MANY, La. – Bart Blakelock cranked up the bulldozer on day one, kept the pedal to the metal and plowed through the competition to win the FLW American Fishing Series Texas Division event on Toledo Bend.
As one of the first to weigh on day one, Blakelock got off to a strong start by bagging a 23-pound limit that put him in second place. The Lake Charles, La., pro followed up a day later with another big limit – this one 25-2 and moved into first place heading into the final round.
After two days of working his primary spot, Blakelock was concerned that he’d have to hunt for his limit today. His expectation proved accurate and the top pro fished about seven spots to amass an 18-pound limit that gave him the winning total of 66 pounds, 2 ounces.
“I don’t live far from here, so I practiced and put in my time on the water,” Blakelock said. “I found some key locations that were holding my bigger fish. I knew if I could get one or two big bites a day, the rest of my quality fish would come. I just put my time in and it paid off.”
Blakelock got on the fish right away and sacked up a limit in short order. His winning bag included a late day surprise – one of two 9-pounders that crossed the final day’s stage.
“I started out on the same spot I had been starting on for two days and I had a small limit of about 12 pounds in 10 minutes this morning,” Blakelock said. “Then I ran up north, made a stop and (culled two fish). I ran up a little farther and had one about 8 pounds break off.
“We started working our way back down the lake, made a few more stops but didn’t cull anything. Then, on my last stop, I caught that 9-pound fish with about an hour left in the day.”
Blakelock said he caught most of his fish on a Texas-rigged Junebug-colored NetBait 10-inch worm, a Norman DD22 (firetiger) and a few shad-colored Lucky Craft crankbaits. His biggest fish favored a Peanut Butter Jelly-colored Stanley Bugeye jig.
Blakelock fished main lake structure in 18-25 feet. One particular spot proved exceptionally rewarding.
“There were key stumps that were holding my bigger fish,” he said. “That 9-pounder I caught today and the 10-pounder yesterday – I caught both of them off the same stump.”
Ebarb gains another notch to finish second
Continuing his upward climb, Wayne Ebarb caught a final round limit of 19-5 and finished second with 61-13. A day one weight of 19-10 put him in eleventh place and he raced into third a day later with his biggest bag of the event – 22-14.
Hailing from Many, La., the local pro fished a Mudbug crankbait and a Santone jig and targeted main lake structure in 12-24 feet of water. Ebarb caught a small limit early, but similar to the previous two days, he found the midday hours producing the best action for him.
Putting in long practice days, Ebarb worked to pattern his fish and learn their timing. Late morning through afternoon found bait schools rising onto the offshore ridges and the bass would move up to feed. Locating this scenario during the tournament was Ebarb’s strategy.
“I’ve been graphing and looking for fish for a couple of weeks now and just trying to find the right wad of fish that I could catch,” Ebarb said. “You could miss the fish by an hour and not catch them, but come back in an hour and catch them.”
Loyd thunders into third
There’s one good thing about entering the final round – you have only one way to go. Realizing this, Gilmer, Texas, pro Lamonte Loyd rolled up his sleeves, fixed his focus and made the proverbial swing for the fences. The top spot may have eluded him, but blasting his way from tenth place to third won Loyd big props from all in attendance.
Stepping onto the stage with a confident grin and a two-hand sack of fish, Loyd proceeded to drop a quartet of hefty bass into the scale basket. Just when it looked like the crowd couldn’t cheer louder, Loyd yanked a monstrous 9-pound, 4-ounce toad from his sack and completed a 25-pound, 4-ounce limit – the biggest of day three and the event’s second largest.
“I caught that big one five minutes before I came in,” Loyd said. “Yesterday, there were a lot of people in the places I fished the day before and I couldn’t get into these areas. But today I was to get in there because there wasn’t as many people on the lake. I was able to relax because I didn’t have anything to lose.”
In fourth place, Opelousas, La., pro Jeremy Guidry dropped two spots to fourth with 57 pounds. Relying mostly on a V & M jig with a Strike King Rage Craw trailer, he caught 22-4 on day one, 21-9 on day two and 13-3 in the final round.
“I had a tough practice and I didn’t think I had much, but I found a good spot and I got as much as I could out of it,” Guidry said.
Guidry’s performance on Toledo Bend enabled him to clinch the Texas Division points title and a berth in the 2011 Forrest Wood Cup.
Moving up from ninth place, Ryan Pinkston of Center, Texas, caught 18-15 in the final round and finished fifth with 55-15. He fished a ½-ounce football jig and a Texas-rigged redbug worm.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 pro leaders at the American Fishing Series Toledo Bend event:
6th: Ronnie Bickham of Brookeland, Texas, 55-0
7th: Glen Freeman of Converse, La., 54-14
8th: George Jeane Jr. of Evans, La., 51-14
9th: Paul Ferguson of Whitehouse, Texas, 48-10
10th: Kevin Lasyone of Dry Prong, La., 45-15