Alabama anglers take Toyota title

RIDGEDALE, Mo. — It took Jeff Ragsdale and Doug Webster 8 ½ hours to drive from the Birmingham, Ala., area to Missouri's Table Rock Lake. It didn't take them nearly that long to catch a 14-pound, 10-ounce limit of bass and win the Toyota Bonus Bucks Team Championship here Sunday.

"We caught 'em on about every cast for 30 minutes," said Ragsdale, who owns a commercial and residential painting company in Gardendale, Ala. "We didn't catch another keeper after 9 o'clock."

Editor's Note: See the full results.

In other words, with a 7 a.m. takeoff from the Long Creek Marina, it took them only two hours to catch almost 15 pounds. And that was plenty. Granden Hansen of Lee Summit, Mo., and Dustin Lee of Monett, Mo., finished second with 11-15. The father-and-son team of Jeremy and Jason Benjamin of Lawrence, Kan., was third with 11-13.

Ragsdale and Webster, a heavy equipment mechanic from Pinson, Ala., earned a $5,000 check for first place in the no-entry-fee tournament open to Toyota truck owners. This marked the fifth year for the tournament, which is held on a different body of water every year.

Ragsdale and Webster started their day with the dominant lure in the tournament – a topwater River2Sea Whopper Plopper. It produced only one keeper. So they went to their Carolina rig pattern using a Lake Fork Ring Fry Worm in a creek drain with depths of 12 to 15 feet. They quickly filled their five-bass limit and culled twice.

"We were throwing out and pulling it across that drop," Webster said.

Webster and Ragsdale have been regular tournament partners in the Birmingham area for about 1½ years and have known each other for a decade or so. This was their first Toyota Bonus Bucks owners' event, but they guaranteed they'd be back next year, wherever it happens to be.

Hansen and Lee used a topwater/jig one-two punch for their second-place bag, which earned them $2,500.

"We caught three on a Whopper Plopper early before the wind got up," Lee said. "Then we went to a 3/8ths-ounce All-Terrain Jig trailed with a Zoom Super Chunk Jr. in Okeechobee craw.

"We burned all our gas. We went way up the White River and way up the James River."

There's a 15-inch minimum length limit on largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass on Table Rock Lake. Hansen and Lee weighed all largemouths, the biggest being about 3 ½ pounds.

"We only caught six keepers," Hansen said. "I didn't think it would be this tough."

Like the winning team, Hansen and Lee were done early.

"We didn't catch another keeper after 9:30," Hansen said.

Jason Benjamin, who is now 40 years old, has been fishing tournaments with his father, Jerry, since he was 8 - so this was old hat to the Lawrence, Kan., residents.

Like so many others in this event, they had a Whopper Plopper pattern working, but it produced only one keeper largemouth. Then they went to a Strike King 5XD crankbait in the gizzard shad color to catch four keeper smallmouth bass and fill out their limit. Third place paid $1,800.

Charles David and David Hargis weighed in only one bass Sunday, but it was the big bass of the tournament weighing 3-15. The big bass prize was a $1,000 merchandise package from Carhartt.

With the 15-inch minimum length limits and Sunday's tough autumn fishing conditions on Table Rock, there were only five 5-bass limits weighed in the 121-boat field. The tournament paid down to 31st place, which was 4 pounds, 1 ounce.

Editor's Note: See the full results.