Reinkemeyer leads Classic fish-off

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Dalton Tumblin

ANDERSON, S.C. – Brock Reinkemeyer shook off a cold and dreary Friday on Lake Hartwell to take the Day 1 lead in the Bassmaster Team Championship Classic Fish-Off here in the northwest corner of the Palmetto State.

Reinkemeyer weighed five bass that totaled 13 pounds, 7 ounces, which gave him more than a 3-pound lead on the closest of the five other anglers competing in the two-day fish-off.

It was a continuation of good fortune for the 27-year old carpenter from Lone Jack, Mo., who paired with Brad Jelinek on Thursday to win the team championship and advance to this portion of the tournament.

The winner of the fish-off will clinch the 53rd and final berth in the 2020 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk when it is held March 6-8 on Lake Guntersville and in Birmingham, Ala. 

Reinkemeyer, who fishes on the Joe Bass Team Trail, made a move to be that angler with his limit Friday. He returned to what he and Jelinek called a “magic spot” they fished in their run to the team championship, but Friday’s nasty weather put a hex on his area of choice, and Reinkemeyer was forced to scramble.

Reinkemeyer started fishing docks and found one that produced two largemouth bites early Friday, one in the 4-pound range and another about 3 pounds. When that action slowed, he ditched the dock for a while, though he returned later that morning for his third largemouth keeper bite. 

With only nine pounds of bass in his livewell late Friday, Reinkemeyer decided to fish for spotted bass in hopes of filling his limit. He did just that after glancing at the Humminbird electronics in his loaner boat and seeing fish. He quickly dropped a line and caught his fourth and fish bass in quick succession, but he said it wasn’t an easy task.

“I got those largemouth off that magic dock early, but then I struggled the rest of the day,” he said. “I ran all over and didn’t get anything until I picked off those couple spotted bass.”

Reinkemeyer said finding shad was key to successful bites on Wednesday and Thursday in the championship, but baitfish were nowhere to be found Friday. He said he’ll have to adjust on Saturday in the final day of the fish-off if he’s going to lock up a spot in the Bassmaster Classic.

I’m going to start out largemouth fishing, but I’m not going to stay as long,” he said. “Then I’m going to go get a limit of spots. Hopefully that brings it home.”

Josh Busby, a 36-year old food scientist from Rogersville, Mo., is in second place with five bass weighing 10-5. Timothy Taylor, his teammate on the Ozark Mountain Team Trail, is in third with a limit of 10-1. Taylor, 48 and of Nixa, Mo., works as safety inspector at a Missouri hospital.

Jelinek, a 25-year old fishing guide from Warsaw, Mo., is fourth in the Classic Fish-Off with four bass weighing 5-7. Timothy Penhlollow, a 52-year old sales manager from Mebane, N.C., is in fifth place with three fish for 4-8. KC Choosakul, a 50-year old mechanic and boating center owner from Sanford, N.C., is just behind his Carolina Bass Challenge teammate with three bass weighing 4-6.

In all, 165 teams from 30 states and two foreign countries competed in the team portion of this tournament Wednesday and Thursday on Lake Hartwell. The field was whittled from 329 anglers to the six men who composed the top three tandems in the team championship. The Top 33 teams in the original field split a cash purse that totaled $87,000, including the $20,000 Nitro/Mercury cash prize split by Reinkemeyer and Jelinek.

The angler with the heaviest two-day total weight in the fish-off will grab a spot in the 50th edition of the Bassmaster Classic and fish against the world’s best anglers in the sport’s biggest showcase.

Take-off for the final day of the Classic Fish-Off begins Saturday at 7:15 a.m. Eastern from Green Pond Landing in Anderson. The final weigh-in of the event will begin at 3:15 p.m. at the same location. 

Visit Anderson is hosting.