FLORENCE, Ala. – After boating an incredible 33 pounds, 1 ounce on the first day of EverStart Series competition on Pickwick Lake, it appeared as though Randy Haynes of Counce, Tenn., was going to run away with the title. However, by the end of day two, Haynes was forced to watch his 5 ½-pound lead melt all the way down to a mere 13 ounces. Now, with one day of fishing left in the tournament, everyone knew it was game on.
And so did Haynes.
“Coming into today I was really worried,” said Haynes. “I knew that there were some great ledge fisherman in this tournament, (especially) Mark Rose. And I also knew that I (potentially) could be beat on Wilson Lake (by the Suratt brothers). So when I woke up today I knew I had to get out there and just go fishing.
“But no matter what, I was going to keep fishing offshore,” Haynes continued. “And whether there were only three fish there, I was going to live and die with that.”
In the end though, Haynes proved once again why his is one of the most revered anglers on Pickwick Lake. Bolstered by a whopping 26-poound, 14-ounce catch in the finals, the largest day-three stringer brought to the scales, Haynes maintained his overall lead for the third consecutive day, winning the title in unexpectedly comfortable fashion.
“It’s awesome,” said Haynes, who recorded a total catch of 79 pounds, 11 ounces to net more than $30,000 in prize money as well as a brand new, fully equipped Ranger Z518 bass boat. “A couple of years ago I thought my winning was over. I still can’t believe it. It’s a very humbling sport and you never know when the winning is going to stop. I have family and friends here so I’m really just blown away right now.”
Haynes said he relied heavily all week on a combination of Strike King 6XD and 10XD crankbaits, targeting river ledges and humps in anywhere from 15 to 20 feet of water.
Throughout the week, Haynes put on a veritable offshore fishing clinic. After the first day of competition, where he bested his own personal one-day tournament record on Pickwick Lake, Haynes continued to plug along, forcing the rest of the field to play catch up – a hurdle which some of the best Pickwick anglers in the business weren’t able to overcome.
“I had five good days of practice and I know this lake very well,” said Haynes. “So I knew I could do it. In the end, it wound up being a great week – probably one of the best weeks of fishing I’ve ever had in my life.”
The Suratt brothers make their mark
A mere one day before the start of tournament action on Pickwick Lake, brothers Jeff and David Suratt of Leoma, Tenn., weren’t quite sure if they were ready to throw their hats into the ring and register for this week’s event. After all, they had to fork over a $1,000 entry fee and face the idea that they would be competing against some of the stiffest competition they had ever faced.
But in the end, they decided to take the gamble. And as a result, Jeff walked away with second place overall as well as a check for more than $11,200. David fared nearly as well, winning more than $7,500 in prize money and taking third place overall – on his birthday no less.
“It feels really good,” said Jeff Suratt, who boated a total, three-day weight of 76 pounds. “I didn’t really have the money to enter this tournament. And I was scared to death because I knew my wife would kill me if I didn’t do well. So it turned out to be a good week. I really wanted to win, but I’ll take second.”
While David was hoping one of the siblings could pull off a victory on the final day, he said he had no regrets – well, okay, one small regret.
“It’s been a great week and I couldn’t have asked for anything more – other than finishing behind my little brother,” said David, who netted a three-day total weight of 72 pounds, 5 ounces. “And it’s been a great birthday today. (Suddenly) turning 31 ain’t so bad.”
Both Suratt brothers said they fished in close proximity to each other all week, targeting bass with a combination of Big Hammer, Storm and Berkley swimbaits near Wheeler Dam.
“We’re mostly just fishing current breaks and rocks near the dam with 5- and 6-inch swimbaits,” said Jeff. “It wasn’t anything really specific. We’re just fishing underwater.”
“Today was a good day for me,” said David. “I had a repeat of day one and day two, only I caught more fish today. I also wound up catching a 5-pounder with only 15 minutes to go. (Unfortunately) today we had to be back in the lock earlier than the first two days. My only regret is that I wished we had a little more fishing time.”
However, with the conclusion of the tournament finally in the books, David reflected on the incredible week both he and his brother had just endured.
“Did I envision my brother and I finishing one-two in the tournament? You know what, I did,” said David. “Now did I think it was actually going to happen? Not really. But we came close – really close.”
The Wright stuff
Keying on one dominant area all week, Kevin Wright of Waterloo, Ala., parlayed a 67-pound, 3-ounce catch into a fourth place finish. And he seemingly couldn’t have been happier.
Wright said that he employed a swimbait all week, targeting a small honey hole that was just big enough “for one boat to fit on.”
“I was fishing this small area that had a series of rocks and boulders,” he said. “I fished in about 6 or 7 feet of water and wound up fishing the same place all week. I probably caught over 70 pounds on that one spot alone.”
For his efforts, Wright took home nearly $6,800 in winnings.
Rose rounds out top five
“It’s been an awesome week,” said Rose. “I love this part of Alabama and I always have an excellent time every time I come back here. I’ve been truly blessed.”
Like Haynes, Rose used a combination of Strike King 6XD and 10XD crankbaits to land the majority of his catch. An offshore fishing specialist, Rose said he fished to his strengths this entre week. However, although Rose is now almost universally recognized as one of the best deepwater ledge fishing anglers on tour, the Arkansas native said that if it wasn’t for Haynes’ tutelage, he might not be where he is today.
“I owe a lot my offshore success to Randy Haynes,” said Rose. “We’ve formed a great friendship over the years. And it always seems that whenever there is a deep ledge fishing tournament, I’ll find an area and when I look up he’s always right there with me. I really owe him a lot and I’m glad he won today. He deserves it.”
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 pro finalists:
7th: Jeremy Utley of Florence, Ala., 62-3
8th: Robert Boyd of Russellville, Ala., 53-12
9th: Jade Keeton of Florence, Ala., 52-9
10th: Matt C. VanMeter of Sharon, Tenn., 43-9
For a complete list of pro results, click here.
To view photos from today's tournament, click here.
EverStart Series Central Division action resumes June 13-15 on Kentucky Lake in Benton, Ky.