me, but overall, I feel like I fished a really good tournament,” Horton concluded.
5th Place: Aaron Martens (58-1)
Starting the day in second place, Aaron Martens was primed to make a move and claim his third elite series victory. Martens, who fittingly had figured something different out this week on the Mississippi River, fell to fifth place, after bringing his lightest bag of the four day event to the scales on Sunday weighing 10-13.
“The week was really good; it was stellar - until today. I was really disappointed by the bug hatch today, it really scattered all the fish I was targeting and made them really hard to catch,” said Martens.
Relying primarily on a technique that has vaulted him to the top rung of professional bass fishing, Martens fished a drop shot primarily, but also mixed in a flutter spoon to target bass he found relating to large schools of gizzard shad that were located on the bottom in deeper water.
“I was drop shoting a couple of different Roboworms,” he explained. “I caught most of them on a four inch Fat Roboworm today, but the other days they mostly came on the six inch. I caught some on the flutter spoon also, but they stopped biting that for some reason. I rigged the drop shot with eight-pound-test Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon on a Megabass spinning rod. I was using a 4/0 Gamakatsu Rebarb hook and either a 1/8 oz or a 3/16 ounce weight,” Martens said.
With a huge mayfly hatch occurring overnight in the La Crosse area, Martens’ fish repositioned themselves on Sunday, making it extremely difficult for him to catch them as consistently as he had on the previous three days.
“Today, my fish suspended really bad. They had been positioned on the bottom and I was able to catch them pretty well. The mayfly hatch just really scattered my fish out. I could see them coming up and sucking the flies of the top of the water all day. It just spread everything out in general. I actually ended up just catching them all over in random spots in my area,” lamented Martens.
After getting off to a slower than average start to the season, Martens has steadily been climbing the ladder and now sits solidly within the cut to make the Bassmaster Classic at Grand Lake in Oklahoma.
“So far I’m solid, but I need to keep moving up in the points. I was catching thirty to forty keepers a day here, so it was overall a good week,” Martens concluded.
6th Place: Terry Scroggins (57-11)
Final Day Thoughts: “I just never got the big bite I needed to make that difference today. I caught plenty of fish again, but the big ones just never showed up.”
Primary Pattern: “I found a little area that had some milfoil and duckweed mixed together. I was just fishing certain little areas within about a fifteen acre deal, and was fortunate to get a few good bites.”
Primary Baits: YUM Big Show Craw, Booyah Pad Crasher
Key to the Week: “Just finding a good area that I felt comfortable in, and sticking with it, was the key. Instead of trying to run around and upgrade here and there, I just stayed patient and was able to get some key bites in my primary area.”
Week in Review: “It was a really tight tournament here this week. I did some good for myself in the AOY standings, and that is always a good thing. It’s a river, but it fishes a lot like stuff back home in Florida.”
7th Place: Bill Lowen (57-10)
Final Day Thoughts: “I caught a lot of fish today, but I think that the mayfly hatch kind of messed up a few of my spots today. I could see giant smallmouth coming up and sucking them off the surface today, but couldn’t figure out how to catch them at all.”
Primary Pattern: “I was just fishing the main river and keying on anything that created a current break. Whether it was a washer or dryer, an old tire, or whatever, if it broke the current you could catch a fish around it.”
Primary Baits: Tight Lines UV Tube
Key to the Week: “Staying out in the main river and avoiding the crowded backwater areas was the key for me this week.”
Week in Review: “Even though I did pretty well, the event really didn’t go as expected. I had some days in practice where I could have done 20 pounds pretty easy, but that never materialized during the tournament.”
8th Place: Dean Rojas (57-7)
Final Day Thoughts: “I did everything I wanted to do today, but it never really materialized. The water came up in my areas and I think it actually was creating a little too much current and may have scattered the fish out. Today was a battle out there all day long.”
Primary Pattern: “I was fishing current breaks created by wingdams that had patchy grass mixed throughout the area. I was mixing it up with several different baits, depending on what the fish wanted.”
Primary Baits: Spro Bronzeye Frog 65, Spro Little John Crankbait, Spro K-Finesse Jig, Chatterbait
Key to the Week: “The speed of the current in my primary area was really a big key. I was fishing a wing dam that the water was flowing over and it was positioning the fish where I could pinpoint their location.”
Week in Review: “I’m pleased that I got another top 12 and got some momentum heading into the next event. I’m also a little disappointed because I really feel like I let an opportunity to win one slip out of my grasp here this week.”
9th Place: Cliff Prince (55-0)
Final Day Thoughts: “The fish never really turned on for me today. I really struggled all day. It took me all day to catch a limit and I only culled two fish today and caught eighteen that wouldn’t keep.”
Primary Pattern: “I was concentrating on areas where there was some current flow that had milfoil with duckweed covering it.”
Primary Baits: Booyah Pad Crasher (Bullfrog)
Key to the Week: “The key was finding the mix of vegetation where you had some current flow and the fish were feeding on bluegill. There was still a little bit of a bluegill spawn going on, and I think that was key.”
Week in Review: “I’m really pleased with how this week turned out for me, and overall with my year so far in general. This next week in Green Bay is going to be a whole new deal for me. I have never been on any big water like that in a bass tournament.”
10th Place: Steve Kennedy (54-11)
Final Day Thoughts: “The muddy water really started to come in on my area a little more today and affected the fish a little. I just didn’t catch quite as many today, but some of that had to do with how many fish I had caught throughout the week. I bet I caught over a hundred fish the first day.”
Primary Pattern: “I was fishing areas that had cleaner water with matted grass. Most of the fish I would catch on the frog, but if they missed it I would just flip back in there with the psycho dad and they would eat it.”
Primary Baits: Kinami Psycho Dad, unnamed hollow-bodied frog.
Key to the Week: “Finding certain patches of grass that had huge schools of fish underneath them was the key. Those fish were trying to get out of the muddy water and the grass patches were clearing up the water.”
Week in Review: “This week was a blast. I put the boat in the first day of practice at the campground we were staying at and found a little place nearby and never really had to leave.”
11th Place: Randy Howell (54-3)
Final Day Thoughts: “Today just got away from me. I really gambled today and stuck with the frog all day. I had a few good ones hooked today that got off, and my mayfly deal just kind of fizzled out today.”
Primary Pattern: “I was basically catching fish out of the duckweed that was more sparse. it wasn’t the really thick stuff. I also had a little mayfly deal going on.”
Primary Baits: Rattle Back Jig (White Flash), Gary Yamamoto Single Tail Grub (Jig Trailer), Unnamed hollow -bodied frog.
Key to the Week: “Figuring out that my fish weren’t in the really thick stuff, and also the may fly hatch was the key for me here this week.”
Week in Review: “I really did all I could do here this week. It was good to make a final day and get back on track after Toledo Bend.”
12th Place: Rick Clunn (48-5)
Final Day Thoughts: “I have been doing this since 1974 and really was arrogant enough in my younger days to think I had this thing figured out. But honestly I really don’t know what happened today. The dynamics of fishing and fisheries, especially tournament fishing is ever changing.”
Primary Pattern: “I was mainly cranking main river locations, but did have one backwater area where I caught some on a frog.”
Primary Baits: Luck-E-Strike Series 4 (Copper Perch), unnamed hollow-bodied frog.
Key to the Week: “The crankbait was the key deal for me this week. I just couldn’t get them to bite a jig and other baits in my areas.”
Week in Review: “The fact that the floating grass moved into my primary areas and prevented me from fishing the crankbait effectively really hurt my chances to do better here this week.”
A full story will be posted later this evening.
|Place||Name||Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Day 4||Total Fish||Total Weight|
|1||Todd Faircloth||5||15- 0||5||17-14||5||14-13||5||14- 9||20||62- 4|
|2||Cliff Pace||5||14-12||5||16- 3||5||14- 0||5||16- 1||20||61- 0|
|3||Terry Butcher||5||15- 5||5||16-13||5||14-10||5||13-15||20||60-11|
|4||Jamie Horton||5||13- 6||5||18- 4||5||13-12||5||14- 5||20||59-11|
|5||Aaron Martens||5||16- 5||5||14-13||5||16- 2||5||10-13||20||58- 1|
|6||Terry Scroggins||5||14-15||5||13-12||5||15- 2||5||13-14||20||57-11|
|7||Bill Lowen||5||13-14||5||14- 1||5||14-10||5||15- 1||20||57-10|
|8||Dean Rojas||5||14-12||5||15- 3||5||15- 8||5||12- 0||20||57- 7|
|9||Cliff Prince||5||13-10||5||16- 8||5||14- 9||5||10- 5||20||55- 0|
|10||Stephen Kennedy||5||13-13||5||15- 2||5||12-13||5||12-15||20||54-11|
|11||Randy Howell||5||13-11||5||15- 3||5||14- 3||5||11- 2||20||54- 3|
|12||Rick Clunn||5||15- 5||5||15-13||5||13- 3||2||4- 0||17||48- 5|