HUDDLESTON, Va. – Winning an EverStart Series event is a feat in itself. But to do it in front of your home crowd makes it that much sweeter. Scott Howard of Evington, Va., got to soak it all in as he caught 28 pounds, 15 ounces of bass for three days of fishing from Smith Mountain Lake to win his very first EverStart Series tournament.
Howard found 11 pounds, 1 ounce worth of bass during the first day of the tournament sitting him in third place. Lightning struck twice as he hauled in 11-11 on day two to move into second, just ounces behind the leader. On the final day he could only scrounge up three bass but their weight of 6-3 was good enough to earn him the top spot and a new Ranger Z117 with a 90 horsepower motor.
“This is absolutely unbelievable,” said Howard. “I fished this tournament because it was close to home and I felt confident I could do well if I got paired with the right boaters. I still can’t believe I won.”
Fortunately for Howard he was paired with three boaters that all allowed him the opportunity to catch some fish off beds.
“I can’t say enough about my boaters this week,” said the 28-year-old machinist. “They were all so helpful and I obviously wouldn’t be here without their help.”
Howard received 13 bites all week and weighed in 13 bass. Being able to fish flawlessly over three days is what it takes to compete at this level and Howard proved he could do just that. Having made the step up from BFL competition, Howard now looks to continue fishing at this level.
“I think this tournament gave me the confidence to fish the rest of the division this year. I told myself if I did well I would fish them all, and I think I did all right.”
To tackle these bedded fish, Howard used a drop-shot and a shaky head all week. His go-to bait was a Zoom Z Drop worm – green pumpkin – and he would dye the tail chartreuse.
“I just want to thank everyone that came out to watch. The Nichols family is amazing and very supportive. Their magic muffins they gave me this week really played a big role. I think I’ll need some more of them for the rest of the year,” smiled Howard.
Cruz to second
Bouncing around the top 10 this week was Manuel Cruz of Clifton, N.J., who finally settled in second place with 27 pounds, 10 ounces of Smith Mountain Lake bass. His week started off strong with only four bass that weighed 10 pounds. Day two saw him land another four bass for only 7-13. He came back strong today with the only limit of the day but his 9-13 wasn’t enough to overtake the top spot. He will head back to New Jersey with a check worth $4,271.
Cruz suffered a heart-breaking week as he lost a good fish on day one that would have given him a limit. And today he lost a 3-pounder that would have won the event for him considering his smallest fish was a thin 14-incher.
“I knew what I had to throw this week to catch these fish,” said Cruz. “I came down here with no practice but I have fished Kerr Lake before which is kind of similar so I felt confident. You need to fish a perfect week in these tournaments to win and I didn’t.”
Cruz caught the bulk of his fish on a green-pumpkin Reaction Innovations Beaver. He threw it on 20-pound fluorocarbon with a 3/8-ounce weight. According to Cruz, the heavier weight gets the attention of the fish when it drops quickly on their bed. He did switch it up and toss a shaky head today around wood on the shoreline. That was still rigged with a Beaver.
Burdette drops to third
Dennis Burdette of Lindside, W.V., led over the first two days but saw his weights drop with each day of competition. After his 13-pound, 15-ounce catch on day one he managed only 9-7 on day two. He caught just two bass today that weighed 3-14 giving Burdette a 27-4 total for the week and a $3,417 check.
He remained secretive about his bait all week and finally spilled the beans today.
“I was throwing a drop-shot with a Roboworm most of the week,” said Burdette. “I did catch a few on a topwater and a floating Rapala as well. I had been sight-fishing most of the week but today I just blind casted while my boater fished for bass on beds.”
Burdette also lost a good fish each day of competition that really hurt him in the long run.
“That’s the way it goes. If I could do it over I don’t know what I would do different. I had a good tournament.”
Demaury, Chapman round out top five
Josh Demaury of Troutville, Va., finished in fourth place with a three-day total of 24 pounds. With only 7 pounds on day one, Demaury rebounded with 11-6 on day two. Today he caught three bass that weighed 5-10 to earn him a check worth $2,990.
Brent Chapman of Union Hall, Va., sat in second place after day one with 11 pounds, 4 ounces. He dropped to third on day two with 8-7. With just two bass weighing 3-8 on the final day, Chapman ends the week with 23-3 overall and $2,563.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top-10 co-anglers in the EverStart Series event on Smith Mountain Lake:
6th: Tim Cales of Sandstone, W.V., three-day total of 21-0, $2,136
7th: Chris Schomaker of Pineville, W.V., three-day total of 20-4, $1,709
8th: Dereck Bigford of Cicero, N.Y., three-day total of 19-15, $1,281
9th: Wil Dieffenbauch of Hundred, W.V., three-day total of 17-12, $854
10th: Justin Hicks of Roanoke, Va., three-day total of 15-5, $683