The U.S. pairing that had struggled the most on Day 1 of the 17th Black Bass World Championship in Portugal showed up big-time in the final round of the weather shortened event featuring teams from 14 nations. Scott Martin and Scott Canterbury caught a day-best 17.93-pound stringer from Lake Sabor on Saturday to lead the American squad to a successful defense of its gold medal.
The Americans won a tiebreaker over Germany for the gold after both countries had finished with 67 points. The points total is the sum of the finishes among the field of each of the country’s three pairs over two days – the lower the number, the better.
The tiebreaker was total weight for the event (higher is better for that) and the three American duos compiled 73.57 pounds. Germany had 69.09.
Italy, led by the gold medal-winning duo of Luca Vittorio Della Ciana and Jimmy Ashlock, claimed the team bronze with 98 points.
The American pairings’ performances on the second day of competition (one day was canceled due to severe thunderstorms) was a complete flip-flop of the previous day. Martin, the U.S. captain, and Canterbury had weighed under nine pounds in the opening round, which placed them 20th in the 42-boat field.
The veteran Bassmaster Elite Series pros, both of whom have won tour-level Angler of the Year (AOY) titles, more than doubled that haul on day 2 as the U.S. climbed from second to first in the team standings .Their biggest fish of the day topped five pounds.
“We settled down,” Martin said. “No. 1, we stayed in an area that we thought had a bigger number of quality fish and No. 2, we got them in the boat. We fished really clean today, which was nice.
“The weather changed – the water temperature dropped eight or nine degrees and it was the first cold front of the year from what they’re saying here. The fish stopped attacking the topwater stuff and we were able to figure out a subsurface bite with some smaller, suspending baits. Those turned out to be some really good fish.”
Meanwhile, Major League Fishing stars Jacob Wheeler and Dustin Connell, who’d paced the Americans’ opening-day output with a 15.56-pound, fourth-place showing, weighed just 5.81 on Day 2 – a number that was among the lower half of the field. Wheeler and Connell were one of many duos that had relied on topwaters on Day 1. Overall, their contribution was enough to help secure the Gold medal.
Hall-of-Famer David Fritts and Fred Roumbanis were sandwiched in the middle for the second straight day. They followed up their 15.26 first-day weight (fifth place) with 10.13, which was 11th best for the day. They missed earning a pairs medal by just one slot.
The total-weight tiebreaker to determine the gold and silver medalists was also necessary in the pairs competition. Della Ciana and Ashlock finished in third place on Day 1 and seventh on Day 2 for 10 points, while the finishes for Croatia’s Josip Pecigos and Filip Pecigos were the reverse of that. The Italians’ combined weight was 28.48 pounds and the Croatians’ was 27.94.
Remarkably, the Pecigos pairing was a fish shy of a limit on both days.
The Spanish duo of Romero Casanoves and Salmeron Segarra took the pairs bronze with finishes of 10th and 4th.
Other nations that competed were the host Portuguese, along with South Africa, France, Canada, Zimbabwe, Romania, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Serbia.
“We’re just super-excited,” Martin said. “It was a really awesome competition and the anglers from other countries are getting really good.
“For the most part, (the standings) were really tight. It was anybody’s game and we had to fish our butts off to pull out the victory.”
The victory is the third team Gold Medal in a row for the USA Bass team. They have won Gold at Mexico, USA and now Portugal. Italy will present the next challenge for the USA Bass team.
“We are already making preparations for next year.” Says Team Manager John Knight. “Without the support of Visit Hot Springs, iKon boats and all our sponsors we couldn’t compete. There are many challenges to competing in Europe but we will be looking to secure Gold once again in 2024.”