Mastering his electronics on Lake Erie to get into the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic simply tickled Whitney Stephens.
Stephens, of Waverly, Ohio, won the Bass Pro Shops Northern Open #3 presented by Allstate on Saturday, by finding 65 pounds, 1 ounce of Lake Erie bass.
“It was a really, really great week,” Stephens said during the weigh-in at the Bass Pro Shop in Rossford. “I was just blessed. I really was.”
Stephens will join 45 others who have already secured a spot to fish the Classic at Grand Lake out of host city Tulsa, Okla., next March.
“Never been to Oklahoma,” Stephens said. “I’m looking foward to it. I’ll probably spend some time out there. I’m really in shock.”
There are now nine remaining spots for the Classic, with another to be determined this week during the Bass Pro Shops Central Open on Table Rock Lake. The final Southern Open Oct. 22-24 will decide another.
In both of those events, the winner must have fished all three events in that region to receive a Classic spot. If not, that position goes to next Elite angler in the point standings. If an Elite who has already qualified wins either Open, then his double qualification also would open a spot to an Elite.
The first angler out, the guy hoping to slip through the back door, is Jonathon VanDam, with Gerald Swindle next in line.
Six Classic spots will be determined Nov. 5-7 at the Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on the Ouachita River out of Monroe, La., and the final spot will be settled Dec. 9-12 at the Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship.
The 55-angler field will fish on Grand Lake March 4-6.
Fish-catch video Barbie
Great fish-catch videos always seem to make their rounds among anglers, and not many are sweeter than young Avery landing a 5-pound, 20-inch bass with her Barbie fishing pole.
The YouTube video is posted right here on Bassmaster.com, but that cuter-than-cute catch has gone, as they say, viral. It might just break the internet.
Yes, catching a fish that size can bring childlike exuberance from most anyone, but when it’s a child out with dad, wow, just wow.
A Google search for “Avery” and “Barbie pole” brings up 1.9 million results, with sites from USAToday to the Today Show reposting. Kathie Lee and Hoda’s Facebook page sums it up. “We can’t stop watching this ADORABLE video! You go, girl!”
So far, the video has received more than 5.2 million views, as well as comments from thousands reminiscing about their first catch. Let’s not forget that sharing a moment like this with a child is one of life’s greatest catches, whether you video it or not.
Three-time AOY. The Natural. The Lizard Whisperer?
Yeah, you can add the latter to Aaron Martens’ nicknames. In a previous Daily Limit looking at the growing legend of Martens, his mother commented that the following feat was no tall tale.
“Aaron enjoys coming home where he was raised to find and train our lizards,” Carol Martens wrote. “We have names for them and video tape them and they comply.”
Say what? He’s a lizard wrangler, too?
Carol offered proof in a link to her web site with a YouTube video of Aaron and daughter Jordan hand feeding the fence lizards in her backyard. She even sent this photo.
Aaron verified the circumstances, adding that visits include a trip to the local pet store for meal worms the lizards will run up and eat from their hands.
“The kids like catching them,” he said. “I caught a few in my hands. I’ve grabbed them and held them for a minute, let them go and then feed them like a minute later.”
The fence lizards, also known as bluebellies, are a common species out West, and Aaron has been familiar with them and a cooler species, the alligator lizard, since his youth.
“I used to catch them by noose … Like a piece of grass, tie it to the end of a stick. It’s a harmless way of catching lizards. My mom has them all over. They’re cool.”
Wait. Go back. You create a little bitty noose, sneak it over their heads and lasso them?
“Tie an overhand knot so it makes a sliding noose, and tie it to the end of a stick,” he said. “A fishing rod and fishing line are stupid easy.”
In case you’re wondering, the one female lizard the Martens repeatedly catch and feed is named Lizzy. Aaron said they can pick her out, but the alligator lizard living there is much more difficult to catch since it’s nocturnal, but he knows where it hangs out and could probably show it to you if you want.
Yeah, the Lizard Whisperer.
Ugly at Erie
Boats sinking, seasick co-anglers, men overboard. Lake Erie got downright ugly during the Northern Open out of Sandusky.
“Multiple boats had issues,” said Matt Vermilyea, who saw his co-angler fall into the 11th largest lake in the world. “That lake is rough. That’s Lake Erie. Mother Erie will definitely raise her head.”
On the heroic side, co-angler Lance Baker found Dramamine and patches don't always work. He rode out a serious purge (30 times, he said), allowing pro Destin Demarion to stay out long enough to catch a limit. Demarion also suffered boat issues on Friday, as his vomit comet went down, but he wound up finishing seventh.
‘You’re from Jersey?’
Joe Piscopo might have disappeared into a gym after his years on Saturday Night Live, but his “You’re from Jersey! I’m from Jersey!” bit could be resurrected on the Elite Series.
Adrian Avena of Vineland, N.J., plans to join Jersey bretheren Mike Iaconelli on the top B.A.S.S. circuit next year. The 25-year-old rising angler topped the Northern Open series in points and will be among the five extended Elite invitations.
“That was my focus this year and I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Avena said. “I had a great ride with FLW and B.A.S.S. seems like a logical next step for me.”
Dave Mercer beware, Avena already has a nickname -- Jersey Boy -- he uses for his saltwater charter business. There’s definitely room for another Garden State angler on the Elites, and Avena and Ike might be able to explain Piscopo’s Jersey-centric punchline of “What exit?”
- Photo the week has to be Ronnie Moore’s shot of Clifford Esmond after he fell out of the Matt Vermilyea’s boat during the Northern Open on Lake Erie. Vermilyea reported it was a harrowing situation as Esmond came up coughing water. Moore and his boat driver should be commended. This is the last shot Moore got before sensing the urgency, putting down the camera and racing to assist. Once he got hold, Vermilyea never let go of Esmond’s shirt, guiding him to his ladder and safety with Moore’s boat now only a few feet away.
- Big bass of the week goes to Rick Nitkiewisz for this 6-4 smallmouth he plied from Lake Erie on Day 1. If you were only going to land one fish in the tournament, this would be the one. Although he finished way down in 125th place, Nitkiewisz won the Bass Pro Shops Big Bass award and $750.
- High school fishing will be making a bigger splash as the 2016 Costa Bassmaster High School Series will hold three regional Opens tournaments. See the complete rundown.
- If you already miss the Elite Series, you have to see the video highlights to relive the happenings from 2015.
- At first it looked like a spoof, like Ike had found a Tour de France racer who looked like him and posted a goof. Closer inspection revealed Iaconelli is in fact going to Italy for lure-maker Molix. “I'm heading to Italy next week for the Molix Italian Tour! Can't wait to experience Italy and meet some great people!” Ciao, Signor Iaconelli.