Securing the largest stringer of the tournament on the final day of competition allowed Jason Sandidge to capture first place Saturday in the boater division of the T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League Regional on the Red River out of the Red River South Marina.
One of six BFL Regional Tournaments, the three-day event, presented by Quaker State, included 171 boaters hoping for the big payday earned by Sandidge. The Centerton, Ark., angler, competing out of the Okie Division, caught 31 pounds, 12 ounces of Red River bass, including a 14-1 stringer Saturday, to win a Ranger Z518C with a 200-hp Evinrude outboard and a $20,000 check.
An emotional Sandidge ended his on-stage interview when he broke down talking about his good friend, Blue Mhoon, who lost his battle with cancer in January.
“Blue was my fishing partner, and he’s the one who got me into fishing these BFLs because he said I could win one,” Sandidge says. “I’ve dedicated this win to him.”
It’ll be the first trip to the prestigious All-American event for Sandidge, who caught three consecutive five-fish limits under tough conditions for most of the competitors.
“I caught about eight to 10 keepers a day, mostly on green pumpkin or blue sapphire flipping baits,” Sandidge says. A Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Craw was his primary lure. “The key was I dipped the pincers in chartreuse.”
To catch them, Sandidge says he flipped wood on the edge of a deep ditch and stayed in the same 50-yard section all day.
Deaver flips trees for second place
Second place went to Randy Deaver, who lives in Blanchard, La., located about 15 minutes from the Bossier City Bass Pro Shops where the final weigh-in was held. Entering day three in sixth place, Deaver had the second largest stringer of the week, 13-11, on Saturday to finish with 30-7 and earn $10,200 for his effort.
Deaver knows the river well and used his knowledge of the river’s Pools 4 and 5 to make decisions that allowed the veteran angler to earn his first trip to the All-American.
“I’ve fished the BFLs a long time, and I’m super pumped to make the All-American, which has always been a goal of mine,” Deaver says. “All of my fish came on V&M J-Bugs in blue sapphire around trees with my last keeper coming at 3 p.m. Saturday when we had to be in at 3:30 p.m.”
Blaschke leads early, falls to third
Muldrow, Okla., angler Ben Blaschke led the first two days of the grueling event but managed just 9-7 Saturday and fell to third with a 29-10 three-day limit. His consolation prize was $5,000 and a trip to next year’s BFL All-American, which will take place just across the river from the Bass Pro Shops at Cross Lake out of Shreveport.
Obviously still a little shaken about seeing his win slip away as the final angler to weigh in, Blaschke says his best hole muddied up Saturday, and he doesn’t know why.
“I was using a Kahoma square-bill crankbait, fishing shallow stumps,” he says. “But it was hard for the fish to see the crankbait in mud. But it is a dream come true to make the All-American.”
Top 10 boaters
1. Jason Sandidge – Centerton, Ark. – 31-12 (15) – $65,000
2. Randy Deaver – Blanchard, La. – 30-7 (15) – $10,200
3. Ben Blaschke – Muldrow, Okla. – 29-10 (15) – $5,000
4. Randy Despino – Colfax, La. – 26-5 (14) – $3,100
5. John Shore – Owasso, Okla. – 23-1 (11) – $2,000
6. Nick Lebrun – Bossier City, La. – 23-0 (11) – $1,800
7. Samuel Jenkins – Abita Springs, La. – 23-0 (14) – $1,600
8. Austin Parker – Broken Arrow, Okla. – 21-7 (13) – $1,400
9. James Marsh – Thomas, Okla. – 21-5 (12) – $1,200
10. Ed Barton – Vian, Okla. – 19-11 (9) – $1,000
Colwell claims co-angler title
The co-angler division was won by Nathan Colwell of Pryor, Okla., who caught 17-5 over three days to earn his second trip to the All-American. He fished his first in 2014. Colwell will join his father, Cord Colwell, at the All-American after the elder Colwell finished fourth with 14-8 total.
Despite fishing out of a boat with a broken motor on the second day when he managed just a single 1-pound, 12-ounce fish, Nathan found the right magic to pick up a Ranger Z518C with a 200-hp Evinrude.
“I was a nervous wreck, but I finally calmed down. I think it’s so cool that my dad made it, too,” he says. “I used a topwater frog and Big Bite Baits soft plastics fishing 99 percent wood – stumps and laydowns.”
Top 10 co-anglers
1. Nathan Colwell – Pryor, Okla. – 17-5 (9) – $45,200
2. Jack Stegall – Carriere, Miss. – 16-12 (10) – $5,050
3. Bobby Call – Wagoner, Okla. – 15-9 (8) – $2,500
4. Cord Colwell – Pryor, Okla. – 14-8 (5) – $1,500
5. Keith Whipple – Iuka, Miss. – 14-5 (6) – $1,000
6. Mike Allen – Crystal Springs, Miss. – 12-11 (5) – $900
7. James Callaghan – De Berry, Texas – 12-8 (6) – $800
8. Brian Choate – Conway, Ark. – 12-3 (8) – $700
9. Steve Standridge – Conway, Ark. – 11-7 (5) – $600
10. Daniel Corkern – Florence, Miss. – 10-12 (7) – $500
The Red River Regional featured the top boaters from the Arkie, Cowboy, Mississippi and Okie divisions. The top six boaters and co-anglers qualified to compete in the 2018 T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League All-American, which is a televised event with a six-figure payday and a boater berth in the Forrest Wood Cup on the line.