Drew Benton is a half-hour away from his first Bassmaster Elite Series win. The Panama City, Fla., angler won the first tour level tournament he competed in - an FLW event at Lake Okeechobee in 2013 - when he was 24 years old.
Benton turned 30 on May 20. His previous Elite Series best of 4th place at Florida's St. Johns River came during his 2016 Rookie of the Year season.
"I won my first ever tour event, that was with FLW," Benton said Saturday. "I didn't take it for granted. But I didn't realize how hard it is to win one of these. It would mean the world to me. You have to put every ounce of your heart and soul into this to win."
Benton said that before learning he'd been assessed a 15-minute penalty for the start of today's final, and before knowing the stormy weather he would face. His secondary pattern this week had come during bright sunshine.
If he closes out this one, it will definitely mean the world to him.
Drew Benton upgrades with a 3-0 in the final hour and 15 minutes of Championship Sunday.
When it comes to the 2018 Bassmaster Elite Series, Drew Benton hasn't had a good season thus far. He was 90th in Toyota Angler of the Year points after three Elite events. He started the year with a 101st at Lake Martin, a 73rd at Grand Lake and a 45th at Kentucky Lake. A win today would give Benton a guaranteed Classic berth, which would be a welcomed sight and lifted pressure off his shoulders.
With his Elite Series struggles to start the year people are probably wondering where are the bright spots I hinted at in the headline. His Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens success has been plentiful this year. He is fishing the Central Opens and has two Top 12's in as many tries. He notched a final day appearance at both Ross Barnett and the Arkansas River. A 12th and 7th are welcomed sights, money and momentum possibly.
A win today would be icing on the cake for Benton and a Classic berth in his pocket. His excellent event this week has already jumped him from 90th to 55th and now he's back on track.
Drew Benton started with a 2-pound, 10-ounce lead over second-place Jacob Wheeler. With 15-13 so far, Benton has increased his lead to 3-6.
However, no lead is safe at Lake Travis, especially today, where Keith Combs has topped the 20-pound mark and five other anglers are over 15 pounds now.
The ultimate reminder that anything is possible is James Elam's 9-pound, 2-ounce bass on Day 2. It was caught on his last cast of the day. Texas Fest certainly could be decided on a last cast today.
As we approach the noon hour, there have already been three bags over 15 pounds registered on the scoreboard. And that's with only 12 anglers competing.
Yesterday there were five bags of 15 pounds or more with 50 anglers on the water. The heavily overcast skies and rain are obviously having a positive effect.
Keith Combs tops the list so far today with 18-10. Brent Chapman has 15-6 and Cliff Pace has 15-5.
Brent Chapman added a 3-pound, 1-ounce bass at 11:33 a.m. to give him 15-6 on the day and keep him in contention. More importantly, Chapman will leave this event ranked No. 1 in Angler of the Year points.
It's good to see him back up there. The 45-year-old Lake Quivira, Kansas, pro has been in a long slump since his Toyota Angler of the Year title in 2012. Beginning in 2013, he finished 19th, 52nd, 56th, 59th and 63rd in the AOY standings, a seemingly inexplicable decline.
"I told myself this year I'm going back to basics," Chapman said yesterday. "I'm doing what I like to do. When I saw that dirty water up the river at Lake Travis, I knew where I was fishing. It's what I'm confident in."
Chapman's previous finishes this season were 19th at Lake Martin, 29th at Grand Lake and 9th at Kentucky Lake.
Keith Combs added his third 4-pounder of the day at 11:14 a.m., giving him 18-10 and putting him within four pounds of the lead. No one was more confident than Combs after yesterday's weigh-in. When he informed that he was 10 pounds, 10 ounces behind leader Drew Benton, Combs said, "Anything is possible."
Combs is targeting some of the deep brush that grew in Lake Travis when it went through the drought. He's cranking a Strike King 10XD primarily.
"I really feel like the brush positions them," Combs said. "The brush is 30 feet deep, and that's how deep I'm fishing."
As I hunkered down under an umbrella, I figured I’d check the radar, well the rain is not leaving anytime soon.
I pulled up on AOY leader Brent Chapman 45 minutes ago, he caught a decent fish on topwater — during a lull in the rain, and lost a game-changer soon after.
The bite has dried up, though we have not, the thunderstorms continue to hammer the Colorado River.
This should be a fun 40-mile ride back to Jones Brothers Park.
If you didn't think this was going to be a Top 12 shootout, Cliff Pace just changed your mind. The heavily overcast, rainy conditions have kept boat traffic down and spurred big bass to bite, none bigger so far than the 8-pound, 1-ounce largemouth Pace landed at 10:25.
"You've just got to keep grinding, man. That's what this lake is about," said Pace.
Pace's other four bass in his 13-8 limit weigh 1-4, 1-5, 1-6 and 1-8. In other words, he's got plenty of room to move up.