Ben Todd of Pierson, Fla., weighed a five-bass limit totaling 16 pounds, 3 ounces Saturday to lead wire-to-wire and win the EverStart Series Southeast Division event on Lake Okeechobee with a three-day total of 15 bass weighing 59 pounds, 3 ounces. For his victory, Todd earned $40,000.
“I’m speechless,” said Todd, whose previous career-high finish was a sixth-place finish in 2012 on the FLW Tour at Wheeler Lake as a co-angler. “After yesterday, I thought my fish were gone and I had slipped. This still hasn’t set in for me.”
Todd jumped out to a big lead on Thursday after weighing in a huge stringer of 31-7 – the lone 30-pound bag weighed in for the tournament. After word got out where Todd was fishing, he faltered on day 2 and weighed in only 11 pounds, 9 ounces. Todd said all of his fish the first two days came on a river bug-colored Gambler Fat Ace.
“My area just got bombarded,” Todd said. “After catching 20 fish on the first day, my numbers and size really dropped from all of the pressure on day two. I started there again this morning but it just wasn’t the same. I switched it up and started throwing a purple Tightlines UVenko and was able to scratch out a small 8-pound limit pretty early. The morning bite fizzled, though, and I decided to try some new areas on the east side of the lake.
“Nothing was working for me,” Todd continued. “I spent all day thinking I had lost the tournament. Around 2 p.m. I made the decision to return to my original area one last time. It turned out to be the right decision – a couple of new big females had just moved up. I was able to catch a 9-pounder and a 3-pounder in 10 minutes. I still didn’t think that it would be enough, though. I figured I was a couple of ounces short, but it ended up being the key to my win.
“The area I was fishing was a ½-mile stretch between the J&S Park and Henry Creek Locks,” Todd said. “I targeted the eelgrass and reeds, and concentrated on covering them from the inside to out. The water was pretty stained; I couldn’t see the fish on beds. I had found the pattern in my practice time and I just stuck with it.”
Todd competed in the FLW Tour Opens last year as a co-angler, and after a fourth-place finish in the Angler of the Year standings is qualified to fish the Forrest Wood Cup.
“I’m really looking forward to competing in the Cup this year,” Todd went on to say. “All of the credit for my victory today, however, needs to go to God.”
The top 10 pros on Lake Okeechobee were:
1st: Ben Todd, Pierson, Fla., 15 bass, 59-3, $40,000
2nd: Trevor Fitzgerald, Belleview, Fla., 15 bass, 59-3, $ 15,000
3rd: Brandon McMillan, Clewiston, Fla., 15 bass, 56-3, $10,000
4th: Paul Malone, Pleasant Valley, Iowa, 15 bass, 55-8, $9,000
5th: Chris Brill, Lehigh Acres, Fla., 14 bass, 48-4, $8,000
6th: Casey Martin, New Market, Ala., 15 bass, 46-4, $7,000
7th: Kyle Monti, Okeechobee, Fla., 15 bass, 46-2, $6,000
8th: Brandon Medlock, Lake Placid, Fla., 15 bass, 45-9, $5,000
9th: Preston Clark, Eagle Lake, Fla., 15 bass, 44-15, $4,000
10th: Keith Fels, Ocala, Fla., 10 bass, 36-2, $3,000
Todd caught the biggest bass of the tournament in the Pro division Thursday – a 9-pound, 1-ounce bass – that earned him the day’s EverStart Series Big Bass award of $300.
Howard Poitevint of Bainbridge, Ga., won the Co-angler Division and a Ranger Z117 with a 90-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard motor with a three-day total of 15 bass weighing 40 pounds, 13 ounces.
The top 10 co-anglers on Lake Okeechobee were:
1st: Howard Poitevint, Bainbridge, Ga., 15 bass, 40-13, Ranger Z117 with 90-horsepower outboard
2nd: William Wood, West Palm Beach, Fla., 15 bass, 37-11, $5,000
3rd: Raymond Guerra, Port St. Lucie, Fla., 12 bass, 35-0, $4,000
4th: George Saliba, Lakefield, Ont., 12 bass, 33-9, $3,500
5th: Kevin Thomas, Miramar, Fla., 15 bass, 32-8, $3,000
6th: Jim Austin, Lithonia, Ga., 15 bass, 31-15, $2,500
7th: Cole Bailey, Thamesford, Ont., 15 bass, 30-14, $2,000
8th: Dean Harcourt, Sebastian, Fla., 13 bass, 28-6, $1,500
9th: Michael Wiles, Perry, Fla., 11 bass, 26-9, $1,000
10th: Donnie Dodd, Guntersville, Ala., 12 bass, 26-0, $800
Poitevint caught the biggest bass of the tournament in the Co-angler Division Friday – an 8-pound, 12-ounce bass – that earned him the day’s EverStart Series Big Bass award of $200.
The EverStart Series consists of five divisions – Central, Northern, Southeast, Texas and Western. Each division consists of four tournaments and competitors will be vying for valuable points in each division that could earn them the Strike King Angler of the Year title, which allows them to fish the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup.
The next EverStart Series Southeast Division tournament will be Feb. 28-March 2 at Lake Guntersville in Guntersville, Ala., and is hosted by the Marshall County Convention & Visitors Bureau.