LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. – It sounds cliché, but tournament bass fishing often comes down to adjustments made on the fly. California pro Todd Kline will confirm that cliché, and show you a brand-new Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats first-place trophy and a check for $30,0000 to prove it.
Kline executed a critical mid-morning pattern/bait change on Lake Havasu on Saturday and ended the final day of the 2023 Western Division Presented by Tackle Warehouse opener with 15 pounds, 13 ounces – enough to boost his three-day today to 60-14 and earn his first MLF champion’s trophy as a pro over Mike Williams (57-6) in second place
“You’ve probably heard this a hundred times, but it’s true what they say: when it’s your time, it’s just your time,” said Kline, a four-time MLF winner as a co-angler. “I was pretty stressed out today, to be totally honest. I came in [to the final day] with a pretty nice cushion and I knew this was maybe my best chance to get a win. It’s a little bit of pressure, I was feeling it.”
Kline entered the day with a near 7-pound lead over Williams in second place, but with a largemouth-based primary pattern that seemed to be dissipating by the hour. After nearly three hours of fishing Saturday with one strike that he didn’t connect with, Kline stowed the heavy casting gear, broke out an Okuma 7-foot, 6-inch Okuma Dead Eye Pro Series rod and Helios reel spooled with 5-pound-test line and went to work with a ¼-ounce Coolbaits Lure Co. The Down Under Underspin with green pumpkin and shad-colored swimbait trailers.
“I ran at least 10 spots and put in the time on my primary pattern, but it just wasn’t happening,” Kline admitted. “At the time I was thinking to myself ‘Man, you have a good lead, but you can’t go in [to weigh-in] with nothing and end up finishing 10th’. I was planning in the back of my mind to make that change, but by around 9:30, 10 o’clock, it was obvious that it was time to make a move.”
It’s a move that Kline had extreme confidence in: he caught a 7-2 largemouth on the underspin on Day 2 and anchored a 23-pound bag with fish that he caught working transitional areas that he knew held both smallmouth and largemouth. The first new spot that Kline ran to quickly produced a 3 ½-pounder and then kicked out two 4-pound smallies for his Strike King co-angler (and eventual co-angler winner) Todd Woods. Soon thereafter, Kline lost another big smallie at the boat.
Frustrating, for sure, but at that moment Kline knew that his tournament would be won or lost on the underspin.
“Todd caught those two giants and I had three of my biggest fish of the tournament and a real big one in practice on the underspin, they were eating it,” Kline said. “When we got there, I knew that it was on and that we were going to chase smallmouth the rest of the day.”
Kline continued to plink away with the underspin, gradually building a 15-plus-pound bag and maintaining his composure when he lost at least one more giant and Woods piled up 14-6 on four fish fishing behind Kline.
“I had maybe eight keepers on the underspin by the end of the day and lost a couple of really big ones – I’m not going to lie, I was worried that I might’ve left the door open with those two big misses,” Kline admitted. “You don’t have any other choice but to stay focused. I’m a religious guy, so I know the outcome was already determined and that I was just along for the ride, but was pretty stressful.”
Kline’s stress spiked during weigh-in, as first-time Toyota Series pro Jason Marquez brought 24-6 to the scale and Williams held serve with 19-1 – “I always small-eye my fish, I didn’t think I had enough,” Kline admitted.
“I’ve been in second place going into the final day and came in second to one of the Williams brothers. I didn’t want to squander this opportunity. To have that trophy now is pretty cool. I have four on the home mantle with FLW as a co-angler and now this one as a pro with MLF, and I couldn’t be happier.”
1. Todd Kline – 60-14 (15)
2. Mike Williams – 57-6 (15)
3. Jason Marquez – 56-5 (14)
4. Dean Rojas– 55-2 (15)
5. Chris Kinley – 52-7 (15)
6. Kyle Grover – 51-9 (15)
7. David Valdivia – 50-12 (15)
8. Kurt Dove – 49-0 (15)
9. Justin Kerr – 45-10 (14)
10. Mark Williams – 44-0 (12)
This event was hosted by Go Lake Havasu and presented by Psycho Tuna.
Capitalizing on Kline’s nose for smallmouth on the final day, California angler Todd Woods wrapped up the Strike King co-angler trophy with 14-6 on four fish Saturday, pushing his three-day total to 32-14 for a 10-plus-pound win over Tom Nokes (22-7) in second.
1. Todd Woods – 32-14 (11)
2. Tom Nokes – 22-7 (7)
3. Kirk Marshall – 20-5 (7)
4. Tyson Christman – 20-4 (8)
5. Blaine Christiansen – 18-11 (6)
6. Bruce Harris – 17-3 (8)
7. Daniel Lutz – 16-4 (6)
8. Jason Webb – 16-3 (5)
9. Mike Walsh – 14-12 (5)
10. Brett Robbins – 13-8 (4)