Editors Note: The Strike King Z Too has been a well-guarded secret for drop shotting smallmouths and many were probably upset it got released this week. It's often sold out on Tackle Warehouse as many anglers in the know keep stocked heavily in them. One of the big keys to the Z Too is the action and durability of the baits, they will stay attached to the hook and not get thrown off and you can catch a lot of smallmouths on one bait when drop shot rigged.
A thrilling and unprecedented conclusion to the 2015 Plano Bassmaster Elite at Lake St. Clair brought a new level of anticipation to the professional bass-fishing world.
Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Texas, continued to improve his daily weights of bass and clinched the championship on Lake St. Clair.
Meanwhile, Aaron Martens caught 19 pounds, 6 ounces of bass Sunday, which was good enough for a sixth-place finish and the necessary points to lay early claim to the prestigious Toyota Bassmaster Anger of the Year title.
Faircloth spent the entire tournament building on the previous day’s weight by catching large smallmouth bass from Bell’s Hump, which is located on the Canadian side of Lake St. Clair.
“I wasn’t really fishing a specific spot, rather it was an expansive area that had all the right components to continue producing 20-pound bags each day,” the five-time Bassmaster Elite Series champion explained. “I felt a real freedom each day after putting about 19 pounds in the livewell. That freedom made it easy for me to explore more specific spots, and zero in on what I felt were the very best locations in my area.”
Faircloth brought 22-2 to the scales Sunday for a four-day total of 84-7, which bumped out Brandon Palaniuk, the leader on Friday and Saturday, by just over 6 pounds.
“I was fishing in 15 to 18 feet of water and I caught all my fish on a drop-shot this week,” Faircloth revealed.
The 13-time Bassmaster Classic contender said he caught the bulk of his fish on a Strike King Z Too soft jerkbait in the Arkansas Shiner pattern, which shares similarities with both gobies and perch.
The 2015 Elite season has been a tough one for Faircloth. He finished 9th-, 57th-, 84th-, 68th-, 96th-, 80th- and 17th-place before Sunday’s win on Lake St. Clair.
His career statistics will show how uncharacteristic those results are, but this victory put him back in the hunt for a berth in the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake. By sitting in 40th place in AOY points, he now gets to fish in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, for the championship Sept. 17-20.
“To come from behind and win this tournament means a great deal to me, but to make such a big jump in the points and continue my season in Wisconsin makes it that much sweeter.”
Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, dropped almost 6 pounds from Saturday’s weight, weighing only 14-1 on Championship Sunday. His four-day total was 78-6.
“I really felt that the fish I had been catching all week were going to be ready to eat as soon as I got there,” Palaniuk said. “It didn’t take very long for me to realize the fish had moved, and I made the decision to return to St. Clair.”
Palaniuk spent the tournament fishing the St. Clair River near Lake Huron, and he explained that he learned how the wind, current and freighter traffic affected the bass in his location.
“Every time a ship would pass through the channel, it would literally suck the baitfish off the spot and create a feeding frenzy,” he said. “Today’s traffic was vey light and a factor that I think impacted my pattern.”
The 2013 Plano Bassmaster Elite Series at Lake St. Clair champion Chris Lane weighed the event’s largest limit of bass on Saturday, five fish totaling 24 pounds. His 19-2 limit today have him 77-8 and a third-place finish.
“My first day really set me back, I just didn’t capitalize on the bites,” said the 2012 Bassmaster Classic champion. “To come back to St. Clair and still have a shot at winning this thing was very exciting. Now I want to come back and see if I can keep my smallmouth momentum rolling.”
Rounding out the Top 5 were Chad Pipkens in fourth place with 77-2 and Greg Vinson in fifth with 76-4.
Martens’ came to win the Lake St. Clair tournament, however, with his points spread coming into this event, he knew claiming the AOY title early was a possibility.
“I made a few slight adjustments today by switching to a swimbait and I caught my best bag of the tournament,” said the newly crowned 2015 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year. “I am pretty excited to win Angler of the Year for the third time in my career! I love Sturgeon Bay and I can’t wait to fish there in September.“
Angler Hometown No./lbs-oz Pts Total $$$
1. Todd Faircloth Jasper, TX 20 84-07 100 $101,750.00
Day 1: 5 20-01 Day 2: 5 20-09 Day 3: 5 21-11 Day 4: 5 22-02
2. Brandon Palaniuk Rathdrum, ID 20 78-06 99 $27,250.00
Day 1: 5 23-04 Day 2: 5 21-01 Day 3: 5 20-00 Day 4: 5 14-01
3. Chris Lane Guntersville, AL 20 77-08 98 $21,000.00
Day 1: 5 17-09 Day 2: 5 16-13 Day 3: 5 24-00 Day 4: 5 19-02
4. Chad Pipkens Holt, MI 20 77-02 97 $15,000.00
Day 1: 5 18-12 Day 2: 5 22-01 Day 3: 5 16-07 Day 4: 5 19-14
5. Greg Vinson Wetumpka, AL 20 76-04 96 $14,000.00
Day 1: 5 19-03 Day 2: 5 19-09 Day 3: 5 18-13 Day 4: 5 18-11
6. Aaron Martens Leeds, AL 20 75-07 95 $14,500.00
Day 1: 5 18-05 Day 2: 5 18-08 Day 3: 5 19-04 Day 4: 5 19-06
7. Jason Christie Park Hill, OK 20 75-04 94 $13,000.00
Day 1: 5 17-01 Day 2: 5 17-05 Day 3: 5 21-04 Day 4: 5 19-10
8. Jonathon VanDam Kalamazoo, MI 20 75-02 93 $12,500.00
Day 1: 5 20-06 Day 2: 5 19-03 Day 3: 5 18-02 Day 4: 5 17-07
9. Brett Hite Phoenix, AZ 20 74-02 92 $12,000.00
Day 1: 5 17-12 Day 2: 5 20-07 Day 3: 5 19-05 Day 4: 5 16-10
10. James Elam Tulsa, OK 20 73-04 91 $11,500.00
Day 1: 5 23-07 Day 2: 5 20-05 Day 3: 5 17-12 Day 4: 5 11-12
11. Keith Poche Pike Road, AL 20 72-15 90 $11,000.00
Day 1: 5 18-03 Day 2: 5 17-01 Day 3: 5 21-04 Day 4: 5 16-07
12. Fletcher Shryock New Philadelphia, OH 20 72-01 89 $10,500.00
Day 1: 5 17-05 Day 2: 5 22-01 Day 3: 5 17-08 Day 4: 5 15-03
Bonuses and Contingency Awards:
- The $1,000 award for the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points leader will go to Aaron Martens.
- The Power-Pole Captain’s Cash will award $1,000 to Todd Faircloth.
- The Evan Williams Bourbon Heavyweight Award of $1,000 for the heaviest limit goes to Chris Lane for his 24-pound bag on Day 3.
- The Livingston Lures Leader Award of $500 for the angler leading on Day 2 goes to Brandon Palaniuk.
- The Bass Pro Shops Big Bass award of $1,500 for the heaviest bass weighed goes to Faircloth (Day 3) and Palaniuk (Day 1). They each caught a 6 pound, 3 ounce bass.
- The Toyota Bonus Bucks award of $3,000 for the highest placing eligible angler goes to Faircloth. The second highest placing angler, Palaniuk, is awarded $2,000.
- The A.R.E. Truck Caps Top Angler Award of $1,000 will be awarded to Palaniuk for being the highest placing angler using A.R.E. products.
- The Rigid Industries Big Fish Light Jackpot will rollover to the next event with a total of $1,500. An angler must weigh in the heaviest five-fish limit of more than 25 pounds.
- The HUK Biggest Jump Award of $1,000 for the angler who made the largest jump in standings from Day 1 was awarded to Jason Williamson.
- The Dick Cepek Tires Rolling Forward award for most placed climbed in AOY between Chesapeake Bay and Lake St. Clair will be finalized and awarded next week.