Weekend Angler Earns Bassmaster Classic Berth

Albert Collins knew the water, knew the bass and knew what he wanted. Those three elements clinched a berth in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic as he consistently brought in big bags ? and big bass ? during the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series National Championship, operated by American Bass Anglers, on Sam Rayburn Reservoir near Jasper, Texas, Nov. 7-10. 

?It?s still indescribable to me,? said Collins of Nacogdoches, Texas, after earning a coveted entry into the Classic on Grand Lake o? the Cherokees, Okla. He is the 53rd and final qualifier for the world championship of bass fishing, to be held Feb. 21-23 at Tulsa.

?I woke up this morning and told my wife, ?I still don?t believe it.? It?s what I?ve been wanting to do since I was a little kid. It?s hard to grasp the fact that I?ve got the chance to do that. I?m thrilled.?
To secure the win, Collins brought in 86.56 pounds of bass during four days of competition, including two fish that weighed more than 6 pounds each. He prevailed, despite high winds each day of competition.

?I battled rough water the whole time,? Collins said. ?Truthfully, I think it helped me. I was fishing the main lake on dropoffs and points. Some of the other guys fishing farther south on the lake were not protected from the wind at all. They couldn?t fish their spots effectively.?

Collins found his best fishing areas in practice and stuck with them as they continued to produce.
?On the second day, my spots got even better,? he said. ?I had fish moving to me every day.?

The 48-year-old angler from Nacogdoches, Texas, led the final three days of the four-day championship. Trailing by just three pounds on the first day, Collins took the lead on Day 2 and padded it each day after that.

Second-place angler David Curtis of Trinity, Texas, who finished with a four-day weight of 71.05, was fishing the same area with Collins.

?We were rotating around one another, both catching fish,? Collins said. ?I felt like I knew the spots better after years and years of fishing this stuff. That made a lot of difference. There are little bitty things I knew about that he didn?t know about. I know where the fish go. They live here through the fall and winter.?

Collins caught most of his fish on a deep-diving crankbait by 6th Sense Lures in a threadfin shad pattern. ?It made a different sound and had a different action than what the other anglers were throwing,? he added. He alternated that lure with a Zoom Ol? Monster worm and an E2 Bait Co. 10-inch Big Tail Worm.

Collins, a plumber, competed in the Cabela?s Bassmaster Federation Nation Championship on Oct. 27, but just couldn?t get the bites he needed to land one of the six Classic slots available to Federation Nation anglers.

The victory on Rayburn earned Collins $100,000, as well as the chance to compete for the $500,000 first prize in the world championship title on Grand Lake o? the Cherokees, Okla. The Weekend Series champ plans to be a top contender.

?I?m going to spend two weeks, possibly three, prefishing after Thanksgiving,? said Collins.

Co-Angler Division

In the Co-Angler Division, Richard Michalski of West Port, Ky., won the championship with a four-day total of 11 bass weighing 33.05 pounds. On Day 1, Michalski brought in 10.85 pounds. He held second on Day 2 after catching 5.30 pounds and moved into the lead on Day 3 by landing 6.47 pounds while fishing with Collins. Again fishing with Collins on Day 4, Michalski ended with 10.43 pounds.

?Everything I caught in four days came on deep-running crankbaits ? DD-22s ? and big worms fished right on the river ledge,? Michalski said. ?Getting to fish for two days with Albert was a joy. He earned his trip to the Classic. He was a real gentleman. After he got his limit, he turned the boat, told me where the fish were and let me start culling. If it wasn?t for him, I wouldn?t be here.?

As the champion co-angler, Michalski took home a check for $50,000. He plans to fish the BWS circuit in 2013 as a boater.

Michael M. Smith of Laurel Hill, Fla., placed second among the co-anglers with a perfect four-day limit of 12 bass weighing 29.61 pounds. He caught 6.63 pounds on Day 1 and 5.86 pounds on Day 2. On Day 3, he moved from 21st place into fourth with an 8.30-pound bag. On the final day, Smith caught 8.82 pounds.

Sammy L. Strong of Orange, Texas, moved up from 14th place to third with a 8.36-pound catch on Day 4. He finished with four consecutive three-bass daily division limits weighing 26.52 pounds. On Day 1, he caught 5.10 pounds and followed that with 6.67 pounds. On Day 3, he landed 6.39 pounds.

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