CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Matt Stanley sacked the second-largest bag of the tournament (22 pounds, 2 ounces) on the final day for a huge, come-from-behind win, in the Toyota Series Presented by A.R.E. Central Division event on Lake Chickamauga. Stanley had a three-day total of 51-11, winning $60,000. Catching 12 pounds on Day 1, then 16 pounds on Day 2, Stanley improved his weights each day, and ultimately beat out second-place Kevin Meunier by nearly 2 pounds to top the 255-boat field
This year rules were changed in the Toyota Series, allowing the Top 25 to fish the final day rather than just the Top 10. Stanley went into the final day in 13th place.
Normally 13 is supposed to be an unlucky number, but Stanley was tickled to death to be No. 13 following Day 2.
“I sent a screenshot yesterday to my buddy back home showing that I was No. 13,” said Stanley. “He replied and said, ‘OMG, you won!’ It’s a running joke for us. We always want to draw No. 13 because it’s just always been lucky for us.”
It seems to have worked again, although most would argue there had to be a lot of skill involved for Stanley’s final day heroics to work out.
Stanley had one key area he knew was holding good fish on an early morning shad spawn bite.
“I went there today and I threw everything in the boat and I couldn’t get a bite,” Stanley told the crowd at the final weigh-in. “I thought, ‘I know they’re here. I’m looking at them on this (forward-facing sonar).’ So, I pulled out a Megabass jerkbait and caught every one of those.”
Stanley’s final bag included a 6-5 and his biggest bass, a 9-pounder.
“It jumped three times about 5 feet high,” he said. “The last time it jumped I told my co-angler, ‘Hey man, I’ve got a heart condition and I can’t be watching this fish. Whatever happens happens, but I ain’t looking at him no more. It’s gonna make me sick. I just can’t watch it.’”
Co-angler Benton Peoples, however, came through with a professional net job and that monster bass no doubt gave Stanley the margin he needed to win.
Besides the sweet spot he won on, Stanley said some of the time he had to dive in with much of the field and fish shallow to ensure he put a limit in the boat every day.
“I’ve been throwing a weightless wacky rig and I caught a 5-pounder yesterday in probably 8-to-10 inches of water,” he said. “I didn’t know the fish was there. I just skipped it up there and I saw something eat it. I let it swim out way off the bank. That way I knew it would get away from all the branches and things. Then I just pulled back and it was a 5-pounder.”
Stanley never culled on the final day, catching the winning limit at his first stop. He gave his co-angler one of the baits he was throwing and stayed in the same area hoping he’d catch some. They stayed and fished the area until noon, with Peoples only catching one bass.
“After the morning bite, the fish just move out of there like deer leaving a field in the morning and going back to the woods,” said Stanley. “At noon I thought, ‘I don’t think I’ve got enough to win,’ so I took off and went shallow. I caught some more fish but nothing that would let me cull. But I guess we still got it done.”
Stanley said all three days of the tournament he started each day on the shad spawn bite just south of the Highway 60 bridge.
“Usually I’d stay there for about an hour, although I stayed there today for five hours,” he said. “But after that I would run upriver toward Dayton and fish shallow. I caught ‘em in like 10 inches of water out to 8 feet of water, but never deeper than that.”
Stanley said he expects at least some of his winnings to go to whatever his wife wants.
“It’s Mother’s Day coming up and I owe her for letting me be gone all week,” Stanley said with a smile.
No doubt some of the winnings, however, will also go toward future tournament entries – and it is a good bet Stanley will be hoping that somehow or another, lucky No. 13 will be involved.
1. Matt Stanley – 51 – 11 (15) – $60,000
2. Kevin Meunier – 50 – 00 (15) – $25,500
3. Tommy Brown – 48 – 12 (14) – $17,000
4. Andrew Nordbye – 48 – 07 (15) – $15,000
5. Cody Nichols – 46 – 08 (15) – $14,000
6. Kevin Drake – 45 – 11 (15) – $11,500 (includes $1,000 Phoenix Bonus)
7. Clay Reece – 45 – 04 (15) – $9,000
8. Michael Black – 44 – 15 (14) – $8,000
9. Carl Gillespie – 44 – 15 (15) – $7,000
10. Casey Martin – 44 – 08 (15) – $5,000