Crouch Smashes 21-11 on Final Day to Take Strike King Co-Angler Win at Guntersville - Major League Fishing

Crouch Smashes 21-11 on Final Day to Take Strike King Co-Angler Win at Guntersville

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February 24, 2022 • Justin Onslow • Toyota Series

SCOTTSBORO, Ala. – Charlie Crouch arrived at Lake Guntersville Monday night, just nine hours from takeoff of Day 1 of the Toyota Series Presented by A.R.E. Central Division opener. He had barely any tackle, no tackle bag and rods that still needed to be prepped. Less than 72 hours later, the Waterloo, Alabama, co-angler held a shiny trophy and a big cardboard check that read “Phoenix 518 Pro Powered by 115-HP Mercury Outboard” on the shores of Guntersville.

Crouch, who had been on the waiting list for the tournament, didn’t receive word that he’d made the Strike King co-angler field until the evening before tournament. After having already packed and unpacked his truck multiple times, he decided he was going to give it a shot and rolled into Scottsboro with just enough time to re-spool some reels and grab a few hours of sleep before takeoff for Day 1 on Tuesday morning.

“My wife, Lydia, and I talked about it, and she pushed me to [fish it],” he said. “She said, ‘You love it; go do it.’ She’s able to stay home and take care of the plumbing business now and I can come out here and do this. She’s the reason I’m able to do this.”

The whole week proved to be nothing but good fortune for Crouch. First, a last-second entry that left him tired but ready to rock on a fishery he hasn’t visited in 20 years. Then, multiple favorable pairings that put him around enough fish to hang tough and make Day 3. Finally, a pair of giant kickers that sealed the deal.

“The first-day pairing really helped me,” he said. “He (Andrew Loberg) smoked them. I caught three that went 9 pounds, so I stayed in it. The second day, [Justin Lockee] was around fish and I smoked them. I had 14-13 and culled three squeakers to get to that. I just had a great day.

“Today, I watched Casey (Martin) just smoke them, and I was just catching what I could and trying to make every bite count. We went to one little spot with grass and, boom, a 7 1/2-pounder. Boom, a 5-something. That’s when it hit me. I’m only 6, 7 pounds behind. I just made that up with one fish. I’ve got a chance – and then my stomach started turning the rest of the day.”

What really put Crouch’s victory train in high gear was an adjustment he made on Day 1 once he got over a little stubborn streak about his bait of choice.

“The first day was the only day I didn’t fish real good because I was so stubborn to go to the Rat-L-Trap,” he explained. 

After that, though, it was all Rat-L-Trap almost all the time, save for a period on Thursday morning when Crouch and Martin fished out deep. Crouch caught a few keepers and then the pair went shallow where the real fun began.

“Yesterday and today, nothing could go wrong,” he said. “[Martin] was just like, ‘Dude, it’s your turn.’”

With a couple big kickers in the grass late in the day, Crouch returned to weigh-in with what he thought might just be enough to secure the victory. All that after still re-spooling reels at midnight before Day 1, and after driving from Waterloo to Scottsboro with the hopes of just avoiding the skunk.

“I never imagined that this was the way the tournament would end,” he said. “I came here with the hopes of just catching a fish every day.”

Instead, he’s got a trophy and a new boat to take home and something to look forward to in the fall with the Toyota Series Championship – not to mention the tournaments in between now and then.

“I’m just excited,” Crouch said. “We only do three [Central Division tournaments] and then the Championship. I want to go see different places. I’ve never been to Dale Hollow. I’ve never seen Chickamauga.”

As excited as he is about the remaining fisheries on the schedule and his return trip to Guntersville in the fall, Crouch is still keeping it all in perspective.

“It was an awesome experience,” he said. “I may never win again, but I’ve won once.”

Top 10 Strike King Co-Anglers

1. Charlie Crouch – 45 – 08 (13) – $46,000

2. Greg Surratt– 42 – 3 (11) – $9,500

3. Chris Quaintance – 40 – 14 (13) – $8,000

4. Alex Moore – 37 – 08 (14) – $6,500

5. Darren Kelly – 37 – 06 (12) – $6,200       

6. Alan Huts – 36 – 13 (12) – $4,500         

7. Cooper Jett – 36 – 13 (12) – $4,000       

8. Randy Wiggins – 36 – 05 (11) – $3,250

9. Victor Cuevas – 36 – 03 (11) – $2,100

10. Roger Olson Jr. – 33 – 08 (10) – $1,900

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