McMillan shines at Seminole

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.-- The fishing on the final round of the Bass Pro Shops Southern Open #3 presented by Allstate was no different than it was on Thursday and Friday.

It was a “grind.”

Although Lake Seminole teems with big bass, October is the toughest month to catch them.

Brandon McMillan of Clewiston, Fla., started the day with 39 pounds, 8 ounces, which put him nearly 7 pounds ahead of Trevor Fitzgerald, of Belleview, Fla., who was in second place. Only the Top 12 of the 166 pros and 166 co-anglers fished on Saturday.

McMillan needed that cushion. At 2 p.m. Saturday he had only three bass with 90 minutes left to fish. He kept his composure and caught the final two bass that filled his five-fish limit. They totaled 9-13, which paled compared to the 19-pound limits he brought in on Thursday and Friday. However, they gave him enough weight to clinch the victory with a total of 49-5.

Every bass McMillan caught came by flipping a Zoom Z Craw that was Texas rigged with a 4/0 Mustad hook and a 1 1/4- or 1 1/2-ounce Elite Tungsten Worm Weight. He horsed his bass from the thick grass beds he was fishing with a 7-foot, 11-inch, G. Loomis flipping rod sporting a Shimano Core reel spooled with 60-pound Gamma braided line.

For winning the tournament, McMillan received a prize package totaling $52,333, including a Skeeter ZX200 bass boat powered by a Yamaha VF200LA. He also earned a birth the 2016 Bassmaster Classic because he fished all three of the Bassmaster Southern Open tournaments in 2015.

If that were not enough, McMillan also won the Angler of the Year (Southern Open division). Any Bassmaster Open angler that finishes among the top five in the AOY standings qualifies for the Elite Series.

Elite Series pro Randall Tharp of Port St. Joe, Fla., finished second with 45-6. Tharp failed to qualify for the 2016 Bassmaster Classic through the Elite Series. Winning the Seminole Bassmaster Open was his last chance to qualify for the Classic. He nearly pulled it off. Tharp’s consolation prize totaled more than $17,000.

Tharp also flipped soft plastic baits into dense grass beds to catch his bass. His 7-foot, 11-inch extra heavy action Halo Twilite rod was paired with 60-pound Gamma braided line. Two lures were his workhorses, Zoom’s Z Craw and Z Hog. One was rigged with a heavy Reins tungsten sinker and the other with a Reins Punch Shot Tungsten weight. The latter weight features a collar to which Tharp attached a skirt.

With a total weight of 44-10, Chad Grigsby of Maple Grove, Minn., claimed third place and pocketed over $12,000. On Thursday, Friday and most of Saturday, Grigsby caught his bass with a FlippinBug soft plastic lure from Charlie’s Worms. He rigged the bait with a 1 1/2-ounce tungsten weight, 65-pound test Seaguar braided line spooled on a Lew’s baitcasting reel mounted to a 7-foot, 11-inch Halo flippin’ rod.

However, at 2 p.m. today, Grigsby had only two bass. He switched to a Zara Spook topwater plug and promptly caught three more bass, the biggest of which weighed 5 pounds.

Travis Kelehan of Broussard, La., won the co-angler division with a weight of 22-9. His prize was a Triton 179 TrX bass boat with a Mercury 115 Pro XS outboard.

“I fished with three outstanding pros this week,” Kelehan said.

Did he ever. He fished with Randall Tharp Thursday, Elite Series pro Greg Hackney Friday and Timmy Reneau on Saturday. All three of these anglers excel at fishing thick grass, which was just what Kelehan wanted.

Elite Series pro Chad Morgenthaler of Coulterville, Ill., caught the biggest bass on the pro side of the tournament with a largemouth weighing 8-12. He was happy claim a $750 Bass Pro Shops Big Bass award.

The 6-10 bass caught by Eugene Stinson of Dry Branch, Ga., was the biggest among the co-anglers. Stinson earned a $250 Bass Pro Shops Big Bass award.

For leading the tournament on Friday, McMillan received the $250 Livingston Lures Leader Award. Bailey Boutries of Daphne, Ala., claimed the co-angler Livingston Lures Leader Award, which is worth $250 in merchandise.

The $250 Allstate Good Hands, Great Day Award went to Brent Bonadona. Larry Beauboeuf received the $150 Allstate Good Hands, Great Day Award for the co-angler division.