LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. – Heading into the final day of EverStart competition on Lake Havasu, pro Troy Lindner of Los Angeles, Calif., was sitting in ninth place overall and staring up at a nearly insurmountable deficit – almost a full 5 pounds off the overall lead.
While Lindner was seemingly content to have qualified for his first EverStart top-10 finish, the California pro hit the open waters of Lake Havasu today and turned in the performance of his career – netting a 19-pound, 6-ounce stringer on the final day of competition, nearly 2 full pounds greater than any stringer brought to the scales all week.
Although Lindner had swung for the fences and hit the metaphorical home run, there were still eight other pros – some of the best anglers in the West – standing between him and victory. But one by one, each pro fell just ounces short of Lindner’s catch. Hometown favorite Terrence Rath of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., stepped onto the stage and missed Lindner’s mark by a mere 7 ounces. Soon it was veteran pro Joe Uribe’s turn to come up short, losing out to the California pro by 6 ounces.
Finally, Chris Kinley of Durnago, Colo., stepped onto the stage. Kinley, who had led the tournament from start to finish, had not brought in a sack less than 17 pounds all week. As a result, Kinley only needed 14 pounds, 11 ounces to win the title – which would have been the very first FLW title of his career.
Then tournament host Ron Lappin called out Kinley’s final-day weight – 14 pounds, 9 ounces. Lindner’s improbable comeback was complete. And Kinley’s dream scenario had crumbled right before his eyes.
“This was my first top-10 finish ever in an FLW event and I didn’t think I had any chance to win this,” said Lindner, who boated a total three-day catch of 49 pounds, 11 ounces. “I thought I would need something like 21 or 22 pounds to even have a chance. As far as I’m concerned, it’s an absolute miracle. I’m at a loss for words right now.”
Lindner credited some of the hardships he faced during a number of previous FLW tournaments will helping him to succeed this time around.
“I’ve had plenty of 100th-place finishes over the years at FLW tournaments,” he said. “But I guess those tournament kind of kicked my butt and showed me what I needed to do to get better. I had the best day of the tournament today and I’m pretty proud of what I did.”
What Lindner did was target bass using a combination of finesse baits and little swimbaits to land the majority of his catch – specifically a rotation of Rapala Trigger X Baby Bass baits and Rapala Trigger X floating worms.
“I really burned a lot of gas this week,” he said. “I pretty much fished everything from the main-lake basin all the way to the I-40 bridge. This lake is just incredible. I absolutely love it here.”
Unlike many of the top pros, Lindner said he didn’t concentrate too much on sight-fishing techniques. But when things got tough for him, he did go to that well with some success.
“Out of the 15 fish I weighed in this week, only three of them came off of beds,” he said. “I caught most of my fish on main-lake points and back pockets. I’m not a very good bed fisherman because I haven’t done a lot of it. But today I caught two fish on beds and that really made a difference.”
Another difference it made is that now Troy Lindner – son of famous fishing personality and television host Al Lindner – can now call himself champion.
“I still can’t believe I won,” said Lindner, who walked away with $30,000 in winnings for his effort. “It’s just been an amazing week.”
Heartbreak central for Kinley
After leading the tournament each of the first two days, Chris Kinley of Durango, Colo., suffered perhaps the most painful loss of his career – ultimately losing out to Lindner by a mere 2 ounces.
“I’m speechless right now,” said Kinley. “I just didn’t make good decisions today. Having a chance to win the tournament wire-to-wire and losing out by 2 ounces makes it pretty tough. I’m pretty emotional right now. It hurts.”
While Kinley was understandably disappointed with the end result, there is no doubt that he fished a tremendous tournament. He was consistent pretty much all week and had arguably more quality patterns working for him than anyone else in the finals. Unfortunately, in the end, it came down to decision-making and execution.
“One of my problems today was that I stuck with something a little too long. My reaction bite just died on me today” he said. “I was around the right fish to win this tournament but it didn’t happen. I was targeting a 4 ½-pounder on a bed but decided to leave it and try something else. But I think if I had stayed I would have caught it. And that obviously would have made a big difference.”
Kinley ultimately brought in a total three-day weight of 49 pounds, 9 ounces – good enough for a check for second-place check worth a little over $10,000.
Uribe nets third place
Although Joe Uribe Jr., of Lake Forest, Calif., fished an incredible tournament as well, in the end, he had to settle for third place with a total catch of 49 pounds, 5 ounces.
“This is my fourth top-10 finish and I was really hoping I could close the deal today. But I just came up a little bit short,” said Uribe. “Like I said, it’s hard to close out these tournaments. But I did all I could.”
Uribe said that he targeted fish on shallow grass with a combination of Megabass Ito 110 jerkbaits and tailspins.
“I’d used the jerkbait in the morning and the tailspins in deeper water later in the afternoon,” he said. “I tried to keep it real simple and stay pretty local. The key was that you really had to be stealthy. I was using 4-pound test line and making really long casts because you didn’t want to spook those fish. The spot I found was a place where fish were constantly moving up to spawn. Today, those fish were really moving up.”
Although Uribe’s goal of landing his first EverStart victory failed to materialize, he said that he knows his time will come.
“I’ll be back,” he said. “I had a great time this week. And sooner or later, I’ll be able to finally close the deal.”
For his efforts, Uribe netted nearly $8,500 in winnings.
Hometown favorite nets fourth
“It was an awesome week, an awesome tournament and we had awesome weather,” said Rath. “I lost a fish on the first day – the only one all week – and that one probably cost me. At one point, I had one fish in the boat today and my co-angler partner had a limit so I was starting to panic. But I eventually calmed down and was able to put some fish in the boat.”
Rath, who targeted bass with a combination of paddle-tail worms and swimbaits, walked away with over $7,600 in winnings.
Tuck grabs top-five finish
“It was a fun tournament,” he said. “Lake Havasu is special to me. It’s one of my favorite places to fish. I have been licking my chops to come here ever since I saw it on the schedule.”
Although Tuck was in position to mount a charge, he knew that today’s weather conditions and lack of wind would create a banner day of fishing for all. As such, Tuck thought he’d need to have his best day of the tournament just to keep up with the leaders.
“When I went out there this morning I could tell right away that the guys were going to catch them,” continued Tuck. “So I pretty much knew that I needed around 20 pounds to have a shot at the title. It didn’t work out, but overall, I had a really good tournament.”
Tuck said that his fished primarily around the marina, targeting boat slips and grass ridges with a combination of 5-inch Senkos and Mann’s umbrella rigs. For his efforts, Tuck took home over $6,700 in winnings.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 pro finalists:
7th: Jeff Michels of Lakehead, Calif., 45-0
8th: Jimmy Savoini of Prescott, Ariz., 41-12
9th: Brian Ankrum of Loveland, Colo., 39-10
10th: Duane Dunstone of Reno, Nev., 36-5
EverStart Series Western Division action resumes March 29-31 on the California Delta in Oakley, Calif.