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Date: January 20, 2018
Region: 2018 East Region
Tournament: Sam Rayburn#1
Tournament Trail: 2018 Bass Champs Tournament Trail
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Two sacks over 30 pounds – Shook & Iles take the win on Rayburn at Bass Champs
By: Patty Lenderman

The weather isn’t the only thing heating up – the excitement exploded on Sam Rayburn January 20, 2018 as Bass Champs East Region hit it hard, showcasing not only angler skills but the amazing bass on Sam Rayburn, the largest lake in Texas. 332 boats launched out of the southern end of the lake with the weigh in staged at the Umphrey Family Pavilion. Over $100,000 was up for grabs to the top 44 teams. Not one, but TWO sacks were caught over 30 pounds! In the end, it was John Iles and Brian Shook who came out on top to win.

It is commonly said in Texas that if you don’t like the current weather, just wait a little while and it will change. That couldn’t have proven more true the week of the tournament. Freezing rain, ice and snow blanketed the region just scant days before the event. For many, cabin fever had set in. All eyes were on the forecast coming in to tournament day, blessing everyone with temperatures in the mid 60’s with a chance of rain. With overcast skies, little wind and fluctuating barometric pressures, the bite was on – and the results were astounding.

Shawn O’Neal and Matt Bates were the first to bring in a big sack weighing just over 20 pounds, setting the mark to beat at 20.10 lbs. It didn’t take long at all before John Iles and Brian Shook brought in their bounty tipping the scales to 31.92 lbs! The crowd roared at the incredible weight, but it was a long wait for the team to see if it would hold. As proven many times before, Rayburn is quite capable of producing even bigger sacks.

George Jeane Jr and Tater Reynolds weighed in soon after, first weighing their largest bass at 9.46 lbs, taking the big bass lead and temporarily holding a 2nd place overall position. The weigh in was off to a very exciting start – but it was not over yet.

Harold Allen and Matt Loetscher heaved their catch to the scales. Challenging the Big Bass leaders, they put their biggest on the scales first. It weighed 9.15 lbs, just under the top weight. Putting the rest of their creel in the basket, the scale again went over 30 pounds for a total of 30.72 pounds!

There were still many teams yet to check in, but due to the high number of participants, two $500 “Zero Bonuses” were offered to any teams who elected to pre-release their catch in lieu of weighing them in. “We offer this conservation bonus to not only save more bass from going through the weigh in process, but also to give more participants a chance to win a check for releasing their fish when they otherwise would not have won a check,” Chad Potts explained.

When the scales officially closed, Iles and Shook were declared the winners. “We had a terrible practice, and didn’t find anything we could really focus on,” Shook began. “We decided to just head out and just go fishing.” They started by looking for shallow grassy areas. “There really isn’t a lot of grass yet, and we didn’t catch anything in our first spot.” Switching gears, they backed out into deeper water. “Our second area, we used a 6th Sense 500DD crank bait, and put about 15 pounds in the boat.” Staying on the move, they switched again to a Carolina rigged Strike King Game Hog and caught their kicker, 7-1/2 lbs, plus another five pounder to add to their creel. At this point it was 10:30am, and they had around 25 pounds. “The bite really slowed down for us after that. We didn’t catch another fish until 1:30.” Staying in the mid lake area, focusing on deep brush piles 25-30’ deep, when the bite started again they were able to cull up to their final weight. “Our Power Tackle Rods made all the difference for us today. Thanks to them, we didn’t lose any.” Iles would also like to thank the everlasting support of his mom and Carlson’s Marine. Bass Champs presented the duo with the guaranteed $20,000 1st place check. Lowrance and Sure-Life added to their winnings for an incredible day.

2nd place winners Harold Allen and Matt Loetscher said their day was “pretty friggin’ awesome”. Harold gave immense credit to his partner Matt. “My partner found the area we fished during practice. It was holding good bass, but now, especially with the weather, they are on the move and we were concerned whether or not they would still be there for the tournament.” They targeted a deep ledge. Harold rigged his IRod with a Shimano reel, Vicious 20-25 lb monofilament, using a Santone ¾ oz jig with a Paca Craw trailer. Matt chose a Douglas rod paired with a Daiwa reel and used a Stanley ¾ oz jig with a Cajun Crackin Craw trailer. “We sat in one spot, and with our MinnKota Ultrex Spot Lock trolling motor, we didn’t have to touch the trolling motor all day. It kept us in our zone.” As luck would have it, their fish were still there. “We had a lot of boat pressure around us, but we were able to stick to our spot all day.” They caught around 10 keepers, including their 9.15 lb’r that anchored their 30.72 lb stringer. “I think I jinxed the rest of our day when I caught a 15 pound blue by the tail!” Harold added. Bass Champs awarded the team with a $7,000 check. “As always, thank you to Skeeter and Yamaha for their awesome support!” Harold added.

There was a tie for 3rd place. George Jeane, Jr and Tater Reynolds weighed in the first of the 23.49 lb sacks, anchored by the Big Bass winner of the day at 9.46 lbs. “We went for deep brush piles in water 22’-30’ deep with black & blue jigs,” George explained. “In the first five minutes we put a six pounder in the boat, but didn’t catch another fish until 10:00.” Staying on the move in the hunt for quality bass, their kicker was the third fish they boated. “We just kept looking, trying to focus on deep brush piles. We ended up fishing some areas that are new to us, and that really helped.” All total they caught ten keepers to cull from, landing a 3rd place $4,500 check. They won another $1,000 for Big Bass of the day, then won two new Abu Garcia reels for catching the big one on an Abu Garcia. George would like to recognize the support of Jean’s Tackle in Evans, LA.

Kevin Walker, Jr and Jeff Bridges tied for a 3rd place win. “Our day was ok – but it could have been better,” the team agreed. They too focused on deep drops and ledges for their catch using Carolina rigs and jigs. “The morning was really good. We had a limit in the boat within 30 minutes.” They estimate that their initial limit weighed around 12 pounds. “The first fish we were able to cull with weighed six pounds. We just kept catching fish, and by noon we had our weight.” Their efforts paid off to the tune of $4,500 for the tournament. In addition to the tournament winnings, they were awarded an additional $4500 for being the highest qualified Skeeter boat owner. They would like to thank Power Tackle Rods, Skeeter boats, Yamaha, H&W Marine, Power Pole, Bass Boat Technology and Cliff Brown at Texas Boat World.

All total the top 44 teams went home with winnings. The last team in the line up was Nick Diberardino and Larry Cotton with 13.44 lbs.

For everyone planning to fish any Bass Champs event, two things are highly encouraged:
(1) Don’t miss out on any bonuses offered by the great sponsors of each event. Just take a couple of minutes to read how easy it is to qualify for these extra winnings, click to www.BassChamps.com/sponsorincentives.cfm
(2) Sign up for the FREE e-Newsletter and stay up to date and informed on all the action at Bass Champs!

“Thank you everyone for coming out and fishing with us. The East Region continues to be the largest region of Bass Champs and this is a great start to another awesome year. Congratulations to all of our winners and we look forward to seeing you at our next event!” – Chad Potts, President/Bass Champs.

For full results and schedules, go to www.BassChamps.com or call 817-439-3274
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