Thursday, July 25, 2024

Prince powers to Day 2 lead in Bassmaster Elite Series event at Wheeler Lake

Date:

Cliff Prince of Palatka, Fla., takes the lead on Day 2 at the Whataburger Bassmaster Elite at Wheeler Lake with 10 bass for 39 pounds, 11 ounces.

Photo by Seigo Saito/B.A.S.S.

June 14, 2024

Prince powers to Day 2 lead in Bassmaster Elite Series event at Wheeler Lake

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DECATUR, Ala. — When he arrived for practice for the Whataburger Bassmaster Elite at Wheeler Lake, Cliff Prince hadn’t studied a map or done any research on the lake. He wanted as clear of a head as possible, and so far, it has paid off in a big way.

With a 20-pound, 7-ounce Day 2 performance, “The Prince of Palatka” jumped into the lead at Wheeler Lake with a two-day total of 39-11. Opening the tournament in fourth with a 19-4 limit, Prince now holds a 2-8 advantage over Alabama’s Justin Hamner, while Day 1 leader John Cox is third with 34-13.

The last time the Elites visited this Tennessee River reservoir in 2016, Prince suffered a dismal 105th-place finish. This time around, he didn’t think about Wheeler Lake until he put the boat in the water to start practice.

“I had someone ask me before this tournament, ‘Did you go practice?’ And I said no,’” the three-time Classic qualifier from Palatka, Fla., said. “I didn’t look at a map. I didn’t read anything. I wanted to come here with an open mind and just practice. I didn’t want to have any preconceived notions.”

That practice strategy proved productive as Prince has maximized and guarded one key spot he found on the main lake just a short distance from the takeoff spot at Ingalls Park. He has been throwing two baits around a patch of grass that surrounds a hard spot with shell in about 4 feet of water. While he’s caught mostly largemouth, he has hooked into several big smallmouth as well.

“It is not an obvious spot,” Prince said. “If you don’t throw it in that exact spot, you don’t get bit. You’ll catch three and they’ll quit. Then you’ll fish around for a while, catch three or four, and they’ll quit again.

“If they don’t leave there, we’ll be alright.”

Similar to Day 1, Prince filled his limit early, picking up a few key bass later in the morning to cull up to his final weight. His tally included several 4-pounders and a 5-pounder.

“I’m going to guess I caught between 15 and 20 bass,” he said. “The good thing is I landed the ones I needed. The first fish I flipped off, I thought it was going to hurt me, but I probably would have culled it anyway.”

While the bass seemed to be in one big group on Day 1, Prince noticed they had split into two groups, 2- and 3-pounders on one side and 4- and 5-pounders on the other. Two of his bigger bites came on a Texas Rig today, but one other bait has produced the bulk of the weight.

Once he felt comfortable with his bag Friday, Prince hung around and guarded the spot. While hot and sunny conditions are expected to continue, with temperatures in the mid-90s expected, the wind has not blown hard. That has helped Prince keep tabs on the school of bass he has located.

Meanwhile, Justin Hamner’s magical season continued as he jumped into second place with a two-day limit weighing 37-3. The Northport, Ala., pro caught 20-8 on Day 2, adding to his 16-11 performance from Day 1.

The winner of the 2024 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors, Hamner is running all the way up to the Guntersville Dam tailrace and casting at one rockpile that is holding over 100 bass, he estimated. The pile sits in 10 feet of water and rises to 2 or 3 feet, and Hamner said he’s caught most of his weight on “basically topwater.”

“I’m shocked (no one is there). It is a very popular spot,” Hamner said. “It is a long way away and I guess no one wanted to make that run. I love that type of fishing. I like tailraces and I like current. I’m not a ledge-fishing guy. The first time I was here, I found that rockpile and never got to fish it in the tournament because there was a line of boats waiting to get on it.”

While he didn’t start there on Day 1, he made key upgrades there late in the afternoon and focused all of his time there on Friday. He also lost two big bass there Thursday, one over 7 and one over 5. A traditional smallmouth area, all of the bass he has caught so far have been largemouth.

Cox, who holds the Rapala CrushCity Monster Bag of the Tournament with his 22-2 Day 1 limit, caught just 12-11 on Day 2 and fell to third. He returned to the backwater pond where he caught all of his weight in on Day 1, and received five bites on a Berkley Swamp Lord.

Unfortunately, he landed just three of those bass and could only scrounge up two more keepers.

“The first two this morning annihilated it and just didn’t get it,” Cox said. “There are a lot of weeds that seem to get on your line. It’s like dying milfoil. I think both of those bites, the hooks had weeds on them. But they were nice ones.”

While he received bites in the morning hours, Cox said the activity in the pond slowed tremendously and there weren’t nearly as many gizzard shad in the area as there were on Day 1. He left to check some other areas around midday and those didn’t pan out, so he feels the pond still provides his best chance at winning.

“Now, after running around and not catching anything anywhere else, I think if I would have stayed and let the wind start moving and let some things change, I probably could have gotten another quality bite or two,” he explained. “Now I know. I think there are a lot of fish deep in there somewhere. I didn’t realize there were so many shallow spots and humps.”

Alabama’s Wesley Gore landed the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Day, a 5-13 largemouth, but Louisiana’s Greg Hackney still holds the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Tournament with a 7-9 largemouth from Day 1.

Carbondale, Ill., rookie Trey McKinney continues to lead the Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 550 points. Hamner is second with 508 points, followed by Missouri’s Cody Huff in third with 478, Canadian pro Chris Johnston in fourth with 470 and Tennessee’s Jacob Foutz in fifth with 463.

McKinney also leads the Dakota Lithium Bassmaster Rookie of the Year standings followed by Tennessee’s John Garrett in second with 459 points and Alabama’s Wesley Gore in third, also with 459 points.

The Top 50 remaining pros will launch from Ingalls Harbor at 6 a.m. CT Saturday and return for weigh-in at 2 p.m. Top 10 anglers will then compete on Championship Sunday for the top prize of $100,000 and a blue trophy.

Bassmaster LIVE coverage begins at 8 a.m. ET Saturday on FS1 until 1 p.m. before moving to Bassmaster.com from 1 p.m. until weigh-in at 3 p.m.

The tournament is being hosted by Decatur Morgan County Tourism.

2024 Whataburger Bassmaster Elite at Wheeler Lake 6/13-6/16
Wheeler Lake, Decatur  AL.
(PROFESSIONAL) Standings Day 2

   Angler                   Hometown              No./lbs-oz  Pts   Total $$$

1.  Cliff Prince           Palatka, FL             10  39-11  103
  Day 1: 5   19-04     Day 2: 5   20-07   
2.  Justin Hamner          Northport, AL           10  37-03  102
  Day 1: 5   16-11     Day 2: 5   20-08   
3.  John Cox               Debary, FL              10  34-13  101
  Day 1: 5   22-02     Day 2: 5   12-11   
4.  John Crews Jr          Salem, VA               10  34-08  100
  Day 1: 5   18-02     Day 2: 5   16-06   
5.  John Garrett           Union City, TN          10  33-13   99
  Day 1: 5   19-07     Day 2: 5   14-06   
6.  Ray Hanselman Jr       Del Rio, TX             10  33-04   98
  Day 1: 5   15-08     Day 2: 5   17-12   
7.  Alex Redwine           Blue Ash, OH            10  33-03   97
  Day 1: 5   13-11     Day 2: 5   19-08   
8.  Wesley Gore            Clanton, AL             10  32-11   96   $1,000.00
  Day 1: 5   17-09     Day 2: 5   15-02   
9.  Alex Wetherell         Middletown, CT          10  31-10   95
  Day 1: 5   16-03     Day 2: 5   15-07   
10. Jay Przekurat          Plover, WI              10  31-09   94
  Day 1: 5   13-08     Day 2: 5   18-01   
11. Seth Feider            New Market, MN          10  31-01   93
  Day 1: 5   15-14     Day 2: 5   15-03   
12. Cole Sands             Calhoun , TN            10  30-05   92
  Day 1: 5   14-02     Day 2: 5   16-03   
13. Greg Hackney           Gonzales, LA            10  30-04   91   $1,000.00
  Day 1: 5   18-05     Day 2: 5   11-15   
14. Matty Wong             Honolulu, HI            10  29-15   90
  Day 1: 5   19-06     Day 2: 5   10-09   
15. Caleb Sumrall          New Iberia, LA          10  29-14   89
  Day 1: 5   14-01     Day 2: 5   15-13   
16. Hunter Shryock         Ooltewah, TN            10  29-11   88
  Day 1: 5   14-06     Day 2: 5   15-05   
17. KJ Queen               Catawba, NC             10  29-10   87
  Day 1: 5   13-15     Day 2: 5   15-11   
18. Wes Logan              Springville, AL         10  29-08   86
  Day 1: 5   14-12     Day 2: 5   14-12   
19. Logan Parks            Auburn, AL              10  29-07   85
  Day 1: 5   13-02     Day 2: 5   16-05   
20. Lee Livesay            Longview, TX            10  29-00   84
  Day 1: 5   15-04     Day 2: 5   13-12   
21. Justin Atkins          Florence, AL            10  28-14   83
  Day 1: 5   16-00     Day 2: 5   12-14   
22. Brandon Palaniuk       Rathdrum, ID            10  28-14   82
  Day 1: 5   15-12     Day 2: 5   13-02   
23. Bernie Schultz         Gainesville, FL         10  28-12   81
  Day 1: 5   12-01     Day 2: 5   16-11   
24. Jacob Foutz            Charleston, TN          10  28-09   80
  Day 1: 5   14-04     Day 2: 5   14-05   
25. Clark Wendlandt        Leander, TX             10  28-06   79
  Day 1: 5   16-09     Day 2: 5   11-13   
26. Jacob Powroznik        North Prince George, VA 10  28-01   78
  Day 1: 5   12-10     Day 2: 5   15-07   
27. Keith Combs            Huntington, TX          10  28-01   77
  Day 1: 5   12-14     Day 2: 5   15-03   
28. Brad Whatley           Bivins, TX              10  28-00   76
  Day 1: 5   15-07     Day 2: 5   12-09   
29. Cooper Gallant         Bowmanville Ontario CAN 10  27-14   75
  Day 1: 5   15-09     Day 2: 5   12-05   
29. Caleb Kuphall          Mukwonago, WI           10  27-14   75
  Day 1: 5   12-05     Day 2: 5   15-09   
31. Drew Cook              Cairo, GA               10  27-12   73
  Day 1: 5   18-00     Day 2: 5   09-12   
32. Trey McKinney          Carbondale, IL          10  27-07   72
  Day 1: 5   12-14     Day 2: 5   14-09   
33. Brandon Cobb           Greenwood, SC           10  27-02   71
  Day 1: 5   11-08     Day 2: 5   15-10   
34. Gregory DiPalma        Millville, NJ           10  27-02   70
  Day 1: 5   12-05     Day 2: 5   14-13   
35. Mark Menendez          Paducah, KY             10  26-15   69
  Day 1: 5   14-05     Day 2: 5   12-10   
36. Patrick Walters        Eutawville, SC          10  26-14   68
  Day 1: 5   14-00     Day 2: 5   12-14   
37. Kyle Welcher           Valley, AL              10  26-11   67
  Day 1: 5   15-06     Day 2: 5   11-05   
38. Frank Talley           Belton, TX              10  26-11   66
  Day 1: 5   13-14     Day 2: 5   12-13   
39. Cody Huff              Ava, MO                 10  26-07   65
  Day 1: 5   12-12     Day 2: 5   13-11   
40. Will Davis Jr          Sylacauga, AL           10  26-04   64
  Day 1: 5   14-04     Day 2: 5   12-00   
41. Tyler Williams         Belgrade, ME            10  25-15   63
  Day 1: 5   12-12     Day 2: 5   13-03   
42. Carl Jocumsen          Queensland TN AUSTRALIA 10  25-01   62
  Day 1: 5   09-13     Day 2: 5   15-04   
43. JT Thompkins           Myrtle Beach, SC         9  25-01   61
  Day 1: 4   11-03     Day 2: 5   13-14   
44. Scott Canterbury       Odenville, AL           10  25-00   60
  Day 1: 5   11-14     Day 2: 5   13-02   
45. Pat Schlapper          Eleva, WI               10  24-14   59
  Day 1: 5   11-00     Day 2: 5   13-14   
46. Gerald Swindle         Guntersville, AL        10  24-12   58
  Day 1: 5   10-00     Day 2: 5   14-12   
47. Hank Cherry Jr         Lincolnton, NC          10  24-11   57
  Day 1: 5   10-07     Day 2: 5   14-04   
48. Brandon Card           Salisbury, NC           10  24-04   56
  Day 1: 5   16-10     Day 2: 5   07-10   
49. Bob Downey             Detroit Lakes, MN       10  24-03   55
  Day 1: 5   08-03     Day 2: 5   16-00   
50. Clifford Pirch         Payson, AZ              10  24-02   54
  Day 1: 5   14-10     Day 2: 5   09-08   
51. Chris Zaldain          Fort Worth, TX          10  24-01   53   $2,500.00
  Day 1: 5   11-05     Day 2: 5   12-12   
52. Robert Gee             Knoxville, TN           10  24-01   52   $2,500.00
  Day 1: 5   12-10     Day 2: 5   11-07   
53. Jeff Gustafson         Kenora, ON Ontario CANA 10  24-00   51   $2,500.00
  Day 1: 5   14-01     Day 2: 5   09-15   
54. Matt Herren            Ashville, AL            10  23-15   50   $2,500.00
  Day 1: 5   11-13     Day 2: 5   12-02   
55. Kenta Kimura           Osaka OK JAPAN          10  23-14   49   $2,500.00
  Day 1: 5   11-05     Day 2: 5   12-09   
56. Chad Pipkens           Dewitt, MI              10  23-13   48   $2,500.00
  Day 1: 5   13-03     Day 2: 5   10-10   
57. Chris Johnston         Otonabee Ontario CANADA 10  23-13   47   $2,500.00
  Day 1: 5   11-11     Day 2: 5   12-02   
58. Jonathan Kelley        Old Forge, PA           10  23-11   46   $2,500.00
  Day 1: 5   12-06     Day 2: 5   11-05   
59. Tyler Rivet            Raceland, LA            10  23-10   45   $2,500.00
  Day 1: 5   13-02     Day 2: 5   10-08   
60. Drew Benton            Panama City, FL         10  23-09   44   $2,500.00
  Day 1: 5   12-11     Day 2: 5   10-14   
61. Bryant Smith           Roseville, CA            9  22-13   43   $2,500.00
  Day 1: 5   16-13     Day 2: 4   06-00   
62. Kyoya Fujita           Yamanashi CA JAPAN      10  22-13   42   $2,500.00
  Day 1: 5   07-04     Day 2: 5   15-09   
63. Bill Lowen             Brookville, IN          10  22-12   41   $2,500.00
  Day 1: 5   12-10     Day 2: 5   10-02   
64. Matt Robertson         Kuttawa, KY             10  22-10   40   $2,500.00
  Day 1: 5   10-13     Day 2: 5   11-13   
65. Brock Mosley           Collinsville, MS        10  22-09   39   $2,500.00
  Day 1: 5   11-11     Day 2: 5   10-14   
66. Shane LeHew            Catawba, NC             10  22-08   38   $2,500.00
  Day 1: 5   12-12     Day 2: 5   09-12   
67. Bryan New              Leesville, SC           10  21-13   37   $2,500.00
  Day 1: 5   10-07     Day 2: 5   11-06   
68. Marc Frazier           Newnan, GA              10  20-15   36
  Day 1: 5   08-00     Day 2: 5   12-15   
69. Rick Clunn             Ava, MO                 10  20-14   35
  Day 1: 5   12-01     Day 2: 5   08-13   
70. Kyle Patrick           Cooperstown, NY         10  20-08   34
  Day 1: 5   13-06     Day 2: 5   07-02   
71. David Gaston           Sylacauga, AL           10  20-08   33
  Day 1: 5   13-05     Day 2: 5   07-03   
72. Ben Milliken           New Caney, TX           10  20-08   32
  Day 1: 5   13-00     Day 2: 5   07-08   
73. Koby Kreiger           Alva, FL                10  20-02   31
  Day 1: 5   12-05     Day 2: 5   07-13   
74. Buddy Gross            Chattanooga, TN         10  20-01   30
  Day 1: 5   06-06     Day 2: 5   13-11   
75. Logan Latuso           Gonzales, LA            10  19-14   29
  Day 1: 5   10-00     Day 2: 5   09-14   
76. Bryan Schmitt          Deale, MD               10  19-11   28
  Day 1: 5   05-14     Day 2: 5   13-13   
77. Matt Arey              Shelby, NC              10  19-09   27
  Day 1: 5   10-09     Day 2: 5   09-00   
78. Joey Cifuentes III     Clinton, AR              9  19-04   26
  Day 1: 5   12-07     Day 2: 4   06-13   
79. John Soukup            Sapulpa, OK             10  19-00   25
  Day 1: 5   10-00     Day 2: 5   09-00   
80. Todd Auten             Clover, SC              10  18-11   24
  Day 1: 5   08-08     Day 2: 5   10-03   
81. Timothy Dube           Nashua , NH              6  18-10   23
  Day 1: 5   16-09     Day 2: 1   02-01   
82. Scott Martin           Clewiston, FL           10  18-07   22
  Day 1: 5   09-11     Day 2: 5   08-12   
83. Kyle Norsetter         Cottage Grove, WI        9  18-03   21
  Day 1: 5   08-00     Day 2: 4   10-03   
84. Austin Felix           Eden Prairie, MN        10  18-00   20
  Day 1: 5   12-01     Day 2: 5   05-15   
85. Joseph Webster         Hamilton, AL            10  17-11   19
  Day 1: 5   07-14     Day 2: 5   09-13   
86. Brandon Lester         Fayetteville, TN        10  17-07   18
  Day 1: 5   07-11     Day 2: 5   09-12   
87. Luke Palmer            Coalgate, OK            10  17-06   17
  Day 1: 5   11-13     Day 2: 5   05-09   
88. Cory Johnston          Otonabee CANADA          9  17-06   16
  Day 1: 5   09-09     Day 2: 4   07-13   
89. Jason Christie         Dry Creek, OK           10  17-04   15
  Day 1: 5   08-10     Day 2: 5   08-10   
90. Taku Ito               Dalton GA JAPAN         10  16-07   14
  Day 1: 5   07-07     Day 2: 5   09-00   
91. David Mullins          Mt Carmel, TN            9  16-02   13
  Day 1: 5   09-15     Day 2: 4   06-03   
92. Jordan Lee             Cullman, AL              8  15-07   12
  Day 1: 5   11-12     Day 2: 3   03-11   
93. Jason Williamson       Aiken, SC                9  15-01   11
  Day 1: 5   08-02     Day 2: 4   06-15   
94. Stetson Blaylock       Benton, AR               9  14-13   10
  Day 1: 4   07-08     Day 2: 5   07-05   
95. Jake Whitaker          Hendersonville, NC       8  14-04    9
  Day 1: 5   09-02     Day 2: 3   05-02   
96. Michael Iaconelli      Pitts Grove, NJ          8  12-04    8
  Day 1: 3   02-13     Day 2: 5   09-07   
97. Mike Huff              London, KY               7  12-04    7
  Day 1: 2   04-11     Day 2: 5   07-09   
98. Paul Mueller           Naugatuck, CT            7  11-10    6
  Day 1: 5   06-15     Day 2: 2   04-11   
99. Steve Kennedy          Auburn, AL               3  02-14    5
  Day 1: 2   00-13     Day 2: 1   02-01   
———————————————————————–

PHOENIX BOATS BIG BASS 
Day
 1   Greg Hackney             Gonzales, LA        07-09      $1,000.00
 2   Wesley Gore              Clanton, AL         05-13      $1,000.00

———————————————————————–
Totals
Day   #Limits    #Fish      Weight
 1        94       485      1227-13
 2        88       474      1161-02
———————————-
         182       959      2388-15



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