Jonathon VanDam celebrates his first Elite Series win Sunday at the B.A.S.S. Master Elite Green Bay Challenge. / Evan Siegle/For Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com
|1.||Jonathon VanDam||79 lbs., 2 oz|
|2.||Brandon Palaniuk||76 lbs., 12 oz|
|3.||Aaron Martens||73 lbs., 3 oz|
|4.||Dean Rojas||66 lbs., 14 oz|
|5.||Ott DeFoe||61 lbs., 5 oz|
|6.||James Niggemeyer||60 lbs., 8 oz|
|7.||Skeet Reese||59 lbs., 5 oz|
|8.||Tommy Biffle||58 lbs., 15 oz|
|9.||Bernie Schultz||57 lbs., 4 oz|
|10.||Ishama Monroe||57 lbs., 1 oz|
|11.||Stephen Browning||44 lbs., 8 oz|
|12.||Russell Lane||42 lbs., 9 oz|
For photos from the tournament, visit www.greenbaypressgazette.com.
With chants of “JVD! JVD!” echoing throughout the crowd, an emotional Jonathon VanDam hoisted his first Elite series trophy in the air Sunday after a monstrous final day to win the 2012 B.A.S.S Master Green Bay Challenge.
VanDam’s final-day catch of 23 pounds, 4 ounces, which included the Carhartt Big Bass of the tournament at 5 pounds, 11 ounces, was more than 2 pounds, 6 ounces heavier than any single-day catch of the tournament. It was more than enough to leapfrog Saturday’s leader Brandon Palaniuk for the $100,000 top prize and the automatic qualifier into next year’s Bassmaster Classic in Tulsa, Okla.
VanDam became the second-youngest Elite champion in tour history at 23 years, 10 months.
Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, finished in second with 76 pounds, 12 ounces and Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., rounded out the top three with 73 pounds, 3 ounces. Palaniuk and Martens came in with their second 20-pound bags of the tournament, but VanDam would not be denied.
After the first half of his Sunday, however, an elite series championship was the last thing on his mind.
“I didn’t catch a fish until 11:30 in the morning. I lost one big one and it wasn’t 5 minutes later, I lost another big one, too, and I was on the lowest of lows,” VanDam said. He knew if he just stuck with it, though, he could give himself a chance.
“I could see some of those big smallmouth swimming around, and I thought if I could get five of those, I would be all right.”
Turns out he did more than that.
VanDam, a Kalamazoo, Mich., native, had a number of family members at Sunday’s weigh-in, including his uncle and fellow B.A.S.S. elite angler Kevin VanDam. Kevin presented his nephew with the Green Bay Challenge trophy, and it was hugs all around for the VanDam family.
Jonathon VanDam was using a Strike King Dream Shot plastic worm in KVD Magic (green and silver with blue flake) on a drop shot ride above a 3/8-ounce sinker for most of his damage over the tournament. He stayed out toward Little Sturgeon Bay for the duration of the tournament, as did the rest of the top four finishers. Drop shotting was the focal point for most of these pro anglers, and calming winds for the second straight day helped them sight fish for those roaming smallmouth.
Although the final weigh-in produced some big numbers for smallmouth and even an occasional largemouth bass, a few anglers were still a little disappointed they did not get a chance to truly show off this world-class fishery.
Ott DeFoe of Knoxville, Texas, who finished in fifth with 61 pounds, 5 ounces, said that without the boundary, his final weight total would not have been good enough for a three-day weigh-in.
“I’ve fished on (Lake) Erie and St. Clair, and they’re great fisheries, but the fishing here is really good. If we could have just traveled a little further north, 61 pounds would not have been any good at all, unless it was a three-day total,” DeFoe said.
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