By BassFan Staff
Skeet Reese was pretty impressed with the redesigned trophies B.A.S.S. began awarding to Elite Series winners this season.
"When I saw them, I said, 'I want one of those,'" Reese said.
Now he has one.
His 15-04 stringer was the heaviest bag caught today, by more than 3 pounds, and it propelled him from 7th place after day 3 to his fourth career Elite Series victory as his 46-06 total topped the field at ever-stingy West Point Lake. He also clinched a berth in next year's Bassmaster Classic at Lake Guntersville, which was the site of his last victory in 2010. It's the second-lowest winning total since the inception of the Elite Series in 2006.
"This week was an absolute grind," he said. "I figured if I could get one good bite, that could be the deciding factor. I didn't think I was going to catch five 3-pounders."
Aaron Martens caught 11-12 today and settled for 2nd with 44-06 while Pete Ponds slipped a position to 3rd with 44-01 after bagging 11-01. This week's finish matches his career-best result from Clarks Hill Lake in 2007.
Hank Cherry had 10-12 to close with 41-02 in 4th and Todd Faircloth finished 5th with 39-07, closing with 7-00 today. Day-3 leader Tommy Biffle brought in just one fish for 1-05 today and slipped to 10th.
Here's how the rest of the Top 12 looked when it was over:
6. Chris Zaldain: 38-14
7. Cliff Pace: 38-10
8. Greg Vinson: 38-01
9. Rick Clunn: 37-05
10. Tommy Biffle: 34-14
11. Casey Ashley: 34-05
12. Cliff Crochet: 29-15
Cliff Pace now has back-to-back 7th-places finishes after missing the cut at Falcon Lake. Casey Ashley said he battled a migraine headache for most of the day and managed just two keepers for 2-09, which dropped him to 11th. Cliff Crochet, who'd weighed just 10 fish through 3 days, saw his frog bite evaporate today and he zeroed, pushing him down to 12th.
Edwin Evers will maintain his lead in the Toyota Tundra B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year standings after four events. He'll carry a slim 6-point advantage over Kevin VanDam into the next tournament.
The sun made its first prolonged appearance since Tuesday today and it seemed to reposition some of the shallow fish and that certainly helped Reese. Up in the river section of the lake, where Biffle had been fishing, the water muddied as he feared it would following Saturday's rain and it conspired to shut down the bites he was after.
The Elite Series scene shifts to the Alabama River out of Montgomery, Ala., where the fifth event of the season starts Thursday.
Reese Seized Upon Sunny Conditions
> Day 4: 5, 15-04 (20, 46-06)
Reese wasn't catching big numbers of fish during the event, but he felt like he was around the right quality specimens. He just needed the conditions to come around in his favor. They did today.
Reese will earned a trip to his 14th career Classic next February at Lake Guntersville.
"I caught them different ways on different days and just went fishing," he said. "I knew I was in an area with some decent fish and today with the sun coming out and the water coming back up a couple inches, I think the fish got back up shallow. It was just one of those days where the timing was right. I'm glad it was my time."
Reese not only picked up his seventh career B.A.S.S. victory today, he put himself firmly in contention for a second career AOY crown. He's currently in 3rd at the halfway point of the season and his finishes have gotten progressively better this year (47th, 27th, 13th, 1st).
He mostly targeted bedding fish all week and knew with how tight the leaderboard was coming into the final day, if he could trigger a couple stout bites and execute, he'd put himself near the top.
“I realized it was one of those tournaments wide open for any of the 12," he said. "I thought 15 to 16 pounds today would wind up winning it. Fortunately, I was the one who caught 15 pounds.”
His first two fish today came on a lipless crankbait that he hadn't thrown all week. He worked it across shallow flats in the backs of ditches. He boated two other keepers by dropshotting a Berkley Havoc Bottom Hopper worm. From there, he sorted through a number of 2- to 2 1/2-pounders to reach his weight.
“I was just fortunate I had all decent fish today,” Reese said.
2nd: Bad Break for Martens
> Day 4: 5, 11-12 (20, 44-06)
It'll be a while before Martens gets over losing a 5-pound class fish this afternoon that could've swung the outcome in his favor.
He was playing it gently around a submerged tree when his line barely grazed the tree's bark and snapped. He had been casting to what he said was a 2 1/2-pounder and was reeling back in when the bigger fish took his fluke bait.
"It was kind of freaky," he said. "I know how it happened. It definitely wasn't a line flaw because I'd jacked a bunch of fish on that 12-pound (Sunline) Sniper all week out of bushes and grass and never had to retie. It was just a freak deal. Maybe I pulled too hard. The crazy thing is I was going to back off. I was a fraction of a second from the dropping the rod to release some pressure but then the line came down and hit the tree. It was unbelievable. I was really mad at myself."
He also second-guessed his decision to target spotted bass for half the day.
Pete Ponds matched his career-high finish today.
"I should've fished for largemouth all day," he said. "If I could go back, I'd have spent half the day where I was on day 1 around Skeet and half a day where I ended up today."
He said he also missed a 2 1/2- and 3-pounder today.
"I had an opportunity at 17 or 18 pounds if I had caught everything," he said. "It was a good tournament, though. You can't be perfect all the time."
3rd: Ponds Bummed
> Day 4: 5, 11-01 (20, 44-01)
Ponds was understandably disappointed that he fell short today.
"I thought I had it," he said. "You have to look at the big picture, though, and I'm very happy with 3rd, at least as much as I can be. I feel like I fished a good tournament. If I had to go back and do it all over again, I don't think I'd change anything. I made the right decisions at the right time and I didn't lose any fish."
He said knowing that everyone in the Top 12 had a legitimate shot at the win changed his mindset somewhat leaving the dock this morning.
"I focused just on big fish," he said. "My sixth fish was a spotted bass that I caught a off a laydown in the back of a pocket and I knew when I pitched back there, there would probably be a spot there and it was a 14 1/2-incher."
He eventually culled that fish and wound up with five largemouths.
"I fished a little different than I had been fishing," he added. "Previously, I'd been trying to catch a limit and then went after big ones. Today, all the focus was on big fish. I had five largemouths today, just not enough weight."
His first few fish today came out of an area where an old lake drained into West Point and following Saturday's downpours, he figured there'd be some activity in there. He plucked most of his fish today out of that area on a 1/2-ounce spinnerbait.
4th: Cherry Satisfied
> Day 4: 5, 10-12 (20, 41-02)
Cherry made a big splash this year with his 3rd-place finish at the Bassmaster Classic. This morning, he thought he was on his way to making an even bigger splash with his first Elite Series win as a rookie.
"Today was tough," he said. "I caught a 2 3/4-pounder pretty early and then didn't have a bite for like 2 hours. Then the sun came out and I ran to a place where I'd shook a couple off in practice. I skipped a jig up into an area and this 6-pounder just crushes it. So there I am with two fish that are bigger than most limits this week and I'm thinking it was going to be my day. It was little bit of false hope. After I caught that one, I didn't want to put the jig down."
The other three keepers he weighed didn't amount to a whole lot, but he cracked 10 pounds for the second time in the event.
"I'm happy with it," he said. "It's my first year and I'm just trying to make a name for myself and get used to everything. If I can catch fish, it's a plus."
He didn't lose any fish today and would've liked a little wind to go along with the sun.
"The lack of wind for 6 hours was an issue," he added. "If we had had wind with the sun, I could've thrown a jerkbait more."
Hank Cherry had a great start to his day, but couldn't build upon it.
5th: No Complaints from Faircloth
> Day 4: 4, 7-00 (19, 29-01)
Trying to recapture the magic from Saturday when he weighed in 15-09 to make the Top-12 cut, Faircloth today went back to the areas with deep grass and tried to entice more quality keepers with his popper-style topwater bait. He kept at it until noon, but had just one fish to show for it.
From there, he moved out away from the bank and put three smaller spotted bass in the boat to finish with four fish. Considering he was in 33rd after 2 days, he can't complain about his result.
"I am happy with how I finished," he said. "I had a big day yesterday and really felt like I had a good shot of winning this thing after that. Considering where I was at, fifth is pretty good, especially after the practice I had."
He thinks the heavy rain from Saturday changed the water clarity in the locales he was targeting and that's possibly why his topwater program went south.
"The conditions changed and a lot of stuff I was fishing had a lot more color to it and the water came up a bunch," he said. "I pushed it until about noon and abandoned ship. I caught three in the last hour out in the clear just throwing a Shim E Stick weightless. I don't think I could've won doing that all day, but I could've done better. In order to win, I needed to do what I was doing on day 3. It was the way to go. It just didn't happen today.
"I went out with an open mind. There was no pressure on me whatsoever and I felt like if I caught a couple like I had on day 3, I'd have a shot. I thought 12 to 15 pounds would've given me a shot to win and that was the case in the end. I knew somebody in the Top 12 would catch big bag today and Skeet was the one."
> Day 4 stats – 12 anglers, 7 limits, 1 four, 1 three, 1 two, 1 one, 1 zero.
1. Skeet Reese -- Auburn, CA -- 20, 46-06 -- 100 -- $100,000
Day 1: 5, 13-00 -- Day 2: 5, 09-10 -- Day 3: 5, 08-08 -- Day 4: 5, 15-04
2. Aaron Martens -- Leeds, AL -- 20, 44-06 -- 99 -- $25,500
Day 1: 5, 13-05 -- Day 2: 5, 11-09 -- Day 3: 5, 07-12 -- Day 4: 5, 11-12
3. Pete Ponds -- Madison, MS -- 20, 44-01 -- 98 -- $20,000
Day 1: 5, 08-11 -- Day 2: 5, 13-00 -- Day 3: 5, 11-05 -- Day 4: 5, 11-01
4. Hank Cherry -- Maiden, NC -- 20, 41-02 -- 97 -- $15,000
Day 1: 5, 12-04 -- Day 2: 5, 08-12 -- Day 3: 5, 09-06 -- Day 4: 5, 10-12
5. Todd Faircloth -- Jasper, TX -- 19, 39-01 -- 96 -- $14,000
Day 1: 5, 07-12 -- Day 2: 5, 08-12 -- Day 3: 5, 15-09 -- Day 4: 4, 07-00
6. Chris Zaldain -- San Jose, CA -- 20, 38-14 -- 95 -- $13,500
Day 1: 5, 08-12 -- Day 2: 5, 12-12 -- Day 3: 5, 10-07 -- Day 4: 5, 06-15
7. Cliff Pace -- Petal, MS -- 20, 38-10 -- 94 -- $13,000
Day 1: 5, 14-02 -- Day 2: 5, 07-04 -- Day 3: 5, 08-02 -- Day 4: 5, 09-02
8. Greg Vinson -- Wetumpka, AL -- 20, 38-01 -- 93 -- $12,500
Day 1: 5, 15-10 -- Day 2: 5, 09-03 -- Day 3: 5, 05-02 -- Day 4: 5, 08-02
9. Rick Clunn -- Ava, MO -- 17, 37-05 -- 92 -- $12,000
Day 1: 5, 07-11 -- Day 2: 5, 14-00 -- Day 3: 4, 08-07 -- Day 4: 3, 07-03
10. Tommy Biffle -- Wagoner, OK -- 14, 34-14 -- 91 -- $12,500
Day 1: 4, 12-10 -- Day 2: 4, 10-09 -- Day 3: 5, 10-06 -- Day 4: 1, 01-05
11. Casey D Ashley -- Donalds, SC -- 17, 34-05 -- 90 -- $11,000
Day 1: 5, 08-15 -- Day 2: 5, 13-08 -- Day 3: 5, 09-05 -- Day 4: 2, 02-09
12. Cliff Crochet -- Pierre Part, LA -- 10, 29-15 -- 89 -- $10,500
Day 1: 3, 10-13 -- Day 2: 3, 09-10 -- Day 3: 4, 09-08 -- Day 4: 0, 00-00