DANDRIDGE, Tenn. — Canadian Mark Cavanaugh caught his winning catch of largemouth within the first half hour of fishing this morning to win the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Eastern Regional presented by Magellan Outdoors.
Cavanaugh, of Port Perry, Ontario, won the tournament after three days with a total weight of 45 pounds, 3 ounces. A 5-bass limit weighing 19-7 anchored his Day 3 catch.
"They were feeding fast and furious soon as I arrived," said Cavanaugh, a member of the Port Perry Bassmasters. "It didn't slow down until after I caught my limit and then the fish just shut down."
William Lortz II of Rochester N.Y., finished second with 41-7. Jason Vaughn of Bridgeville, Del., took third with 40-12. Casey Smith of Macdeon, N.Y., was fourth with 40-7. Mike Wolfenden of Warwick, R.I., was fifth with 39-11.
With exception of Smith those anglers also caught the heaviest individual weights for their states. Each top placing boater and non-boater from the 17 states and Ontario competing in the tournament advanced to the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Championship presented by Magellan Outdoors. Date and location of the championship will be announced soon.
Jon Robia of Norawood, N.Y., won the non-boater division with a total weight of 25-10. John Bernard of McKees Rocks, Pa., took second with 25-3 and Matt Becker of Finleyville, Pa., was third with 25-2.
Cavanaugh's fishing area improved daily as evidenced by his scorecard. On Day 1 the Canadian returned to the scales with a limit weighing 10-8 to put him in 52nd place. The next day he moved to 10th based on the lift provided by a limit weighing 15-4. He finished the tournament with the limit weighing 19-4.
Cavanaugh focused on two primary areas. Both functioned as staging areas in deeper water for largemouth migrating from the shallow spawning areas. A series of secondary points near the main lake were his primary focus. The other spot was a deepwater hump, where he caught his heaviest weight.
Rotating between the shallow and deep fishing patterns gave him more flexibility and options for staying in the game.
"I started deep and worked shallow," he said. "There was a short feeding window on the deep spot so I began each day on that offshore hump."
A depth of 40 feet surrounded the hump in 14 feet of water. Cavanaugh reasoned the bass moved from the deep water to the hump to feed on baitfish. When they did he was there with a Strike King Pro Model 6XD olive shad color crankbait. The lure is capable of running to depths of 18 feet. That allowed Cavanaugh to probe the hump and surrounding drop off at varying depths.
When the action ceased in deep water he rotated through the series of points. Success came as he slowly retrieved a simple tube jig down the sloping bottom contour.
His choice was a 3 1/2-inch, green pumpkin color First Mate Lures plastic tube rigged to a 3/8-ounce jighead.
"The male bass were staging, coming and going from shallow and deep water, on those points," he said.
The presence of bait was key for the payoff pattern in deep water.
"The bass had everything they needed there to keep coming back after spawning," he said. "There was habitat, bait and a rest stop between shallow and deep water."
Anglers earned these sponsorship contingency awards.
Livingston Lures Leader Award: William Lutz earned the $250 boater division bonus by leading the tournament on Day 2 with 31-7. John Bernard won Livingston Lures merchandise for leading with 17-13.
Big Bass: Boater Larry Beebe of Griswold, Conn., caught a largemouth weighing 6-1 on Day 1 of the tournament to win the $250 big bass award. Non-boater Scott Murphy caught a largemouth weighing 6 pounds to win a $125 bonus.