Sweep dreams for Lake Butler anglers
The Lake Butler team of Trey Owen and Cole Kite swept the Wolfson Children’s Hospital Bass Tournament Bass Tournament (WCH) taking the event’s two premier prizes, the heaviest weight to pocket $10,000 and the largest bass, earning another $5,000.
In a field of 377 boats, and starting their day way back in the pack with boat number 250, the Union County anglers brought to the scales a five-fish limit weighing 28.84 pounds, anchored with a 10.87 largemouth.
“It was amazing,” said Owen. “Cole started out catching an eight-pounder, and said to me, ‘I think you can catch one bigger.’ Three hours later, I caught the 10-pounder.”
Owen said Cole caught his fish on a top water bait, and he caught his bass on a plastic worm.
“We fished the Lake George area and river spots.” Owen told tournament emcee Mike Oglesbee before a huge crowd at Palatka Riverfront Park.
It was the 30th annual WCH with over 750 anglers competing for prize money, plaques and bragging rights in nation’s second largest one-day bass tournament. Anglers and spectators alike were also witnessing a tribute to the husband-and-wife team who engineered the beginning of the immense charitable event and directed it for over 20 years.
Larry and Linda Starling of Green Cove Springs gave the tournament its name and built it with a goal of having 600 boats on the water. In the year 2000, they nearly reached it by launching 596 boats. Due to health reasons, Larry could no longer conduct his part. He passed away Nov. 13, 2018. Although failing to reach that magic goal of 600 boats, the WCH committee said it will continue to strive to make that happen.
“Entrants vary from one year to the next, depending on certain conditions,” said Brian Seay, WCH committee chairman. “It could be the price of fuel, river conditions and other issues. I think the algae bloom may have discourage some of our anglers this year. We were down from last year’s 401 entries.”
The runnerup spot was more than six pounds behind the winners with 22.74 pounds. Drew Rogers and Charles Minta of Macclenny weighed in a limit to take a $4,000 check.
“We fished Crescent Lake and river spots using Carolina-rigged, six-inch plastic worms across sand bars,” said Rogers.
David Davis and Jason Reed of Palatka took third overall and the third largest bass of the day.
The anglers came to the scales with a limit weighing 22.03 pounds to earn $3,000, and an additional $1,000 for their 8.31-pound bass.
“We went south and fished river spots,” said Reed.
Vince Parker of Fleming Island fishing with Greg Johnson of Jacksonville took the route to Rodman Reservoir to take fourth with a limit weighing 21.43 pounds.
“We always fish Rodman Reservoir,” said Parker. “It’s our favorite water.”
Parker said they fished Carolina rigs with seven and one-half inch Bass Assassin plastic worms.
“We stayed with the junebug/blue tail color.” The team collected a check for $2,500.
Rounding out the top five was Chaz Raulerson of Orange Park, a former High School Bass Club State Champion and George Alexander of Mandarin. The team scored 21.35 pounds to take home a check for $1,750.
“We didn’t travel far from the launch to fish river sports, including shoreline with worms and crankbaits and bars with Carolina rigs,” said Raulerson.
Palatka’s Cliff Prince, a BASS Elite Pro, fishing with his teenage son Syler, who won the 2017 BASS Federation Junior World Championship, finished 11th overall with 20.13 pounds, anchored with a 6.85-pound largemouth.
“We fished river spots,” said Cliff. “I caught my fish on a Chatterbait. Syler caught most of his on a Bomber 7A crankbait.”
The tournament paid 40 places, but Richard Ng and Scott Dunkley of Callahan proved you can get a payday without being on that list. The team finished 94th. They had only one fish for the scales, but it was a Rodman largemouth that weighed 8.50 pounds and the second largest bass of the event, earning them $1,000.
A huge raffle for sponsor-donated merchandise commenced while standings and checks were being written. Following the presentation of awards, the drawing for a 2019 Bullet Bass Boat/Mercury 250 motor and trailer was won by Andy McClain of San Mateo. McClain was not present for the drawing and had to be reached by phone on speaker from the stage. The young man was in his automobile traveling to St. Augustine to a family event. He told officials someone called him minutes before, and he thought they were playing a joke on him.
The 2020 WCH will be the third week of next May.