Nethery finished with 67 pounds, 14 ounces, besting second-place finisher Sammy Burks of Joplin, Mo., by more than 2 pounds.
In addition to the cash, Nethery won a fully rigged Triton boat valued at $45,000.
Although Nethery was elated about his winnings, the boost to the 33-year-old’s confidence was what he talked about as he basked in his first big tournament win.
“This is so huge for me,” Nethery said. “Not only financially, but this win proves that I was right, that I can succeed as a professional angler. I am my worst critic, and sometimes I am very hard on myself on those long rides home. But this certainly shows that I belong at the top level.”
Nethery said he’s determined to join the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series in 2007, a move he flirted with this year. His win on Rayburn builds on his 18th place finish at the Lake Okeechobee Southern Tour opener, and brings his Elite dream closer than ever before.
Saturday’s winner said his successful pattern on Rayburn started with locating a sight-fishing bite during practice. He searched for warm pockets of water he knew would hold spawning bass, keying in on five such spots throughout the tournament. While he threw a variety of baits, he said his go-to lure was a watermelon Baby Fork Craw made by Texas-based Lake Fork Trophy Bait & Tackle.
Second-place Burks did his part Saturday to make the competition interesting by bringing 16 pounds, 9 ounces to the scales. Although it wasn’t quite enough to overtake Nethery, Burks was satisfied with his performance.
“Anytime you catch 65 pounds of fish over three days, you are going to have a blast,” the 41-year-old said. “I am really happy with my finish and I am looking forward to Santee-Cooper.” Santee-Cooper in South Carolina is the next stop on the CITGO Bassmaster Southern Tour, April 6-8.
Burks, who was very secretive about his pattern throughout the Rayburn tournament, at the end revealed he used a multicolored Smithwick Rogue jerkbait all three days of competition fishing open water in a creek channel.
Finishing a distant third was Ben Matsubu, whose three-day total was 56 pounds, 10 ounces. The Texan was followed by Georgia anglers (and roommates) Tom Hamlin (56-5) and Jim Murray (55-11).
Saturday’s Purolator Big Bass honors in the pro division went to Vincent Parello of Irving, Texas, for his 6-pound, 7-ounce bass.
Michigan angler John Moon fought through tears of joy to accept the first-place prize on the co-angler side: a Triton boat valued at $30,000. Moon finished the tournament in grand fashion with a three-day total of 33 pounds, 4 ounces, including a 7-14 lunker that gave him Purolator Big Bass honors and a $400 premium.
Finishing more than a pound off pace was Floridian Dave Morningstar (31-12), followed by Louisiana’s Ryan Brown (31-3), and Texans Allan Shivers (29-8) and Curtis Thompson (28-4).
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