Kevin Short saves his best for last

Quick big limit of 23-5 gives Arkansan second Elite Series victory

Kevin Short

FLORENCE, Ala. — Kevin Short saved his best for last.

Short of Mayflower, Ark., registered the biggest limit of the tournament Sunday — a 23-pound, 5-ounce, haul despite a reduced competition day — and trounced the rest of the field on way to his second Bassmaster Elite Series victory at the Alabama Charge on Pickwick Lake.

Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss., finished a distant second, more than 4 pounds behind.

With nasty weather looming, BASS officials shortened the competition day to five hours in order to escape the brunt of the inclement weather. While some competitors who were making longer runs were adversely affected, Short, who totaled 75-1 over four days, adapted to the parameters and boated the vast majority of his weight less than two hours into the day, effectively ending the tournament.

A frustrating start to the season — mainly due to the style of fishing that the venues have called for — is now in Short's rearview mirror. Short cut his teeth on the Arkansas River and this week used much of his experiences there to feel his way out on Pickwick. The back-to-basics approach paid off to the tune of $100,000.

"I kept telling myself throughout the week just to think of Pickwick like a river," said Short, who took his first Elite victory on the Mississippi River. "I was discouraged after Saturday because I just couldn't figure out how to get them to bite. But I landed my biggest fish early today (Sunday) and I knew it would be my day then."

Fishing fans can catch all the on-the-water action from the four-day event on The Bassmasters, which airs Sunday, May 9, at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN2 (re-airs Sunday, May 23, at 10 a.m. ET on ESPN2).

Short caught all of his fish on a Pepper's Baits WEC crankbait, switching the colors from chartreuse classic when it was sunny to chartreuse black when it was cloudy. The balsa-based square-billed crank is in the same family of lures as the bait Short rode to victory on the Mississippi. The one-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier found the area which produced the majority of his winning catch on the first day of competition.

The 48-year-old found a creek, which produced all of his winning catch, on Thursday morning and preceded to catching cruising males. With a flurry of activity, he knew that the larger females had to be close behind. As he expanded on his area, he moved to the back of the creek and found a bevy of cover, including clumps of cypress tress mixed in with singular cypress trees.

On Sunday, Short's early bass — a 6-12 brute — came off a singular tree, which prompted Short to strictly key on that cover the rest of the day.

"You couldn't ask for a better area, it had everything," Short said. "Trees, habitat, you name it. I knew the fish to win were in there, it was just a matter of me remaining patient and finding a way to catch them."

The icing on the cake for the victory was Short's uptick in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. Short was in a disappointing 74th place heading into the tournament, but moved to 35th with his banner performance, which puts him safely in the 2011 Bassmaster Classic qualification cut.

Sticking to second place, as he has all week, was Pace. Pace worked a community hole, saturated with many of the other competitors who advanced to Sunday. The 29-year-old was able to milk it for all it was worth, including an 18-3 limit on Sunday, but in the end, it couldn't produce like Short's spot.

Plying through a ton of bites, Pace threw a jig to tight, small areas that were home to roaming smallmouth. As the day progressed, he was moving toward the outer edges and finding quality large and smallmouth.

"I thought I gave myself a great chance with the day I had today," said Pace, who qualified for the Bassmaster Elite Series Postseason last season. "But it just wasn't my time to win. Still, I have no regrets and it was a great week."

Saturday leader Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., slipped to fifth. He was the only one in the Sunday field who was locking through to Lake Wilson, which took a sizable chunk of his fishing day.

As such, he took one on the chin Sunday with the truncated day and his 12-11 limit was indicative of the risky approach. Still, Reese came in with zero expectations for Pickwick as this week marked his first time on the Tennessee River impoundment.

Couple that with his fourth consecutive top-five finish in Elite competition and Reese should find the silver lining in his performance. The top-five streak, which is quite rare, puts him more than 150 points in the lead in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.

Behind Pace in third this week was Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., with 67-9. Moving up to fourth and scoring his best Elite finish of the season was Rick Morris of Virginia Beach, Va., with 65-2. Reese rounded out the top five with 64-14.

Reese's closest competitor in the AOY standings is Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La. Close behind Hackney is Edwin Evers (third) of Talala, Okla., and Dean Rojas (fourth) of Lake Havasu City, Ariz

Next up for the Elite Series is the Synergy Southern Challenge on Alabama's Lake Guntersville, another Tennessee River impoundment, on May 6-9.