BRANSON, Mo. – Pro Rick Martin of Cherry Valley, Ill., caught a five-bass limit weighing 15 pounds, 3 ounces Friday to capture the lead in the Stren Series Championship on Table Rock Lake. He now holds a slim 14-ounce lead over his closest competitor, Duracell pro Brennan Bosley of Benton, Ark., heading in to the final day of competition in the lucrative tournament that features a top award of $140,000.
“I am fishing the same area I have been all week,” said Martin, who is fishing in his first Stren Series Championship. “The area where I am fishing is an area with a bluff wall, bushes, chunk rock and lay-downs. I have all the structure for shallow water fishing in one spot.
“I am starting at one end and making a pass. It takes me about an hour each time.”
Martin is throwing a 3/8-ounce homemade spinnerbait on the James River to catch his limit.
“It is the third day that I have done this,” Martin said. “I am not concerned at all with running out of fish. Today, I caught six keepers and left so I could save fish for the final day.
“I feel really good going into tomorrow. I’m just going to go back to my key spot and hit it hard. I won’t let up. I am going to catch as many bass as I can tomorrow.”
Rounding out the top 10 pros are Ricky Scott of Van Buren, Ark. (five bass, 12-15); Robbie Dodson of Harrison, Ark. (five bass, 12-15); David Curtis of Trinity, Texas (five bass, 12-14); Ott Defoe of Knoxville, Tenn. (five bass, 12-09); Greg Bohannan of Rogers, Ark. (five bass, 10-00); Michael Iaconelli of Runnemede, N.J. (four bass, 8-05); Bobby McMullin of Pevely, Mo. (four bass, 7-12); and Lendell Martin Jr. of Nacogdoches, Texas (one bass, 1-11).
Overall there were 44 bass weighing 108 pounds, 9 ounces caught by 10 pros Friday. The catch included seven five-bass limits.
John Skipper of Dothan, Ala., won the Co-angler Division and $55,000 Friday with a five-bass limit weighing 11 pounds, 6 ounces followed by Tommie Goldston of Gardnerville, Nev., in second place with two bass weighing 6-13 worth $4,150.
Skipper’s award included a fully rigged Ranger 198VX plus $15,000 cash.
“This was my first time on Table Rock,” said Skipper, who qualified as the No. 26 seed from the Southeast Division. “Words don’t describe what I am feeling right now.”
Skipper opened the tournament in 96th place Wednesday with one bass weighing 2-12 while fishing with pro Dodson. On day one he threw a crankbait to catch his fish. On Thursday he jumped into sixth place on the strength of a five-bass catch weighing 11-10 while fishing with Jeremy Guidry of Opelousas, La. While fishing with Guidry, he caught his fish in 17 to 18 feet of water on a Carolina-rigged Zoom 6-inch Pumpkin Seed Lizard with a chartreuse tail. He wrapped up his win while fishing with Dodson, throwing a Storm Wiggle Wart crankbait and a Strike King Series 5 Sexy Shad crankbait.
Dodson is considered a local on Table Rock and Skipper was lucky enough to draw him twice during the tournament. “After fishing with Dodson on the first day of the tournament I felt like I got the education I needed to help me on the final two days,” Skipper said.
“Unfortunately, I only caught one fish with Dodson on the first day and I knew that I had to do some adjusting. On day two Guidry fished the way that I practiced- deep and slow. I had a lot more confidence that day and it worked out for me.”
On the final day of competition Skipper caught his bass fishing shady banks. He said steeper banks didn’t seem to produce as much as the flatter banks and that the flatter banks they were fishing had a gravel type rock on them.
“I plan on using the money to build a house,” Skipper said. “My wife and I have been saving a while so this will really help.”
Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers are Shawn Murphy of Nicholasville, Ky. (three bass, 5-10, $9,340); Stephen Smith of Glenwood, Ark. (three bass, 5-09, $7,000); Brian Somrek of Calvert City, Ky. (two bass, 3-11, $2,650); James Watson of Waynesville, Mo. (one bass, 2-06, $2,300); Roger Hogg of Lafayette, Ind. (one bass, 1-15, $2,100); Keith Honeycutt of Temple, Texas (zero bass, 0-00, $3,900); Austin Spurlin of Peachtree City, Ga. (zero bass, 0-00, $3,700); and Jamie Bladow of Houston, Ala. (zero bass, 0-00, $1,500).
Overall there were 17 bass weighing 37 pounds, 6 ounces caught by seven co-anglers Friday. The catch included one five-bass limits.
Defoe secured a spot in the 2009 Forrest Wood Cup as the only Southeast Division pro to make the top-10 cut Thursday. Also, Iaconelli will be headed to the Forrest Wood Cup as the only Northern Division angler to make the cut. Cody Meyer of Redding, Calif., finished in 26th, missing the cut by 2 pounds, 6 ounces, but still advanced to the Forrest Wood Cup as the highest finisher from the Western Division. The remaining two divisions are still up for grabs since there are multiple qualifiers from each division in the top 10. On the co-angler side, Goldston secured a spot in the Forrest Wood Cup as the only Western Division qualifier to make the top-10 cut. Scot Keefe of Hinesburg, Vt., finished 24th, missing the cut, but still advanced to the Forrest Wood Cup as the highest finisher from the Northern Division. On Friday, Skipper, representing the Southeast Division, Murphy, representing the Central Division, and Smith, representing the Texas Division, joined them as Forrest Wood Cup qualifiers by being the highest finishing co-anglers from their respective Stren Series divisions.
Anglers will take off from State Park Marina, located at Highway 165 South in Branson. Saturday’s weigh-in will be held at the Branson Convention Center, located at 200 West Main Street in Branson, along with the Stren Series Championship Family Fun Zone and Outdoor Show. The Family Fun Zone, which opens at noon on Saturday, features interactive displays, product samples and games for the entire family to enjoy. On Saturday, the first 200 children 14 and under will be treated to a free rod and reel combo. Weigh-ins both days will begin at 4 p.m. Admission to all activities is free.
The full field competes in the two-day opening round for 10 slots in Friday’s competition based on their two-day accumulated weight. Weights are cleared for day three, and co-angler competition concludes following Friday’s weigh-in. The top 10 pros continue competition Saturday, with the winner determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from days three and four.
In Stren Series Championship competition, pros and co-anglers are randomly paired each day, with pros supplying the boat, controlling boat movement and competing against other pros. Co-anglers fish from the back deck against other co-anglers.
The winning pro will earn an Evinrude- or Yamaha-powered Ranger 198VX equipped with Lowrance electronics and a Minn Kota trolling motor plus $50,000 cash. If the winner is the original owner of a qualifying Ranger boat powered by an Evinrude or Yamaha outboard that is used during the tournament, he will also receive a $25,000 bonus from Ranger and an additional $25,000 Evinrude or Yamaha bonus for a total award of $140,000. The winning co-angler will receive a fully rigged Ranger 198VX plus $15,000 cash. If the winning co-angler meets Ranger and Evinrude or Yamaha contingency guidelines, he will also receive bonuses totaling $15,000 for a total award of $70,000. For a complete list of the championship purse, please visit FLWOutdoors.com.
The Stren Series Championship is being hosted by the Branson/Lakes Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. For more information, visit explorebranson.com or call (417) 334-4084.
The top 10 pros and 10 co-anglers from each division will also qualify for the 2009 Walmart FLW Tour® and Walmart FLW Series®, bass fishing’s top professional circuits. The highest-finishing pro and co-angler from each division at the Stren Series Championship will also qualify for the $2 million 2009 Forrest Wood Cup, where pros will fish for as much as $1 million – the most lucrative award in bass fishing.
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