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Date: October 19, 2013
Tournament: Berkley Big Bass Lake Fork 2013
Prize WinnersHourlyStoryPhotos
Randy Hooker reels in BIG at 8th Annual Berkley Big Bass tournament
By: Patty Lenderman

Randy Hooker reels in BIG at 8th Annual Berkley Big Bass tournament
By Patty Lenderman

It only happens once each year – and only on Lake Fork! A two day, hourly big bass tournament presented by Berkley products and hosted by Skeeter Bass Champs. Growing each and every year, new records were set again October 19-20 as over 800 anglers representing ten states fished for not only one of twelve places paid each hour, but also the grand prizes of fully rigged Skeeter boats! The biggest fish over the slot would win one, as well as the biggest fish under the slot.

There was also one more important twist to the game. You could only use Berkley baits. “This is a fun way to expose the every day angler to our broad base of products,” stated Berkley representative Andrew Marks. “It is great to see all of the fish caught, big and small, but it is even better to see the couples fishing together having fun, and the adults who bring the kids out to compete as well.”

Lake Fork has ‘slot limits’ to the size a bass may be legally possessed. All bass 16” or less are legal, all bass 24” or larger are legal. Anything in-between must be released immediately. Sometimes that can be pretty tough on a lucky angler that catches a nine pounder that doesn’t stretch to the 24” mark, just having to put it back in the lake!

The first day of the tournament, Donald Ringgold of Sand Springs, Oklahoma was leading the pack with the biggest fish registered for the day at 2.40 lbs. No fish over 24” were brought to the scales.

The first hour of day two saw the first over the slot bass weighing in at 6.69 lbs by Russell Oliphant of Altus, OK. The next hour another was weighed in by Don Whisenhunt of Winthrop, AR with a 7.17 pounder. It was the very next hour that the last bass over the slot limit was weighed in, and it was the biggest of them all.

Randy Hooker of Nevada, TX caught the biggest bass of the tournament weighing in at 8.58 lbs. “I think I have fished in all of the Berkley Big Bass tournaments,” he began. “I didn’t get to fish Saturday at all, and it was tough fishing Sunday.” Familiar with Lake Fork, he zeroed in on grassy areas with drop-offs to deeper water nearby. “The fish were moving up to feed, then going back out into the deeper water.” His bait of choice was a stripped down buzz bait that he put a black & blue Berkley skirt on. “The Berkley skirts have better action to them, and it really makes a difference.” Then he dyed the head of the buzz bait chartreuse. “I was using a slow retrieve method. Just barely kept it on the surface.” He caught a nice nine pounder, but it was short and fat and did not reach the 24” mark. “It hurt to put that fish back in the water!” Continuing on, he caught a few more that also landed in the slot. “It was cold and foggy. I waited for the fog to lift, then headed to my second spot.” He went to the North end of the lake to a patch of matted grass with a sharp drop off close to it. “I was talking to a non-competing boat of people nearby, and they asked if I was catching any.” (He continued fishing as they talked) “I told them I had caught a few, and about my 5th cast, as I was still talking to them, she hit!” He was fishing by himself, and got her to the boat and in the net. “I don’t think I was breathing from the time I hooked her until I measured her. All I kept thinking was: PLEASE let it be over the line!” Finally, he could breathe, as this one did make it over the line – so he packed up and headed straight in to weigh her. He not only won the hour for $500, he also won the first Skeeter boat awarded. It was a Skeeter ZX200 powered by a Yamaha 200 SHO, equipped with a Minn Kota trolling motor and Humminbird electronics. “I would really like to thank my dad (Richard) for spending the time to teach me to fish as I was growing up. We spent a lot of time on Lake Fork. Without him and the things he taught me, I wouldn’t be able to catch these kinds of fish!”

The second grand prize of a Skeeter ZX 190 powered by a Yamaha 150 motor was awarded to Peter Cherkas of Desmoines, Iowa for having the largest catch under the slot limit weighing in at 2.67 lbs. “My dad and I have fished a couple of the Berkley tournaments, but this year I got to fish with my fiancé in her first tournament ever.” Peter’s Berkley lure choice was a Flicker Shad crank bait, clear with a black back. “We started out in shallow grass, but it didn’t produce anything for us in those areas.” It was a tough day for the Iowa couple on Saturday. “We didn’t have anything we could weigh in until the last hour, and it wasn’t very big. We decided to let it go and try again Sunday.” Again, they started out in shallow grass, but by mid-morning decided to back out into deeper water. “I looked over the water, and saw something turning near the surface. I made a long cast, and within a few cranks –BAM! She hit it.” He weighed his boat winning fish in the same hour as Randy Hooker, winning $400 for 2nd place of the hour as well as the new Skeeter boat. “I only caught three fish the entire tournament – but one of them was the right fish!” He would like to thank family friends Ann and Billy Echart for letting them stay with them while he and his fiancé fished the tournament. “We’re already planning on coming back and fishing it again next year!”

“Nine years ago we (Berkley) were looking for a tournament organization to sponsor with our fishing line and baits,” Andrew Marks recalled. “That’s when we met Chad and Jeff of Bass Champs. We talked about their various events, and I said: Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a Berkley tournament?” It was such a great idea that everyone jumped on board and put together the first Bass Champs hosted Berkley tournament. “We had about 500 anglers in the first event, and it has grown each year ever since! It is all about the fun. We are so amazed and appreciative of everyone who comes out and fishes this tournament with us, whether they live locally or especially those who come from great distances. Berkley has such a wide array of products, from hard baits to soft baits, fishing line, rods – this is a great opportunity for us to expose anglers to what we have to offer.” This was Berkley’s 8th annual event on Lake Fork. “We’re already looking forward to the 25th!”

Click to Berkley-fishing.com to see a complete line of Berkley products. For more information on the fishing tournament, including complete standings, click to www.BassChamps.com

The 2014 schedule is available at www.BassChamps.com, so mark the dates and plan on winning in 2014! “Next year we will be awarding a Ford pick-up truck at every single event with an MSRP over $25,000 to the winners. We are excited to welcome Ford aboard with Bass Champs as we continually strive to improve each and every year for our participating teams. Be sure and check out all of the new sponsor incentives including the "Ford Fish 4 FREE program on basschamps.com”

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