(May 6, 2017 - Dayton, TN.)
Alabama angler William Weidler of Bessemer, brought a five-bass limit weighing 22 pounds, 3 ounces to the scale Saturday to win the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division finale on Lake Chickamauga presented by Lowrance. Weidler’s two-day total of 10 bass weighing 45 pounds, 2 ounces, was enough to earn him the win by a 1-pound, 7-ounce margin and a check for $48,200.
Normally a three-day event, the tournament was shortened to two days of competition after Thursday, Day One, was canceled due to strong winds and dangerous conditions. The tournament resumed Friday and Saturday with the full field fishing each day. The pro and co-angler winners were determined by the cumulative weight of two days of competition instead of three.
“I think I’m still in shock,” said Weidler, who was fishing in just his third career Costa FLW Series event. “I wasn’t even entered in this tournament and I just decided to get in on Tuesday, this week. To come up here and get the win… I am blown away.”
Weidler said that he made the decision to enter the tournament after a strong 6th place finish in the B.A.S.S. Open event just one week prior.
“After my finish last week, I figured I might just have a chance. I’m a shallow-water fisherman – I caught all of my fish this week swimming a jig in 18 inches of water or less,” Weidler said. “I caught around 35 keepers on Friday and around 30 today. I was fishing transition areas, spawning bays and bluegill beds.”
Weidler said that his most productive area this week was just five minutes from the launch ramp – near the lower end of the island at the mouth of the Hiwassee River. He said that every fish that he caught came on the jig, a black and blue-colored ½-ounce Dirty Jigs No-Jack Swim Jig with an H&H Lures Swamp Frog.
“The frog comes black with white feet, but I dye the feet blue to match the black and blue of the swimjig,” Weidler said.
“The key for me this week was just having patience,” Weidler went on to say. “Around 1 (p.m.) today I didn’t have much weight in the livewell and I started hearing the little voices in my head. But the sun came out and it warmed up, and then some clouds moved in and it got a little overcast. I just knew that they were going to start biting, and they did. I was fishing a bluegill bed and I ended up culling everything in my livewell. It was a magical spot.”
The top 10 pros on Lake Chickamauga were:
1st: William Weidler, Bessemer, Ala., 10 bass, 45-2, $48,200
2nd: Barry Wilson, Birmingham, Ala., 10 bass, 43-11, $19,500
3rd: Brian Merriman, Falkville, Ala., 10 bass, 43-4, $14,000
4th: Taylor Ashley, Warrior, Ala., 10 bass, 42-12, $12,200
5th: Brent Butler, Vonore, Tenn., 10 bass, 41-1, $11,000
6th: Tim Frederick, Leesburg, Fla., 10 bass, 40-14, $9,000
7th: Joe Thompson, Clayton, Ga., 10 bass, 40-11, $8,100
8th: Wes Logan, Springville, Ala., 10 bass, 40-2, $6,800
9th: Hensley Powell, Whitwell, Tenn., 10 bass, 39-0, $5,800
10th: Anthony Ford, New Smyrna, Fla., 10 bass, 38-2, $4,400
Mike Miller of Trinity, North Carolina, caught a bass weighing 9 pounds, 15 ounces Friday – the biggest of the tournament in the Pro Division. For his catch, Miller earned the day’s Boater Big Bass award of $300.
Also decided Saturday, pro Buddy Gross of Chickamauga, Georgia wrapped up the Costa FLW Series Strike King Angler of the Year Title in the Southeastern Division. With finishes of 8th place at Lake Okeechobee, 1st place at Lake Seminole and a 36th place showing at Lake Chickamauga, Gross accumulated a total of 708 points to take home the title and the $2,000 prize package.
Chase Whisenhunt of Trussville, Alabama, won the Co-angler Division and a new Ranger Z175 boat with a 90-horsepower Evinrude outboard motor. Whisenhunt earned his win with a two-day total of eight bass weighing 28 pounds, 7 ounces.
The top 10 co-anglers on Lake Chickamauga were:
1st: Chase Whisenhunt, Trussville, Ala., eight bass, 28-7, $28,100
2nd: James Wegmann, Fruitland Park, Fla., eight bass, 27-8, $6,050
3rd: James Stowers, Narrows, Va., 10 bass, 26-6, $4,800
4th: Mark Guhne, Hixson, Tenn., 10 bass, 25-10, $3,900
5th: Nick Cupps, Chattanooga, Tenn., nine bass, 25-1, $3,400
6th: Craig Rozema, Simpsonville, S.C., eight bass, 24-13, $2,900
7th: Bruce Griffin, Jasper, Ala., 10 bass, 24-11, $2,400
8th: Zac Smith, Cleveland, Ala., seven bass, 24-9, $1,950
9th: Eddie Walker, Pinson, Ala., eight bass, 24-1, $1,580
10th: Ray Puckett, Wetumpka, Ala., six bass, 23-14, $1,530
Puckett caught the biggest bass of the tournament in the Co-angler Division Saturday, a massive largemouth weighing 10 pounds, 7 ounces, and earned the day’s Co-angler Big Bass award of $200.
Co-angler Craig Rozema of Simpsonville, South Carolina won the Costa FLW Series Strike King Co-angler of the Year Title in the Southeastern Division. With finishes of 42nd place at Lake Okeechobee, 2nd place at Lake Seminole and a 6th place finish at Lake Chickamauga, Rozema accumulated a total of 703 points to take home the title and the $800 prize package.
The Costa FLW Series on Lake Chickamauga was hosted by the Rhea Economic & Tourism Council. It was the third and final regular-season Southeastern Division tournament of 2017. The next Costa FLW Series tournament will be a Western Division event, held May 11-13, on the California Delta in Bethel Island, California.
The Costa FLW Series consists of five U.S. 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 2017 Costa FLW Series Championship is being held Nov. 2-4 on Kentucky Lake in Paris, Tennessee.
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 2017 across five tournament circuits. Headquartered in Benton, Kentucky, with offices in Minneapolis, FLW conducts more than 274 bass-fishing tournaments annually across the United States and sanctions tournaments in Canada, China, Mexico, South Africa 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.