Steve Kennedy ofAuburn, Ala., wasn’t dominating the event until he weighed 16 pounds, 9 ouncesof bass during the final weigh-in to take home $100,000 and the thirdchampionship of his career at the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Dardanelle.
A big bass late in the day on Monday that weighed 5-10 anchored his five-basslimit and pushed his four-day winning weight to 63-12. The last time Kennedytopped a Bassmaster Elite Series field was in 2011 at Georgia’s West PointLake.
“I’ve been so close so many times before, and I’ve usually lost tournamentsbecause of a missed bite, or losing a fish before I could get it inside theboat,” Kennedy said. “It sure feels good to win one, especially after nearlywinning this year’s Classic on Conroe.”
Kennedy won $50,000 for an impressive second-place finish at the 2017Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods in March on Lake Conroein Texas.
The 48-year-old veteran made a 100-mile round trip each day to fish a smallbackwater just below the Ozark Dam on the Arkansas River.
“I found that spot during practice, and since the water is over 20 feet highright now, I was able to get my Bass Cat into the small pond-like area,” hesaid. “Once I got in there, I was impressed with the amount of life that waspresent. There were gar surfacing everywhere, shad flicking and bass feeding,which told me it was worth a visit each day.”
On Friday’s opening round of competition, he made the run to the dam and caught16-10, which had him quietly in ninth place. Saturday morning he went to thesame location, caught 14-3 and moved up the leaderboard into fifth place.
“On Sunday I caught 16-6, which had me in third place and I knew I had a realshot,” he said. “After I caught that big fish today I felt like I had it lockedup, but Mark Davis kept it too close for comfort.”
Davis of Mount Ida, Ark., led the event on both Saturday and Sunday, but couldonly manage 13-10 on the final day and finished second, only 1-10 behindKennedy.
Most of the fish that Kennedy brought to the scales this week were caught on a3/4-ounce D&L Advantage flipping jig with a white plastic trailer.
“I used the exact same program at the Classic back in March,” he said. “Therewas still a bit of a shad spawn going on this week, and by swimming the jigthrough the willows, stopping it and letting it fall along the edge of theweeds, the bass would absolutely smoke it. I also caught several fish on agreen pumpkin swim jig, and a few on topwater.”
With Kennedy’s wife and children there to congratulate his victory, he waselated.
“It’s been a while,” he said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform anddo well, and when I don’t succeed I take it hard. It means a lot to my familyand me to bring home one of those coveted blue trophies.”
Other top finishers included Kevin VanDam, third with 60-11; Mark Menendez, whowon here in 2009, fourth with 57-9; and Dean Rojas, fifth with 56-7.
Ott DeFoe, who finished 15th at Dardanelle with 41-12, has a slight lead overJacob Wheeler and Brandon Palaniuk for Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Yearwith three more regular season tournaments remaining in the Elite Series. Hewas awarded $1,000 for leading the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year pointsrace at the end of the event.
David Mullins of Mount Carmel, Tenn., claimed the $1,500 Phoenix Boats Big BassAward for a 6-pound, 8-ounce largemouth he caught during Friday’s openinground.
Davis won the Livingston Lures Day 2 Leader Award of $500 for leading thetournament on Saturday’s second day of competition.
Jamie Hartman of Newport, N.Y., won the Toyota Bonus Bucks Award of $3,000 forbeing the highest-placing eligible entrant in the program. Thesecond-highest-placing eligible entrant, Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss., received$2,000.
Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., earned the Power-Pole Captain’s Cash Award of$1,000 for being the highest-placing angler who is registered and eligible anduses a client-approved product on his boat.
Click here for complete event results.