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Menendez Uses Tin Boat to Win Elite on Dardanelle

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Old-school fishing fans are rejoicing as Mark Menendez of Paducah, Ky., laughed in the face of modernization, simplifying his approach by using an aluminum boat-rig with minimal trappings to accumulate 55 pounds, 7 ounces on his way to victory at the Toyota Trucks Diamond Drive on Lake Dardanelle.

Four-time Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam threatened Menendez with his tally of 53 pounds, 4 ounces, but Menendez’s old-school approach in the end earned him his third BASS victory.

For the first time in nearly 15 years – BASS legend Roland Martin scored victory out of an aluminum rig on the Connecticut River in 1994 – Menendez scored victory at a top-level BASS event with aluminum, piloting a 17-foot G3 armed with a 90-horsepower Yamaha engine across Dardanelle for three days of the weather-shortened tournament.

With the victory, Menendez earns $100,000 and valuable points in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, which awards the top 36 anglers qualifying berths in the 2010 Bassmaster Classic.   Two years running, Menendez, who is seventh in the AOY standings in 2009, has been the first angler out of the Classic cut and is seeking redemption this season after lost opportunities and doses of misfortune.  

“This goes to show that sometimes you don’t need the most modern equipment to perform at the highest level,†said Menendez, 44.   “This is the purest form of fishing, absolutely old school.   But at the end of the day, it’s just a method of transportation and you have to catch the fish to win.   Thankfully, I did.â€

While it paid off, Menendez was taking a huge gamble with his unique approach.   It took him nearly an hour each to get to his spot and return to the weigh-in site and he estimates that he only fished for 10 hours over the three days of competition.   Furthermore, with cold and windy conditions throughout the tournament, the ride was far from pleasant and on the final day, Menendez had to move rocks and other obstacles out of his way to reach his honey hole.

Still, when he got to his area, roughly a ¼-mile stretch, he was free of the boat traffic that plagued other competitors.   On Sunday, he flipped a Strike King KVD Tube, eerily named after VanDam, in black neon to the shallows to close out the victory.

Within his area, the most productive areas were grapevines positioned adjacent to wood.   Amazingly enough, Menendez, who typically runs a Skeeter boat, borrowed the aluminum rig from a good friend.   It was so beat up by the end of the tournament, Menendez felt it wasn’t salvageable.  

“I was 100% committed to aluminum this week,†said Menendez.   “The thought flickered through my mind to go back to my comfort zone but I knew that the only shot of getting to that area was the smaller rig.â€

With a late charge, VanDam narrowly missed out on his 15th BASS victory.   Using the traditional approach, VanDam fished in an area found by many other Elite Series competitors but was able to capitalize on the final day by flipping a Strike King rouge to the shallows.  

He trailed Menendez by more than 5 pounds heading into the final day and lamented a decision on the first day of competition to not upgrade his weight, opting instead to not burn out an area.   He felt had he exploited the area, he would have had a better shot heading into the final day.  

But VanDam, a BASS veteran and perhaps the best angler on the planet, is able to keep things in perspective.   With another solid finish, he leads the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings through two Elite Series event.   A victory in the season-long points race would give VanDam five AOY trophies, a feat only matched by Martin.  

“It’s never any fun to lose,†said VanDam, a two-time Bassmaster Classic champion.   “I really had them dialed in around Noon but I just left myself at too much of a disadvantage.â€

In third was Chris Lane of Winter Haven, Fla., with 48-1 followed by Jim Murray of Arabi, Ga., with 45-9 in fourth.   Denny Brauer, the 1998 Classic champion, was fifth with 43-8.

Continuing their solid runs, 2009 Bassmaster Classic champion Skeet Reese finished sixth while 2008 Classic champ Alton Jones was 10th.  

Elite anglers will get little rest as the next event on the schedule is set for next week, April 2-5 on Lake Wheeler out of Decatur, Ala.   Part of the Arkansas River Valley, the 34,300-acre Lake Dardanelle has been host to five BASS events.

Full standings for the tournament and the season-long Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings can be found below.

 

-Totals

TOYOTA TRUCKS DIAMOND DRIVE FINAL DAY   STANDINGS

2009 Diamond Drive 3/26-3/29

Lake Dardanelle, Russellville   AR.

(PROFESSIONAL) Standings Day 4

    Angler                                     Hometown                           No./lbs-oz   Pts     Total $$$

1.   Mark Menendez                   Paducah, KY                         15   55-07   315 $100,000.00

  Day 1: 5     17-12         Day 2: 5     21-08         Day 3: 0     00-00         Day 4: 5     16-03    

2.   Kevin VanDam                     Kalamazoo, MI                     15   53-04   295   $26,000.00

  Day 1: 5     15-06         Day 2: 5     18-06         Day 3: 0     00-00         Day 4: 5     19-08    

3.   Chris Lane                         Lakeland, FL                       15   48-01   290   $20,000.00

  Day 1: 5     15-14         Day 2: 5     14-08         Day 3: 0     00-00         Day 4: 5     17-11    

4.   Jim Murray                         Arabi, GA                             15   45-09   285   $15,000.00

  Day 1: 5     12-00         Day 2: 5     19-03         Day 3: 0     00-00         Day 4: 5     14-06    

5.   Denny Brauer                     Camdenton, MO                     14   43-08   280   $14,000.00

  Day 1: 5     16-06         Day 2: 5     15-05         Day 3: 0     00-00         Day 4: 4     11-13    

6.   Skeet Reese                       Auburn, CA                           15   42-12   276   $13,500.00

  Day 1: 5     15-13         Day 2: 5     13-09         Day 3: 0     00-00         Day 4: 5     13-06    

7.   Cliff Pace                         Petal, MS                             11   40-08   272   $13,000.00

  Day 1: 5     16-11         Day 2: 5     21-12         Day 3: 0     00-00         Day 4: 1     02-01    

8.   Fred Roumbanis                 Bixby, OK                             13   40-05   268   $12,500.00

  Day 1: 5     16-12         Day 2: 5     15-05         Day 3: 0     00-00         Day 4: 3     08-04    

9.   Matt Herren                       Trussville, AL                   13   39-08   264   $12,000.00

  Day 1: 5     17-01         Day 2: 5     15-07         Day 3: 0     00-00         Day 4: 3     07-00    

10. Alton Jones                       Waco, TX                               13   39-03   260   $11,500.00

  Day 1: 5     17-05         Day 2: 5     14-14         Day 3: 0     00-00         Day 4: 3     07-00    

11. Greg Vinson                       Wetumpka, AL                       11   35-09   257   $11,000.00

  Day 1: 4     09-01         Day 2: 5     21-14         Day 3: 0     00-00         Day 4: 2     04-10    

12. Bradley Hallman               Norman, OK                             9   28-14   254   $10,500.00

  Day 1: 4     10-10         Day 2: 5     18-04         Day 3: 0     00-00         Day 4: 0     00-00    

———————————————————————–

BIG BASS

Day

 1     Mark Menendez                       Paducah, KY                 06-00                   $0.00

 2     Timmy Horton                         Muscle Shoals, AL     07-08                   $0.00

 4     Denny Brauer                         Camdenton, MO             05-07                   $0.00

BIG BASS OF TOURNAMENT

        Timmy Horton                         Muscle Shoals, AL     07-08           $1,000.00

———————————————————————–

Totals

Day     #Limits       #Fish           Weight

 1               41             340             888-05

 2               55             408           1136-10

 3                 0                 0               00-00

 4                 5               41             121-14

———————————-

                101             789           2146-13

TOYOTA TUNDRA BASSMASTER ANGLER OF THE YEAR STANDINGS

2009 Diamond Drive – Diamond Drive Pro Points

After Lake Dardanelle, Russellville, Ark.   Ending 03-29-2009, Day 4

——————————————-

Place   Name                             St                       Pts

——————————————-

  1 Kevin VanDam                   Mich.                 563

  2 Alton Jones                     Texas                 560

  3 Stephen Browning           Ark.                   514

  4 Skeet Reese                     Calif.               507

  5 James Niggemeyer           Texas                 496

  6 Gary Klein                       Texas                 494

  7 Mark Menendez                 Ky.                     493

  8 Cliff Pace                       Miss.                 491

  9 Kevin Short                     Ark.                   487

10 Denny Brauer                   Mo.                     479

11 Dean Rojas                       Ariz.                 469

12 Mark Tucker                     Mo.                     466

13 Boyd Duckett                   Ala.                   463

14 Chris Lane                       Fla.                   459

15 Fred Roumbanis               Okla.                 455

16 Mike McClelland             Ark.                   451

17 Bill Lowen                       Ohio                   450

17 Jason Williamson           S.C.                   450

19 Jared Lintner                 Calif.               447

20 Jami Fralick                   S.D.                   442

21 Todd Faircloth               Texas                 441

21 Brent Chapman                 Kan.                   441

23 Kelly Jordon                   Texas                 436

24 Pat Golden                       N.C.                   428

25 Brian Snowden                 Mo.                     424

26 Timmy Horton                   Ala.                   422

27 Bobby Lane                       Fla.                   418

28 Greg Hackney                   La.                     412

29 Matt Herren                     Ala.                   411

30 Gerald Swindle               Ala.                   408

31 Greg Vinson                     Ala.                   406

31 Casey Ashley                   S.C.                   406

33 Randy Howell                   Ala.                   404

34 John Murray                     Ariz.                 400

35 Jeff Kriet                       Okla.                 398

35 Edwin Evers                     Okla.                 398

37 Kevin Wirth                     Ky.                     396

38 Tommy Biffle                   Okla.                 394

39 Aaron Martens                 Ala.                   390

40 Jim Murray                       Ga.                     374

41 Terry Butcher                 Okla.                 372

42 Chad Griffin                   Texas                 368

43 Russ Lane                         Ala.                   366

44 Bradley Hallman             Okla.                 365

45 Kenyon Hill                     Okla.                 364

46 Michael Iaconelli         N.J.                   360

47 Todd Auten                       S.C.                   354

47 Matthew Sphar                 N.Y.                   354

49 Davy Hite                         S.C.                   352

50 Mark Davis                       Ark.                   346

51 Dave Wolak                       N.C.                   344

52 Jason Quinn                     S.C.                   338

53 Pete Ponds                       Miss.                 336

54 Terry Scroggins             Fla.                   334

55 Billy Mccaghren             Ark.                   333

56 Jon Bondy                         Canada               330

56 Byron Velvick                 Texas                 330

58 J Todd Tucker                 Ga.                     328

59 Jeremy Starks                 W.Va.                 326

60 Ish Monroe                       Calif.               324

60 Charlie Hartley             Ohio                   324

62 Matt Reed                         Texas                 318

63 Steve Kennedy                 Ala.                   316

64 Shaw Grigsby                   Fla.                   312

65 Ken Cook                           Okla.                 306

66 Guy Eaker                         N.C.                   304

67 Brian Clark                     Texas                 301

68 Britt Myers                     S.C.                   294

68 Paul Elias                       Miss.                 294

68 Marty Robinson               S.C.                   294

71 Rick Morris                     Va.                     292

72 Marty Stone                     N.C.                   286

72 Elton Luce                       Texas                 286

74 Bernie Schultz               Fla.                   284

74 Takahiro Omori               Texas                 284

76 Mark Tyler                       Okla.                 282

77 Wade Grooms                     S.C.                   280

77 Morizo Shimizu               Japan                 280

79 Scott Rook                       Ark.                   274

79 Kotaro Kiriyama             Ala.                   274

81 Jimmy Mize                       Ark.                   270

82 Mike Wurm                         Ark.                   252

83 Yusuke Miyazaki             Texas                 250

83 David Smith                     Okla.                 250

83 Dustin Wilks                   N.C.                   250

83 Vince Fulks                     Okla.                 250

87 John Crews                       Va.                     248

88 Derek Remitz                   Ala.                   246

89 Clark Reehm                     Ark.                   234

90 Luke Gritter                   Mich.                 230

91 Kevin Langill                 N.C.                   228

91 Jeff Reynolds                 Okla.                 228

93 Zell Rowland                   Texas                 218

94 Peter Thliveros             Fla.                   212

95 Grant Goldbeck               Md.                     211

96 Rick Clunn                       Mo.                     204

97 Mark Burgess                   Mass.                 198

98 Scott Campbell               Mo.                     194

99 Jeff Connella                 La.                     178

100 Brent Broderick             Ohio                   156