Anglers compete for Bassmaster Elite crown
Lucas nabs second Elite tourney win
It’s about 400 feet long and made of wood and was the key fishing spot for Justin Lucas, who led from start to finish to win the Bassmaster Elite at Potomac River presented by Econo Lodge, which concluded Sunday.
The California native weighed in more than 39 pounds during the first two days of the tournament and then clinched his second career win with a final-day limit that tipped the scales at 19 pounds 13 ounces. He also won last year on the Sacramento River.
“This is my seventh year so this tells you how hard it is to get [a win],” said Lucas, who now lives in Alabama and weighed in 72 pounds 14 ounces. “I’m just as grateful for this one as I was for the last one and I’ll always be that way for the next one, if I ever get one, but I sure hope I do.”
Bassmaster emcee Dave Mercer called Lucas’ win “absolute domination.”
Lucas finished more than four pounds ahead of runner-up Jason Christie of Oklahoma, who made things interesting with a whopping 23-1 during Sunday’s final weigh-in at Indian Head Pavilion on the Village Green.
“I’m a little disappointed but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it,” said Christie, who was in fourth-place entering Sunday’s competition. “I think one thing that hurt us in practice was we had two days of cloud cover and I think these fish like the sun. They like to get up in that grass and bury themselves and we can target them when they do that.”
Christie said he started to relax on Sunday and also began figuring out the tides.
“It was just a fun, no pressure relaxed kind of day and it seems like whenever I do that I fish a lot more loose,” he said. “I kind of figured [the tides] out this morning and rode it out the rest of the day.”
Brent Ehrler finished third with 62-12 and Bill Lowen (61-0) and Andy Montgomery (59-12) finished four th and fifth, respectively.
Lucas started the tournament fishing a wellknown spot on Friday, but when it quickly died he motored 30 yards over to the dock next to a water treatment plant.
“I was just looking for docks where I felt I could catch one fish,” Lucas said. “My plan was to
start up there [north of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge] and run back and hit all the isolated docks and hopefully pick off 10 to 12 pounds. When I moved over to the pier and caught two 3-pounders that changed everything for me.”
The second 3-pounder got wrapped around a piling but using 10-pound Trilene, Lucas wrestled it free after five minutes.
“There was a big, long grass line, old wood pilings, shade, bait (white perch and bluegills) and depth (5 to 8 feet),” Lucas said. “It was like the perfect storm.”
Using a drop shot rig with a 6-inch brown and purple Roboworm worm on a medium-heavy Veracity Abu Garcia spinning rod and an Abu Garcia Revo MGX size 30 reel, Lucas started catching fish.
“By the time I got down the pier I had a good limit,” he said, “way better than I expected to catch. I was thinking, ‘For once in my life in a big tournament I’ve found a good, legitimate spot where I could win a tournament in one spot.’ I’ve fished tournaments seven years as a pro and I’ve never done that. It’s something that falls in your lap.”
He pulled 20-4 from the dock on Day 1, another 19-14 on the second day and 12-15 on Day 3.
Lucas also raved about area anglers later as he clutched the championship trophy and was surrounded by reporters and well-wishers.
“My hat’s off to the Maryland and Virginia fishermen because I was fishing one of the bigger community holes there is on the river and they treated me with so much respect,” said Lucas, who received a check for $101,500. “They never moved in on me and just let me do my thing and that made the difference in me winning this tournament. They’re awesome people; I love Maryland and Virginia people.”
Keith Combs (59-6), Randall Tharp (58-10) and Brett Hite (56-13) placed sixth through eighth, respectively, and Jordan Lee was ninth with 54-11.
Alabama pro Gerald Swindle (53-6) finished 10th and has a 37-point lead over Combs in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race.
“It’s been a tough week,” Swindle said. “I caught all my fish pitching a Zoom Z. Craw Jr. just punching [grass] mats. Today I just didn’t execute.”
Fred Roumbanis (513) and Clifford Pirch (50-11) rounded out the finals field.
Pirch also caught the largest bass of the tournament, a 6-1 lunker he brought to the scales on Saturday.
The field of 108 anglers was narrowed down to 50 following Saturday’s competition. Among the noticeable cuts were Mike Iaconelli (53rd), Rick Clunn (69th) and Kevin VanDam (99th). Ocean City’s Fabian Rodriguez, the only Maryland angler, was 77th.
Among those that missed the cut following Saturday’s competition were Greg Hackney (13th), Luke Clausen (14th), Tim Horton (32nd), Virginia’s Jacob Powroznik (35th) and Skeet Reese (37th), who won the title in 2007, the last time the tournament was in Maryland.
“I’ve been participating in a lot of tournaments here in Charles County and I always say this county definitely hosts one of the best events,” said Adrian Avena of New Jersey, who finished 95th.
Anglers caught 181 fivefish limits and 1,135 total fish. The live release rate was 98 percent.
“The best freaking dock I’ve ever seen in my life, dude,” said Lucas, who lost by three ounces last time the tour came to Maryland. “That thing is like 300 or 400 yards long and it’s the best dock in America as far as I’m concerned. I might try and buy one parking spot. I was just hoping to get a check [so] to be in this position? Unbelievable.”
STAFF PHOTO BY MICHAEL REID Angler Justin Lucas shows off two fish from his livewell at the weigh-in on Sunday. Lucas, who led every day of the tournament and finished with 72 pounds 14 ounces, won the tournament.
Angler Greg Swindle, who is vying for Angler of the Year honors, is interviewed Sunday at the weigh-in by emcee Rick Mercer. Swindle finished 10th.
Justin Lucas of California nabbed his second pro win Sunday when he won the Bassmaster Elite at Potomac River presented by Econo Lodge. Runner-up Jason Christie was more than four pounds back.