In an already outstanding tournament, Nate Wellman of Newaygo, Mich., put an exclamation mark on one of the most impressive performances of the 2010 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open season by landing a 22-15 limit on Saturday, the heaviest day of the event.
The next closest competitor, Kyle Walling of Fisherville, Ky., finished in second by more than 15 pounds. Wellman had most of his limit by 9:00 this morning and spent the rest of the day helping his co-angler catch fish. For his win, Wellman takes home $27,000.
"I knew that if I could catch 10 pounds I'd be doing pretty well, and if I caught 12 pounds I'd have it sealed," he said. "But today was just unbelievable. My goal going into this season was to make the Elite Series, and I have that wrapped up."
Wellman, who finished third and locked up an Elite Series berth, stuck to his deeper water bite Saturday and with the tide being extra-low, it was better than any of the previous days.
"I knew that if I was going to win this thing, it would be from that one spot," Wellman said referring to a sunken log surrounded by chunky gravel and rocks. "The tide was so low today that it sucked all the fish from the surrounding flats into it and I hammered them."
His go to bait was a Texas-rigged Zoom Baby Brush Hog in black and blue, but he also lobbed a Bama Bug-color Zoom Trick Worm as he tried to upgrade his catch. The key for him was to work the baits extremely slowly, sometimes moving it only three or four inches at a time.
"The bites were really subtle and they almost felt like bluegill tapping it," said Wellman. "Sometimes I had to let them take it and eat it for 10 seconds before I'd hammer them."
Walling made a hard charge to the top on Day Three, toting 15-3 to the scales for a total of 37-14. In third was Elite Series pro Pat Golden of High Point, N.C., with a three-day total of 34-12. In fourth was Darin Doll of York, Pa., with 34-4 and in fifth was Donald Haskins of Rosedale, Md., with 32-12.
On the co-angler side, Moo Bae of West Friendship, Md., will add another boat to his garage. For his win, he will take home a Triton 18XS with a 150-horsepower Mercury outboard. Bae won the 2009 Bassmaster Northern Open on the Chesapeake Bay and took home a boat for that win as well.
"I just wanted a chance to be competitive here, and to win a second time is great, I'm speechless," Bae said as he was awarded his trophy.
Bae, who had a three-day total of 17-8, relied on a 4-inch Roboworm on a drop shot rig that he tossed adjacent to grassbeds along the shore. Behind Bae was Mike McDonald of Randleman, N.C., who managed to retain the second place position despite not catching any fish today. His total was 15-12. In third was Jess Salmon of Milford, N.J., with 15-5.
In the race for Bassmaster Classic berths, Ryan Said of Michigan took the Bassmaster Northern Open points championship and was awarded his first Classic berth. Tracy Adams of Wilkesboro, N.C., finished second and took a Classic berth. The first seven competitors in the points standings earned Elite Series berths.