Pro Paul Elias of Laurel, Miss., caught a five-bass limit weighing 23 pounds even Sunday to lead wire-to-wire and win $100,500 at the Walmart FLW Tour on Lake Guntersville presented by Mercury with a four-day catch of 20 bass weighing 102-8
The catch gave him the win by an amazing 17-pound, 3-ounce margin over Robert Behrle of Hoover, Ala., who caught a total of 20 bass weighing 85-5 and earned $34,021. Elias came up just short of the previous FLW Tour total tournament weight record of 106 pounds, 10 ounces that was set by Brandon McMillan of Belle Glade, Fla., at the 2011 season opener in February at Lake Okeechobee. Elias said the Guntersville event marked the fourth time he has cracked the 100-pound mark in tournament competition.
“Somehow the Lord blesses me and I manage to win one of these things every three or four years,” said Elias, who boosted his career winnings to $1.29 million. “To be 60 years old and to be able to compete against these young guys; it’s great.
“I am worn slam out,” Elias added. “I’ve only won one other tournament where I led every day, and it’s exhausting.” Elias opened the tournament Thursday with five bass weighing 26 pounds even that he caught on a little-known method called an Alabama Rig. On Friday he added another five bass weighing 29-3 and word about the Alabama Rig began to leak out. He then caught five bass weighing 24-5 Saturday and talk about the Alabama Rig dominated conversation on stage. On Sunday, a day that saw the majority of the final 10 competitors use the Alabama Rig at one time or another, he sealed his victory.
The Alabama Rig consists of a hard-bait body that trails four or five wires that have a swivel attached to the end of each wire. Fishermen then tie a variety of baits – swimbaits, grubs or a variety of other artificial baits – to the swivels. The baits fan out and are retrieved and mimic a school of baitfish.
Elias said he fished the Alabama Rig on a 7-foot, 11-inch Pinnacle flipping rod, a Pinnacle reel and 65-pound-test Spiderwire Ultracast FluoroBraid line. Elias baited the Alabama Rig with either 5-inch swimbaits on 3/8-ounce jigheads or 6 ½-inch swimbaits on ¾-ounce jigheads. Elias said he started the competition using Mann’s HardNose Swimbaits but ran out of those and ended up using three different swimbaits during the course of the tournament.
“The fishing started out a little slow and I said, “You big dummy, you better catch at least enough to win this thing after you’ve led it this far,” Elias said. “They finally started biting and I got comfortable.”
Elias said he keyed in on fish on bridges and quick-dropping points near the causeways around current that was causing the fish to stage to ambush shad. Elias positioned his boat in 25 to 40 feet of water and was catching suspending fish in 20 to 30 feet of water. Elias said he estimates he caught almost 100 keepers during the course of the event.
“That Alabama Rig was awesome,” Elias told the weigh-in crowd. “It’s going to be crucial to practice catch-and-release on these fish because when you get that bait in your hand you’re going to catch a lot of fish. So please take care of your lake. You’ve got one of the greatest lakes in the country.”
The remaining top 10 pros finished the tournament in:
3rd Russell Lane, Prattville, Ala., 20 bass, 74-4, $29,154
4th: Chevy pro Anthony Gagliardi, Prosperity, S.C., 20 bass, 74-1, $24,288
5th: Chevy pro Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., 20 bass, 73-7, $19,421
6th: Troy Morrow, Eastanollee, Ga., 18 bass, 70-6, $16,501
7th: Chevy pro Jay Yelas, Corvallis, Ore., 20 bass, 69-2, $15,528
8th: Duracell/Gillette pro Jacob Powroznik, Prince George, Va., 20 bass, 68-1, $14,554
9th: Chevy pro Luke Clausen, Spokane, Wash., 19 bass, 63-8, $13,581
10th: Alex Davis, Albertville, Ala., 20 bass, 62-10, $12,608