“I was so close at Clarks Hill,” Butcher said of the Tour event on the South Carolina-Georgia reservoir where he finished third, “but I feel great winning this tournament. I can forget all about those close calls now.”
Butcher, who finished with a three day catch weighing 47 pounds and an ounce, was in eighth place after the second day, but bagged a limit of 17 pounds, one ounce on Day Three – good enough to best Kriet (46-0) by a little more than a pound. Kriet weighed in last, and his 13-pound, seven-ounce limit made things interesting, but it was the fish that Kriet missed that will haunt him.
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to finish second,” Kriet said, “but I’m so frustrated right now because I lost this tournament on the second day. I lost a five-pounder and a three-pounder within thirty minutes of each other.”
Kriet was flipping a black Kinami cut-tail worm on light line around isolated bushes. He’s had a bevy of close calls lately, finishing in the top 15 of each of the past four BASS events, but never winning, and his lost fish left the door open for Butcher at Sam Rayburn.
“I’ve been waiting for this win,” Butcher said. “I’m hoping to build some momentum for the rest of the season. I wanted this one really bad.”
Butcher won the tournament by flipping a jig near willow trees and looking for post-spawn fish. Most of his bass came from less than four feet of water.
“I had a decent first year as a BASS pro,” Butcher said of his rookie season on the 2005 Tour which saw him finish 60th overall and sixth in the Rookie of the Year race. “I just feel like I’m coming into my own right now. I can’t wait to get out there and fish again.”
Butcher’s huge move on the final day was aided by Texan Neal Gilmore, who led after the second day. Gilmore was leading by better than two pounds after his huge Day Two catch of 23-4, but couldn’t get the bites he needed on the final day.
“I was working an incredible school that didn’t turn on to my baits,” Gilmore said. “I missed a couple, too, and you can’t miss on the final day. It cost me the tournament.”
Gilmore wasn’t the only angler who stumbled in the final round. Mississippi’s Cliff Pace, who was in second after Day Two, fell all the way back to 16th place. Pace only caught three fish for a total of five pounds, four ounces.
“Today stunk,” Pace said. “I had chances to catch some fish, but it was just one of those days. I’m really frustrated right now.”
Texans did have some measure of success. The rest of the top five call the Lone Star State home. Rayburn guide Jeff Buchanan (44-7) was third, Gilbert Coats (44-2) was fourth, and ESPN’s Greatest Angler Debate commentator Tommy Martin (43-14) was fifth.
Coats, who refers to himself as a “weekend angler,” looked like a professional today. He had the day’s best catch at 18-11. It included the Purolator Big Bass of Day Three, a largemouth weighing 7-2, which earned him an extra $1,000. Like most of the other leaders, Coats was flipping around flooded wood.
Texans fared better on the non-boater side, where Dell Brown of Arlington took top honors with a weight of 35-10. He takes home a $25,037 Triton boat package.
Rounding out the top five on the non-boater side were Texas’ Jeff Snyder (33-15) and Ray Beck (30-7), Arkansas’s Bill Gift (30-1) and Texas’s Paul Stokes (29-2).
Dead-sticking a Senko was Brown’s ticket to his first BASS victory. The technique earned him an extra $500 for the Purolator Big Bass of the final round. His 5-10 largemouth picked up the idle bait and was the best of the day on the non-boater side. This was Brown’s first BASS event, but he promises it won’t be his last.
“I couldn’t sleep last night because of the pressure,” Brown said, “but now I feel so relieved after this win. You can bet I’ll be back.”
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 Open Series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.bassmaster.com.