Connell's adjustments cement victory

PRATTVILLE, Ala. — The final day of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open #2 Presented by Allstate was the first not to be pelted by incessant rain.


Although the weather was pleasant, the Alabama River’s rising water had the 12 anglers who made Saturday’s cut scrambling.


Dustin Connell of Clanton, Ala., who held the lead Thursday and Friday, pulled off an impressive victory Saturday with an 18-pound, 6-ounce limit, the heaviest of the final round. It brought his winning total to 55-1.


Connell also bagged the biggest limit of the tournament on Thursday, which weighed 22-3.


“I had adversity all week,” Connell said. “I don’t know how I adjusted.”


On Thursday Connell locked downriver to Millers Ferry. He fished the ends of the lock walls and rocky banks below the dam to boat his big limit. Connell locked down to Millers Ferry again Friday morning, but the water level had come up 4 feet overnight and his bass would not cooperate.


The adjustments Connell made that afternoon where the most critical of the tournament for him. He locked back upriver with five small bass and culled them for a 14-8 limit by cranking rocky creek mouths.


Connell chose not to lock down to Millers Ferry Saturday. He fished community water that had been pounded by his competitors Thursday and Friday. The bass pounced on Connell’s spinnerbait. All the bass that he brought to the scale during the event were Coosa River spots.


Not one to get stuck on a single lure, Connell showed the bass a wide variety of baits. His most productive lures were a ¾-ounce chartreuse Strike King spinnerbait sporting tandem chartreuse willow leaf blades, a ½-ounce Strike King jig and a Spro Fat Popa crankbait. A Keitech swimbait rigged on ½-ounce jig also produced two key bass for Connell Thursday.


The downside to Connell’s victory is that he will not receive an invitation to fish the 2016 Bassmaster Classic. He did not compete in the first Bassmaster Southern Open last January at Florida’s Lake Tohopekaliga. Any angler who wins a Bassmaster Open tournament must fish all three of the events in that division to qualify for the Classic.


The upside for Connell is that he was awarded $7,765 and a Triton 19TrX rigged with a Mercury 200 Pro XS and prop, a Triton tandem axle trailer, a MotorGuide X3 70#/45” 24v trolling motor and a Lowrance Elite 5 graph.


Florida angler Jeremy Prouty claimed second place and $18,443 with a three-day total of 47-1. He concentrated mainly on two small underwater current breaks that he found with his electronics.


One current break was a large, submerged stump 8 feet deep. A small ditch had been washed out behind the stump. It was an ideal ambush location for spotted bass. A ½-ounce jig and a ¼-ounce Gambler Giggy Head jig with a finesse worm produced equal numbers of bass for Prouty.
Prouty states that he had to make the “perfect cast” upstream so his baits would wash into the sweet spots behind the current breaks where the bass were feeding.
Third place and $13,832 went to Clent Davis of Montevallo, Ala., for bringing 46-8 to the official Bassmaster scale. Davis locked downriver to Millers Ferry on all three days of the tournament. He relied mainly on a 1/8-ounce Nichols Screwball Shaky Head jig dressed with a 6.5-inch Mr. Twister Poc'it Shake'R worm.


“The water came up every day but the bass didn’t come up with it,” Davis said.


On Thursday Davis caught his bass 2 feet deep. Friday they were 6 feet deep. Saturday they were 10 to 12 feet deep.


The 6-pound, 14-ounce largemouth that Davis caught Thursday prevailed as the Bass Pro Shops Big Bass, which added $750 to Davis’ winnings.


North Carolinian David Blanton squeaked out the co-angler victory with 20-4, winning by only 4 ounces. His primary bait was a Texas rigged, 5-inch Zoom Mag Finesse worm with a 1/8-ounce tungsten bullet sinker.


Blanton received a certificate for a new Triton 179 TrX with a Mercury 115 Pro XS and prop, a Triton single axle trailer, a MotorGuide X3 45#/45” 12v trolling motor and a Lowrance Mark 5 graph.


The $250 Bass Pro Shops Big Bass award on the co-angler side went to North Carolina’s Taylor Schneider for a 6-5 lunker.