By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor


Ron Nelson had never competed at the triple-A level prior to last week's Smith Mountain Lake Northern EverStart. He'd never visited that Virginia venue before, either.

He proved to be a quick study on both counts, however, as he vanquished a 114-angler field sprinkled with current and former tour pros to claim the 1st-place prize package worth more than $32,500. He hopes to use the victory as a springboard to even greater angling achievements, including a tour-level career at some point in the future.

The 37-year-old painting contractor and rental-property manager sight-fished his way to a 48-15 total over 3 days to outdistance runner-up Joseph Wood by 11 ounces. After catching 16-15 on day 1, he weighed twin 16-00 stringers on days 2 and 3.

Following are some of the details of how he went about it.

Practice

Nelson spent a full week practicing for the event. He saw hundreds of fish on beds that weighed between 2 1/2 and 3 1/4 pounds, and also developed a shad-spawn pattern in case a weather change sent the bed-dwelling bass back to the depths.

"Those pre-spawn fish that were on the shad, they were real smart," he said.

By the time the tournament started, he'd waypointed nearly 50 fish that he judged to be 3 pounds or better.

"The better fish were in 8 to 12 feet of water, and sometimes it was hard to tell how big they were when they were down that deep. But I knew the ones that I needed were the ones that were (generally) a little deeper."

Competition

> Day 1: 5, 16-15
> Day 2: 5, 16-00
> Day 3: 5, 16-00
> Total = 15, 48-15

Nelson had all of his weight by 10 o'clock on the first day.

"One of my key strategies was that I had one spot with six or seven (smallmouths) pretty close together," he said. "One of them was shallow and the other ones were a little bit deeper. I caught the two easiest ones that were on stumps the first day, then I came back and started on the shallow fish on day 2.

"I was trying to save some, possibly even for the third day, but this was my first time in a 3-day event with cumulative weight and I didn't want to leave anything behind."

The first couple of bedding smallmouths he caught on day 2 were smaller than he'd estimated – one was a 2-pounder and the other no more than a 2 1/2. He eventually replaced them with some heftier largemouths and climbed from 7th place to a tie for 2nd, just a little more than a half-pound out of the lead.

The final day dawned cloudy and he deemed the conditions as a good opportunity to try for some quality pre-spawners. He threw a spinnerbait and enticed just one, but it was a 3 1/2-pounder.

"That gave me a real boost right there. If you can box one like that really quick, it takes a lot of the stress out of the day."

He moved on to a nearby bed-fish and had it in the boat within 10 minutes. He worked on the next one for an hour before giving up for the time being and went and caught another on his first cast.

He came across a bedding bronzeback that he judged to be 6 pounds, but was unable to catch it.

"She'd charge the bait and push it, but she wouldn't eat it. She eventually swam off and never came back."

With less than 15 minutes left in the day, he went to a pre-spawn area near the launch intending to throw a spinnerbait. He spied a cruising largemouth and pitched a Poor Boys Erie Darter in front of it, which it bumped but didn't inhale.

"I switched to a Zoom Speed Craw, and she ate that," he said. "That fish was about 3 3/4 (pounds) and it was huge for me. It was a never-give-up kind of fish."

Gear Notes

Nelson's sight-fishing setups included Shimano Crucial and Shimano Cumara rods and Shimano Stradic CI4 spinning reels. He used 65-pound PowerPro braided line when fishing around stumps and green-tinted 10-pound Stren monofilament for fish in more open water.

The Erie Darter and the Speed Craw, both in green-pumpkin hues, were his primary bed baits. He employed a couple of different jigheads, including a 1/8-ounce Strike King stand-up model.

He threw his spinnerbait on a Duckett Fishing MicroMagic cranking rod with a Shimano Curado casting reel.

The Bottom Line

> Main factor in his success – "Just being able to see the fish and being able to make the presentation before they saw me."

> Performance edge – "My Mercury outboard got me everywhere I needed to go and back. That was especially important on the second day, when I ran hard and made a lot of moves."

Much of the tackle referenced above is available at the BassFan Store. To browse the selection, click here..

Final Standings

1. Ron Nelson -- Berrien Springs, Mi -- 16-15 (5) -- 16-00 (5) -- 32-15 (10) -- 16-00 (5) -- 48-15 (15) -- $32,555

2. Joseph Wood -- Westport, Ma -- 18-13 (5) -- 14-02 (5) -- 32-15 (10) -- 15-05 (5) -- 48-04 (15) -- $12,208

3. Chris Johnston -- Peterborough, On -- 18-02 (5) -- 15-06 (5) -- 33-08 (10) -- 12-10 (5) -- 46-02 (15) -- $8,139

4. Derik Hudson -- Hurt, Va -- 17-09 (5) -- 15-02 (5) -- 32-11 (10) -- 13-02 (5) -- 45-13 (15) -- $7,325

5. Philip Jarabeck -- Lynchburg, Va -- 17-05 (5) -- 14-00 (5) -- 31-05 (10) -- 13-07 (5) -- 44-12 (15) -- $6,511

6. Donald Sheffey Jr. -- Concord, Va -- 18-04 (5) -- 13-14 (5) -- 32-02 (10) -- 12-09 (5) -- 44-11 (15) -- $5,697

7. Cory Johnston -- Peterborough, On -- 18-04 (5) -- 13-00 (5) -- 31-04 (10) -- 12-03 (5) -- 43-07 (15) -- $4,883

8. Luke Nichols -- Moneta, Va -- 14-06 (5) -- 16-15 (5) -- 31-05 (10) -- 10-08 (5) -- 41-13 (15) -- $4,069

9. Matt Stoupa -- Colonial Heights, Va -- 16-00 (5) -- 15-04 (5) -- 31-04 (10) -- 7-08 (4) -- 38-12 (14) -- $3,256

10. Russ Simpson -- Charleston, Wv -- 15-15 (5) -- 15-05 (5) -- 31-04 (10) -- 3-02 (2) -- 34-06 (12) -- $2,442

The following anglers did not make the cut and did not fish on day 3.

11. Trevis Towe -- Daleville, Va -- 16-13 (5) -- 14-05 (5) -- 31-02 (10) -- $2,035

12. Tom Belinda -- Holidaysburg, Pa -- 16-01 (5) -- 14-03 (5) -- 30-04 (10) -- $2,035

13. John Hutchins -- Warrenton, Va -- 14-10 (5) -- 15-09 (5) -- 30-03 (10) -- $2,035

14. Paul Mueller -- Southbury, Ct -- 14-09 (5) -- 14-11 (5) -- 29-04 (10) -- $2,035

15. Jason Ober -- Johnstown, Pa -- 11-14 (5) -- 17-05 (5) -- 29-03 (10) -- $2,035

16. Derek Cummings -- Clayton, NC -- 15-03 (5) -- 13-13 (5) -- 29-00 (10) -- $1,628

17. Josh Wagy -- Dewitt, Va -- 13-07 (5) -- 14-14 (5) -- 28-05 (10) -- $1,628

18. Scott Cooke -- Marengo, Oh -- 13-10 (5) -- 14-11 (5) -- 28-05 (10) -- $1,628

19. Dennis Siggers -- Danville, Va -- 14-05 (5) -- 13-14 (5) -- 28-03 (10) -- $1,628

20. Nick Prvonozac -- Warren, Oh -- 16-00 (5) -- 12-01 (5) -- 28-01 (10) -- $1,628

21. Brian Calloway -- Danville, Va -- 12-07 (5) -- 15-10 (5) -- 28-01 (10) -- $1,221

22. Chris Baldwin -- Lexington, NC -- 13-09 (5) -- 14-07 (5) -- 28-00 (10) -- $1,221

23. David Perdue -- Wirtz, Va -- 13-02 (5) -- 14-12 (5) -- 27-14 (10) -- $1,221

24. Terry Olinger -- The Plains, Va -- 11-02 (4) -- 16-10 (5) -- 27-12 (9)

25. Bryan Schmitt -- Deale, Md -- 16-05 (5) -- 11-06 (5) -- 27-11 (10)

26. William Pioch -- Beckley, Wv -- 13-07 (5) -- 14-03 (5) -- 27-10 (10)

27. Tim Boothe -- Beaver, Wv -- 14-07 (5) -- 13-02 (5) -- 27-09 (10)

28. David Wolak -- Wake Forest, NC -- 15-10 (5) -- 11-10 (5) -- 27-04 (10)

29. George Lambeth -- Thomasville, NC -- 15-02 (5) -- 12-02 (5) -- 27-04 (10)

30. Ramon Deisher Jr. -- Covington, Va -- 14-01 (5) -- 13-00 (5) -- 27-01 (10)

31. Craig Blankenship -- Wirtz, Va -- 12-08 (5) -- 13-11 (5) -- 26-03 (10)

32. Ryan Ingalls -- Fairfax, Va -- 13-08 (5) -- 12-11 (5) -- 26-03 (10)

33. Otis Darnell -- Linden, Va -- 12-12 (5) -- 12-11 (5) -- 25-07 (10)

34. Shawn Hammack -- Gasburg, Va -- 10-13 (5) -- 14-07 (5) -- 25-04 (10)

35. Brandon Coulter -- Knoxville, Tn -- 14-05 (5) -- 10-08 (5) -- 24-13 (10)

36. Thomas Wooten -- Huddleston, Va -- 11-14 (5) -- 12-15 (5) -- 24-13 (10)

37. Chad Green -- Moneta, Va -- 8-08 (3) -- 16-04 (5) -- 24-12 (8)

38. Matt Arey -- Shelby, NC -- 12-08 (5) -- 12-04 (5) -- 24-12 (10)

39. Kyle Hoffman -- Harpers Ferry, Wv -- 10-05 (5) -- 14-02 (5) -- 24-07 (10)

40. Mike Blake -- Carrollton, Oh -- 13-15 (5) -- 10-00 (4) -- 23-15 (9)

41. Aaron Hastings -- Middletown, Md -- 11-09 (5) -- 12-05 (5) -- 23-14 (10)

42. Mark Condron -- Wilton, Ct -- 15-12 (5) -- 8-00 (3) -- 23-12 (8)

43. Jeremy Southerly -- Fulks Run, Va -- 10-07 (5) -- 13-04 (5) -- 23-11 (10)

44. Michael Abernathy -- Coventry, Ri -- 14-06 (5) -- 9-02 (4) -- 23-08 (9)

45. Jami Pierce -- Leland, NC -- 11-07 (5) -- 11-15 (4) -- 23-06 (9)

46. Daryl Biron -- South Windsor, Ct -- 11-07 (5) -- 11-08 (5) -- 22-15 (10)

47. Andrew Dauberman -- Mifflinburg, Pa -- 6-11 (3) -- 16-00 (5) -- 22-11 (8)

48. Matt Stasiak -- Pittsburgh, Pa -- 10-08 (5) -- 12-00 (5) -- 22-08 (10)

49. Jamie Jacobus -- Johnstown, Oh -- 10-10 (5) -- 11-13 (5) -- 22-07 (10)

50. Shayne Berlo -- Fairfax, Va -- 9-03 (4) -- 13-03 (5) -- 22-06 (9)

51. Gilbert Gagner -- Highgate Springs, Vt -- 13-01 (5) -- 8-12 (4) -- 21-13 (9)

52. Dave Lafontaine -- Earlton, On -- 9-04 (5) -- 12-06 (5) -- 21-10 (10)

53. Joshua Sanders -- Morganton, NC -- 11-13 (5) -- 9-10 (5) -- 21-07 (10)

54. Nicholas Boothe -- B, Wv -- 8-11 (4) -- 12-10 (5) -- 21-05 (9)

55. Chris Flint -- Potsdam, NY -- 10-15 (4) -- 10-06 (5) -- 21-05 (9)

55. Jerrod Lloyd -- Millville, NJ -- 10-06 (4) -- 10-15 (5) -- 21-05 (9)

57. Tyler Meadows -- Stuarts Draft, Va -- 12-06 (5) -- 8-11 (4) -- 21-01 (9)

58. Kurt Mitchell -- Milford, De -- 11-02 (5) -- 9-09 (5) -- 20-11 (10)

59. Frank Poirier -- Hopewell, Va -- 7-13 (4) -- 12-10 (5) -- 20-07 (9)

60. Adam Poplaski -- Cheshire, Ma -- 10-08 (5) -- 9-13 (4) -- 20-05 (9)

61. Jonathan Else -- Bloomsburg, Pa -- 9-13 (3) -- 10-04 (5) -- 20-01 (8)

62. Brian Bersik -- Disputanta, Va -- 6-04 (3) -- 12-12 (5) -- 19-00 (8)

63. John Vanore -- Mullica Hill, NJ -- 17-01 (5) -- 1-14 (1) -- 18-15 (6)

64. Christopher Carmell -- Moyock, NC -- 10-03 (5) -- 8-11 (4) -- 18-14 (9)

65. Rob Johnson -- Schuylkill Haven, Pa -- 13-03 (5) -- 4-02 (2) -- 17-05 (7)

66. Larry Kempler -- Bluemont, Va -- 4-08 (2) -- 12-12 (4) -- 17-04 (6)

67. Matthew Caffi -- Fairfax, Va -- 9-12 (3) -- 6-15 (3) -- 16-11 (6)

68. Nick Gainey -- Charleston, SC -- 5-10 (3) -- 10-10 (5) -- 16-04 (8)

69. Brandon Stapleton -- Temperanceville, Va -- 7-11 (3) -- 8-07 (4) -- 16-02 (7)

70. Chad Pilson -- Meadows Of Dan, Va -- 11-00 (4) -- 4-09 (2) -- 15-09 (6)

71. Steve Miller -- Mechanicsville, Va -- 10-15 (5) -- 4-09 (2) -- 15-08 (7)

72. Charlie Machek -- Richmond, Va -- 15-00 (5) -- 0-00 (5) -- 15-00 (10)

73. Mike Hancin -- North Franklin, Ct -- 5-13 (2) -- 9-02 (3) -- 14-15 (5)

74. David Martin -- Check, Va -- 10-10 (5) -- 4-01 (2) -- 14-11 (7)

75. Chris Dillow -- Waynesboro, Va -- 11-10 (5) -- 2-06 (1) -- 14-00 (6)

76. Joseph Thompson -- Landenberg, Pa -- 4-13 (2) -- 9-03 (5) -- 14-00 (7)

77. Red Moore -- Graham, NC -- 10-11 (5) -- 3-03 (2) -- 13-14 (7)

78. Melvin Smitson -- Baltimore, Md -- 9-05 (4) -- 4-02 (1) -- 13-07 (5)

79. James Steiner -- Levittown, Pa -- 8-14 (4) -- 4-04 (1) -- 13-02 (5)

80. Bobby Peaslee -- Salem, Va -- 12-05 (5) -- 0-00 (0) -- 12-05 (5)

81. Dave Shively -- Butler, Pa -- 5-03 (3) -- 6-09 (3) -- 11-12 (6)

82. Paul Kimball -- Glastonbury, Ct -- 2-10 (1) -- 8-08 (4) -- 11-02 (5)

83. Troy Garrison -- Topsham, Me -- 8-06 (3) -- 2-11 (1) -- 11-01 (4)

84. Burley Warf -- Moneta, Va -- 3-08 (2) -- 7-08 (3) -- 11-00 (5)

85. Mike Elie -- Gray, Me -- 6-08 (4) -- 4-08 (1) -- 11-00 (5)

86. Doug Larson -- Suffolk, Va -- 10-14 (4) -- 0-00 (0) -- 10-14 (4)

87. Harold Marietta -- Hunker, Pa -- 6-11 (4) -- 4-00 (2) -- 10-11 (6)

88. William Shelton Iii -- La Crosse, Va -- 8-05 (4) -- 2-02 (1) -- 10-07 (5)

89. Randy Yarnall -- Womelsdorf, Pa -- 10-04 (5) -- 0-00 (0) -- 10-04 (5)

90. Michael Hall -- Annandale, Va -- 5-00 (2) -- 5-01 (2) -- 10-01 (4)

91. Richard Damianos -- Cortland, NY -- 5-01 (3) -- 4-04 (2) -- 9-05 (5)

92. Bryan Sisk -- Glenelg, Md -- 7-04 (3) -- 2-00 (1) -- 9-04 (4)

93. Garry Woodruff -- Candia, Nh -- 4-08 (2) -- 3-14 (2) -- 8-06 (4)

94. Rick (Hawk) Hawkins -- Roanoke, Va -- 7-15 (2) -- 0-00 (0) -- 7-15 (2)

95. James Tyson -- Middletown, Pa -- 4-01 (1) -- 3-07 (2) -- 7-08 (3)

96. Michael "Doc" McGhee -- Blackstone, Va -- 4-08 (2) -- 2-13 (1) -- 7-05 (3)

97. John Trask -- Jay, Me -- 3-14 (2) -- 2-00 (1) -- 5-14 (3)

98. Nick Radtke -- Greenwood Lake, NY -- 3-06 (2) -- 2-02 (1) -- 5-08 (3)

99. Rick Nitkiewicz -- Pittsburgh, Pa -- 4-00 (2) -- 1-07 (1) -- 5-07 (3)

100. Ron Brown -- Mount Pleasant, SC -- 4-07 (2) -- 0-00 (0) -- 4-07 (2)

101. Tom Wolverton -- Hamiltom, NJ -- 1-14 (1) -- 2-07 (1) -- 4-05 (2)

102. Michael Egan -- Matawan, NJ -- 4-02 (1) -- 0-00 (0) -- 4-02 (1)

103. Sean Caswell -- Highland, NY -- 4-00 (2) -- 0-00 (0) -- 4-00 (2)

104. Robert Hoyt Jr. -- Rocky Mount, Va -- 3-07 (2) -- 0-00 (0) -- 3-07 (2)

105. Thomas Turner -- Kingsville, Md -- 0-00 (0) -- 3-03 (2) -- 3-03 (2)

106. Ed Casey -- Whiteford, Md -- 0-00 (0) -- 2-08 (1) -- 2-08 (1)

107. David Wright -- Red Lion, Pa -- 1-15 (1) -- 0-00 (0) -- 1-15 (1)

108. Ronald Martinez Jr. -- Valley View, Oh -- 1-14 (1) -- 0-00 (0) -- 1-14 (1)

Joseph Dellavalle -- Doylestown, Pa -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0)

Josh Ingram -- Scotts, Mi -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0)

Dennis McAvey -- Salem, Wv -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0)

Rodney Michael -- Eagle Springs, NC -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0)

Walter (Mike) Snider -- Mt Airy, Md -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0)

Gregory Wilder -- Brooklyn Park, Md -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0)

Big Bass

Day 1: Joseph Wood -- 5-10 -- $228
Day 2: Jami Pierce -- 5-10 -- $228