Webster Takes the Lead in TBF Shootout at Table Rock - Major League Fishing

Webster Takes the Lead in TBF Shootout at Table Rock

Missouri’s Hastings leads co-angler division by more than 4 pounds
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April 15, 2016 • Colin Moore • Archives

Squeezing a limit of bass out of Table Rock Lake on Friday was like squeezing the last glob of toothpaste out of a near-empty tube. Still, at least 14 anglers participating in the 2016 The Bass Federation National Championship were happy with the lake, as it helped them earn berths in the 2016 FLW Bass Fishing League All-American on Lake Barkley June 8. The top seven boaters in each division won spots in the prestigious All-American, as did the top seven co-anglers in each division.

As happy as the boaters were to make Friday’s cut, one of them will be even happier Saturday evening when he’s crowned 2016 TBF champion and recipient of the $100,000 “Living the Dream” prize package that includes paid entry fees in the 2017 Walmart FLW Tour as a pro, the use of a wrapped Ranger bass boat and other assorted goodies. Heading into Saturday’s final round, Mississippi angler Joseph Webster is in the catbird seat with a two-day total of 28 pounds, 12 ounces.

Besides Webster, the Southern Division standard-bearer in the final round, other boaters who won divisional titles included Corey Cook (West Virginia) of the Mid-Atlantic Division, Aaron Echternkamp (Washington) of the Northwest Division, Nelson Walker (South Carolina) of the Southern Division, Jon Griffith (Arizona) of the Southwest Division, Randy Ramsey (Michigan) of the Northern Division and Tim Farrell (Massachusetts) of the Eastern Division.

On the co-angler side, the fishermen who’ll compete Saturday include Adam Wood (Georgia) of the Southern Division, Dennis Hastings (Texas) of the Central Division, Mike Renshaw (Virginia) of the Mid-Atlantic Division, Jesse Parks (Arizona) of the Southwest Division, Brooks Gullixon (Wisconsin) of the Northern Division, Scott Balasco (Rhode Island) of the Eastern Division and Danny Stamper (Montana) of the Northwest Division. The co-angler champion will be rewarded with paid entry in the 2017 Costa FLW Series tournament division of his choice.

Webster’s limit weighing 16-04 was the best sack brought to the scale at Port of Kimberling Resort & Marina in two days of fishing, and it evicted Mid-Atlantic team member Daniel Gray from the lead. The latter, who led on day one with 13-13, could muster only 12-13 on day two for a total of 26-10 and fell to third in the standings behind Corey Cook of West Virginia, also of the Mid-Atlantic Division, who enters the championship round with 28-07.

Given that Webster and Cook are only 5 ounces apart in the standings, and that Echternkamp isn’t far behind, it’s still anybody’s tournament to win or lose. Just about every boater fishing Saturday is keying on spawning fish, either the ones that they can see on beds or the ones that they catch by fan-casting in the back ends of spawning coves.

“I’ve been all over this lake, and fishing is really tough,” says Webster. “I caught most of my fish in one area, but they might not be there when I go back. I burned a bunch of fish today [Friday]. At least I didn’t try to wear them out. I caught my limit by 10 o’clock, then quit fishing and went looking for more rocky pockets that might hold fish. I didn’t find too much.”

As for the rest of the divisional leaders who’ll be trying to unseat Webster Saturday:


2. Corey Cook – Mid-Atlantic, West Virginia – 28-07

Though he never fished Table Rock before this event, Corey Cook has warmed up to the lake like few other competitors.

“I love this lake,” confesses Cook, who, like Webster, is fishing in his first TBF championship. “It reminds me of some of the lakes in eastern Tennessee that I like to fish.”

Cook notes that he’s been running all over the lake, but has now established a more manageable milk run for Saturday’s grand finale. Though he’s caught bedding fish that he wasn’t targeting, the housing authority inspector from Delbarton, W.Va., is concentrating on bass suspended in or around brush piles. He caught eight keepers Friday and had his limit by 11.

“In one place I caught two keepers in two casts and culled twice,” he says.

Friday, Cook wound up with a limit that weighed 15-10.


3. Aaron Echternkamp – Northwest, Washington – 26-10

A stranger in a strange land, Aaron Echternkamp nevertheless has managed to make himself at home on Table Rock. Though his first fish Friday came off a main-lake point, he switched to bed-fishing. Good move; he ended up with a five-fish sack that weighed 14-05.

“I had trouble catching the bedders on day one, but I think I’ve finally figured out a way to catch them,” he reveals. Time will tell.


4. Nelson Walker – Southern, South Carolina – 24-06

A banker back home in Manning in Santee-Cooper country, Nelson Walker managed to cash in on his skill with a jerkbait, a drop-shot rig and a jig to reach the final round.

“I feel very fortunate making it this far, considering what a terrible practice I had,” he notes. “Today I did pretty much what I did Thursday – moving around a lot and just plugging away at them. Mainly I’m fishing the backs of pockets and trying to cover all of it as efficiently as possible before going on to the next one.”

Walker’s limit weighed 12-14.


5. Jon Griffith – Southwest, Arizona – 24-02

“I sight-fished all day and caught a lot of fish on a drop-shot rig,” Jon Griffith confesses. “There are so many fish moving up to the bank where I am, it’s crazy. So it’s the same program Saturday, and I’m hoping for more cloudy weather.”

Griffith’s limit of 13-10 enabled him to snatch the divisional title away from Sam Heckman, with whom he shares a friendly rivalry. In 2015, Heckman beat Griffith by 6 ounces. This time around, the latter returned the favor – but by more than a pound.


6. Randy Ramsey – Northern, Michigan – 21-10

Randy Ramsey’s first remark after TBF emcee Robert Cartlidge told him he was the divisional champion: “I don’t believe it.”

Cartlidge assured Ramsey he was fishing Saturday, however, and if Ramsey brings in another limit of 14-05, his amazement might not end there.

“Some of my fish were probably on beds, but I didn’t see them when they bit,” says Ramsey. “I was power fishing with one type of bait and fishing water that wasn’t very clear. But that was by design because I was going for reaction strikes.”

Ramsey adds that the six keepers he caught “crushed it,” and he culled once.


7. Tim Farrell – Eastern, Massachusetts – 18-01

A carpenter and builder, Tim Farrell caught one of his fish by sight-fishing and the other – a 4 1/2-pounder – on an umbrella rig.

“This is a beautiful lake – my kind of lake,” he says. “I would really like to come back here when it’s on.”


Tomorrow’s action

The TBF championship’s final-round weigh-in Saturday at 3 p.m. will be preceded by the first-day weigh-in of the TBF/FLW Student Angler Federation High School Fishing National Championship. Twelve teams from around the country are competing in the two-day tournament that ends Sunday afternoon with a weigh-in at the Walmart No. 1 store in Rogers, Ark.


Wood leads co-angler division

Fishing and succeeding as a co-angler is all about complementing the fishing style of the guy in the front of the boat, and Adam Wood of Guyton, Ga., managed that nicely for two days on Table Rock.

Wood, representing the Southern Division, had three fish and 6 pounds, 6 ounces in the opening round, then limited out on day two with 12-14. That gave him the lead in the co-angler standings with 19-4. Dennis Hastings of Texas (Central Division) is currently second with 16-15, and Mike Renshaw of Virginia (Mid-Atlantic) is third with 16-12.

“I was going down the bank behind my partner [Hoyt Akins] flipping a jig. We were just on fish when we needed to be. I caught six keepers and culled once. It was one here and one there,” recalls Wood.

Akins, of Arkansas, also caught a limit that tallied 12-03.