After catching 18 pounds on Day 2 to rally into the Top 10 of the Toyota Series Presented by A.R.E., Thomas Wooten put up the best bag from the final day (14-6) on the Potomac River to claim his first Toyota Series victory. With 45-2 total, Wooten barely edged out Aaron Dixon, who led the first two days, and claimed over $31,000 and an automatic bid into the Toyota Series Championship this fall on Pickwick Lake.
A homebuilder on Smith Mountain Lake (hit up WTW Construction if you’re in the market), Wooten has fished the All-American and put in plenty of time at the Phoenix Bass Fishing League (BFL) level. Back in 2007, Wooten won a BFL Regional on the Potomac, and after handily outfishing the rest of the pack on the final two days, he’s got another signature win on the tidal river.
“I love the Potomac, I love coming up here,” says Wooten. “It feels really good. I won a Regional here, a truck and a boat, I think in 2007, and that was one of the bigger tournaments I’ve won up here. I finished top-five numerous times in the Strens, before they turned into the Toyota Series, and I’ve been close. So, it feels good.
“I like the tougher tournaments up here, especially when the grass came back as good as it did this year,” says Wooten. “I figured I could get five bites a day flipping and really have a chance. I was catching 10 to 12 pounds on a swim jig, and I figured I’d go punch one up. I figured if I got to the last day, there was going to be one rod on the deck and I was going to punch all day. But, they turned on with the frog yesterday, and I couldn’t leave it.”
Catching the biggest bag of the tournament on Day 2 vaulted Wooten into contention, and he did it with a key change in tactics. On Day 1, he tossed around a swim jig and a buzzbait in eelgrass and punched for a few other fish. On Day 2, he started throwing a frog.
“I figured it out about 11:30 [on Day 2],” he says. “They quit biting the buzzbait, quit biting the swim jig, and I started throwing the frog. Once I started, I had about 15 blowups and culled six or seven times. It wasn’t as good today, I think I leaned on them a little hard yesterday, but they were still there.”
Doing most of his frogging just south of Powells Creek, Wooten was fishing a frog different than anyone else. Instead of chugging it along slow and steady, he was working his frog over and around the eelgrass fast – far faster than normal.
“I was strokin’ it, my left arm is Jell-O,” says Wooten. “I could not get them to bite it working it regular. I think it was more of a reaction bite, coming across the thick stuff, I’d hit them by surprise and they’d react to it.”
On Day 2, Wooten still added some fish punching eelgrass near Powells and hydrilla in Chicamuxen. For that, he stuck with a 1 ½-ounce weight and a green pumpkin Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver with the tail dyed orange. The final day, a night train-colored Booyah Pad Crasher carried the weight.
Wooten won narrowly, edging Dixon by ounces, but it was enough to send him on to Pickwick and possibly reignite his dreams of fishing at the top level. A boat captain in high school fishing with his son, Wooten doesn’t have a lot of spare time to travel the country in search of bass, but he may try to make some more.
“I do want to get back into it, a lot more than what I am now,” says Wooten, who finished 12th and fifth in the Northern Division in 2007 and 2008. “I have three young kids, my oldest is 12. I did make the Tour one year, I left the Hudson River and finished fifth in points, and they called me on the way home. My wife was pregnant, and I couldn’t do it, you’ve got to make your priorities right. But, I would like to turn pro, I really would, so maybe this is the start.”
1. Thomas Wooten – 45 – 02 (15) – $31,751
2. Aaron Dixon – 44 – 10 (15) – $12,303
3. Nolan Gaskin – 41 – 14 (15) – $9,525
4. Nick Hatfield – 39 – 04 (14) – $7,938
5. Brian Latimer – 37 – 10 (15) – $7,144
6. Robby Lefere – 37 – 01 (15) – $6,350
7. Frank Ippoliti – 36 – 03 (15) – $5,556
8. Jason Williams – 34 – 04 (14) – $4,763
9. Matt Becker – 31 – 08 (11) – $4,969
10. Danny L. Shanz – 27 – 02 (10) – $3,175