Payne wins Southern Open, Wheeler Lake

Chris Payne wins Southern Open on Lake WheelerDECATUR, Ala. – Chris Payne of West Blocton, Ala., took home $45,000 as the wire-to-wire winner of the 2009 Bassmaster Southern Open presented by

Chris Payne wins Southern Open on Lake WheelerDECATUR, Ala. – Chris Payne of West Blocton, Ala., took home $45,000 as the wire-to-wire winner of the 2009 Bassmaster Southern Open presented by Oakley on Alabama’s Wheeler Lake. Payne accumulated 45 pounds, 8 ounces over three days and closed Saturday with a chatterbait pattern to hold off Bassmaster Elite Series pro Mark Menendez, of Paducah, Ky., who totaled 41-6.

“This is unbelievable,” he said as he raised the trophy for his first BASS win. “I was really nervous about Mark (Menendez) being right behind me, but it feels great to get the win.”

Payne says he owes his success in part to Menendez as Menendez beat Payne to a productive spot but Menendez, a consummate pro, let Payne choose his water.

“I was outrun by another Triton, but when I got there he (Mark) said to take where I wanted,” he said. “He is such a class act and a true professional. He showed great sportsmanship by letting me fish through.”

Payne relied on a 5/8-ounce chartreuse and white Chatterbait for most of his bites. He said he burned it as fast as he could to get a reaction strike. A Zara Spook played a lesser role Thursday and Friday as the fish seemed to want a sub-surface lure. Payne also boated a few fish by swimming a jig.

Payne says he will reinvest some of the $45,000 back into his fishing career, but will use a good portion to buy a moving truck for the moving company he recently started, Motivated Movers.

Menendez, who scored a victory on an Elite Series event on Arkansas’ Lake Dardanelle in March, says he had the fish on to win, but he fell short in his execution.

“I had enough to win it, but they came unbuttoned,” he said. “I struggled all day. By noon, I only had two pounds. Later on I pulled up on this little place and lost a two- and a two-and-a-half- pounder, but got the rest of my fish.”

Menendez thought he’d try the spot he bagged 17 pounds from the day before, but it was unfishable. Overnight rains had muddied the river and raised it substantially. Menendez continued his Friday pattern into Saturday, primarily working a Strike King Series 6 crankbait in Sexy Shad Lollipop. Menendez also caught deeper fish on a Carolina rigged Strike King Rage Craw.

“Any time you can bring five fish to the weigh-in, it’s a good day,” he said. “But today, it just wasn’t my time to win.”

Mark McCaig of Oxford, Ala., finished third with a three-day total of 40 pounds, 12 ounces, while Elite Series pro Peter Thliveros of St. Augustine, Fla., brought in Saturday’s biggest limit (16-4) and jumped to fourth with 40-12. Elite Series pro and San Mateo, Fla., native Terry Scroggins was fifth with 38-13.

Jeff Sullivan of Frostproof, Fla., won the co-angler division with 32 pounds, 10 ounces. For his efforts he was awarded a Triton/Mercury package valued at $32,000. Sullivan said a Zoom Ultravibe Craw in green pumpkin and a 1/2-ounce Gambler football jig accounted for all of his fish over three days. The jig was tipped with a Gambler Flappy Daddy craw.

Finishing second was Robert Moodie of Tuscaloosa, Ala., with 29 pounds, 2 ounces, Barry Pavia of Fruitland Park, Fla., landed in third with 29-0.

Check out for full event coverage, photo galleries and full tournament and points standings.

The next stop in the Bassmaster Southern Opens is Santee Cooper Reservoir in Manning, S.C., October 19-21. That event will mark the close of the Southern Opens and will determine the top two points finishes who will advance to the 2010 Bassmaster Classic.

In the co-angler division, Barry Pavia of Fruitland Park, Fla., landed 14 pounds, 2 ounces and holds the lead over Ed Paul of Alabaster, Ala., who had 11 pounds, 10 ounces. Clint Sterling of Winter Garden, Fla., was third with 11-2.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit Visit for ESPN’s latest releases, schedules and other news.

The Decatur Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau is the tournament host.

Official Sponsors of the 2009 Bassmaster Opens: Toyota Trucks, Berkley, BOOYAH Baits, Evan Williams Bourbon, Mercury, OPTIMA Batteries, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha Marine.

Supporting Sponsors of the 2009 Bassmaster Opens: Bass Pro Shops, Triton Boats.

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, ESPN’s sports broadband network,, and, 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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