12.Jan.2013 by Rob Newell
OKEECHOBEE, Fla. – When your very first fish of a three-day tournament is 9-pounder, it could be fortune. When your very last fish of that three-day tournament is another 9-pounder, it could be fate. But when you win that same three-day tournament by a tiebreaker, someone from above is looking out for you.
That’s exactly how the week went for EverStart rookie pro Ben Todd of Pierson, Fla. His first fish of the tournament on Thursday was 9-pounder. Then late this afternoon, with a small limit in his box and just minutes left in the fishing day, Todd hooked and landed another 9-pounder and won the EverStart Series event on Lake Okeechobee by a tiebreaker.
Todd’s total weight – 59 pounds, 3 ounces – was the exact total weight of runner-up Trevor Fitzgerald who mounted a gallant charge for the title with an impressive 25-pound-10 ounce catch today. But since Todd was ahead of Fitzgerald going into the final day, Todd got the winning hardware and the $40,000 check to go with it.
“You see that right there,” Todd said, seconds after his weight stopped at 16-3, the exact weight he needed to win. “That was not me. The Lord did that…not me.”
Indeed it was a magical week for the 32-year old Todd who works on his family’s farm in Pierson. It started with a 31-7 limit on day one. Then waned to an 11-9 limit on day two. And then surged again with the magic digits 16-3 today, thanks to the tournament winning 9-pounder.
Todd found his winning area late on Tuesday afternoon.
“I made one quick pass down through there, had 10 bites and shook them all off,” he said. “But I saw two of them as I was shaking them off and they were big. I did not return to the area until Thursday morning. My first fish of the day was 9-pounder and that kind of set the tone for the day as I kept catching big ones.”
Todd’s key stretch included a line of reeds “in the middle” around the J&S area, which was protected from the predominant east wind that occurred throughout the event.
“I was not fishing the very outside reeds,” Todd detailed. “And I was not fishing all the way inside near the bank, either. This area had a line of reeds going down through the middle. The whole area was maybe three acres in size. And it’s not like the fish were bunched up in a tiny spot. I caught them all the way down this line of reeds that ran north and south.”
Todd’s key lures were a Gambler Fat Ace and a Tightlines UV UVenko. The Fat Ace was in a river bug color and the UVenko was in black and blue. He rigged the lures Texas-style with a 5/0 Gamakatsu flipping hook and topped them with 3/8-tungsten weights on 50-pound test PowerPro braid.
“The fish were spawning around the reeds,” he explained. “I couldn’t see the beds and I couldn’t see the fish, but I could just tell by how they were set up, they had made beds around those reeds. I’d pitch the bait in-between and around the reeds and just let it fall into where I thought a bed would be. I’d start the day with the Gambler Fat Ace and then when things got slow or I was re-fishing some of my stretches, I’d switch to the UVenko to give them a different look. I think that UV technology really gives the lure a different appearance in the water – something they’ve never seen before.”
“Today it was all the UVenko,” he added. “I caught small fish early, but late in the day all the boats disappeared and things got calm and quiet and I got that indescribable feeling that maybe another big female or two was moving up. I kept looking at my watch…30 minutes left…20 minutes left…10 minutes left and then that big one bit. When I got her in the boat I knew I had a shot at winning.”
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