GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — Tennessee's Andy Morgan saw an ambitious dream come true on Saturday during the final round of the CITGO Bassmaster Southern Open on Lake Guntersville when he came from behind to win the first BASS event he ever entered.
"My first BASS — I like it," the 33-year-old angler said. "This is sweet. I guess that would be the word for today — sweet."
Morgan entered the finale a pound and 10 ounces behind Florida pro Terry Scroggins. While Scroggins struggled and couldn't catch a limit, Morgan's five bass weighed 17-6 for a three-day total of 56-6 that was good enough for a 2-14 victory (worth $50,000).
Scroggins' four bass totaled just 13-2 (53 1/2 pounds). Tennessee's Marshall Deakins brought in 18-5 Saturday to hold onto third place with 48-1. Todd Wagman of Florida caught a whopping 21-5 to jump from 25th to fourth place (48-1). Tennessee's Jay Kendrick and John Pollard of Alabama tied for fifth with 45-7.
"I was pretty confident," Morgan said. "I knew if I got the early bite I'd be pretty hard to beat. I had a 6-pounder and a 3-pounder in the first 45 minutes and I said, 'Well, I'm off and running.' I knew I could beat out three more the rest of the day. It ended up I caught eight or nine keepers today."
Morgan considers Lake Guntersville one of his "home lakes." And he attributed his heady success in his first BASS action to his intimate knowledge of the 69,100-acre Tennessee River impoundment, which proved especially valuable during this time as the bass are in the fall transition mode — moving shallow from their deep summer lairs, which typically complicates the fishing.
"I've spent a lot of time down here so I know the bottom contour pretty well," Morgan said. "I know the places to look at that usually have concentrations of fish."
Targeting the North and South Sauty Creek area, he concentrated on working deep hydrilla that features a ditch running through it where the depth drops from 4 to 10 feet. All week, Morgan fished those areas with a Zoom Brush Hog creature bait and War Eagle jig.
Unlike the first two days, Morgan had to share his best spot with numerous competitors. But when the wind increased significantly mid-morning, the other anglers left. He then waited for the bass to turn on early in the afternoon, which allowed him to cull a few bass.
Scroggins, 33, theorized that he simply ran out of bass on his best spot in the Goose Pond area.
"I fished it hard, but I couldn't get the bites," he said. "I even picked up a Carolina rig half-way through the day. The water dropped 6 to 8 inches and either that affected it or I just caught all of them and didn't realize it."
His pattern involved flipping a 4-inch Zoom rube teamed with a big 1- or 1 ½-ounce Penetrator weight (tied to 50- or 65-pound test SpiderWire Stealth braid) with a 6/0 Gamakatsu hook into shallow topped-out hydrilla mats.
Deakins, a 53-year-old owner of a cabinet shop owner in Tennessee held onto third place with his game plan of working a topwater frog fished across shallow grass flats.
Wagman, a 45-year-old air conditioning contractor from Winter Garden, Fla., made the biggest move on Saturday with a big limit anchored by the day's Purolator Big Bass winner — a 7-pound, 9-ounce largemouth. The big fish fell victim to a Rebel Pop-R topwater plug fished on the perimeter of milfoil patches in the Goose Pond area.
"I figured it out on the second day when I caught 20-10," he said. "I only had 6-2 the first day, which killed me."
Wagman's pattern also included fishing a Texas-rigged worm with a 1/8-ounce weight and 17-pound monofilament.
On the non-boater side, Alabama's Steve Harris, who jumped from 25th place into the lead on day two, posted his first victory in two attempts with a three-day total of 32-15. Georgia's Matthew Parker was second with 31 pounds and Fred Rigdon of Florida with 29-1.
Local sponsors: Local sponsors include the city of Guntersville, the Guntersville Chamber of Commerce and Guntersville State Park.
Bassmaster Northern Open sponsors: CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).