Wester’s Big Bad Wolf Earns Angler of the Year Honors in the Yamaha Professional Kingfish Tour’s Pro Championship!By Jack Holmes
Biloxi, Mississippi—After waiting from Wednesday's Pro weigh-in until Saturday morning to get back on the water and finish this year's Yamaha Professional Kingfish Tour, emotions were running deep between Stacy Wester and his Big Bad Wolf team and Ron Mitchell's Bandit team. It was the talk of the entire fleet berthed at the Point Cadet Marina for the one day shootout for the Pro Tour and the National Championship.
After monitoring the weather forecasts twice a day all week, I determined that Friday would not be a safe day to fish. The forecast was still predicting seas to nine feet for the day but improving and Saturday's forecast looking extremely good so I made the call on Thursday night to make both events a one-day shootout on Saturday. Friday ended up okay near shore which allowed some teams to still catch bait but offshore where I knew the teams were going, eighty-plus miles offshore, the seas were still six feet at noon so the right call was made in my opinion. Safety was still paramount. Most agreed!
Saturday morning arrived with very cold weather but virtually no wind and it warmed up quickly with temperatures in the low 70s. Checkout went without incident and it was a beautiful sight to see and you immediately knew where most of the fleet was going. It was follow the leader.
"If I didn't say the pressure on our team to perform wasn't intense, I'd be lying," Wester elaborated. "The team, L.B. Goldman, Bennie Sr., Austin Eubank, Jeremy Goldman, Pam Goldman, and John Wallington, all wanted to win the Angler of the Year title and also the National Championship. We really had our work cut out for us, but the team was solid."
The Big Bad Wolf team went right back to the Horseshoe and found nothing had changed. "When we arrived it looked like a parking lot," Stacy added. "But everywhere you looked teams were hooked up and kings were airborne. It's the wildest fishing anyone will ever experience."
The team deployed baits and went to work. "At 9:30 we had a great bite and the way she spooled line, we knew she was big," Stacy went on. "At 9:30 she was brought to gaff and we knew we now had a real shot at the title, she was between fifty-five and sixty pounds."
The team continued to release a lot of fish and finally run out of bait. They moved, caught fresh bait, and returned but as the afternoon went on the bite slowed.
"I certainly wanted a bigger fish than the 41.95 we had for our second fish but that's the best we could do," Stacy added.
So where was Bandit? He was in the mix with everyone else. "Pressure? What pressure?" Mitchell asked. "You have to admit, only a handful of great fishermen have ever won the AOY title and my team has done it twice. Sure, I want another title, doesn't everyone here want the same thing? They're all great anglers with enormous skill levels and this is the toughest arena in all of saltwater fishing. It's not easy and we never gave up but today we caught a lot of fish but a 44.50 and a 32.50 I don't think will win the title for us."
He was right! At the scales Wester posted the biggest aggregate of the Pro event, scaling a 58.65 and a 41.95 for a 100.60 aggregate. Mitchell had a disappointing 44.50 and a 32.50 for a 77-pound aggregate. "I really want to congratulate Stacy and his team for a great performance and winning the title. He got the job done!" Ron graciously announced as he shook Stacy's hand at the awards ceremony. "I can't wait till next year, I'm coming for the title again," and I said, "We've just seen a great rivalry begin between two great captains."
Wester fished a Yamaha powered Contender and Mitchell fished a Suzuki powered Invincible. Wester bagged $15,000 for this win.
We weren't done yet however. We still had a lot of other teams who climbed the leaderboard in the final event of the season.
The No Mercy/Dealer's Choice team of Shawn Steverson, Chip Sheehan, Ike Maulden, John Hall, and Lindsay Duffield fishing a Yamaha powered Contender out of Georgia earned second in the Championship. The team caught a 52.45 and a 45.58 for a 98.03 aggregate. That was a super effort! They picked up $7,000 for second place.
Earning third was the ProMarineUSA.com/Hannon's Cannon team of Kevin Hannon, Jim Naset, Chris Blackwell, and Rick Cook. "That was one wild day on the water," said Hannon, the captain of the team, "We were drifting using skirted hard tails down when at 10:15 she hit and Jim Naset immediately went to work. We knew she was a big one but we all went nuts when she hit the deck of the Yellowfin."
At the scale the team watched as the electronic readout jumped to fifty-eight pounds then settled at 56.50. "That was the biggest king we've ever put in the boat," Hannon added. "I was really happy that Jim got the big fish."
Their second biggest king went 39.20 for a 95.70 overall aggregate. Hannon went on to ask if I'd mention their sponsors, ProMarineUSA.com, Fisherman's Ideal Supply House, and Dogfish Tackle. Of course, they are important to us also!
The team won $6,000 for their efforts.
Rounding out the final payout slot in the Championship was the Briar Creek Fishing/Miss Kimberly who earned fourth.
Gary Wammock, Mark Tanner, David Rountree, David Faircloth, and Matt Mills, fishing a Yamaha powered Yellowfin, scaled a 49.36 then backed it up with a nice 40.61 for an 89.97 aggregate.
They earned $5,000 for their Championship finish.
Rounding out the top five in the big event was Arik Bergerman, Aaron Salvant, and Brian Brandano fishing a Mercury powered Yellowfin named Under Armour/Caliente. They scaled a 46.03 and 43.84 for an 89.87 aggregate.
The story doesn't quite end here. I would be amiss if I didn't announce that Stacy Wester and his team is the 2011 Angler of the Year and for their efforts picked up a check for $20,000 thanks to Yamaha Outboards.
Don't feel sorry for Ron Mitchell and his Bandit team for finishing second. The team collected $10,000 and is still considered one of the best teams to ever compete in our sport. Two titles and one second place is super in anyones book. Can't wait to renew this rivalry next year!
Finally, David Tedder who fished Team Zebra, a Yamaha powered Yellowfin, earned $5,000 for the team's third place overall standing. This is a great team who will be back and once again make a run at the title. I'd not discount this team!
Thanks to all the teams who competed this year on the Yamaha Professional Kingfish Tour!