Teams battle for Championship, berth

The inaugural Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship Dec. 10-13 at DeGray Lake is two bass tournaments in one, offering two highly prized titles.

BISMARCK, Ark. — The inaugural Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship Dec. 10-13 at DeGray Lake is two bass tournaments in one, offering two highly prized titles.
In the first segment of the unique, four-day tournament, two-angler teams from various B.A.S.S.-sanctioned team trails across the country will vie to become the Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Champions, a title that includes the first-place prize of a Nitro Z7 bass boat/Mercury Optimax 150 Pro XS outboard rig valued at $26,995 as well as the Livingston Leader Award of $500. The team champions will also receive a travelling trophy to take back to the team trail they represented.
Members of the Top 3 finishers in the team competition advance to the final two rounds of the tournament and will fish individually for the final qualifying spot in the 2015 Bassmaster Classic to be held Feb. 20-22 on Lake Hartwell out of Greenville, S.C.
Competitors in the Classic rounds will fish from six identically rigged Skeeter FX20 bass boats powered by Yamaha. In addition to the Classic berth, the winner will receive a Skeeter FX20/Yamaha250 outboard rig valued at $85,360, which he or she will run in the Classic.
“The team championship is another way to serve grass-roots anglers we haven’t been reaching,” said Jon Stewart, Bassmaster Team Trail manager. “Team competition is a fast-growing part of bass fishing, and it involves some truly outstanding anglers. Until now, these anglers and their trails have not received the recognition and exposure they deserve.”
Thirty-eight independent tournament trails were eligible to send teams to the championship. Stewart said each trail was required to hold a minimum of four tournaments throughout the year to become sanctioned by B.A.S.S. and to be eligible for the Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship.
The team championship contenders can expect good fishing at DeGray, according to a couple of local experts. “The lake is down and most of the fish will be on the ledges,” said Wayne Crumpton, a local guide and former Bassmaster tournament winner. He predicts most of the fish will be holding in the 10- to 30-foot depth range.
Crumpton expects some of the best patterns during the tournament will be running deep-diving crankbaits or magnum spinnerbaits in the deep brushpiles on ledges or dragging football jigs along the rocky points. The local guide notes a shaky head worm fished in the rocks will be another productive pattern. “If the wind comes up maybe Rat-L-Traps will work in the backs of pockets,” he added.
Low and clear water are the conditions Bassmaster Elite Series pro Mark Davis favors when he fishes DeGray. “It is also a lake for jigging a spoon in the creek channels,” Davis said. “I would prefer the lake low for fishing offshore. I would probably fish with a 3/4-ounce spoon if the water is clear.”
The Mount Ida, Ark., pro predicts the best spoon fishing action will be in depths of 30 to 35 feet, but fishing in the shallows could be good if the area experiences significant rains before the tournament. “The lake can come up really fast if we get some rain,” Davis said.
DeGray yields mainly catches of largemouth and spotted bass with a few smallmouths in the mix. Crumpton suggests the teams need to catch 12 to 15 pounds a day to make the Top 3. Davis predicts the winning weight for the individual champion will be around 30 pounds for the two days of Classic qualifying competition.
The team championship daily weigh-ins will be held at the DeGray Lake Resort State Park Lodge and Convention Center. Visit for a list of the sanctioned trails and other information about attending the championship.