WAGONER, Okla. — Bassmaster Elite Series pro Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Okla., was the favorite to win the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open presented by Allstate at Fort Gibson Lake. Biffle’s home rests on the shores of Fort Gibson, and he won a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament here in 2010.
However, when the final bass was weighed at the Bass Pro Shops in Broken Arrow, Okla., Elite Series pro James Elam of Tulsa, Okla., another hometown favorite, nabbed the victory with a 17-pound, 8-ounce, limit. The heavy sack pushed his three-day total to 46-3.
A noisy, sign-waving crowd of Elam’s fans cheered as he held the victor’s trophy high above his head. When Elam competes in the final Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open of 2015 at Table Rock Lake, his Fort Gibson win will earn him a berth to the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro, which will be held on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake O' the Cherokess.
A 10-inch Berkley worm and a Zoom Brush Hog accounted for most of Elam’s bass. He Texas rigged both baits with a 3/8-ounce sinker and 15-pound Seaguar InvizX Fluorocarbon line. A 3/16-ounce Owner Shakey Ultrahead dressed with a 7-inch Basskwondo worm also duped some key bass for Elam.
“It was tougher today,” Elam said. “I had to fish new water to get the bites I needed.”
For winning the tournament, Elam pocketed $53,083, including a $45,000 Skeeter and Yamaha boat/motor package.
Elam also collected the $500 Power-Pole Captains Cash award and the $500 A.R.E. Top Angler Award.
Stetson Blaylock of Benton, Ark., lead the tournament with 31-6 when the final 12 competitors headed out on Fort Gibson Lake Saturday. He returned with an 11-pound limit, which dropped him to second place with a total of 42-6.
Blaylock also concentrated mainly on rocky, offshore structures. He found his bass in practice by casting a Livingston Lures Primetyme 2.0 square bill crankbait. When the tournament started, Blaylock stuffed his livewell with a 7.75-inch Yamamoto Kut Tail worm rigged on a 3/8-ounce football shaky head jig.
Blaylock shared water with other competitors on Thursday and Friday. He claims he fared better than his competitors because he fished more slowly.
“I was dragging the bait over the bottom,” he said.
Terry Peacock of Royse City, Texas, jumped from 10th to third place today with a 14-11 limit that boosted his total to 40-2. Unlike Elam and Blaylock, Peacock wielded a flipping rod and pitched a 10-inch Berkley Power Worm into newly flooded trees and bushes.
“I had been catching them in 4- to 8-feet of water,” Peacock said. “Today, I pitched the worm to trees in 12- to 15-feet that were under the surface.”
Saturday’s bass were suspended in the deeper trees 6- to 8-feet deep, Peacock added.
Co-angler Lonnie Miller of Broken Arrow, Okla., brought three-bass limits to the scales on Thursday and Friday, but managed only two bass today. Fortunately for Miller, they weighed 7-14 and brought his winning three-day total to 24-1. He pitched and cast a 10-inch ring worm to whatever cover his pro partners put within his range.
“I fished a big worm to eliminate bites from small bass,” Miller said.
Many bass shy of Fort Gibson’s 14-inch length limit were caught throughout the tournament, which bodes well for the lake’s future bass fishing. Besides the co-angler trophy, Miller will get the keys to a 179 Triton TrX with a Mercury 115 Pro XS motor package.
The 5-15 bass caught by Chad Wiley of Pineville, La., earned him the $750 Bass Pro Shops Big Bass award. Dane Coale of Norman, Okla., pocketed the $250 Bass Pro Shops Big Bass award on the co-angler side of the event for his 5-4 heavyweight.
For leading the tournament on Friday, Blaylock received the $250 Livingston Lures Leader Award. Joe Lee of Grand Prairie, Texas, claimed the co-angler Livingston Lures Leader Award, which is worth $250 in Livingston merchandise.
The $250 Allstate Good Hands, Great Day Award went to pro angler Brandon Lee of Ratcliff, Ark. Michael Scalise of Port Allen, La., received the $150 Allstate Good Hands, Great Day Award for the co-angler.