KISSIMMEE, Fla. — A slim 2 ounces separated winner Wesley Strader and his closest challenger, Cody Detweiler, in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open on the Kissimmee Chain.
Strader finished with a winning weight of 50 pounds, 5 ounces to punch his ticket to the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro, if he competes in the next two Southern Opens. Detweiler weighed in a three-day total of 50-3 to finish as the Open runner-up in the pro division.
Despite a tough practice, Strader bounced back with solid limits each day, including a 13-1 bag in the final round.
“I hadn’t caught a fish over 2 1/2 pounds in all of practice,” said Wesley Strader, who won the pro division grand prize of a Nitro Z20 bass boat with a Mercury Pro XS 225-horsepower outboard engine valued at $45,000.
The Spring City Tenn., angler credited the copper rose lenses of his sunglasses for helping him locate spawning fish in practice. When he didn’t have a bite by 11:15 the first morning, Strader ran to the spot where he saw the spawning fish the day before.
“I don’t know what happened overnight, but those fish showed up … and I caught them,” he said.
Throughout the week, Strader caught most of his fish on a Zoom Fluke or Speed Craw and an Old School Twin Spin topwater bait.
“Yesterday, I got on a little deal in some hydrilla and caught some on a (homemade bladed jig), so this morning I decided to start there,” he said. “So when I pulled up on that hydrilla bed, they were biting like crazy.”
Despite fishing in 58-degree water, Strader was able to coax bass into slamming the topwater bait. “Those fish came up and smoked it, so I caught every fish on that Twin Spin in about 20 minutes.”
Detweiler relied on a variety of lures to catch his bass throughout the week. He threw a Chatterbait in the rain the whole first day of competition, and when the weather turned sunny the next day, he threw a Humdinger swim jig and flipped a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver with a 1 1/2-ounce weight to isolated mats. He also relied on the swim jig and flipped the Sweet Beaver to mats the final day to catch a 15-8 limit.
Other Top 5 finishers in the pro division were Mark Rose, West Memphis, Ark., third place, 50-1; Eric Panzironi, Longwood, Fla., fourth, 48-2; and Chad Morgenthaler, Reeds Spring, Mo., fifth, 45-4.
Virginia Beach, Va., angler Chaz Carrington flipped a Big Bite Baits Yo Daddy to catch a three-fish 9-10 limit in the final round and win the non-boater division. His three-day total of 25-9 earned him the top prize of a Nitro z18/Mercury 150 Pro XS outboard rig valued at $30,000.
Brad Knight, Lancing, Tenn., and James Bailey, Warrenton, Va., tied for the $750 Big Bass Award on the pro side as both anglers caught 9-6 largemouths. Nathan Bloom, Winter Springs, Fla., weighed in an 8-14-pound largemouth to earn the $250 Big Bass Award on the co-angler side.
Strader received the Livingston Lures Leader Award of $250 for finishing as the top pro on Day 2. Finishing as the Day 2 leader on the co-angler side, Rob Walker of Deland, Fla., received a Livingston Lures gift pack worth $250.
Stader also earner the A.R.E. Top Angler Award of $500 for being the highest-finishing angler using A.R.E. products.
Elite Series pro Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla., earned the Power-Pole Captain’s Cash award of $500.
The local hosts for the events are Visit Kissimmee and the Central Florida Sports Commission.
2016 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Title Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops
2016 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2016 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Premier Sponsors: Berkley, GoPro, Huk, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha
2016 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Supporting Sponsors: A.R.E. Truck Caps, Carhartt, Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels, Livingston Lures, Lowrance, Power-Pole, Rapala, Shell Rotella, Shimano
About B.A.S.S. B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2), social media programs and events. For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series, B.A.S.S. Nation, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Costa Bassmaster High School Series, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.