DANDRIDGE, Tenn. -- Though it may appear like Bobby Ferguson dominated the 160-boat field at the third and final Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open, the Chuckey, Tenn., angler had his doubts during three days of fishing. He’s won many tournaments on Douglas Lake, but this Open presented some of the stiffest competition he’s ever faced.
Ferguson has fished Douglas for more than 10 years, and he had to dig deep into his wealth of knowledge to claim his first B.A.S.S. win. He sacked 15-15 for a three-day total of 61-9, more than 4 pounds ahead of runner-up Rogne Brown.
“This one feels really good,” he said. “There was a lot of tough competition out there. Any time you go into a tournament and you’ve got the likes of Tim Smiley and other local guys looking down your back, you’re in for a run.”
Over the three days of competition, Ferguson’s bite dwindled, forcing him to scramble somewhat to keep the lead after pack-leading stringers the first two days. Luckily, those hefty bags totaling 45-plus-pounds gave him enough of a lead that he could afford a slight faltering the final day.
Rather than an off and on bite, Day Three showed Ferguson a slow bite. He managed to snag his two best fish in the final 30 minutes of competition.
Ferguson focused on ledges in 25- to 30-feet of water on Day Three, pulling one bass from 36 feet. He relied on a trio of baits, none of which he went into details about: a crankbait, soft swimbait and swimming jig. His crankbait bite was early, then once the sun got up Ferguson focused on suspended fish.
“Suspended fish are the hardest fish that you’ll ever fish for,” he said. “It seemed like those bigger fish got out over points and suspended.”
Ferguson also had to contend with spectators encroaching on his fish. After he blasted off, a 35-boat armada and a helicopter followed him down the lake, with the chopper lingering for nearly 15 minutes.
“I have no idea what that was about,” Ferguson said about the helicopter. “But, I left two holes and came back a little later and there were spectator boats fishing them. That can be aggravating.”
For his win, Ferguson won $10,000 cash as well as a Nitro Z9 boat with a 225-horsepower Mercury Optimax motor. Since he did not fish the previous two Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Opens, Ferguson is not eligible for the Bassmaster Classic berth he would have earned otherwise.
Rogne Brown of Hixson, Tenn., mounted an admirable comeback try on the third day, catching 19-9 for a 57-4 total. Tim Smiley of White Pine, Tenn., caught 15-14 on Day Three for a total of 54-6, good enough for third place.
In fourth place is Tommy Bryant of Knoxville, Tenn., who managed 12-12 on Day Three for a total of 44-2, and in fifth place is Roland Martin of Naples, Fla., who made a big move with 17-4 to wind up with 43-1.
On the co-angler side, Tim Robinson of Creedmoor, N.C., took home a brand new Triton/Mercury boat and motor package for his winning catch of 19-15, 5-14 of which he caught on Day Three.
“This takes a lot of pressure off of me,” he said amid an upwelling of tears after the last co-angler weighed. “I can’t thank the good Lord enough for this win, He’s been so good to me.”
Robinson was trailed closely by Dan Jolly of Houston, Texas, who made a run at Robinson with a Day Three catch of 6-1, which gave him a total of 19-7.
In third place is Jonathan Holland of Elkmont, Ala., who caught 6-10 on Day Three, giving him 19-4. In fourth place is Jack Morgan of Lake Placid, Fla., with 18-15. Rounding out the top five co-anglers is Jason Patterson of Bluffton, Ind., who totaled of 18-2.
This stop concludes the 2011 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Opens season. The next Bass Pro Shops Open is out of Richmond, Va., where the Northern circuit will open on the James River, July 7-9.
The top five pros in the Southern Opens points race are offered spots in the 2012 Bassmaster Elite Series. They were: Gerald Swindle, Brandon Card, Ott Defoe, Cliff Prince and Britt Myers. Card and Prince are the only two not currently Elite Series pros.