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Monday, April 29, 2013
Heading in to the recent Everstart Northern Division fishing tournament at Smith Mountain Lake, Scott Howard was concerned about how things might work out.
Howard, who lives in Evington, had entered the tournament as a co-angler.
That means he would be relegated to the boat’s back seat, and essentially would have to follow the lead of the angler in the front.
“I knew it was going to be a bedding tournament,” Howard said, using the term to describe sight-fishing for bass on spawning beds.
A sight-fishing tournament can be a real challenge for a co-angler because the man controlling the boat typically gets the first shot at fish.
Yet Howard was able to overcome that handicap to take the tournament’s co-angler division, winning a $30,000 Ranger boat.
He credited his three partners with helping him.
Things went well from Day One.
“I was very fortunate to draw a boater who caught his five and then took me to my spots,” Howard said.
That boater was John Hutchins of Warrenton, who ended up finishing 13th on the pro side.
Howard, a 28-year-old machinist, had an 11-pound, 1-ounce bag, good enough for third place.
The next day, fishing with South Carolina’s Ron Brown, Howard had an even better day, coming to the scales with 11 pounds, 11 ounces.
That moved him up to second, about a half-pound behind Dennis Burdette of West Virginia.
Again, Howard’s draw paid off.
Brown had struggled on the tournament’s first day, with just 4 pounds, 7 ounces. Knowing he was out if it, he instead deferred to Howard.
On the tournament’s final day Howard ended up with Joe Wood of Westport, Mass.
Wood would end up finishing second on the pro side behind Ron Nelson of Berrien Springs, Mich.
Howard’s three-bass catch of 6 pounds, 3 ounces gave him a cushion of just over a pound over runner up Manuel Cruz of New Jersey.
Howard has had some good results in Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League events, but the Everstart win was by far his biggest victory.
Several of the tourney’s top 10 co-anglers were fishing their home lake.
Troutville’s Josh DeMaury was fourth, while Brent Chapman of Union Hall was fifth. Justin Hicks of Roanoke finished 10th.
On the pro side, several locals were in contention but couldn’t fight off a tough trio from the north led by Nelson and Wood.
Chris Johnston of Peterborough, Ontario , was third.
“I felt like I was back home in Michigan,” Nelson said of fishing the cool and clear Smith Mountain Lake. “The lake is really diverse.”
Helping him feel at home were local hosts Bruce and Karla Losota, Michigan natives who now live on the lake.
Nelson’s performance was amazingly consistent.
After bringing a 16-pound, 15-ounce bag to the scales on Thursday, he was back the next day with 16 pounds even.
That was good enough to put him in a tie with Wood for second, behind Johnston.
Another 16-pound bag on the final day gave Nelson a three day total of 48 pounds, 15 ounces for an 11-ounce cushion over Wood.
Nelson said he caught nearly all of his fish sight-fishing for spawners, but he did catch a nice bass on a spinnerbait early Saturday.
He said that 3 1⁄2-pound fish was a key to the win because it took some of the pressure off.
Nelson’s main bed-fishing lures were a Zoom Speed Craw and an Erie Darter, both in green pumpkin color.
In a nod to his northern fishing experience, he opted for a lighter outfit than many of his competitors, using a spinning rig loaded with 10-pound test line to target bedded fish.
Derik Hudson of Hurt was the top local, finishing fourth with a three-day total weight of 45 pounds, 13 ounces.
Philip Jarabeck of Lynchburg was fifth, an award he took while his uncle, pro angler David Dudley, proudly stood by and watched.
Donald Sheffey Jr., who lives in Concord and is a regular on the region’s tournament scene, was sixth, while Luke Nichols of Moneta was eighth.
This weekend brings yet another big tournament to Smith Mountain Lake.
This time it’s the annual Cave Spring Optimist Club’s tournament, which runs Friday morning through noon Sunday and features six eligible species: catfish, muskellunge, crappie, and smallmouth, largemouth and striped bass.
More information on the tournament is available by calling Gills Creek Marina, the host facility, at 721-2451.
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