Overtaking the Kentucky favorite, Kevin Wirth, and two-time CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion Kevin VanDam, Shimizu put together a four-day total of 66-9 to win the $100,000 top prize.
To watch Shimizu’s amazing run from 49th place to the top, tune in to the Bluegrass Brawl on The CITGO Bassmasters, aired Saturday, June 24, at 10 a.m. ET on ESPN2.
The Bluegrass Brawl champion battled thunderstorms and rough water Sunday to boat 20 pounds, 6 ounces of bass, building his total weight to overtake Day 3 leader Wirth by 1 pound, 11 ounces.
“I can’t feel anything right now,” said the stunned Shimizu, 36, of Murrieta, Calif. “This is unbelievable. It’s a dream come true.”
Originally from Suita Osaka, Japan, Shimizu quietly worked his way up the leaderboard each day of the tournament, finishing 49th on Day 1, 10th on Day 2, third on Day 3, then overpowering VanDam and Wirth for the win.
Winning the Elite Series’ Bluegrass Brawl gives Shimizu his first BASS tournament title. His previous best finish was second in the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Tour on Alabama’s Lake Guntersville.
Shimizu, whose win boosted him from 35th to 21st place on the Bassmaster Elite Series Power Index, said he fished a variety of lures all week, including jigs, crankbaits and Texas-rigged worms. He said he stuck to one area of the lake that ranges in depth from 10 to 16 feet.
Shimizu earned the $1,000 Busch Heavyweight Bag of the day bonus with Sunday’s catch of 20-6; included was a 5-pound, 7-ounce fish that took the $1,000 Purolator Big Bass bounty.
Second-place finisher Wirth of Crestwood, Ky., who now ranks eighth on the Bassmaster Elite Series Power Index, brought in a limit on Day 4 that weighed 13 pounds, 9 ounces for a four-day total of 64-14.
Wirth said he keyed in on deep ledges on four main areas of the lake. His lures included a ¾-ounce chartreuse-and-white spinnerbait, green-pumpkin jigs, and a 10-inch Berkley PowerBait Original Power Worm. Wirth said Sunday’s rough weather and high waves prevented him from working his first-choice spot.
“I was fishing the middle of the river, and that’s where the water was the roughest,” said the seven-time CITGO Bassmaster Classic qualifier. “Once the wind laid down, I caught seven keepers.”
After leading Day 1 and Day 2, then dropping to second on Day 3, VanDam finished third with 63 pounds, 8 ounces. Ranked third on the Bassmaster Elite Series Power Index with an average weight of 42 pounds, 14 ounces, VanDam brought five fish to the scales for a Day 4 weight of 15 pounds, 5 ounces.
“This has been a brutally rough and tough day,” said VanDam.
The next stop on the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series tournament trail is the Empire Chase on Oneida Lake in Syracuse, N.Y., July 6-9.
Local Sponsors: Local sponsors include the Kentucky Sports Authority and the Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park.
CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series sponsors: Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Advance Auto Parts and Theraseed®.
BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.
BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 550,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.bassmaster.com.