“Just pinch me right now to make sure I’m awake,” Davis said. “Mark this down – Alabama is my favorite place to be.”
Davis, who recently finished 10th in the Greatest Angler Debate presented by John Deere, took his fourth consecutive limit today, a five bass catch that weighed 11 pounds, six ounces. Added to his third round total, it was good enough to beat Kentucky’s Kevin Wirth by more than two pounds and take the $100,000 top prize.
Fishing during the final round was much tougher than on previous days. On Saturday, high winds and clouds combined to make sight fishing nearly impossible.
In the past, the cold temperatures would have bothered Davis’s shoulder, but the Mount Ida, Ark., pro is finally fishing pain free after a series of shoulder operations over the winter.
“This feels great. I’ve been basically rehabbing all year,” Davis said. “I really needed to take this year off because of my shoulder, but I wanted to qualify for the Classic and these Elite 50s.”
Davis’ two day total of 24 pounds, 14 ounces put him on top of the all-star field. Following Davis in the standings were Wirth (22-11), Texas’s Kelly Jordon (21-5) and Zell Rowland (17-15), Michigan’s Kevin VanDam (16-13) and Illinois’ Chad Morgenthaler (13-14).
Before the final round launch, Davis exuded confidence and anticipated another strong day with his Strike King spinnerbait. Instead, he was forced to rely on three- and four-inch Yum Dinger watermelon-colored worms fished wacky style on eight-pound test line in order to bag a limit that included a two-pound, nine-ounce fish that was good enough for Purolator Big Bass honors and $1,000.
“I switched to that worm for a couple of reasons,” Davis said. “It casts real well with the windy conditions, and it sinks real well. With all this wind, I wanted to be patient and let the worm sink.”
Davis keyed on blowdowns on bluff backs and caught all of his fish in five to 10 feet of water. Though he caught just five keepers in the final round, he estimated that he caught an astounding total of 200 fish during the four tournament days.
“I really enjoy this lake,” Davis said. “The fish are fickle and moody, but it’s definitely my kind of lake.”
Wirth, a former Kentucky Derby jockey, took Busch Heavyweight honors for the second straight day despite the fact that Davis’ catches were larger on both days. Since Davis does not participate in the program, Wirth’s catch (10-7) took the Busch honors and an additional $1,000 for each day.
“I’ve been real fortunate this week,” Wirth said. “I caught a limit every day, and I might have missed a fish or two that could have won it for me, but I’m happy with my week overall.”
The fourth and final round started out strong for Kevin VanDam, who led the event for both of the first two days. Conditions seemed to be right for his jerkbait bite, but the three-time Angler of the Year and semi-finalist in the Greatest Angler Debate couldn’t get on-track.
“I missed a few opportunities to catch some fish today,” VanDam admitted. “When you’re out here fishing BASS tournaments, you have to catch everything that bites in order to beat these guys.”
Davis, who has fished 15 Classics, failed to qualify for bass fishing’s premier event through the Tour this year, but his performance this week at Smith Lake has him moving in the right direction. The top 10 anglers in Elite 50 points will all qualify for the 2005 Classic in Pittsburgh, July 29-31, and the 2006 Classic.
While Davis took the first-place prize money of $100,000, every Elite 50 angler had a payday in the no-entry-fee event. Even the last-place finisher earned $5,000, and the total payout for each of the four Elite 50 events is $400,000.
In the CastingKids competition held at Saturday’s Expo, Austin Sullivan of Double Springs, Ala., won the 7-10 year-old division with a score of 100. In the 11-14 division, D.J. Carney from Hiram, Ga., took top honors with a score of 130.
Part One of the Bassmaster Elite 50 Series event on Smith Lake will be telecast on The CITGO Bassmasters on Saturday, April 30 at 10:00 a.m. ET on ESPN2. Part Two will air on May 7 at 10:00 a.m. ET on ESPN2.
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite 50 series, is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.
Sponsors of the Bassmaster Elite 50 Series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).
Local Sponsors include the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.