Vance McCullough's blog

Bassmaster Classic Bracket - is this what the future of professional fishing looks like?

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Did the Bassmaster Classic Bracket set a new standard for professional fishing? photo by Steve Bowman/B.A.S.S.Did the Bassmaster Classic Bracket set a new standard for professional fishing? photo by Steve Bowman/B.A.S.S.

 

As he fished from the front deck of his bass boat, breeze rippling his jersey, Kevin VanDam reflected on a career that has seen all the changes of format that B.A.S.S. has thrown at anglers in the modern era: the MegaBucks hole-style events, the E-50's that morphed into the current Elite Series, and so on. He had high praise for the tournament in which he was competing during the final, championship, round - the Bassmaster Classic Bracket.

Kevin VanDam wins Bassmaster Classic Bracket, pending protest by Brett Hite

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Kevin VanDam is riding high after posting his 23rd career Bassmaster win - pending Brett Hite's protest. photo by Steve BowmanKevin VanDam is riding high after posting his 23rd career Bassmaster win - pending Brett Hite's protest. photo by Steve Bowman

After 4 days, 8 anglers have gone head-to-head in bracket style competition at the Bassmaster Classic Bracket. Finally, we have a winner.

Maybe.

When the seconds had ticked off the clock in today's championship round, Kevin VanDam had 20 pounds, 3 ounces on the scoreboard. Brett Hite had 13-9.

But VanDam caught a fish weighing better than 2 pounds just beyond the boundary of this week's playing field.

Hite cruises, VanDam squeaks into finals at Bassmaster Classic Bracket

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Brett Hite has made a splash, piling-up the heaviest cumulative weight among all anglers with one lure on one spot this week. photo by James Overstreet/B.A.S.S.Brett Hite has made a splash, piling-up the heaviest cumulative weight among all anglers with one lure on one spot this week. photo by James Overstreet/B.A.S.S.


 

 

 

 

Wacky, wonderful Day 2 at Bassmaster Classic Bracket as 4 pros advance

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Jacob Powroznik cheers-on Koby Kreiger, the guy he's supposed to be fishing against. photo courtesy B.A.S.S.

Jacob Powroznik cheers-on Koby Kreiger, the guy he's supposed to be fishing against. photo courtesy B.A.S.S.

 

As a fan of professional bass fishing, confrontational drama on the water has never bothered me. Some say that it 'gives the sport a black eye' or whatever. I say that's true - only if you're trying to reinvent golf. Wake me up when you're done with that. I'll be over here watching Happy Gilmore. "Gee, I hope none of those players have a fight right here in front of us," said no hockey fan ever.

And fans do watch NASCAR for the crashes. At least a crash occurs because somebody is trying too hard to win.

Today we witnessed the complete opposite of that.

Day 2 Midday update from BassMaster Classic Bracket on Niagra River - Excitement Abounds!

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Dean Rojas mounts a late comeback. Super cool photo by Steve Bowman/B.A.S.S.Dean Rojas mounts a late comeback. Super cool photo by Steve Bowman/B.A.S.S.

 

Ten minutes left to go in this morning's action. Dean Rojas was 5 pounds behind Jordan Lee; 5 pounds out of tomorrow's semifinal round. He connected with 3 pound, 3 ounce smallmouth. On the next cast his rod bent, he set the hook and nursed another into the boat. Tripp Weldon said the fish needed to weigh at a pound, 13 ounces then read the in-boat digital scale and declared that it weighed 2 pounds, 13 ounces.

And those tuned-in to WatchESPN saw it all happen. Live.

"This format's the best," said Rojas. "There's nothing like it!"

Morning bite stronger on Day1 of Bassmaster Classic Bracket on Niagra River

Judging from the weight totals, it seems like the early bite was stronger than the afternoon bite.

Three of the four pros who fished this morning caught limits of bass. Only one of four competitors did so this afternoon.

Tomorrow they flip-flop which means Kevin VanDam will defend the tournament's biggest Day 1 lead atop what should be an even more difficult hill for Elite Series rookie Drew Benton to climb. Benton caught one bass this morning while KVD led all anglers with 10 pounds, 4 ounces, though he's only competing against Benton today and tomorrow.

Bassmaster Classic Bracket off to interesting start!

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Kevin VanDam is off to a hot start. Under this new format, that could make him harder than ever to catch. photo courtesy B.A.S.S.Kevin VanDam is off to a hot start. Under this new format, that could make him harder than ever to catch. photo courtesy B.A.S.S.

 

This would be 'half time' for our Classic Bracket anglers in matches #1 and #2. They will pick up the rods again tomorrow against the same opponents and carry today's weight toward their 2-day total to determine who moves on to Thursday's semifinal rounds.

Follow-up coverage: BASSFest - details of Hackney's win; Card's big climb on Texoma

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Hackney wrestled Texoma bass from flooded bushes all week. photo by Steve Bowman/B.A.S.S.Hackney wrestled Texoma bass from flooded bushes all week. photo by Steve Bowman/B.A.S.S.


To round-out our coverage of BASSFest, here's the official press release. Hackney gives a detailed breakdown of his pattern. He was seriously dialed-in on what it took to catch quality bass this week. 

Brandon Card made an excellent adjustment on the final morning that led to the heaviest sack of the tournament and a big climb up the standings. It would have been a huge win for Card if Hackney hadn't won so many armwrestling matches with bush-bound bass. As Hackney shares, you often lose heavyweight fish in those conditions. 

Hackney Whacks 'em for Big BASSFest win on Lake Texoma!

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photo courtesy B.A.S.S.photo courtesy B.A.S.S.

 

On a cloudy final day with water levels continuing to drop and visibility improving, there was a solid topwater bite on Lake Texoma. Greg Hackney stuck with the big jig that had gotten him to Championship Sunday and closed-out the win at BASSFest 2016.

Meanwhile, Brandon Card had a career day with over 21 pounds - far and away the heaviest sack of the day - so Hackney had to bring his 'A' game to to take the blue trophy.

It was a classic battle as Card capitalized on the topwater action with a Yo-Zuri 3DB Pencil and Hackney countered with his Strike King jig. What a contest!

Ashley back on top as Pros take a break at BASSFest on Lake Texoma

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Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C., takes the lead on the third day of the GEICO Bassmaster BASSfest presented by Choctaw Casino and Resort, bringing 17 pounds, 5 ounces to the scales on Friday for a three-day total weight of 51-15.  Photo by Seigo Saito/BassmCasey Ashley of Donalds, S.C., takes the lead on the third day of the GEICO Bassmaster BASSfest presented by Choctaw Casino and Resort, bringing 17 pounds, 5 ounces to the scales on Friday for a three-day total weight of 51-15. Photo by Seigo Saito/Bassm

 

Long rods, heavy fluorocarbon line and lightly weighted lures dominate as anglers continue to pitch into thick bushes and other flooded cover.
 
Casey Ashley retook the lead today but Gerald Swindle is becoming a story in his own right as he attacks Greg Hackney's lead in the Angler of the Year race. Swindle downplayed the AOY race,"I try not to even look at the points at this time of the year. We've got a long way to go." He did say he is having a good week, making adjustments - and they all seem to be the right ones.

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