GROVE, Okla. — Bassmaster Elite Series pro James Elam captured his second victory on Oklahoma waters by winning the season-ending Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open at Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees.
The Tulsa, Okla., angler finished with a three-day total of 36 pounds, 14 ounces to win the pro division top prize of a Skeeter ZX200, Yamaha SHO200, Skeeter tandem-axle Tuff-coated trailer with brakes, Minn Kota Fortrex 80F-US2 45-inch shaft trolling motor, Lowrance Elite Ti 7 dash and bow electronics and prop valued at $45,000, along with $8,491 in cash. Elam also won the 2015 Bassmaster Central Open at Fort Gibson.
Elam caught most of his keepers today on a Carolina-rigged green pumpkin plastic lizard and some on a Jackall Lures Pompadour topwater lure. “I fished a lot of stuff,” he said. “I caught them off of four places and they were all full-time shad places that were in the middepth range.” The spots were mostly flats with subtle breaks and brush. The fish were holding in two different ranges, either 5- to 7-feet deep or 10- to 15-feet deep.
“I caught fish all day, but only had the five keepers,” Elam said. The Oklahoma pro said he ran about the same patterns the first two days as well.
Elam was ecstatic about winning, but he couldn’t have been much happier with the outcome than veteran Elite pro Michael Iaconelli. By winning the Open, Elam double-qualified for the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods in March. That moved the cut line down one notch on the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points list, enabling Iaconelli to qualify for his 17th Classic in a row. His is currently the longest unbroken string of consecutive Classic qualifications on the Elite circuit.
Former Bassmaster Elite Series pro Casey Scanlon weighed in a 9-2 limit today to finish second in the pro division with 36-4. “I started off with three keepers in the first two hours and I got six or seven keeper bites,” he said. “But they just weren’t quality fish.”
Scanlon fished the same dock pattern as he did on Friday, when he caught a 15-15 limit. “I caught my biggest fish off a dock I hadn’t been to this week,” he said. “Early in the day I would start out fishing behind the docks with a jig and a tube, and then I would go a little deeper and focus on the sides and the fronts later on in the afternoon with a Luck-E-Strike Con-Man worm.”
Other anglers finishing in the Top 5 of the pro division were Masayuki Matsushita of Japan, 35-7; Toby Hartsell, Afton, Okla., 34-10; and Allan Nail, Sand Springs, Okla., 33-10.
Oklahoma City firefighter Steve Tennison won the co-angler division with 20-9. The Lexington, Okla., angler received the first-place prize of a $30,000 Nitro Z18, Mercury 150 Pro XS, Nitro single-axle trailer, Minn Kota Maxxum 70 24-volt trolling motor, Lowrance Hook 5X Pro electronics and prop. He caught most of his keepers on a Carolina-rigged Strike King Rage Tail Menace Grub.
Five anglers qualified for 2018 Elite Series by virtue of their point totals in the 2017 Central Opens. They are Roy Hawk of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., with 534 points; Harvey Horne of Bella Vista, Ark., with 530 points; Hartsell with 528 points; Randy Sullivan of Breckenridge, Texas, with 516 points; and Ray Hanselman of Del Rio, Texas, with 516 points.
The $750 Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award on the pro side went to John Garrett of Union City, Tenn., the Carhartt Bassmaster College Classic qualifier for the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, who weighed in a 5-14 largemouth. Joe Gammell of Broken Arrow, Okla., caught a 5-pound largemouth to earn the $250 Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award on the co-angler side.
Elam also won the Power-Pole Captain’s Cash Award of $500 for being the highest-placing angler who is registered and eligible and uses a client-approved product on his boat.
Andy Ortega of Odessa, Texas, received the Livingston Lures Leader Award of $250 for finishing as the top pro on Day 2. Finishing as the Day 2 leader on the co-angler side, Will Major of Port Allen, La., received a Livingston Lures gift pack worth $250.
The final Central Open was sponsored by the City of Grove, Okla.