(Apr 2, 2016 - Russellville, AR.)
Jeff Fitts of Keystone Heights, Florida, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 17 pounds, 4 ounces Saturday to win the Costa FLW Series Central Division opener on Lake Dardanelle presented by Mercury with a three-day total of 13 bass weighing 48 pounds, 10 ounces. For his win, Fitts took home $48,000.
“I don’t really have the words to describe how incredible this feels right now,” said Fitts, who earned his second career win in FLW competition. “I’d like to fish the FLW Tour full-time next year, so this win means a lot. I feel like I’m one step closer to that goal.”
Fitts said he spent the majority of his tournament punching heavy vegetation in two spawning pockets, located between the launch ramp and the Illinois Bayou. He said he used one bait all three days of the event – a Strike King Rage Tail DB Structure Bug rigged on a Trokar Big Nasty Flippin Hook with a 1½-ounce tungsten weight.
“The grass was really thick so I’d pitch the Rage Tail in, lift it to see if anything was on it, hop it a few times and then pull it out,” said Fitts. “The bites were soft and sporadic, but I’m from Florida so that’s the kind of cover I’m comfortable with and that’s how I like to fish. I only weighed in three on day one, but had lost one earlier on in the day.”
On day two, Fitts said he returned to his pockets and used a Black Blue Flake-colored Rage Tail. He said he caught the majority of his fish from a 100-yard stretch of thick grass.
“I pulled into the first pocket and on my third flip I nabbed a three pounder,” said Fitts. “Within a 20-foot stretch, I was able to catch two more five-pounders. I had a limit by 9:30 a.m. and caught my last keeper to make a final cull around 3 p.m. I was really excited about what I was bringing to the scale.”
Fitts weighed in a tournament-best limit of 23 pounds, 15 ounces to move inside the top-10 cut in sixth place. Fitts said he followed the same pattern on day three and was able to catch his final limit out of a 20-yard stretch using a Summer Craw-colored Rage Tail.
“It was a slower bite on day three,” said Fitts. “I only had four bass until about 20 minutes left to fish. I culled once more and brought in what I had. It ended up working out well.”
The top 10 pros on Lake Dardanelle were:
1st: Jeff Fitts, Keystone Heights, Fla., 13 bass, 48-10, $48,000
2nd: Daniel Kweekul, Bryant, Ark., 15 bass, 47-14, $19,500
3rd: Teddy Bogard, Pine Bluff, Ark., 15 bass, 47-0, $14,000
4th: Todd Castledine, Nacogdoches, Texas, 11 bass, 45-3, $12,000
5th: Evan Barnes, Hot Springs, Ark., 15 bass, 44-12, $11,000
6th: Zach King, Clarksville, Ark., 13 bass, 43-0, $9,000
7th: Christopher Jones, Bokoshe, Okla., 14 bass, 40-2, $7,800
8th: Greg Jones, Wentzville, Mo., 13 bass, 39-7, $6,800
9th: Joe McClary, Kirkwood, Mo., 11 bass, 32-2, $5,800
10th: Brandon Hunter, Benton, Ky., 11 bass, 31-14, $4,400
Mike Foree of Osage Beach, Missouri, caught the biggest bass of the tournament in the pro division Thursday, a fish weighing 7 pounds, 10 ounces that earned him the day’s Big Bass award of $300.
Drew Sagely of Rogers, Arkansas, won the co-angler division and a $28,000 prize package, including a Ranger Z117 with a 90-horsepower Mercury outboard motor. Sagely earned his win with a three-day total catch of 11 bass weighing 29 pounds, 1 ounce.
The top 10 co-anglers on Lake Dardanelle were:
1st: Drew Sagely, Rogers, Ark., 11 bass, 29-1, $28,000
2nd: Michael Watson, Chicago, Ill., 11 bass, 29-0, $6,000
3rd: Rob Crane, Fairview Heights, Ill., nine bass, 24-2, $4,800
4th: Kevin Raposo, Doniphan, Mo., nine bass, 23-4, $3,900
5th: Roger Olson Jr., Eagle River, Wis., seven bass, 20-14, $3,400
6th: Rusty Reinoehl, Robinson, Ill., eight bass, 19-13, $2,900
7th: Alan Bernicky, Joliet, Ill., seven bass, 19-12, $2,400
8th: Kyle Landers, Benton, Ark., eight bass, 18-11, $1,950
9th: Sawyer Grace, Russellville, Ark., five bass, 17-4, $1,580
10th: Ricky Watkins, Springdale, Ark., six bass, 16-4, $1,330
Charles Radford of Sullivan, Missouri, caught the biggest bass of the tournament in the co-angler division Thursday, a bass weighing 7 pounds, 9 ounces that earned him the day’s Big Bass award of $200.
The Costa FLW Series consists of five divisions – Central, Northern, Southeastern, Southwestern and Western. Each division consists of three tournaments with competitors vying for valuable points that could earn them the opportunity to fish in the Costa FLW Series Championship. The 2016 Costa FLW Series Championship is being held Nov. 3-5 on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri.
The Costa FLW Series on Lake Dardanelle was hosted by Russellville Advertising & Promotions. It was the first Central Division tournament of 2016. The next Costa FLW Series tournament will be a Southwestern Division event, held April 7-9, on Grand Lake in Grove, Oklahoma.
FLW is the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, providing anglers of all skill levels the opportunity to compete for millions in prize money in 2016 across five tournament circuits. Headquartered in Benton, Kentucky, with offices in Minneapolis, FLW conducts more than 235 bass-fishing tournaments annually across the United States and sanctions tournaments in Canada, China, Mexico and South Korea. FLW tournament fishing can be seen on the Emmy-nominated “FLW" television show, broadcast to more than 564 million households worldwide, while FLW Bass Fishing magazine delivers cutting-edge tips from top pros.