Lima area bass anglers did extremely well as two of them won the boater and co-angler divisions and three others placed in the top 10 of those divisions during the Phoenix Bass Fish League event last Saturday presented by T-H Marine on the Ohio River in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.
Veteran Jay Ellis of Celina won his first BFL tourney with a five-bass limit that weighed 11 pounds, 13 ounces in the Buckeye Division event in the boater or pro category. On the co-angler side, Carter Mox of Delphos also won his first BFL tourney by catching a five-bass limit that weighed 6 pounds, 11 ounces.
It was old-timers day on the pro side as Ellis beat out longtime BFL angler Dick Shaffer of Rockford, who finished second with a five-bass limit that weighed 8 pounds, 2 ounces. The two began fishing this tour back in the 1980s when it was called the Red Man Trail.
“Beating Dick was a rush. We became friends back in the early ’80s. He hadn’t even started tournament fishing yet. We worked together at Huffy Bicycle,” Ellis said.
Ellis said he fished the Red Man tournaments when they were on Grand Lake or Indian Lake. He also noted, “Dick and l fished some open tournaments together as partners.”
“First and foremost I give all the glory to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God is my confidence,” Ellis said.
The Celina basser changed tactics for the tourney after a practice round Thursday where he fished the main river and had only three bites, two of which would have been “keepers.”
He wound up going into Muddy Creek, which was about 15 miles from the takeoff point. He caught his five fish off single laydowns flipping a creature bait.
“The water levels dropped a little bit over night, and I think it pushed those fish a little farther out, off the bank. I only caught five keepers the whole day, all from this creek,” Ellis said.
Mox also went with flipping and used a black and blue jig with a Zoom green pumpkin chunk on it in a creek while fishing with boater Doug Lyon, who lives about 30 minutes from Tanners Creek.
“The water had gone down over night in the creek so I made sure to work the bait back a little deeper and if I felt something down there I would really slow down and try and get them to bite,” he explained. “We just stayed in the creek all day and I only used one pole all day. I had six bites all day and got five in the boat.”
Mox added, “The biggest key to my success was keeping my head in a positive mindset because during the first 15 minutes of the event I lost a two-pounder at the boat. Being on the Ohio River that’s huge because typically you don’t get many bites like that. But I kept a positive mindset all day and just grinded it out.”
What clinched the tourney for him was catching a nice fish around 1 p.m.
“I had four fish in the boat and then at around one I caught my kicker to seal the deal. I think it was a 2.7-pound bass,” he said.
Both winners will be back on the Ohio River during the next BFL event Aug. 15 out of Maysville, Kentucky.
“I believe the Maysville, Kentucky, pool will be tough as always. My goal on the river is to just weigh in a 12-inch fish,” Ellis said
“I am feeling a lot more confident now going to the Ohio because in the past it’s a place I’ve struggled at. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do,” Mox said.
At Tanners Creek, Ron Weisenburger of Continental and Virgil Grant of Findlay finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in the co-angler division. Weisenburger caught three bass that weighed 4 pounds, 11 ounces while Grant caught three bass that weighed four pounds, 5 ounces.
On the pro side, Bob Logan of Waynesfield was 29th with three bass that weighed 3 pounds, 6 ounces while Kyle Weisenburger was 46th with two fish that weighed 2 pounds 5 ounces.
In the standings, Ellis is first with 484 points, one point ahead of Pete Justice of Sharonville. Weisenburger is 11th, Shaffer 13th, Logan 34th and Craig Burwell of North Baltimore is 48th. On the co-angler side, Mox is 12th, Weisenburger is 19th and John Lane of Findlay is 38th.
The top 45 boaters and co-anglers from each division, along with the five winners of the qualifying events, will advance to one of six regional tournaments where they are competing to finish in the top six, which then qualifies them for one of the longest-running championships in all of competitive bass fishing — the Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American. The All-American will be held Nov.11-13 at Lake Hartwell in Anderson, South Carolina.
A pair of other Lima area bass anglers competed well in the Toyota Series Northern Division tourney on Lake Erie out of Sandusky last week.
Gary Ginter of Bellefontaine did not qualify for the final day of the three-day event, but was the last finisher in the money with a 29th place finish. He caught 10 bass over two days that weighed 28 pounds, 3 ounces. Cody Seeger of Lewistown was 43rd and caught 10 bass that weighed 26 pounds.
Both plan on finishing the next event on Lake Champlain on Aug. 18th. The final tourney is slated for Sept. 17 on the Detroit River.
The Toyota Series consists of eight divisions – Central, Eastern, Northern, Plains, Southeastern, Southern, Southwestern and Western – each holding three regular-season events, along with the International division.
Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL