GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — Three of the largest bags of fish exited the fans as well as the anglers who caught them on the final day of the Synergy Southern Challenge on Lake Guntersville.
Veteran pro Paul Elias was second to weigh in and had 26 pounds, 2 ounces. He wowed the crowd with his 8-2, the largest fish of the day.
"I was using a deep diving crank bait, kneeling and reeling," Elias said. "I was in the same place of the lake where I had been and it was exciting to bring in the big one."
Elias hooked the lunker in the head, and it stretched his 12-pound Berkley fluorocarbon line to the hilt.
"I had it hooked in the head and they fight harder when it's not in their mouths and it took me a while to bring it in," said Elias, who finished sixth overall with a total of 89-14. "I thought I had more weight than that, but I've always had a pretty good history on Guntersville especially when the fish are out."
Morizo Shimizu made the largest move with his 27-1 limit that gave him 92-5 and fourth place.
"I used crank baits two to 14-feet deep and it took me about 15 minutes to get in the first one," Shimizu said.
That first one was a 5-pounder, and ignited his action. In the next 40 minutes, Shimizu hauled in a three more 5-pounders and topped it off with a 6-pounder.
"I was very excited to get them," he said. "This tournament was unbelievable. I had a very good week and an awesome time at this lake. I love Guntersville. I caught the 'Big Mamas' and I'm happy."
Russ Lane also had two 7-pounders in his 26-7 bag that moved him to fifth with 91-15.
"I was dragging a Big Bite pig tail worm when I caught one and then I used a 3/4-ounce jig on the main river ledges to catch the other one," Lane said. "It was awesome. I probably caught 50 fish today and most of them were 3- or 4-pounders. There were a few 5 and 6 ones in there, but overall I'm pleased. I'm still looking for my first win, but this tournament helped put me in a good position in the standings. I'm very satisfied."
Wolverine back in mix
For the first time since placing fifth at the 2007 Pride of Georgia on Clark Hill Lake in Evans, Ga., Derek Remitz was back in the top 12.
"It feels good to do it again," said the 2007 Rookie Angler of the Year. "It's an extra bonus that it's on my home lake."
Remitz, a Minnesota-native who now lives in nearby Grant, Ala., laid a claim on Lake Guntersville three years ago.
"I don't know the lake like the locals do, but I've been rotating between three or four spots and catching some good ones," he said.
Remitz, who came into Sunday's event in ninth with 64-2, always knew he'd become a professional bass fisherman.
"I had a subscription to Bassmasters by the time I was 10-years-old," he said. "I knew then that it was something I wanted to do, but I lost track of it for a while working in Minnesota. I decided to move south a little over three years ago and it was time to try it. I call this place home and it feels good to be fishing here."
Remitz hoped to get the bites from those elusive 5- and 6-pounders in his "backyard."
Unfortunately, Remitz didn't get those large lunkers he wanted on Sunday and finished 12th with 7-15 on the day and a total of 72-1.
"It was rough and I pushed myself too hard," he said. "I really thought I could have gotten 20 to 25 pounds with the solid patterns I was running, but it was pretty much a current deal. I didn't catch any big fish today, but it was nice to be in the top 12 again."
Piecing up the Pace
Cliff Pace believed he had an opportunity to win, but settled for figuring out Guntersville somewhat.
"You don't accomplish this every week," he said. "It's been good, but this lake has bitten me before, because of the huge fluxualtion in fishing. I've struggled so hard with wrong patterns this year, so I decided to do things differently and it's pieced together."
Pace qualified sixth for Sunday and hoped to ride the momentum of a second-place finish at the Alabama Charge on Lake Pickwick last week.
"I caught 70 fish one day, but only one or two of them were big ones," he said. "It's challenging here."
Pace's smile widened when he weight in 22-14 for an 88-13 total that gave him seventh.
"I was pleased with how I did this week," he said. "It was unbelievable. I caught most all of my fish 10 to 19-feet deep."
A beautiful thing
Beauty is the eye of the beholder, according to Fred Roumbanis, who was the final man in Sunday.
"It feels awesome — this is beautiful a thing," he said. "I came off one of the worst practices to make it here at the end and it's really cool. I'm very fortunate."
Roumbanis started the year with"the worst" tournaments of his life.
"If I would have approached those first two tournaments like new water, it would have been better instead of trying the places I thought would work," he said. "These new lakes are good for me, but I learned more from those bad events."
Those particular learning curves gave Roumbanis, whose last win in the Elite series was nearly two years to the day at the 2008 Carolina Clash on Lake Murray in Columbia, S.C., an edge in deep crank fishing.
"I started fishing deep and pulled it up towards the surface as temperatures warmed up," he said.
Roumbanis ended in 10th after catching 19-3 Sunday to total 82-8.
"I should have known better with less and less current."
— Derek Remitz
"I was in 12th and couldn't fall anymore. I was happy to move up one or two places."
— Fred Roumbanis
"Throwin deep down crank baits kneelin and reelin."
— Paul Elias
"This lake has got me a couple of times and to get through it the way I did, I'm happy."
— Cliff Pace
"I'd like to have won, but sooner or later it's going to happen."
— Russ Lane
"Same ole' same ole' catching tons of fish with a little bit of luck involved. It's hard to win here, you have to have four flawless days here."
— Mark Davis
"I love Guntersville and I love Alabama. I caught Big Mamas today."
— Morizo Shimizu
"If I would have approached those first two tournaments like new water, it would have been better instead of trying the places I thought would work."
— Fred Roumbanis