When BASS launched the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2006, it made a commitment to bringing the best anglers in the world to the best fishing destinations in the country at some of the very best times to be there. That plan has paid off big — as in 100-pound catches big!
Breaking the century mark in a BASS tournament is nothing new. In BASS' fifth event, the 1968 Eufaula National, a couple of anglers surpassed the 100-pound barrier, including six-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier John Powell, who won the tournament with 132 pounds.Back then, events ran just three days, not four like the Elite Series of today. But the creel limit was 15 bass, as opposed to today's five. So Powell and his competition were entitled to weigh in as many as 45 bass, whereas the Elite Series pros max out at just 20.Maintaining a 5-pound per bass average over four days is no small feat, even on the best bass waters in the country.
THE PERFECT DAY
The modern era (five-bass limit) of the Century Club began in 2001, when Dean Rojas posted the first three-digit tally at the Florida Bassmaster Top 150 on Lake Tohopekaliga. His 108-pound, 12-ounce catch included the greatest day in BASS tournament history, when his best five the first day of that event tallied a whopping 45 pounds, 2 ounces.
It seemed that all of nature's forces conspired to create the scenario for Rojas' catch. A week before the tournament started, it was unseasonably cold in Central Florida, keeping the big females off the bedsThen it got warmer— for eight consecutive days. On the afternoon of the last practice day, a giant wave of Toho's big females made their way to the spawning grounds."I couldn't believe what I saw," Rojas said about that afternoon. "I saw 10-pounders, 9-pounders, 8-pounders everywhere. And another 10 over there. And an 11 over there!"When asked about the weigh-in stage theatrics, Rojas said, "I truly believe that you guys witnessed something that will probably never be duplicated ever!"
LUNKERS ON THE BORDER
But Rojas was wrong. Breaking almost any record is just a matter of time ›››or, more precisely, timing, in the case of BASS' all-time tournament records. And timing was exactly what the Bassmaster Elite Series would have in abundance. Already blessed with the best fishermen, the Elite Series would put them in the right places at or near the perfect times not only for displaying their skills, but also for the quality of the fisheries they visit.
Debuting on Lake Amistad in March of 2006, the Elite Series began where BASS had never been before, a border lake shared with Mexico. Months before the event, the anglers were talking about the huge bass they were catching in practice. Surely Rojas' record would finally fall after five years.Again, warming weather and shallow bass set the stage. Ish Monroe simultaneously worked three patterns for prespawn, spawning and postspawn bass all over the border reservoir, boating three bass that weighed better than 9 pounds each over four days. His 20 best weighed 104 pounds, 8 ounces — not enough to oust Rojas, but more than enough to claim his first BASS title. Rojas was safe ›››for another couple of weeks.
A NEW "DEAN" OF BASS RECORDS
2006 was a very good year for Preston Clark. It started with the first day of the Bassmaster Classic on Lake Toho when Clark brought an 11-pound, 10-ounce lunker to the scales, beating the 30-year-old big bass record by more than 3 pounds! A little over a month later, Clark put it all together at South Carolina's Santee Cooper Reservoir to eclipse Rojas' record and set the bar at 115 pounds, 15 ounces.Again, the perfect scenario for big catches played out in South Carolina. A lingering cold spell during practice was replaced by sunny days and warm nights, pushing big female bass into the shallows.Amazingly, Clark had a lousy practice period before the Santee Cooper event. He found beds, but no bass.Then, on the last day of practice, he found some buck bass in those same areas."I knew that something magical could happen," he said.And it did. His first two casts of the competition produced back-to-back 9-pounders. His first day's catch weighed 39 pounds, 6 ounces.In all, six Santee Cooper anglers broke the century mark, including Rojas.
BACK TO THE BORDER
When the Elite Series returned to Amistad in 2007, the pros were ready to make another run at history and the all-time tournament mark. This time the assault was led by a rookie.Derek Remitz became the first rookie to win an Elite Series event by posting a four-day total of 111 pounds, 7 ounces, as four anglers bested 100 pounds for the tournament. It also marked the first time that sight fishing was not an integral part of the winner's approach.Instead, Remitz was working deep ledges for prespawn bass, fishing 15 to 30 feet deep with jigs and crankbaits.The other anglers with better than 100 pounds targeted prespawn bass, as well, fishing from 6 to 30 feet deep with creature baits, swimbaits and stickworms.
Going into the 2007 Elite Series season, the buzz on the California Delta was that it would obliterate the big numbers that had been posted at Toho, Santee and Amistad. But the weather didn't cooperate.
Instead, the 2007 locale that earned a place in the record books was Clear Lake. And, once again, "perfect storm" conditions came together to create the right stuff for record breaking. A full moon occurred the week before the tournament, practice conditions were tough, and cold mornings were replaced by bright and warming afternoons. With a dearth of aquatic vegetation, the bass moved up to obvious, visible cover, and the pros were waiting.
First in line was Steve Kennedy, who had honed his skills with a swimbait by catching over 100 pounds of bass at the Amistad tournament three weeks earlier. Rounds of 20-0, 29-13, 40-7 and 32-10 pushed him past Clark's record total by almost 7 full pounds. His best area was swarming with dozens of bass weighing better than 5 pounds and willing to attack his swimbaits."I was lucky to find the places I did with schools of big bass," Kennedy said. "I'll never forget it."
Neither will anyone else.
WHO'S WHO IN THE CENTURY CLUB?
The king of BASS' Century Club is Kennedy. The 2006 Toyota Rookie of the Year has surpassed the 100-pound mark three times in the past two years, first at Santee Cooper in 2006 and again at Amistad and Clear Lake in 2007. And he nearly did it a fourth time! At Amistad in 2006, Kennedy finished fifth with 97 pounds, 3 ounces. With his Clear Lake win, Kennedy obliterated Clark's record and set the bar at 122 pounds, 14 ounces — averaging better than 6 pounds per fish and 30 pounds per day!Rojas, Skeet Reese and Kelly Jordon are all two-time club qualifiers. Reese has the second highest total ever recorded in the five-bass, four-day era, as well as the eighth best tally of all time. Unfortunately, he has no wins to his credit, just a second-place finish at Clear Lake in 2007 and a third-place showing at Santee Cooper in 2006.Jordon may have the biggest gripe. Twice he's topped 100 pounds, never finishing better than fifth and never within 12 pounds of the winner!But he's not complaining. Who could sympathize?
BASS CENTURY CLUB (FIVE-BASS LIMIT/FOUR DAYS)
1. Steven Kennedy, 122 pounds 14 ounces, Clear Lake, California, March 29-April 1, 2007
2. Skeet Reese, 117 pounds 6 ounces, Clear Lake, California, March 29-April 1, 2007
3. Preston Clark, 115 pounds 15 ounces, Santee Cooper, S.C., March 30-April 2, 2006
4. Derek Remitz, 111 pounds 7 ounces, Lake Amistad, Texas, March 8-11, 2007
5. Dean Rojas, 108 pounds 12 ounces, Lake Tohopekaliga, Florida, January 17-20, 2001
6. Aaron Martens, 108 pounds 4 ounces, Santee Cooper, S.C., March 30-April 2, 2006
7. Greg Gutierrez, 108 pounds 1 ounce, Clear Lake, California, March 29-April 1, 2007
8. Skeet Reese, 108 pounds 0 ounces, Santee Cooper, S.C., March 30-April 2, 2006
9. Gerald Swindle, 105 pounds 8 ounces, Clear Lake, California, March 29-April 1, 2007
10. Ishama Monroe, 104 pounds 8 ounces, Lake Amistad, Texas, March 9-12, 2006
11. Steve Kennedy, 104 pounds 2 ounces, Santee Cooper, S.C., March 30-April 2, 2006
12. Michael Iaconelli, 103 pounds, 11 ounces, Lake Amistad, Texas, March 8-11, 2007
13. Kelly Jordon, 103 pounds 3 ounces, Santee Cooper, S.C., March 30-April 2, 2006
14. John Murray, 103 pounds 1 ounce, Clear Lake, California, March 29-April 1, 2007
15. Kelly Jordon 102 pounds 10 ounces, Clear Lake, California, March 29-April 1, 2007
16. Dean Rojas, 102 pounds 10 ounces, Santee Cooper, S.C., March 30-April 2, 2006
17. Paul Elias, 101 pounds 15 ounces, Clear Lake, California, March 29-April 1, 2007
18. Fred Roumbanis, 101 pounds 13 ounces, Lake Amistad, Texas, March 9-12, 2006
19. Steve Kennedy, 101 pounds 10 ounces, Lake Amistad, Texas, March 8-11, 2007
20. Todd Faircloth, 100 pounds 5 ounces, Lake Amistad, Texas, March 8-11, 2007
1. Clear Lake, California, No. 7
2. Santee Cooper, S.C., No. 6
2. Lake Amistad, Texas, 6
4. Lake Tohopekaliga, Florida, 1