LA PLATA, Md. – If the Keebler Elf isn’t careful, he, too, might fall prey to one of Dave Lefebre’s magic Mizmos. As it was in Saturday’s final round of Stren Series Northeast Division action at the Potomac River, anything living near, around or in a piece of wood ultimately ended up on the end of Lefebre’s fishing line – all enticed by those delicious Mizmos, of course.
Lefebre – a Kellogg’s-sponsored pro who sports a sprightly Keebler jersey everywhere he fishes competitively – caught the heaviest five-bass limit for the second day in a row and won the third Northeast Division tournament of the season. His catch Saturday at the Potomac – 16 pounds, 10 ounces – pushed his two-day total to 33-6 and earned the seasoned pro out of Erie, Pa., his second Stren Series victory.
“You know, the Potomac River is one of my favorite places in the world,” he said. “It’s different every time we come here, and it keeps you fresh, so I like it a lot.”
He should. This week he earned $20,000 in cash – $10,000 for the win plus another $10,000 in Ranger contingency money – plus a brand new Ranger 519VX.
How he did it, though, remained somewhat of a mystery until Saturday afternoon. Lefebre admitted to a certain brazen confidence heading into this week’s finals Friday morning. The two reasons for that: 1) He was fishing a pair of new baits that nobody else had, and 2) he was sitting on a mother of a honeyhole.
Lefebre caught the bulk of his fish throughout the week on two baits, both prototypes made specifically for him by Mizmo. One was a 9/16-ounce green-pumpkin jig with a blue-and-chartreuse skirt tipped with a green-pumpkin Yamamoto double-tail grub trailer. The other was a sapphire-blue soft-plastic creature bait. Both are unique in that, one, Mizmo isn’t known for its production of jigs, and two, the creature bait is so new that it doesn’t even have a name yet.
“I don’t even know what it’s called. You’ll have to ask Jimmy (Cox, head of Mizmo Baits),” Lefebre said. “All I know is that it’s got pockets in it for the rattles. It’s the loudest bait you’ll ever throw in the mats. At the end of every day, I went to a grass mat and caught a big one off of that thing.”
But Lefebre’s workhorse bait this week was the new jig, which isn’t unusual since he’s known as a jig specialist. He had an area way up Mattawoman Creek filled with underwater wood – brush, stumps and little wood pieces – where he said he caught some 30 to 50 bass a day. Saturday, he specifically targeted various wood locations that he knew held bigger bass. With the bite slightly stingier than it had been in previous days, Lefebre said the jig setup performed strongly.
“I was catching them on the incoming tide, which today started about noon. But they were turned off a little bit today. I was fishing around the area with specific lineups, and I had about 20 specific spots that, if you missed your cast by even a foot, you would get nothing,” he said. “The key was just getting on that structure, knowing those fish were there and getting to them. The big thing was just being able to get it through the right way when the bait touches that wood and stuff. And that (Yamamoto) double-tail was also key when they’re not biting. You know, Mizmo’s known for its tubes, not jigs. There are a lot of great jigs out there, but I like this one the best. It got me through the cut (last month) at Lake Erie, too.”
Lefebre’s first Stren Series win was at the Mississippi River in 2002. (He also has a Wal-Mart FLW Tour victory under his belt, at Old Hickory Lake in 2004.) Despite the outward show of confidence, Lefebre dealt with some personal uncertainty this week that, in a quirk of fate, was as familiar as it was unsettling. His pregnant wife, Anne, who is due in about four weeks with their second child, had to make a late-night trip to the hospital this week thanks to some early contractions. As it turned out, she’s fine, but the night that he made the cut, Lefebre said he only got about two hours of sleep.
“You know, the last Stren I won, my wife was pregnant with our first child, Mitchell, and the same thing happened on that Friday night,” he said. “It’s just weird the way things work out. Here we are, three years later, and we’re in the exact same situation. This time it’s a girl.”
Also breaking the 30-pound barrier and giving Lefebre a run for his money was Chris Baumgardner of Gastonia, N.C., who mustered the second-heaviest limit Saturday – 15 pounds, 11 ounces. He totaled 31-13 in the final round to finish second in the Pro Division and earned $10,000.
“It wasn’t easy. I caught a lot of small fish today, but every once in a while, I’d catch a decent one,” Baumgardner said.
Baumgardner flipped the edges of grass mats for most of the week with a handful of different baits, but said Saturday’s tougher bite meant he had to resort to his main weapon.
“The one constant was the Zoom Speed Craw,” he said. “Today, I caught one good one on a Chatterbait, but the rest came on the Speed Craw.”
Like Lefebre, Baumgardner had family on the mind as he vied for the title this week.
“My boy turned 10 on Tuesday,” he said. “I just want to dedicate this week to him.”
As he predicted Friday, George Acord Jr. ran out of big fish Saturday. Still, the pro from Lancaster, Pa., caught a limit weighing 11 pounds, 14 ounces and finished third with a final total of 27-3. He earned $8,800.
“Yesterday, I said I didn’t think that I would be able to bring in a bigger bag like I’ve been catching, and I pretty much proved it,” said Acord, who flipped a grassy area in Mattawoman Creek all week using a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver. “We took every ounce of fish out of there today, but we just couldn’t get anything over 3 pounds. I just went back and forth through that same area all week, so much that I think I know every single clump of hydrilla and grass in there by heart.”
David Butenewicz Jr. of Monroeville, N.J., caught a limit worth 12 pounds, 10 ounces Saturday and finished in fourth place for the pros with a final total of 25-14. He earned $7,800.
“I like to power-fish, so I threw a buzzbait,” he said. “These guys who flip these thick mats, I don’t know, I can’t take it. I respect anybody who goes in there and does that, but I like to catch fish that will bite instead of having to work for them.”
Pro Mike Hoskings of Dumfries, Va., finished fifth and collected $7,300 with a final-round total weight of 23 pounds, 1 ounce. He caught five bass weighing 8-7 Saturday.
“I was just popping the edge of the grass with a jig, and it got a little tougher today,” he said. “I was fishing the same fish, the same pattern, but they just got smaller.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 Pro Division finishers at the Potomac River:
6th: Tom O’Bryant of Cedar Grove, Tenn., 10 bass, 22-9, $6,300
7th: David Borodziuk of Audubon Park, N.J., nine bass, 20-13, $5,300
8th: Jason Knapp of Uniontown, Pa., 10 bass, 20-8, $4,800
9th: James Kemper of Frankfort, Ky., seven bass, 17-8, $4,300
10th: Larry Evans of Southpoint, Ohio, eight bass, 17-7, $3,800
Lefebre now leads the Northeast Division pro standings with a total of 557 points. Behind him in second place is Kevin Bishop of Hilton, N.Y., with 547 points.
The next Stren Series event is a Midwest Division contest at the Detroit River at Trenton, Mich., Sept. 6-9.
The next Northeast Division event is the season’s fourth and final tournament. It is scheduled for Lake Champlain at Plattsburgh, N.Y., Sept. 27-30.