EUFAULA, Ala. – It was do or die, and Rob Digh did it. (Three times fast – anyone?)
The North Carolina standout entered the last day of the B.A.S.S. Nation Southern Divisional atop the field on Lake Eufaula. Trailing in second, Florida stick Chad Prough caught his biggest bag of the event – a 20-pound, 2-ounce limit – and put some serious heat on the winner.
However, buoyed by his Day 2 weight of 22-13 – the tournament’s largest sack – Digh added 16-14 in the final round and surged across the finish line with a three-day total of 54-15 and a 2-pound, 1-ounce winning margin.
Fishing grass in about 6 inches to 3 feet of water, Digh was mostly targeting bed fish. He wasn’t sight fishing; rather, he was working areas where he knew Eufaula’s remaining spawners would position.
Digh fished a ChatterBait with a Zoom Speed Craw trailer and he also pitched a 1/2-ounce Outlaw jig with a Zoom Big Salty Chunk trailer. Compared to his huge second-round sack, his Day 3 productivity dropped off a good bit. Digh, however, said he was happy with his catch.
“Anytime you catch 16 pounds, it’s a good day on the water,” Digh said. “I struggled a little bit with my bigger fish today, and I lost several nice fish. I had trouble getting them out of the grass. They’d come up and swipe at the bait and they’d (sometimes) miss it. We were around them; I just didn’t get all mine in the boat.”
Overall, the Day 3 weights were considerably better than the previous two days. The final day yielded five bags larger than 20 pounds, including a 21-pound, 4-ounce limit from the top high school team, Alabama’s Zeke Gossett and Hayden Bartee. Their catch was the tournament’s third largest.
The average fish was a little less than 3 pounds. The Top 10 had 44 pounds, 9 ounces or more, but the vast majority of competitors brought in 25 to 34 pounds for their total weight. Day 3 saw 55 anglers catch limits.
The week’s weather was quite the see-saw, as an approaching cold front brought chilly rain the day before the tournament and then followed with high pressure and bright skies on Day 1. Air and water temperatures warmed on Day 2, while cloudy skies provided a welcome break from the previous day’s bluebird conditions.
Rain returned for Day 3, as a downpour met anglers at the morning launch and stayed with them through the final weigh-ins. Digh said his fishing results offered a predictable reflection of these conditions.
“The cold weather hindered me the first day, and then the warming trend the second day really helped my fishing,” Digh said. “Today was very tough. It was a good thing for fishing, but mentally, it worked on you.”
In addition to winning the event, Digh was also the top angler for his team. The North Carolina B.A.S.S. Nation state team had three anglers in the Top 12 and placed second in the state competition with 465 pounds, 10 ounces. Alabama, the host state, won the state competition with 485-6, and Georgia placed third with 456-2.
With his Southern Divisional win, Digh earned an invitation to the 2014 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, Nov. 6-8 on Louisiana’s Ouachita River. Other state winners, who also qualified for the Nation Championship with Digh, are Coby Carden, Alabama; Chad Prough, Florida; Waine Pittman, Georgia; Michael Boggs, Kentucky; Will Duncan, South Carolina; and Raleigh Todd, Tennessee. Carden competed in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic in Birmingham, Ala., via the Nation and is looking to go back in 2015.
Digh won $250 Thursday from Livingston Lures for being the Day 2 leader. Jack Smith, of Cadiz, Tenn., won the Carhartt Big Bass honors, a $500 prize awarded to the angler who caught the biggest bass of the tournament.
2014 B.A.S.S. Nation Official Sponsors: Toyota, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Evan Williams Bourbon, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha
2014 B.A.S.S. Nation Supporting Sponsors: Boat US, Booyah, Carhartt, Diet Mountain Dew, Livingston Lures, Lowrance, Plano, Power-Pole, Rigid Industries, Shimano