Rockford’s Dick Shaffer has been fishing the FLW’s Bass Fishing League circuit before many of today’s participants were born. And he’s been a tough competitor since he fished his first tourney on Grand Lake St. Marys in 1986 when the circuit was known as the Red Man Trail. The Red Man Trail began in 1983.
After 34 years fishing the circuit, he remains one of the top competitors. He proved that last Saturday when he won the Buckeye Division event held on the Ohio River out of Maysville, Kentucky.
It was his first win since 2011 and his 16th in FLW competition. The 61-year-old said he wasn’t sure he would get another win.
“I didn’t think it might happen again, I’ve had a lot of close calls. You only get so many opportunities,” Shaffer said.
He had a second place finish behind Celina’s Jay Ellis on July 11 on the Ohio River out of Tanner’s Creek. The two have known each other for years and worked together at one time.
“When Jay got his first win, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy,” Shaffer said.
Today, the circuit is known as the Phoenix BFL presented by T-H Marine. Shaffer was the fourth Lima area bass angler to win a BFL tourney this year.
John Barnett of Huntsville won the Buckeye Division opener June 6 at Indian Lake in Lakeview. Ellis won his first BFL tourney in the Buckeye Division event in the boater or pro category while Carter Mox of Delphos also won his first BFL tourney July 11 on the Ohio River out of Lawrenceburg, Indiana.
Shaffer decided to fish an area on the main river he had not “fished in years.” He headed west about three-quarters of a mile and then came back to that area. He lost what he figured was a three-pound smallmouth and thought, “I lost the tourney right there.”
But he saw a stump and “got lucky and caught two off of it on back-to-back casts,” he said. “Then I saw a green tree that looked good, so I stopped and fished it. I ended up catching four fish off of it. You usually don’t catch four fish off a tree like that in a river. I had my limit by 8:30.”
Later in the day he caught a fish off a dock that “culled me up a half-pound and that one ended up making the difference and getting me the win.”
Shaffer caught his fish on two baits — a Yamamoto Senko and a Zoom Speed Craw. His five bass weighed 8 pounds, 2 ounces. Roger Hahn of Fairfield was second with a five-bass limit that weighed 7 pounds, 13 ounces.
Shaffer’s win boosted him to sixth place in the Buckeye Division standings. He is 55th in the Hoosier Division points standings after placing 13th Aug. 8 n a tourney on the Ohio River out of Cannelton, Indiana.
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 veteran angler wants to finish in the top 45 in the Hoosier Division since those qualifiers will fish a regional on the Mississippi River out of Lacrosse, Wisconsin. The final Hoosier event is set for Sept. 9-10 on the Rough River. The top 20 percent Sept. 9 qualify to fish the second day.
“There are more fish in the Mississippi than in Lake Cherokee (Tennessee), which is where the Buckeye Division will fish,” he said. “I would be up there and would have placed in the top three if I had not missed a good bass and lost one in the Tanner’s Creek tournament in July.”
Several Lima area bassers continue to do well in the Buckeye and Michigan Divisions.
In the Michigan Division, Findlay’s Beau Bickford remains consistent and is in third place in the points standings among boaters. That division fished back-to-back tourneys on the Detroit River last Saturday and Sunday. Bickford was 26th on Saturday with five bass that weighed 16 pounds, 3 ounces. He wound up 17th on Sunday with four bass that weighed 16 pounds, 9 ounces. Wilson Burton is 45th in the boater standings. He finished 35th Saturday with five fish that weighed 14 pounds, 11 ounces and was 62nd Sunday with three fish that weighed 8 pounds, 3 ounces.
In the Buckeye Division, Ellis, who finished 62nd last Saturday, is eighth in the boater points standings while Barnett is 17th, Kyle Weisenburger is 21st and Craig Burwell is 25th. Burwell finished 27th in the tourney with two fish that weighed 3 pounds, 7 ounces. Weisenburger was 29th with two fish that weighed 3 pounds, Barnett was 34th with two fish that weighed 2 pounds, 10 ounces and Findlay’s Sidney Hoover was 37th with two fish that weighed 2 pounds, 7 ounces.
On the co-angler side of the Buckeye Division, Ron Weisenburger is seventh in the points standings while Mox is ninth and Findlay’s John Lane is 16th. Weisenburger and Lane tied for seventh in the tourney with each catching two fish that weighed 3 pounds, 7 ounces. Mox was 23rd with one fish that weighed 1 pound, 12 ounces.
Kyle Weisenburger, who fishes the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit, failed to qualify for the season ending championship tourney after faltering the final regular event on Lake Erie last week (Aug. 11-16).
He was in 26th place after the first day, but had a poor second day and failed to qualify for the third day. He wound up 60th in the points standings.
“This was not the way I was hoping to cap off the season. I gave it everything I had, but sometimes its just doesn’t work out the way you think,” Weisenburger said. “It’s a tough one to swallow and it definitely hurts, but I’ll have to just keep working hard and improving my skills. I had a great time fishing the circuit again and was fortunate to have some good events. I look forward to keep getting better and making some magic happen in 2021.”
Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL