By BassFan Staff
Randy Haynes has made a habit of winning tournaments at the Triple-A level of pro bass fishing. Now, he's broken through against the sport's top echelon of anglers, and in dominating fashion.
After separating himself from the pack with a 22-pound stringer on day 3, the flooring contractor from Counce, Tenn., put the finishing touches on his first FLW Tour victory today by catching a stout 16-01 bag to close the event with 73-01.
His 11-pound victory over Bryan Thrift is the eighth-largest winning margin in FLW Tour history and gave him two victories in the state of Alabama in the last 2 weeks. He also won the Pickwick Lake Central EverStart earlier this month.
"It's just been unbelievable," he said. "Words can't even describe it. I keep thinking that when I won at Pickwick, where I've done so good, I was expecting the worst. Getting the win there, I thought it'd do me for the next 2 to 3 years, but to come here and do this, it just blows my mind."
Thrift, who dropped to 7th after a lackluster day 3, rallied with a day-best 16-14 bag to finish a distant 2nd with 62-01. Justin Lucas bagged 13-13 to wrap up 3rd with 61-00, just 4 ounces ahead of David Dudley, who caught 14-04 today. Stetson Blaylock came from 9th to seize 5th place behind a 14-10 stringer that gave him 59-09.
Here's how the Top 10 looked after the scales closed:
1. Randy Haynes: 73-01
2. Bryan Thrift: 62-01
3. Justin Lucas: 61-00
4. David Dudley: 60-12
5. Stetson Blaylock: 59-09
6. Kelley Jaye: 59-06
7. J.T. Kenney: 52-15
8. John Devere: 51-07
9. David Fritts: 51-02
10. Scott Martin: 47-12
J.T. Kenney, who left the dock today in 2nd, struggled to regain the consistency he'd shown through 3 days of offshore fishing and weighed in two for 4-06 that dropped him to 7th in the final standings.
There's no doubt Eufaula was a lake in transition this week as the finalists caught their fish in a variety of depths using a wide array of presentations, from spinning tackle around shallow cover and docks to offshore river structure with long crankbait rods and deep-diving plugs. It was evident the fish were still in various stages of their spawning routine, but the offshore strategy employed by Haynes trumped that of those who focused just on fish roaming the shallows or those who mixed and matched shallow with offshore.
After some brief struggles this morning, Haynes got back on track with his spot rotation and closed out the win.
The race for Angler of the Year is still Brent Ehrler's to lose. Despite a 46th-place finish this week, he held onto the points lead. A good bit of shuffling went on behind him, though, as Andy Morgan jumped up to 2nd and is just 17 points back of Ehrler with two events left. Jacob Powroznik, last year's AOY runner-up, is now 3rd, only 5 points behind Morgan. Haynes jumped to 57th place from 92nd thanks to his win that netted him 200 points.
The Tour will take a 2-week break before heading to Grand Lake in Oklahoma on June 6-9 for the penultimate tournament of the season.
> Day 4: 5, 16-01 (20, 73-01)
On day 3, Haynes wore the Twix FLW jersey on the water and on stage. Today, he donned the yellow Peanut M&Ms jersey and fished out a boat bearing the same logos and colors.
Yes, it was a pretty sweet week for Haynes and he capped it off with a door-slamming effort that cemented his place among the best offshore fisherman in the game today. With two more structure-rich venues (Grand Lake and Lake Chickamauga) left on the schedule, it'd be hard to bet against him considering the roll he's been on.
"It's been crazy," he said. "The worst thing that happened today was when I lost a 4-pounder. Then on my third-to-last stop, I had a school come up and in the middle of them I caught a 4-pounder, then on my last stop I caught a 3 1/2 and a 4. It was like I couldn't do any wrong."
His morning didn't go how he'd hoped, though. He had been timing his rotation through different areas at specific times of the morning, but opted to start on it early.
"I had hit those places early in the morning because I felt like maybe they might've fired early on," he said. "I was wrong. I don't think they'd had enough time to build up enough fish on them around 8:30. It's hard to believe 30 to 40 minutes can make a difference like that, but it does.
"I got lucky and got a big kicker out of the gate, but then I got a little jittery," he added. "I had started a little early on my rotation and it didn't work out. Then I caught a couple and went back to my first spot and caught three there and that settled me down. I got back in my rotation and started catching a few."
He finished the day boating about a dozen keepers.
Heading out with a commanding 8 1/2-pound lead, he didn't want to get distracted and get spun out. That's why he narrowed his focus to a small number of areas that he'd uncovered on day 3.
"With my lead, I wanted to stay in the meat and I didn't want to get off the beaten path," he said. "I really depended on three spots and the biggest thing today was letting them rest. I had a section north of the bridges (in Cowacki Creek) that I had to myself and let them rest for about 2 1/2 hours so I tried to hit them three times a day," he said. "Today, I got out of whack and then settled down and it really worked out. I gave it a lot of time that last rotation and I think with the sun out, they got up on top of those bars and really started feeding."
2nd: Satisfaction for Thrift
> Day 4: 5, 16-14 (19, 62-01)
Thrift knew he let this chance to win slip away on Saturday, but he was thrilled to pull off a bit of a rally today to claim the runner-up spot. He moved into 4th place in the AOY standings, just 31 points behind Ehrler.
Bryan Thrift jumped five spots on the final day to grab runner-up honors.
"I knew I wasn't on the fish to win," he said. "I was getting too few bites, maybe five to seven a day, including just four little bitty ones on day 3, so I'm extremely pleased with how it turned out."
He started each day on shallow areas, but hadn't had much success until today when he caught three in the first 90 minutes, but only wound up weighing one of them. Then he moved out to his deeper holes and caught four more to finish his day.
"I think the key today was the sunshine," he said. "With it being so cloudy and with the rain we had yesterday, I don't think they were set up in the timber and on the brush.
"I'm satisfied with how I fished. I stuck with the plan of fishing shallow for a couple hours trying to get on a shad spawn and then moving out deep."
3rd: Lucas Lost a Good One
> Day 4: 5, 13-13 (18, 61-00)
Standing at the tanks waiting to be summoned to the stage, Lucas figured he hadn't caught enough today to overtake Thrift for 2nd and obviously he was going to fall short of Haynes' total. So he turned his focus to the next best thing: 3rd place.
He got it, by the margin of 4 ounces over Dudley.
"I wanted 3rd because it was worth $5,000 more than 4th," he said.
Overall, he's pleased with how the tournament went for him, despite a bit of misfortune along the way.
"Minus the day I had two fish and the nice one I lost today, I'm okay with it," he said. "Today, I missed a really nice fish. I'd put a new reel on last night and forgot to tighten the drag down and lost about a 4-pounder."
He hit his shallow grass areas first thing this morning, but noticed the water had seemed to come up a few inches and the fish weren't as active. He tied on a ChatterBait and caught a 3-pounder, then lost the 4-pounder.
"From there, I sight-fished the rest of the day," he said. "I caught three off beds, but they were all males. I just couldn't get the females to bite. It's crazy how many fish are still on beds. That's why I only fished two pockets, because there were so many fish in there."
He had four fish until the last hour, when he finished off his limit after returning to the shallow grass and plucked a 2 1/2-pounder off a shade line.
4th: Shallow Was Ticket for Dudley
> Day 4: 5, 14-04 (20, 60-12)
Dudley usually isn't satisfied unless he goes home with the winner's trophy, but this week was a grind and he'll take the Top-5 finish and momentum heading into the final two events of the year.
"I can't complain," he said. "What happened was about what I expected to happen. It was still too early in May for them to be all dedicated to one or the other and I knew there would be a mix of shallow and deep fish."
While he bounced back and forth between shallow grass and ledges, he caught all of his fish this week out of 2 feet of water. Today, he brought 11 keepers into the boat.
After he boxed a limit today, he started fighting a mental battle with himself about whether to search around offshore for a school to possibly upgrade, but he quickly put that to rest.
"I had told myself that after I had a limit, I was going to go out deep, but my very next fish was a 4 1/2-pounder and it was the biggest of the day," he said. "I was like, 'Okay, I guess I'm staying shallow the rest of the day.'"
Stetson Blaylock was one of four anglers in the Top 10 to catch limits all 4 days.
5th: Blaylock Overcomes Slow Start
> Day 4: 5, 14-10 (20, 59-09)
Blaylock slimmed down his tackle choices when he changed his gear into the FLW-provided boat for the final day. He really didn't need much other than a couple spinning rods, some shaky-head jigs and a few bags of Kinami Flash soft stickbaits.
"I had my mind made up I wasn't going to take a lot of tackle," he said. "I caught 95 percent and probably more of my fish this week on a (Flash). When I left the dock, I didn't really have high expectations because I'd beaten my stuff up pretty good. I figured I'd be able to catch a limit, but I wasn't sure if I could catch any decent ones."
His fears were almost realized. He had no keepers by 10 a.m., then caught a tiny one.
"I wasn't feeling very good about it," he said. "I thought I was on track for about 2 pounds, but it worked out."
He continued to target bare banks and docks, with most of today's bites coming off docks.
"I'd been catching then down nothing-bare banks without any docks," he said. "Today, with the sun, they went to the docks good."
He finished the day with seven keepers, but still thinks the fish should've bitten better.
"It was good as far as getting a couple good bites," he said, "but it was slower in terms of catching keepers in general. It was like pulling teeth out there to catch keepers. Overall, though, I'm very happy with how everything went. On day 2, I lost a few of the right kind of fish – two 4-pounders that I saw and two others that were good-sized, but those are just some bad breaks."
> Day 4 stats – 10 anglers, 6 limits, 1 three, 2 twos, 1 one.
1. Randy Haynes -- Counce, Tn -- 17-03 (5) -- 17-11 (5) -- 34-14 (10) -- 22-02 (5) -- 16-01 (5) -- 73-01 (20) -- $125,000
2. Bryan Thrift -- Shelby, NC -- 20-06 (5) -- 16-15 (5) -- 37-05 (10) -- 7-14 (4) -- 16-14 (5) -- 62-01 (19) -- $35,000
3. Justin Lucas -- Guntersville, Al -- 22-06 (5) -- 11-03 (3) -- 33-09 (8) -- 13-10 (5) -- 13-13 (5) -- 61-00 (18) -- $30,000
4. David Dudley -- Lynchburg, Va -- 16-02 (5) -- 13-11 (5) -- 29-13 (10) -- 16-11 (5) -- 14-04 (5) -- 60-12 (20) -- $25,000
5. Stetson Blaylock -- Benton, Ar -- 16-13 (5) -- 13-08 (5) -- 30-05 (10) -- 14-10 (5) -- 14-10 (5) -- 59-09 (20) -- $20,000
6. Kelley Jaye -- Dadeville, Al -- 14-11 (5) -- 16-12 (5) -- 31-07 (10) -- 13-12 (5) -- 14-03 (5) -- 59-06 (20) -- $17,000
7. J.T. Kenney -- Palm Bay, Fl -- 17-13 (5) -- 16-09 (5) -- 34-06 (10) -- 14-03 (5) -- 4-06 (2) -- 52-15 (17) -- $16,000
8. John Devere -- Berea, Ky -- 8-00 (3) -- 22-07 (5) -- 30-07 (8) -- 16-04 (5) -- 4-12 (2) -- 51-07 (15) -- $15,000
9. David Fritts -- Lexington, NC -- 9-03 (5) -- 18-12 (5) -- 27-15 (10) -- 14-04 (5) -- 8-15 (3) -- 51-02 (18) -- $14,000
10. Scott Martin -- Clewiston, Fl -- 18-04 (5) -- 13-11 (5) -- 31-15 (10) -- 13-12 (5) -- 2-01 (1) -- 47-12 (16) -- $13,000