FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE
A hero’s victory
Local favorite Ricky Shumpert breaks record, takes home pro trophy
MANNING, S.C. – Ricky Shumpert is making his mark on the EverStart Series. To tell the truth, he's making his mark in all of pro bass fishing. Today he brought in an EverStart Series final-round pro weight record of 28 pounds, 2 ounces to take home the win, $15,000, a new Ranger boat and a lot of bragging rights from the Eastern Division tournament on Lake Santee Cooper.
Shumpert, a native of nearby Lexington, S.C., didn't just break the record. He demolished it by almost 7 pounds. The previous final-round weight record – 21 pounds, 3 ounces – stood for just one year. It was caught last March – maybe not so coincidentally – at Lake Santee Cooper by another South Carolina angler, William Smith of Moncks Corner.
But Shumpert, who just came off a stellar fourth-place performance at last week's Wal-Mart FLW tournament at Lake Martin, Ala., was less concerned about breaking records and more concerned about just dialing in a strong performance here on his home waters. Last year at this same tournament, he fished a strong final round but ended up taking second place after Smith reeled in his record-breaking stringer.
“I had 19 pounds, 15 ounces last year on the final day,” he said. “I really thought I had it won.”
So it was poetic justice that Shumpert returned to this lake at this event and successfully pried that second-place monkey off his back by crushing the record that beat him last year. After a handful of top-10 finishes, it was the first major-tournament victory in the 40-year-old's career. And it was indeed satisfying.
“I'd love to win anywhere,” he said, “but it means a lot to beat a lot of my local friends that were here.”
And it was no surprise. Shumpert's no stranger to lakes Marion and Moultrie, the two water bodies that comprise Lake Santee Cooper. He was able to bring in consistently heavy stringers all week despite having fished four different locations in variable conditions all four days. Many people who followed this EverStart event picked him as the one angler to watch this week.
And so did he. Confident about his familiarity with the lake, Shumpert knew his chances were good.
“I knew I'd make the top-30 cut,” he said. “After that, it was just a matter of making the top 10. The only thing I was worried about was if (the other finalists) got on a big spinnerbait bite.”
Some did find a big bite, like pro runner-up Koby Kreiger of Osceola, Ind., but just not big enough. Kreiger, who – like Shumpert before today – has a mantle full of EverStart and FLW top-10 trophies but no blue ribbons, caught five fish weighing 21 pounds, 8 ounces. However, he lost one big fish and knew that would be the deciding factor.
“I broke that one off and I'm just sick about it,” Kreiger said. “I think I've finished in every place except for first, so maybe one of these days I'll win one of these things.”
Kreiger would have needed the lost fish to be a veritable monster to beat Shumpert's record weight. While Shumpert only caught six fish in all today, they were all heavy. It was his patience with a lunker-lure buzzbait and a little trick he used on a bedding female bass – his fifth fish – that eventually led him to victory.
With four fish in his livewell by late morning, he approached a big female that was up on the spawning bed.
“I pulled back up in there, but the fish ran off because it was scared of the boat,” he said. “So I dropped my bait down on the bed and let the boat drift back away, feeding line out with my hand, for about 40 feet. I kept the boat still and held the line tight for about three minutes. It came back and bit my lure. I set the hook and caught it. The thing weighed 5 pounds.”
At that point, he thought he had close to 26 pounds of bass in his livewell, so he quit fishing. It was still only 10:45 in the morning.
“I said to my partner, ‘If I can't win with this, I don't know what I need,'” Shumpert said.
While he might not have needed it, he finally got his due victory and some well-earned headlines today. He won the Eastern Division standings race in 1999 without taking a single tournament win. On the FLW Tour, he's currently sitting in second place in the pro standings, behind the powerful Rick Clunn by only a single point. This year in the EverStart Eastern Division standings, he's in 12th place after today.
And that's not all. Shumpert made news at an EverStart Series event last year for something that had nothing at all to do with fishing. In March he and fellow EverStart angler Alan Walls of Boca Raton, Fla., found and helped rescue an injured runaway teenager who had fallen down a cliff on Lake Cumberland, Ky. They saved the boy's life.
While not as valiant as that, today's victory was certainly a fitting one for the hometown hero.
After Shumpert and Kreiger, who won $10,000 for second place, rounding out the rest of the Pro Division top five finishers were Billy Bowen Jr. (third place, $9,000) of Ocala, Fla., with five bass weighing 20 pounds, 11 ounces; David Dudley (fourth, $8,000) of Manteo, N.C., with five bass weighing 18 pounds, 7 ounces; and Greg Pugh (fifth, $7,500) of Cullman, Ala., with four bass weighing 17 pounds, 9 ounces.
Kerr Lake near Henderson, N.C., will be the fourth and final regular-season Eastern Division EverStart Series stop. The tournament will be held May 30-June 2.
Day-four related links:
Burks wins Co-Angler Division at Lake Santee Cooper
Rescue on the Cumberland (first published 26.Apr.2000)