GROVE, Okla. – Starting the final day in fourth place, nearly 4 pounds behind tournament leader Chad Warren, Blake Capps knew he needed to have a big day. And that’s exactly what the Muskogee, Okla. angler did on Saturday.
Capps caught a five-bass limit weighing 22 pounds, 8 ounces, to vault to the top of the leaderboard and win the Toyota Series event at Grand Lake and earn the top payout of $87,000. Over the three days of competition Capps’ catch of 15 bass totaling 59-06 gave him the win by a 7-02 margin over pro Michael Harlin of Sunrise Beach, Mo., who finished runner-up with a three-day total of 52-04, good for $20,000.
“I think you can guess I’m feeling pretty good right now,” Capps said with a laugh after the weigh-in. “I had full confidence going into today.”
It showed early on Day 3 as Capps got off to a hot start in the morning. He caught what he estimated to be roughly 18 pounds in the first two hours of the morning. He then got to work bouncing from spot to spot, hunting for upgrades.
“I culled one at about 11 that was a 2.75 for a 3.75,” he said, “I thought I had a little shot at it at that point. But it was the 5-pounder I caught in the last hour that made me think I really had a shot.”
The key 5-pounder came on a bank he hadn’t visited in over two years, but after co-angler champion Jason Sandidge caught keepers on back-to-back casts, Capps knew he had to double back through the area.
“Once he caught his fish then we turned around and went back up that bank,” he said. “There was a little brush pile in 8 feet of water and in it was my 5-pounder. All my fish this week came in 10 feet of water or less.”
The bank itself held a lot of the same characteristics as many of the areas Capps focused on this week. Capps primarily targeted banks and points with larger rock piles and brush piles holding limited, but larger-than-average fish he found in practice. He located his fish during practice on a bladed jig and a flat-sided squarebill. But, come gameday, the weather and blustery cold conditions told Capps to fall in line with the other umbrella rig slingers who dominated the field.
“I had that 19-11 on Day 1 and I was done fishing at 10:45 in my area. I didn’t want to burn anything knowing it was a three-day tournament. On Day 2 I had all my fish by 11 o’clock for the most part. I didn’t have a big fish on Day 2. I weighed a 3-pounder I really needed to get rid of.”
Capps credited years of experience and solid equipment as major factors in getting him through a tough week at Grand. He says it made a huge difference for him as he and the field faced adverse conditions all week.
“I’m really fortunate to have proper tools to compete at this level,” he said. “My Phoenix was important for getting me to my fish and back to weigh-in in the crazy winds we had the last few days. I also used a Falcon Cara Big Bait rod for my A-rig, and that was key for throwing it all day.”
Here are the final totals for the Top 10:
1st: Blake Capps, Muskogee, Okla., 15 bass, 59-6, $87,000 (includes $35,000 Phoenix MLF Bonus)
2nd: Michael Harlin, Sunrise Beach, Mo., 15 bass, 52-04, $20,000
3rd: Brad Jelinek, Lincoln, Mo., 14 bass, 51-11, $14,250
4th: Chad Warren, Sand Springs, Okla., 12 bass, 45-13, $12,250
5th: Austin Culbertson, Moberly, Mo., 12 bass, 43-09, $11,250
6th: Cole Breeden, Lebanon, Mo., 11 bass, 43-04, $9,125
7th: Billy Lemon, Sand Springs, Okla., 13 bass, 42-15, $7,900
8th: Mike McClelland, Blue Eye, Mo., 14 bass, 42-13, $6,900
9th: Kevin Miller, Shell Knob, Mo., 12 bass, 42-05, $6,400
10th: Preston Cook, Miami, Okla., 13 bass, 39-13, $4,500
Complete results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Jeremy Davis of Imperial, Mo., took home the $500 Day 1 Berkley Big Bass award in the pro division Thursday with a largemouth weighing 7-08. On Friday, Kevin Miller of Shell Knob, Mo, earned the prize after bringing a 6-13 bass to the scale.