2009 Elite Series - Southern Challenge Lake Guntersville - Guntersville, AL, May 7 - 10, 2009

Mark Menendez making waves Guntersville

Veteran angler having career season on Elite Series

Mark Menendez

 LAKE GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — Mark Menendez has been on a whirlwind trip in the bass fishing world for the past two months and it finally hit him at the Marine Formula STA-BIL Southern Challenge on Lake Guntersville.

 "I'm completely, utterly worn out," Menendez said. "I don't know how many fish I caught this week, but I would estimate that I boated 200 4-pound fish over the course of the four-day event. I don't know what's different this year, but I think winning at Dardanelle really took a lot of pressure off me."

 His season got off on a strong note, as he finished 46th at Amistad and then won the weather-shortened event on Lake Dardanelle. In the past two months, Menendez has posted four top-10 finishes in five events, including the victory and a second-place showing at an Open on Lake Wheeler.

 Entering the Guntersville event, Menendez sat in 14th place in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, with the top 12 moving on to fish the postseason events in September. Just as important for Menendez will be making the Classic, which he has missed by only a few places each of the past two years.

 Menendez just made the final-day cut and had 20 pounds, 14 ounces, the fourth-best stringer of Sunday to finish in sixth.

 "Winning that event gave me the confidence to make decisions that I wouldn't make when fishing for a $10,000 check," Menendez said. "It puts you in a different frame of mind, where you don't have to be constantly hustling and hustling to get a bite and you can target bigger fish that put you in contention to win events.

 "Here on Guntersville, I decided today that I needed to keep going north and they were biting on every place I stopped on."

Despite the onslaught of 4-pounders that Guntersville passed on to Menendez, the bigger bites eluded him and he only weighed in two 6-pounders. Menendez stuck to throwing a Strike King Series 5 Sexy Shad crankbait on a Power Tackle glass rod to boat the majority of his fish. He said the glass rod was key because they fought so hard; a graphite rod would pull the hooks out more easily.

 Menendez now stands eighth in the TTBAOY race with three events to go. Two of those destinations, Kentucky Lake and the Mississippi River, are places that he can't wait to start fishing.

 "Going home to Kentucky Lake will be fun, even though it has been my nemesis for the last two years," Menendez said. "When it's your home lake, you are running down the lake and you remember places that you have caught fish in the past and that can throw you off.

 "It will be an offshore tournament and I've spent a lot of time offshore. I know what is on the bottom out there. Then we go to Fort Madison, and those are some of the hardest fighting fish, and they are only 3-pounders."

 Riding a wave of momentum and heading into his own backyard, Menendez looks to be making a charge in the TTBAOY race and has all but locked up a Classic berth. With a win under his belt already this year, Menendez will be a man to be reckoned with as the season wraps up.