KISSIMMEE, Fla. — A slim 2 ounces separated winner Wesley Strader and his closest challenger, Cody Detweiler, in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open #1 at the Kissimmee Chain.
Strader finished with a winning weight of 50 pounds, 5 ounces to punch his ticket to the 2017 Bassmaster Classic if he competes in the next two Southern Opens. Detweiler weighed in a three-day total of 50-3 to finish as the Open runner-up in the pro division.
Despite a tough practice, Strader bounced back with solid limits each day, including a 13-1 bag in the final round. “I hadn’t caught a fish over 2 1/2 pounds in all of practice,” said Strader, who won the pro division grand prize of a $45,000 Nitro Z20 bass boat with a Mercury Pro XS 225-horsepower outboard engine.
The Spring City, Tenn., angler credited the copper rose lenses of his Typhoon Optics sunglasses for helping him locate spawning fish in practice. When he didn’t have a bite by 11:15 the first morning, Strader ran to the spot where he saw the spawning fish the day before. “I don’t know what happened over night but those big girls showed up ... and I caught them,” he said.
Throughout the week, Strader caught most of his fish on a Zoom Fluke or Speed Craw and an Old School Twin Spin topwater bait. “Yesterday I got on a little deal in some hydrilla and caught some on a (homemade) chatterbait, so this morning I decided to start there,” he said. “So when I pulled up on that hydrilla bed they were biting like crazy.”
Despite fishing in 58-degree water, Strader was able to coax bass into slamming the topwater bait. “Those fish came up and smoked it so I caught every fish on that Twin Spin in about 20 minutes”
Detweiler relied on a variety of lures to catch his bass throughout the week. He threw a Chatterbait in the rain the whole first day of competition and when the weather tuned sunny the next day he threw a Humdinger swim jig and flipped a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver with a 1 1/2-ounce weight to isolated mats. He also relied on the swim jig and flipped the Sweet Beaver to mats the final day to catch a 15-8 limit.
Other Top 5 finishers in the pro division were Mark Rose, West Memphis, Ark., third place, 50-1; Eric Panzironi, Longwood, Fla., fourth, 48-2; and Chad Morgenthaler, Reeds Spring, Mo., fifth, 45-4.
Virginia Beach, Va., angler Chaz Carrington flipped a Big Bite Baits Yo Daddy to catch a three-fish 9-10 limit in the final round and win the non-boater division. His three-day total of 25-9 earned him the top prize of a Nitro bass boat/Mercury outboard rig valued at $30,000.
Brad Knight, Lancing, Tenn., and James Bailey, Warrenton, Va., tied for the $750 Big Bass Award on the pro side as both anglers caught 9-6 largemouths. Nathan Bloom, Winter Springs, Fla., weighed in an 8-14-pound largemouth to earn the $250 Big Bass Award on the co-angler side.
Strader 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, Rob Walker of Deland, Fla., received a Livingston Lures gift pack worth $250.