Ultimate Bass

Dramatic Central Open Victory

Central Open Winner James NiggemeyerJames Niggemeyer of Van, Texas, isn’t likely to forget that in a BASS tournament the rules leave room for only one winner — no splitting…

Niggemeyer headed to Amistad with TrophyJames Niggemeyer of Van, Texas, isn’t likely to forget that in a BASS tournament the rules leave room for only one winner — no splitting the first-place prize money.

By way of an overtime period of fishing against Jerrel Pringle of Hemphill, Texas, Niggemeyer won the season-opening Bassmaster Central Open on Toledo Bend Reservoir out of Many, La., along with the top prize of more than $51,000.

A fish-off to determine first place is not an unknown in BASS tournament history, and in fact it has happened several times, according to BASS Tournament Director Trip Weldon.

The previous fish-off was almost 10 years ago, when Rufus Johnson of Tennessee and Carl Maxfield of South Carolina were tied at a Bassmaster Invitational on Alabama’s Lake Martin in December 1999. Johnson won the fish-off.

“I’m still in shock,” Niggemeyer said Monday, the day after he and Pringle went head-to-head to break the tie for first place. “While I’m very aware of the fact that I won that event, at the same time I don’t think it’s kicked in yet emotionally.”

Sounding tired but still pumped, Niggemeyer talked as he maneuvered his boat on Texas’ vast Lake Amistad, where he was practicing for the March 12-15 Battle on the Border that will kick off the Bassmaster Elite Series season. His night had been spent towing his boat across Texas.

“I drove until about 10 o’clock Sunday night, until I had to pull over to get some sleep,” he said. “When I got to Del Rio, I took care of a few things and was on the water at about 11 a.m. But winning at Toledo Bend was absolutely worth getting to Amistad a little late.”

Like Johnson and Maxfield, Niggemeyer and Pringle were sent back out on the water Sunday morning after Saturday’s weigh-in resulted in a draw. BASS officials gave each angler the same 3 ½ hours to fish.

While that might sound like enough time to fill a livewell, it is not – at least not when sight fishing is the pattern of the day, Niggemeyer said.

“It was tough,” he said. “When you’re sight fishing, you don’t want to have the clock ticking at you. Bass on beds don’t want to bite right away, so fishing them can be quite time consuming.

“But I had to commit to the beds. I didn’t have much else going, nothing I thought would put me in position. I thought, ‘I’ve gotten this far with bed fishing, I’ve got to stick to it.’ ”

As the record shows, Niggemeyer outfished Pringle, a local angler who took second place with a tournament total of 45 pounds, 6 ounces, to Niggemeyer’s 51-15.

Niggemeyer’s Open victory — his first BASS win in almost three years — came on the heels of a new deal announced last week that makes BassTackleDepot.com his primary boat-wrap sponsor. The wrap design combines the specialty Internet retailer’s logo with logos of Bass West USA magazine and APS Payroll.com. Niggemeyer also recently added Ardent Reels as a sponsor.

So business is picking up for Niggemeyer.

“I’m a professional bass fisherman, and I have to treat it like a business,” he noted. “A win is a huge blessing to the business.”

NICE GUYS: The way Robbie Latuso of Gonzales, La., sees it, he won the co-angler division at the Toledo Bend Bassmaster Central Open last week because two other anglers were nice guys.

Latuso was randomly paired the first day of the weather-shortened tournament with Open pro Joey DeVeer, also of Gonzales. For Saturday’s final round, Latuso drew a seat in the boat of Bassmaster Elite Series pro Byron Velvick of Del Rio, Texas.

“I had two good partners. Neither one was bed-fishing all day, so that gave me a chance to fish,” Latuso said, meaning boat positioning was in his favor.

After his day out with DeVeer, Latuso led the co-angler field of about 200 anglers. His Day One weight was 16 pounds, 5 ounces. And then he had the luck to be paired with Velvick.

“Byron showed me a little trick with a Senko,” said Latuso, who owns and runs a Service Master restoration/cleaning business. “I got one of my fish with the wacky rig he showed me.

“I told Byron, ‘If I can catch 3 or 4 more pounds, I think I can win.’ We pulled into a pocket, and he found a fish that was about 4 pounds. He set me up on that fish and coached me through it, told me where to throw on the bed.

“He just quit fishing at the end of the day and let me catch that 4-pounder,” Latuso said. “I owe my win to him. He was a great partner.”

The weigh-in statistics bear out Latuso’s praise of his fishing partners. DeVeer boated two fish for a 4-7 weight on the day he was paired with Latuso. Velvick’s two-bass catch weighed 5-1 on the day he was out with Latuso.

Latuso proved he’s a nice guy himself. He had been wait-listed for a pro slot, but he elected to enter the event as a co-angler to help even the field — even though the Toledo tourney was his return to professional-level BASS events after a 12-year hiatus.

Perhaps it was karma, but Latuso’s sacrifice paid off. His co-angler prize was a $32,000 Triton/Mercury boat rig.

GUESS AND WIN: This week during the Bassmaster Elite Series Battle on the Border out of Del Rio, Texas, fans can win prizes in the Ramada Winning Weight game.

Fans can post their guesses at http://www.bassmaster.com or by texting RAMADA to 4ESPN (43776). Standard rates apply. Entrants will be prompted to enter an estimated winning weight of the tournament in pounds and ounces.

Entries will be taken from Thursday, March 12, through midnight Saturday, March 14. There’s no cost to enter.

HOT STUFF: The March 12-15 Battle on the Border will pit the Bassmaster Elite Series pros against each other for a $100,000 first-place prize. While they’re on Lake Amistad, competitors of another type will be cooking up their own strategies.

Saturday, just across Highway 90 from the Elite weigh-in site at Diablo East Marina, the Battle on the Border Cook Off for the Central Texas Barbeque Scholarship will heat up. Also scheduled is the Chili Appreciation Society International Cook Off.

Winners of the barbecue and chili cook-offs will be announced immediately after the Elite weigh-in Saturday, when the field will be cut to the top 12 for Sunday’s finale.

GREEN DEAL: Bassmaster Elite Series pro Mark Menendez of Paducah, Ky., recently inked a deal with Retrotec Inc., maker of Stay-N-Charge Systems.

The system charges boat batteries by drawing power generated by the boat’s outboard motor. By using a tow vehicle’s alternator, Stay-N-Charge can charge batteries while a boat is in tow.

“This allows my boat to utilize manufactured electricity that is lost in most cases,” Menendez said. “I do not have to pull power from the power grid on a regular basis like most anglers. The Stay-N-Charge is helping me to be ‘greener’ to the planet.”

MENTAL GAME: “Anytime you have success, it’s a huge mental boost. It’s reaffirming. We put a lot of effort, a lot of time into what we do, so the affirmation that comes with success is important.” — Bassmaster Elite Series pro James Niggemeyer of Van, Texas, after his Bassmaster Central Open win

About BASS

For more than 40 years, BASS has served as the authority on bass fishing. With its considerable multi-media platforms and expansive tournament trail, BASS is guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans. Through its industry-leading publications Bassmaster Magazine, BASS Times and Fishing Tackle Retailer and comprehensive Web properties in ESPN360.com, ESPN’s sports broadband network, Bassmaster.com, BASSInsider.com and ESPNOutdoors.com, the organization is committed to delivering content true to the lifestyle. Additionally, television programming on ESPN2 continues to provide relevant content – from tips and techniques to in-depth tournament coverage – to passionate audiences.

The organization oversees the prestigious Bassmaster tournament trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Opens, Women’s Bassmaster Tour and the Bassmaster Classic, the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing. Through its grassroots network, the BASS Federation Nation, BASS sanctions more than 20,000 events annually.

BASS also offers an array of services to its more than 500,000 members while spearheading progressive, positive change on issues related to conservation and water access. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.

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