By BassFan Staff

While he's considered a rookie this season, Jacob Powroznik's tournament résumé is that of a seasoned veteran with nearly a dozen Top-10 finishes in FLW Tour events and multiple Top-3 finishes in that circuit's Angler of the Year races. What's been missing, however, is a victory at the tour-level.

Today, he filled that void with a little help from a late-day kicker.

In just his fourth Bassmaster Elite Series event, Powroznik followed up his smallest stringer of the event with a 19-11 sack today that gave him a 4-day total of 79-12 and propelled him to victory at Toledo Bend Reservoir. A 7-13 brute that he caught near the end of the day proved to be the difference for the Virginian who had started the day more than 2 1/2 pounds behind Day-3 leader Dean Rojas. Powroznik, part of an impressive crop of first-year Elite Series anglers, is the second "rookie" to win this season.

"It means the world to me," he said Sunday night. "To be able to beat those guys – we've got 108 of us and I consider them to be the best in the world. Just to be able to beat those guys or say you did well in a tournament, you don’t often get chances to win and to actually win, the only way I can describe it is it's like winning the lottery. It's that hard to do it."

Chad Morgenthaler, another Elite Series freshman with years of tour-level experience, caught a day-best 21-14 and surged from 10th to finish 2nd with 77-06, marking his best-ever finish in a tour-level event. Randall Tharp, who won the Forrest Wood Cup last summer at the nearby Red River, made it three "rookies" at the top of the final standings as his 18-04 bag gave him 76-10 and a 3rd-place result, his best finish of what's already been a stellar year.

Mark Davis continued his torrid start by finishing 4th, his fifth straight Top-4 result, thanks to an 18-02 effort that gave him 74-07. His lead in the Angler of the Year race over Jared Lintner swelled to 42 points with four events remaining.

Casey Ashley caught 19-05 today to advance seven spots and claim 5th with 73-12.

Here's how the rest of the finalists finished up:

6. Dean Rojas: 73-04
7. Skeet Reese: 73-00
8. Chris Zaldain: 70-11
9. Todd Faircloth: 68-08
10. Jonathon VanDam: 68-07
11. Jared Lintner: 67-03
12. Cliff Crochet: 65-07

Day-3 leader Dean Rojas struggled this morning and scrambled in the afternoon to finish his limit, but his 10-09 stringer dropped him to 6th. Lintner, who led after day 1 and went out in 3rd today, came back with just two fish for 7-07 and slipped to 11th, losing additional ground to Davis in the AOY race.

Some pros remarked this week that had the Elite Series visited Toledo Bend a month or so ago when the fish were more ganged up in certain areas, the weights would've been out of sight. Still, the lake fished wide open with plenty of bass in multiple phases of the spawn. That allowed anglers to fish their strength, whether it was flipping shallow, deep or matted grass, sight-fishing, casting a jerkbait near areas where shad were spawning or cranking off shore for post-spawners. In the end, it was the big bites that ultimately determined the outcome, a fitting way to end the event at Toledo Bend, which was hailed throughout the week as being in the best shape of any fishery in the country.

B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

Powroznik caught fish several different ways on the final day, but sight-fishing was his bread-and-butter patten.

With the season now half over, the AOY standings are starting to take shape. Davis, already a three-time AOY, is showing no signs of weakness and is riding a wave of momentum rarely seen in this sport. The four anglers immediately behind him in the standings all made the final cut at Toledo Bend and will look to continue their own momentum at the next event in 2 weeks.

The Elite Series will take a week off – the Toyota Texas Bass Classic is this coming week at Lake Fork – before resuming on May 15 at Lake Dardanelle in Russellville, Ark.

Powroznik Pumped

> Day 4: 5, 19-11 (20, 79-12)

When he finally got in his truck Sunday night to head off to Lake Fork to start preparing for the Toyota Texas Bass Classic, an event he qualified for by virtue of his FLW Tour points finish in 2013, Powroznik had more than 200 text messages waiting for him to read.

"I guess I'll be busy tonight when I get to the hotel," he quipped.

Such is life for the newest Elite Series winner. After making the move from the FLW Tour – he qualified through the Northern Opens last year – he figured he'd take some licks to start, but after posting three straight money finishes (all in the Top 35) his confidence had started to build. This week, with fish on beds in virtually every pocket on the southern portion of the lake, Toledo Bend played to his strengths.

"I go into every tournament trying, but I figured I'd have to pay my dues," he said. "I didn't think it would come this fast. I'm just thankful to God that it did."

He said he saw a "ton of 2- to 2 1/2-pounders on bed" today and more than half of his final-day weight came on two fish that were snug to the shore – a 7-13 that he caught around 1 p.m. and a 5-pounder that he caught on his last flip of the day. Without either of them, he likely would've fallen short of the winning total.

"That thing was pretty temperamental for a while," he said. "I always try to throw something natural when I'm fishing for one on the bed. I had been flipping a Berkley green-pumpkin Power Hawg and I nearly went through every bait I had.

"I usually hate throwing something white, but I remember (David) Dudley and I talking a while back about white baits and how great big ones don’t like a white bait in their face. Maybe they can see it better, but they just don't like it."

He searched his boat for a white crawfish imitation and found a bladed jig that had a 4-inch version as a trailer. He pulled it off, rigged it on his flipping hook and within three flips, he had his kicker.

"After that, I got to thinking I had a 5-pounder in a pocket a couple miles up the lake," he said. "I went back in there with 10 minutes left and ended up catching it. I probably could've made a few more flips, but I told my marshal I was done and headed in."

B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

Chad Morgenthaler caught 21-14 today to notch his career-best tour-level finish.

He tallied up about 12 keeper bites today on a variety of presentations, but the best fish came sight-fishing.

"It was all luck," he said. "I knew I was dong the right thing to catch a big bag. It's one of those things where you can run into two or three of the right ones and today I did."

Additional details about Powroznik's and the other top finishers' patterns will be published soon.

2nd: Morgenthaler Surprised by Surge

> Day 4: 5, 21-14 (20, 77-06)

Knowing the competition he was up against on the final day, Morgenthaler didn't fathom he was going to climb all the way to the runner-up spot at the end.

"I'm surprised I finished 2nd. I figured I had too big of a deficit," he said. "I knew I'd caught them well, but I didn't think I'd caught them that well. Honestly, I thought I had enough for 5th or 6th. The longer I sat there the more concerned I got because guys like Randy and Dean and Jacob had pounds on me and they didn't need as much."

His result bumped him up to 5th in the AOY standings, six points behind Powroznik, who's 4th, and 13 points ahead of Tharp, who's 8th.

"Jacob and Randy are about as solid as you can get. I knew both of those guys were going to do well over here," he said. "To be honest, I'm a little surprised at the run I'm on. I think a lot has to do with the way the schedule has lined up. It's really lined up to my strengths. I knew all three of us had plenty of ability to do well and be consistent over there. That doesn't surprise me. I'm just glad to be part of the trio that's doing well."

He had one area that had produced for him in the late morning and early afternoon, but it didn't fire up today. He said a bit of bad timing on day 3 probably cost him a shot at the win.

"I left an area that ended up being productive and it's one of those hindsight things," he said. "I didn't know it when I left it, but my back-up area kicked out a big stringer on Saturday. I left it because I'd caught 45 pounds in 2 days at this other spot and I had to go there during that golden time frame.

"It was a hard call and I know the guy who makes the right calls usually wins. I just missed it by a little bit because of that timing."

3rd: Quick Start for Tharp

> Day 4: 5, 18-04 (20, 76-10)

Tharp had no regrets about his week and was happy to see Powroznik finally get a turn in the winner's circle.

"I fished doing something I feel like I'm the best at and in my opinion, Jacob is the best sight-fisherman in the world," Tharp said. "I've fished against him long enough and you can look it up – in sight-fishing events he really excels. He's got eyes like an eagle.

"I'm just really happy knowing that if I didn't win, he won doing what he's best at."

He caught virtually all of his weight in the first 2 hours today and was hoping to connect with a big kicker to put him over the 20-pound mark, but it didn't materialize.

"I had all day to catch a giant," he said. "I was catching enough 3s to keep me enthused but the big bite never came."

4th: C-Rig Carried Davis All Week

> Day 4: 5, 18-02 (20, 74-07)

Davis made a steady progression up the leaderboard, but found it tougher each day to generate bites.

"It was a good week. I have no complaints," he said.

He was the lone finalist, to his knowledge, that was throwing a Carolina rig and he used it almost exclusively to catch post-spawners along inside grass lines.

B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

Randall Tharp moved up to 8th in the Angler of the Year standings after placing 3rd at Toledo Bend.

"I started out catching lots of fish, but it dwindled down today," he added. "It was a lot more of a struggle and I had to run new water every day. It got harder for me as the week went on."

He had a decent limit by 10 this morning and slowly upgraded through the day before hitting a flurry just before check in.

"The last half hour I rolled in on a place and I was catching them every cast for the last 20 minutes," he said. "I caught a 5 and a 3 in there and I would've loved another 30 minutes in that area because it was really happening there. I fished right to the last minute and cut it close. I think I made it back with 3 minutes to spare."

As for his standing in the AOY chase, he's enjoying his run of success and can only recall one other similar stretch in his career.

"Back when we had the Elites 50s, I won 3 in a row and that's the only other streak I've been on that compares to this," he said, "but that was a different era, a different time."

5th: Ashley Lost a Good One

> Day 4: 5, 19-05 (20, 73-12)

Entering the final day in 12th, Ashley knew he had nothing to lose, but he continued to hammer away at the same area that produced virtually all of his fish this week.

The seven-spot jump on the final day pushed him up to 20th in the AOY points and closer to a berth in next year's Classic at Lake Hartwell, his home lake and site of his FLW Tour victory earlier this year.

"Points mean everything now and I didn't think I could win," he said. "I did lose one today about 7 pounds that probably would've put him in second. Other than that, most everything I caught was on one little deal."

As he'd done the previous days, he had his weight by 10 a.m. today by catching post-spawners on a crankbait and a football jig and then moved around looking for upgrades the rest of the day.

"It seemed like the place I caught them cranking on, they kept getting bigger and bigger and that normally doesn't happen," he said.

This marks his second straight 5th-place finish, following his 5th at the Beaver Lake FLW Tour last month. Needless to say, his confidence level is building.

"It about as high as it can get," he said. "It's crazy how momentum lets you relax and fish so much better. It's hard to explain. I don't feel like I fish any different. It's just that some years what you do works better than other years."

Notable

> Day 4 stats – 12 anglers, 11 limits, 1 two.

> Rojas was bidding to become the third angler in the history of B.A.S.S. to win at least three times at one venue. He won the Bassmaster Top 150 at Toledo Bend in 2001 and the Elite Series there in 2011. Shaw Grigsby has three wins at Sam Rayburn Reservoir and Robert Lee won four times at the California Delta.

Final Standings

1. Jacob Powroznik -- Port Haywood, VA -- 20, 79-12 -- 100 -- $100,500
Day 1: 5, 24-14 -- Day 2: 5, 23-06 -- Day 3: 5, 11-13 -- Day 4: 5, 19-11

2. Chad Morgenthaler -- Coulterville, IL -- 20, 77-06 -- 99 -- $25,000
Day 1: 5, 18-15 -- Day 2: 5, 24-13 -- Day 3: 5, 11-12 -- Day 4: 5, 21-14

3. Randall Tharp -- Port Saint Joe, FL -- 20, 76-10 -- 98 -- $20,000
Day 1: 5, 16-05 -- Day 2: 5, 24-13 -- Day 3: 5, 17-04 -- Day 4: 5, 18-04

4. Mark Davis -- Mount Ida, AR -- 20, 74-07 -- 97 -- $16,000
Day 1: 5, 17-14 -- Day 2: 5, 22-09 -- Day 3: 5, 15-14 -- Day 4: 5, 18-02

5. Casey Ashley -- Donalds, SC -- 20, 73-12 -- 96 -- $14,000
Day 1: 5, 15-06 -- Day 2: 5, 21-11 -- Day 3: 5, 17-06 -- Day 4: 5, 19-05

6. Dean Rojas -- Lake Havasu City, AZ -- 20, 73-04 -- 95 -- $13,500
Day 1: 5, 19-14 -- Day 2: 5, 24-15 -- Day 3: 5, 17-14 -- Day 4: 5, 10-09

7. Skeet Reese -- Auburn, CA -- 20, 73-00 -- 94 -- $13,000
Day 1: 5, 17-07 -- Day 2: 5, 23-14 -- Day 3: 5, 15-05 -- Day 4: 5, 16-06

8. Chris Zaldain -- San Jose, CA -- 20, 70-11 -- 93 -- $13,500
Day 1: 5, 22-06 -- Day 2: 5, 15-15 -- Day 3: 5, 18-00 -- Day 4: 5, 14-06

9. Todd Faircloth -- Jasper, TX -- 20, 68-08 -- 92 -- $12,000
Day 1: 5, 21-14 -- Day 2: 5, 18-13 -- Day 3: 5, 16-09 -- Day 4: 5, 11-04

10. Jonathon VanDam -- Kalamazoo, MI -- 20, 68-07 -- 91 -- $11,500
Day 1: 5, 14-07 -- Day 2: 5, 19-10 -- Day 3: 5, 20-14 -- Day 4: 5, 13-08

11. Jared Lintner -- Arroyo Grande, CA -- 17, 67-03 -- 90 -- $11,500
Day 1: 5, 25-07 -- Day 2: 5, 16-13 -- Day 3: 5, 17-08 -- Day 4: 2, 7-07

12. Cliff Crochet -- Pierre Part, LA -- 20, 65-07 -- 89 -- $10,500
Day 1: 5, 21-10 -- Day 2: 5, 13-15 -- Day 3: 5, 20-06 -- Day 4: 5, 9-08