“It was an absolutely phenomenal day,” Curtis said. “I caught more fish today than I caught all week long. I had two keys spots that produced the majority of my fish and today I got lined up on it just right and hammered them.” Curtis caught his bass on three key baits: a Caroling-rigged Brush Hog, a ¾-ounce Bass X jig and a Norman DD22. He was fishing the White River concentrating on main river breaks.
“My key spot today was around 18 feet deep,” Curtis said. “When I made my first pass I fished a jig and turned around and made another pass fishing a crankbait, and caught a couple of big ones. I caught around 20 fish at that spot today.
“Earlier in the week I tried to avoid that exact spot to save the bigger fish. I beat every little fish off that spot that I could the first day. The next day I went to that spot and weighed-in a great bag. When I found the spot in practice the numbers where there but I had no idea that it would produce this size of fish.”
He said that he loves fishing in the summer and fall the best because it is all about finding the big schools. “It’s a needle in the haystack deal but that’s what I like,” he said.
Curtis opened the tournament in first place Wednesday with five bass weighing 17-01. On Thursday he added another five bass weighing 13-02 and advanced to the final round of 10 pros in first place with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 30-03. On Friday weights were cleared and Curtis caught five bass weighing 12-14 to advance to the final day of competition in fifth place. He added another five bass weighing 22-14, the heaviest catch of the championship, to his final-round total Saturday.
Rounding out the top 10 pros are Bohannan (10 bass, 30-06, $49,000); Rick Martin of Cherry Valley, Ill. (10 bass, 27-08, $24,000); Brennan Bosley of Benton, Ark. (10 bass, 27-03, $27,000); Ott Defoe of Knoxville, Tenn. (10 bass, 25-13, $20,500); Robbie Dodson of Harrison, Ark. (10 bass, 23-11, $14,000); Ricky Scott of Van Buren, Ark. (nine bass, 22-06, $18,250); Michael Iaconelli of Runnemede, N.J. (nine bass, 20-01, $12,500); Bobby McMullin of Pevely, Mo. (eight bass, 14-12, $11,750); and Lendell Martin Jr. of Nacogdoches, Texas (six bass, 13-14, $16,000).
“I came here wanting to win this tournament but to be able to make it to the Forrest Wood Cup is amazing,” Curtis said. “I am ready to pack my bags for Pittsburgh.”
As the highest finishers from their respective Stren Series divisions, Bohannan (Central Division), Curtis (Texas Division) will join Iaconelli (Northern Division) Cody Meyer of Redding, Calif. (Western Division) and Defoe (Southeast Division) in the $2 million Forrest Wood Cup presented by BP and Castrol.
Overall there were 48 bass weighing 132 pounds, 11 ounces caught by the 10 finalists Saturday. The catch included eight five-bass limits.
On Saturday, 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).
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.
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Total awards are based on a full field of 200 boats in every tournament.