OKEECHOBEE CITY, Fla. – In commercial fishing there is a device called a fishing weir that catches fish. In professional fishing there is a fishing Schwier that also catches fish, except he uses a rod and reel.
EverStart tournament leader Justin Schwier of Okeechobee, Fla., caused his hometown crowd to erupt with cries of joy today when he brought in 8 pounds, 4 ounces of bass to fend off a hard charge from runner-up Chad Morgenthaler of Coulterville, Ill.
Schwier ended up with a two-day total of 26 pounds, 12 ounces to win the first EverStart Eastern Division event of the year. He won $10,000 cash and a fully-rigged Ranger Boat for the victory.
The 22-year-old EverStart rookie had a 4-pound lead over his competition when the final weigh-in started this afternoon. Things got interesting when Morgenthaler hauled up 14 pounds, 1 ounce of bass to grab the lead until Schwier mounted the stage.
“This feels great,” said Schwier. “This is the first time I’ve won a big tournament. I woke up shaking and I’m still shaking. It hasn’t stopped all day.”
Schwier fished a combination of spinner baits and 10-inch worms in the Monkey Box and Eagle Bay areas to catch his fish over the last four days.
Early in the week he used a 1/2-ounce War Eagle spinner bait, white with silver blades, to catch his limits. Today, however he had to go strictly to the worm, which was a 10-inch redbug Zoom worm teamed with a 3/16-ounce Gambler Rattling weight.
“I started with the spinner bait this morning. After going fishless for 30 minutes, I went to the worm and probably caught 10 to 15 keepers during the rest of the day.”
Chad Morgenthaler got the unofficial comeback-of-the-day award today by finishing second with a two-day total of 26 pounds, 4 ounces.
He started the day in sixth place with a 6-pound deficit. His five-bass limit brought him to within 8 ounces of an EverStart victory.
“It hurts to make such a charge and come up short.” Morgenthaler said. “But I had a great tournament, and it has started my year off on the right foot.”
Morgenthaler fished the North Shore area with a combination of weightless Wave Worm Tiki Sticks and Wave Worm Grass Craws.
“I never could catch the fish doing the same thing everyday,” he said. “I had to keep switching tactics. I was in a bedding area, and I thought fish were moving in there to spawn, but they never got on the beds.”
On the first day, Morgenthaler scored on a junebug Tiki Stick. On the second day, he had to switch to flipping mats with the Grass Craw to get bites. On the third day, he caught bass both ways. Today he went back to the Tiki Stick.
Morgenthaler fished the Tiki Stick on 15-pound-test Maxima green fishing line.
“Normally I fish the Tiki Stick weightless with a 4/0 Xpoint hook,” he said. “But today I had to peg a tiny 1/16-ounce weight on the line to get it to fall in the wind. The big keys for me on the Tiki Stick were making extra long casts and fishing it dead slow.”
Vest ends up third
Local pro Doug Vest of Okeechobee, Fla., caught an 8-pound, 12-ounce monster bass to anchor his four-bass string that weighed 12 pounds, 9 ounces giving him a two-day total of 24 pounds, 15 ounces for third place.
Vest was one 2-pound fish short of winning the EverStart event.
“That big fish was my first bite of the day,” he said. “I actually had her on and lost her yesterday afternoon. I went straight back to the same mat this morning, made the same pitch and she bit again, except this time I got her in the boat.”
Vest started each morning by Carolina rigging for a small limit, and then he went flipping a 4-inch Crawdaddy with a 1-1/2-ounce tungsten weight the rest of the day to catch big fish.
“I like to get a limit of small fish early to kind of settle me down because it helps me flip slower,” he said. “Because of the wind this morning, I couldn’t get on my Carolina rig spot right, and I kept thinking about that big fish. So I scratched my limit spot and went flipping all day.”
Kenney posts another Big O top finish
Energizer pro J.T. Kenney of Frostburg, Md., finished fourth with a two-day total of 23 pounds, 12 ounces.
Kenney cast a worm in eelgrass the first two days and then switched to flipping mats the last two days to catch his daily limits.
When he was casting a worm, he used a 10-inch Reaction Innovations junebug worm with a 5/16-ounce sinker tied to 25-pound Vanish Fluorocarbon. When his was flipping he used a 1-1/2-ounce tungsten weight with Reaction Innovations Beaver Tail creature bait with 25-pound Vanish Fluorocarbon.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros were the following anglers: Larry Inman of Greensboro, N.C., fifth, with a two-day total of 23 pounds, 1 ounce; Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity, S.C., sixth, with a two-day total of 20 pounds, 4 ounces; Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla., seventh, with a two-day total of 19 pounds, 3 ounces; Hank Cherry of Charlotte, N.C., eighth, with a two-day total of 18 pounds, 1 ounce; Tony Couch of Buckhead, Ga., ninth, with a two-day total of 16 pounds, 11 ounces; Steve Montelaro of Palm Harbor, Fla., 10th, with a two-day total of 15 pounds, 1 ounce.