Webster Triumphs at Table Rock - Major League Fishing

Webster Triumphs at Table Rock

Mississippi angler wins 2016 TBF National Championship
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April 16, 2016 • Colin Moore • Archives


Day 1

Day 2


Old Table Rock fishing hands, the types seen sitting alone in the local Waffle House in the wee hours of the morning and muttering to themselves, have a saying about the guy who leads a tournament on the lake one day before toppling the next.

“He got Rocked,” they cackle to each other, knowing that it was the angler’s fate to lose his lofty standing and fulfill the fishing gods’ promise to first make proud him whom they would destroy.

There are exceptions, however, as Mississippi angler Joseph Webster proved Saturday in the final round of the 2016 The Bass Federation National Championship. Webster, who took over the lead from Daniel Gray in the second round of the three-day event, withstood Table Rock’s propensity to produce fish one day and withhold them the next to win the 2016 title. TBF President and CEO Robert Cartlidge proclaimed Webster the recipient of the $100,000 “Living the Dream” prize package that includes paid entry as a boater in the 2017 Walmart FLW Tour, the use of a fully equipped Ranger bass boat, pocket money and other perks. A Ranger owner, Webster also took home another Ranger through the Ranger Cup contingency award program.

A member of the Bull Mountain Bass Club in northeast Mississippi, Webster won the event by a 6-pound, 6-ounce margin over runner-up Jon Griffith of Mesa, Ariz. It was some consolation for Griffith, a full-time guide on Lake Saguaro, and the five other divisional finalists that they will be joining Webster at the FLW Bass Fishing League All-American on Lake Barkley in early June. Likewise, the top co-angler in each division will compete in the All-American.

Though Webster’s margin of victory suggests that it was a cakewalk for him, the issue was in doubt until he switched to an umbrella rig at mid-morning. He had relied on a Zoom Critter Craw pitched to bedding fish the previous two days and had two limits and 28 pounds, 12 ounces of bass to show for it. By 9:30 a.m. Saturday, however, Webster had boated two decent keepers and one that would barely bump, and his prospects of improving on that seemed dim. Besides, West Virginia boater Corey Cook was breathing down his neck and only 5 ounces behind him when tournament director Randy Sullivan turned them loose that morning.

What separates the wheat from the chaff in tournament fishing, however, is the rare instinct of the angler who knows when it’s time to do something different and who has a strong hunch about what that something is. In Webster’s case, that meant digging an umbrella rig with Keitech swimbaits out of his rod locker. 

“I hadn’t thrown an A-rig all week up to that point,” he recalls. “I fished it a little in practice and caught two on it, but I was catching so many bedding fish that I decided to stick with what had been working for me. When it stopped working, though, I thought the conditions were right for an A-rig.”

Webster had fished the back ends of pockets at Indian Point throughout the tournament, but after he decided the bed bite was toast on Saturday he started working the umbrella rig around docks with about 40 feet of water under them. Within a few minutes after making the switch, he caught a solid 3-pounder. A couple of casts later, he caught another. He was cranking them through water about 8 to 10 feet deep.

“There wasn’t anything tentative about the way they hit,” recalls Webster, whose home lake is Pickwick. “They would just come in and wallop it. The rig had three hooked baits and a couple of teasers, and about six spinner blades. I don’t know if it was because it was so cloudy and the water was murky, but the fish were really eating it up. I think I caught nine keepers and wound up culling three times. The best place was around a dock on a fairly broad point that just sloped out into deeper water.”    

So much for Table Rock’s finicky nature. In the end it wasn’t Webster who got Rocked, but the lake itself, and it was Lynyrd Skynyard grade.


2. Jon Griffith – Southwest Division, Arizona – 37-03

There was nothing fancy about Jon Griffith’s game plan – find the clearest water he could and chunk a drop-shot rig the whole time. It was an effective approach. Though it didn’t produce the quality of fish he needed to win, it did result in three limits. Griffith culled five fish Saturday. A member of the Phoenix Bassmasters, Griffith spent the entire tournament hitting spots up the White River.

“The fishing got better for me each day. It wasn’t as up-and-down as it apparently was for some of the other guys,” Griffith says. “This lake really impresses me, and I hope to be able to come back some day for another tournament.

Griffith’s go-to bait was a hand-poured 5-inch worm (light oxblood) rigged with a 1/4-ounce tungsten weight. Griffith credits the sensitivity of his VKOOI custom-made rod for transmitting the feel of light bites that he otherwise would have missed.


3. Randy Ramsey – Northern Division, Michigan – 36-14

Being paired with West Virginia co-angler Steve Dinkler was one of the best things to happen to Randy Ramsey. The former gave Ramsey one of his homemade spinnerbaits, and it proved to be popular with Table Rock’s bass. Ramsey fished the white 3/8-ounce spinnerbait along the shoreline near the dam, and it produced a couple of limits, including the best stringer in the final round: 15-04.

“I just threw the spinnerbait up to the rocks on the bank and then reeled it back in,” says Ramsey. “It was really effective in the discolored water down there. A lot of bass were roaming up and down the bank, so I was picking off some with reaction strikes.”


4. Aaron Echternkamp – Northwest Division, Washington – 33-07

Aaron Echternkamp moved from seventh in the opening round to fourth on the second day and thought he might have figured out an important pattern. The Washington angler caught a number of bedding fish Friday afternoon on buzzbaits and was hopeful that he could return in the championship round and coax a few more. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Echternkamp didn’t have a fish until mid-morning and wound up a couple shy of a limit.

“I expected the fishing would get better later in the day, but it didn’t,” he recalls. “I tried to stay relaxed and get those reaction bites, but it didn’t happen. So I went back to bed-fishing and caught a couple on a drop-shot rig. The bank bite really went south for me.”

Other than the white buzzbait that he fished with on day two, Echternkamp’s most productive bait was a white Sniper Snub worm on a drop-shot rig.


5. Corey Cook – Mid-Atlantic Division, West Virginia – 33-06

If anybody got Rocked, it was Corey Cook. He culled fish and caught limits of 12-13 and 15-10 in the first and second rounds to anchor second place behind Webster, but then could only muster two fish and 4 pounds, 15 ounces the last day.

Cook was fishing the back ends of pockets near the dam, but a wicked wind blew in on his best spots and wrecked his bed-fishing game.

“The fish were there; I just couldn’t get them to bite,” he says. “I caught most of my fish on a shaky head with a Strike King 5-inch finesse worm (green pumpkin), but then I switched to a spinnerbait for a while today (Saturday) and caught one keeper. I think the wind really hurt me. I couldn’t see the fish nearly as well, and it [the wind] seemed to make the fish more finicky. To get that close and then have a day like this – it hurts.”


6. Tim Farrell – Eastern Division, Massachusetts – 29-05

Tim Farrell’s fate was sealed Friday when he brought in only two keepers for 6-05. That meager sack was sandwiched between a respectable 11 pounds, 12 ounces on day one and an 11-pound, 4-ounce haul on day three. Still, he’s going to the All-American as the Eastern Division champion.

“My best producer this week was a Missile Baits D Bomb, and I was just pitching it to bedding fish,” he says. “The problem for me was that I was fishing where the bigger females just hadn’t moved in yet. But I just kept whacking them on the head until they couldn’t take it anymore – and they’d eat it.

Farrell was fishing pockets off the main lake between Kimberling City and the dam. He fished the Texas-rigged D Bomb in various colors with a 3/16-ounce sinker.


7. Nelson Walker – Southern Division, South Carolina – 26-09

Like Cook and Farrell, Nelson Walker suffered a letdown in the championship round when he could produce only one keeper that weighed 2-03. He started the day in sixth place and a bit more than 4 pounds out of first.

“I was really disappointed,” says Walker. “I knew that I had to go after big fish today to have any kind of chance at all, but the better fish just wouldn’t cooperate. I must have caught 15 or so fish, but all but one of them were short. I ran out of the better fish and couldn’t find any new ones, mainly because the wind muddied up the water. It was just one of those days when the fish beat me.”

Walker alternated between a SPRO McStick jerkbait (blue with a black back) and a Shooter jig (green pumpkin)


Wood Tops Co-Angler Field

Adam Wood isn’t the type to talk anybody’s leg off, but the Georgia angler let his fishing tackle do the talking for him in the 2016 The Bass Federation National Championship as he captured first place in the co-angler rankings with 11 fish that totaled 26-14.

The quiet-spoken Southern Division representative from Guyton, Ga., had the good fortune to fish with boater champion Joseph Webster in the final round. Wood had only one fish in the livewell by mid-morning, but then switched to an umbrella rig and Keitech swimbaits and boated two solid keepers.

For his efforts, Wood will not only get to fish the FLW Bass Fishing League All-American on Lake Barkley in June, but also have paid entry in the Costa FLW Series division of his choice in 2017.

“I came in and did what I know how to do,” Wood told the weigh-in crowd at Port of Kimberling Resort & Marina. “The first day I sight-fished, which is not something I like to do, but then on the second day I got to flip a jig all day, which suits me better.”

Fishing with Webster, Wood felt compelled to try an umbrella rig after his partner connected with two chunky largemouths.

“I’ve never fished an A-rig too much, but I probably will fish it more now,” states Wood.

The last keeper he caught on day three came in the boat at 2:14 p.m., just before the duo had to return to the check-in.