SANDUSKY, Ohio — Nate Wellman has had a dream since he was 12 years old: to fish in the Bassmaster Classic. Since then, he has strived to make that dream a reality by trying to qualify through the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens as well as the Bassmaster Elite Series. But before today, he’s always come up short. With his win on Lake Erie, he’ll be able to live out that dream next February on Louisiana’s Red River at the 2012 Classic.
This victory was two-fold for Wellman, the second half lying in the fact that he has never won on his home water of Lake Erie. He’s fished the lake for more than 10 years but has never broken through and earned a major victory.
“I can’t even explain what this means to me. To come here and win means an awful lot, but to get to go to the Classic means the world,” he said.
Wellman narrowly missed a spot in the 2011 Classic with his third-place finish in the 2010 Northern Opens points when only the top two anglers went. Along with the Classic berth, Wellman also took home a fully rigged Nitro boat with a 225-hp Mercury outboard and nearly $9,000 cash. His Day Three catch weighed 18-4, giving him a three-day total of 63-11. Most of his fish fell for a Berkley Gulp Minnow and an Erie Darter, all drop shotted. On Days One and Two, he used a prototype ABT Lures crankbait that he says will reach 29 feet in depth.
When much of the field struggled because of the calm winds on Day Three, Jared Rhode of Port Clinton, Ohio, excelled and took home $12,500 for his runner-up finish. He caught 22-11, which gave him a three-day total of 61-15. Michael Murphy of Gilbert, S.C., also figured out how to catch a solid stringer as he brought 22-2 to the scales, giving him a total of 61-0, earning him more than $10,000. He says that every day presented a new challenge as the weather conditions fluctuated. The first day the winds were high and blew 6-foot waves across the lake, while on Day Two it calmed down a bit and nearly disappeared on Day Three.
“I lost a good fish today, but I learned something from it. They were really finicky and I found that they were just playing with it, so I had to let them take it before I set the hook,” he said. “It was a real grind.”
Murphy relied on an Ima Beast Hunter crankbait the first two windy days, then switched to a Reins tube and a Tabu Tackle Whip Tail worm when the wind receded.
In fourth place is Chris Malone of Ironton, Ohio, who caught 19-1 today for a total of 60-08. He won more than $8,000. In fifth place is Kurt Dove of Del Rio, Texas, who caught 20-12 for a total of 58-12. He took home $7,500.
On the co-angler side, Day One leader Jonathan Shoemaker of Elyria, Ohio, reclaimed the lead and took home the win along with a Triton boat with a Mercury outboard valued at $35,000 for his catch of 38-4. His Day Three weight was 11-11. Like much of the field, he relied on a drop shot rig with a Roboworm, leech, or a soft jerkbait on the end.
In second place is Day Two leader Mike Chunko of Alliance, Ohio, who caught 9-9 today for a total of 37-7. Behind him is Bobby Woods of Stafford, Ohio, who also caught 37-7 thanks to his Day Three weight of 12-13. In fourth place is Chris Van Vliet of Cleveland, Canada, who caught 11-12 today, giving him a total of 37-6. Rounding out the top five is Pete Manns of Seville, Ohio, who caught 11-6, giving him the same total as Van Vliet, 37-6.
The third and final stop of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Opens is Sept. 22-24 on Oneida Lake in Syracuse, N.Y.
For more information about the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens, visit www.bassmaster.com/open.
2011 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Official Sponsors: Toyota, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Evan Williams Bourbon, Mercury, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha
2011 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Supporting Sponsors: Humminbird, Luck “E” Strike, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats
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