MONROE, La. – Jigs and spinnerbaits were the order of the week on the swamps and bayous of the Ouachita River, but it was Japan’s Toshinari Namiki and his “secret bait” that took the $100,000 top prize in the end of the third Wal-Mart FLW Tour stop of the season.
Despite a five-bass push by Trussville, Alabama’s Matt Herren Saturday, Namiki caught three good keepers weighing 10 pounds, 7 ounces and held on for the title. He totaled 30-14 in the two-day final round and edged past Herren by more than 3 pounds.
“I cannot believe it. Maybe tomorrow morning I will know I won,” Namiki said. “Thank you very much, Matt, Jason, Mike and all the other great contenders.”
Herren’s limit Saturday weighed 9 pounds, 11 ounces. He finished second with a 27-12 final total.
Jason Kilpatrick of Satsuma, Ala., moved up and finished third with 23 pounds, 9 ounces. His four bass Saturday weighed 8-9.
Mike Hawkes of Sabinal, Texas, finished fifth with 22 pounds, 15 ounces. He caught just two bass weighing 6-13 on the final day.
Sandwiched in between in fourth place was Mickey Bruce of Buford, Ga., who tied for the day’s heaviest sack – four bass, 13 pounds, 8 ounces – and finished with a final weight of 23-6.
Sixth-place Alvin Shaw of State Road, N.C., caught the other leading, 13-pound, 8-ounce stringer – a five-bass limit – and finished with 22-10.
When Namiki came in Friday with a leading 20-pound-plus limit after edging into the finals in 10th place, he gave most of the credit to a “secret bait.” The Tokyo pro revealed Saturday that the secret was nothing more than a Texas-rigged black tube, which he flipped at cypress trees and buck brush in Arkansas’ Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge.
“I caught 90 percent of them on the tube, but also some on a spinnerbait,” he said. “Because the water was so dirty, I used a dark color. But even in clear water, I kept using it. I would just pitch it, let it sink and bam!”
Kilpatrick, who’d had a bit of a good-natured verbal sparring match with Namiki over the last two days, said: “Today, after I caught that big one on the third cast, I thought, ‘Magic lure? I don’t need no magic lure. It’s great anglers who catch the fish.’ Then when I was struggling later in the day, I was kind of hoping I’d run into Namiki so I could ask him if maybe I could borrow one of those baits of his.”
As it turned out, that probably wouldn’t have helped him today. Kilpatrick had a secret weapon of his own going this week, only it was the same secret as Namiki’s. Defying this week’s conventional wisdom, he said that he caught all of his bigger bass on a tube.
“Like everyone, I found fish in practice on a spinnerbait and jig,” said Kilpatrick, who ran to the Felsenthal pool with the rest of the field Saturday. “There’s a lot of water there, but the area was receiving so much pressure from our guys. I moved out to deeper trees and targeted wood that most of the other guys were just passing by. Then I switched baits to a tube, which looks more like a crawfish than a jig does, anyway. It’s so funny when you get to the end of the tournament and hear what everybody’s secret weapons are. They generally turn out to be the same thing. Every giant that I caught since I showed up in Louisiana a week ago has been on a Mizmo tube.”
Herren collected $36,000 for second place, but said he might have had a shot at the hundred grand if he had made a change earlier in the day. His jig pattern stopped producing for him Saturday.
“I just didn’t get bit. I think it was running out on me,” he said about his pattern. “I practiced some on the other side of the river. Today I went over there later in the day to check two trees, and I caught a 2 ½- and a 4-pounder. My only regret is that I didn’t go there sooner.
“But this is great. I’ve worked so hard to get here. Believe it or not, I’ve been really calm all week, and I executed on all the bites I got.”
Kilpatrick won $25,000 for third place and breathed a sigh of relief when he saw Herren bring his 4-pound kicker to the scale.
“I was relieved to see Matt pull out that 4-pounder in the end,” said Kilpatrick, who lost a 5- or 6-pound kicker on the water. “The one I lost wouldn’t have made a difference. I just ran out of fish.”
Bruce banks fourth
With his bigger bag, Bruce took home $20,000 for fourth place. He, too, lost a 6-pounder, but the tournament veteran – this was his seventh appearance in an FLW top 10 – said there’s no looking back in this sport.
Hawkes drops to fifth
After a catching a contending limit Friday, Hawkes also fell prey to the lost-fish syndrome Saturday. He caught two keepers and cashed in $18,000 for fifth place, but it was the three he didn’t put in the boat that haunted him.
“Yes sir, the wheels came off today,” he said. “I didn’t do a very good job of executing on what was offered to me by the lake. I broke one off, lost one in a tree and missed another one.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros finishers at FLW Ouachita River:
6th: Shaw, 22-10, $17,000
7th: Darrel Robertson of Jay, Okla., 21-6, $16,000
8th: William Davis of Russellville, Ala., 17-0, $15,000
9th: Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla., 16-2, $14,000
10th: Jeremiah Kindy of Benton, Ark., 13-1, $13,000
AOY standings update
The rookie Lane stretched out his lead in the points race for Land O’Lakes Angler of the Year. In first place coming into the Ouachita tournament, he now has 584 points heading into next month’s event at Beaver Lake. J.T. Kenney of Frostburg, Md., is his closest competitor with 533 points. Herren moved up into third place in the standings with 517 points.
This was Lane’s third top-10 finish in just three FLW Tour career starts.
The next Wal-Mart FLW Tour event is the annual Wal-Mart Open, scheduled for Beaver Lake near Rogers, Ark., April 13-16.
– FLW Outdoors Communications Director Dave Washburn contributed to this story.