Todd Auten and Pat Tierney thought they had a good sack, 10 or 11 pounds maybe, but instead the pair had a solid 13 pounds, 1 ounce, enough to best the rest of the field at the Toyota Trucks Bonus Bucks Owners Tournament on Lake Norman by 2 pounds, 4 ounces.
“I was just hunting and pecking all day,” said Auten, a former Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Lake Wylie, S.C. “The fish were scattered. You couldn’t pin them down, so you just had to fish the whole area once you found a good spot.”
The two-man team fished docks and brushpiles in main channel pockets in the upper and midsection of the lake. They ran only 20 to 30 minutes from the launch area and stayed in about the same area all day.
“We fished a lot of good stuff and never got a bite,” said Tierney. “It was really hard out there.”
Auten and Tierney were among the 32 boats that brought in a five-fish limit. Of the 75 teams, 17 zeroed. Many of the anglers had a hard time catching fish that measured a full 14 inches, and several â€” including the winners â€” complained of missed fish and breakoffs.
Auten and Tierney caught their two biggest bass on a white homemade buzzbait. The other three came on a Shooter Jigs jig with a green pumpkin Zoom Super Chunk or a shaky head rig with a 4-inch Zoom Finesse Worm (green pumpkin).
Tierney fished with a 6-10 medium-heavy Shimano Clarus rod and a Quantum KVD reel with a 6.2:1 gear ratio. Auten’s setup was a 7-0 medium-heavy All Star Rods 845 rod with a Pflueger Supreme baitcast reel. Both used 20-pound-test Bass Pro Shops Excel Clear monofilament.
The winning team took home a check for $5,000. And Auten’s cash winnings didn’t stop with his first place prize, he also picked up a $500 “Weigh-to-Win” bonus because of his membership in the BoatUS ANGLER supported program.
Auten and Tierney also tied for the Bass Pro Shops Big Bass award, with a 4-pound, 2-ounce beauty. Shane Lineberger and Hank Cherry, who came in third with 10 pounds, 10 ounces, caught the other big fish. The second-place team of Joel Ross and Jerry Goble brought in a limit of 10 pounds, 13 ounces.
“This is a great deal here,” said Auten. “You don’t get the opportunity to fish free hardly ever.” The Toyota Trucks Bonus Bucks Owners Tournament required no entry fee. Instead, competitors simply had to be a participant in the Toyota Trucks Bonus Bucks program.
Because of the $0 entry fee, many competitors said they simply came out to have a good time. “As soon as I found out about this tournament, I signed up for it,” said Markus Whitman of North Carolina. “I’m just here for fun!”
Several pros were in attendance for the event â€” and not just bass pros. Racing stars Timothy Peters and Parker Kligerman, who are currently in the Top 5 in the 2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Official Driver Standings, visited today’s weigh-in and met Bassmaster Elite Series pros Terry Scroggins, Michael Iaconelli and Gerald Swindle.
“They were cool to meet,” said Kligerman, “especially because we lead such similar lives. They’ve got a lot of personality.”
Peters even went fishing with Kevin VanDam this morning. “I understand he’s the Dale Earnhardt of the fishing world,” said Peters. “He taught me how to use a baitcaster today, and he gave me a rod, reel and some lures. And I caught a bass, too!”
This tournament is the first of its kind for Toyota Trucks Bonus Bucks owners, and it’s planned to become an annual event.
“This is our way of thanking the working guy for buying the truck,” said Alan McGuckin, a representative of Toyota. “This has really been great.”