By Danny Blandford
After two days of difficult weather, the third and final day of the Carrot Stix Tournament Series couldn’t have been much better for fishing. A light breeze, overcast skies, and comfortable temperatures settled over Toledo Bend and the anglers made the most of it. 29 out of 36 anglers brought in limits, and the big bass that were weighed were some of the biggest anyone had seen in quite some time, including a pair of 10 pounders. Ultimately the biggest bass of the event belong to Rick Morris, who topped his Day One 7.05 lb brute with a 10.29 lb giant. Right after Rick stunned the crowd with this monster; Chris Daves challenged him with a 9.91 lb bass that on any other day would have taken those top honors.
Not only did Rick have the kicker fish we all dream about, he had four other good fish to go with it, making up the tournaments heaviest stringer which topped the scales at 25.29lbs. That sack of fish propelled him from 18th spot to the hot seat, where he remained for
the entire weigh-in. He was really only challenged one time, and that was the very last angler to weigh-in, Day Two leader Andy Montgomery who needed 16.59 lbs to take home the title, but came up just short with a five bass limit totaling 16.05 lbs. Bryan Thrift was able to maintain his spot just behind Andy, finishing the event in third place with a total weight of 47.50 lbs. Charles Bebber, who basically needed to win to make the TTBC Championship, maintained his fourth place spot, while Day One leader Mike McClelland slipped a bit further and finished in 5th place overall. Rounding out the rest of the Top 10 where Chris Daves, Todd Faircloth, Mike Wurm, and Tim Horton.
I had an opportunity to talk with Rick Morris regarding his first Tour Level victory, which had been 17 years in the making. It became apparent a couple key factors played a role, and probably the most important was an extra week of practice he was able to put in on Toledo Bend that allowed him to discover a few deeper key areas that were holding some BIG fish. His game plan coming in to the event was to stay shallow on days one and two, to ensure he caught a few fish that would put him into the Toyota Texas Bass Classic. He did that punching the grass with a 1 oz. weight and Zoom Brushog which kept him in the hunt, but outside of the Top 10. He knew on Day Three he had to swing for the fences in order to take home top honors, and that is exactly what he did. His final day on the water was spent probing his deep grass points with a 3/4 oz. War Eagle Football Jig, which resulted in 30 good fish for Rick, including some great spotted bass. It wasn’t until around 10 am when he stuck what proved to be the crucial fish of the event, his 10 pounder. At that point it became clear he was going to shake up the leader board.
I asked Rick what he felt like was the key to his victory and he said it was two things, that all or none mentality of Day Three, and equipment he had a lot of confidence in. Obviously the War Eagle jig was a key part of that equipment, but it also went back to the technique specific RPM Custom Rods (www.RPMcustomrods.com), which are designed by Rick’s rod company. He used a 7’ 11” “Okeechobee Special” flipping stick for punching the mats, and then switched to a slightly softer 7’ 6” “Flipping/Pitching Special” for the final day football jig. He also gave credit to his Gamma Fluorocarbon, which was plenty strong to keep those big fish under control. Collectively good equipment, good decisions, and Big Bass honors on days one and three of the event was his recipe for success.
With the third and final stop of the PAA Carrot Stix Tournament Series, presented by Phoenix Boats behind us, we are all heading west on to Lake Conroe for a true World Championship of bass fishing, the Toyota Texas Bass Classic. Be sure to stay tuned to www.fishpaa.com this week, where will be posting details of this star-studded event.