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Open: Tuma jumps from 10th to the top with Harris Chain victory

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James Overstreet

LEESBURG, Fla. — Overcoming a modest start, Keith Tuma of Brainerd, Minn., caught the week’s biggest bag of 26 pounds, 2 ounces Saturday and won the Basspro.com Bassmaster Southern Open at the Harris Chain of Lakes with a three-day total of 58-13.
 

One of only two anglers to break 20 pounds twice (also second-place Alex Wetherell), Tuma caught 12-6 on Day 1 and placed 58th. Friday saw him rebound with a limit of 20-5, which moved him into 10th.

Knowing he couldn’t finish any lower, Tuma said he entered Saturday’s final round with a relaxed attitude that helped him focus on improving.
 

“Yesterday, I never thought I’d have a shot at the Top 10, so today, I went out there super calm,” he said. “My family and friends back home told me, ‘Just go fishing. You can’t do any worse than 10.’ It just started coming together. It was ridiculous.” 

Tuma earned $52,300, which included the $500 Garmin Tournament Rewards prize, and a berth in the 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk. 

Previous experience benefited Tuma, who, along with Minnesota B.A.S.S. Nation partner Andy Walls, placed second at the 2020 Bassmaster Team Championship at the Harris Chain. Relying on his knowledge of this stellar Florida fishery, Tuma located a key stretch of offshore grass in about 8 feet of water.

“The key for me was staying in the one spot I had found in practice until I had the limit I needed to have the confidence to check out other spots,” Tuma said. “The wind was a little harder on my main spot, but I did get an 8-pounder there and then I ran to my other area and caught one in the 6-pound range.”
 

Tuma’s secondary spot was a flat in 5 to 6 feet of water with low-growing hydrilla on the bottom. In both areas, he used a 1/2- to 3/4-ounce white Z-Man JackHammer ChatterBait with a Castaic Jerky J trailer.

“Everybody else who was in the area was throwing ChatterBaits with paddletail trailers, but I think that the little subtle difference in my trailer made the fish want to eat,” he said. “I was getting bit when other guys weren’t.”

Both of Tuma’s areas were within approximately half a mile of Venetian Gardens (site of the daily takeoffs and Day 1 and 2 weigh-ins). Proximity to the tournament site meant fishing near a steady travel lane — and Tuma realized that boat traffic actually benefited his game each tournament day.

“Every time a boat went by, they started biting because it pushed the bait around,” he said. “So that taught me that boat traffic didn’t bother them.”

Hailing from Middletown, Conn., Wetherell finished second with 56-13. After leading the field into Day 3, he struggled to maintain the momentum that delivered bags of 20-11 and 24-14 the first two rounds. On Saturday, he managed a limit of just 11-4. 

Returning to the offshore grass he’d fished since Day 1, Wetherell looked for the healthiest vegetation he could find. He caught his bass on a 3/4-ounce white Z-Man JackHammer ChatterBait with a 4-inch Lunker City Swimming Ribster swimbait and a Carolina-rigged 7-inch green pumpkin Senko.

“I’d fish fast with the ChatterBait and then slow down with the Senko to pick apart the better areas,” Wetherell said. “Keith (Tuma) and I were fishing the same area yesterday and he was a real class act and stayed off the section I was fishing.

“Yesterday was just an incredible day and I got the bites again today; they just wouldn’t commit to it.”

Day 1 leader Patrick Walters of Summerville, S.C., finished in third place with 55-14. After leading Day 1 with 24 pounds, he caught 13-5 on Day 2 and slipped to third. He finished strong with a limit of 18-9 Saturday.
 

Relying on forward-facing sonar to monitor bait and fish movement, Walters started on the shallow grass he’d fished the first two days. A slow morning prompted him to shift gears and punch matted cover.
 

“This morning I got kinda bored with that spot, so I made a long run to Lake Apopka because I just wanted to have fun and go fishing,” Walters said. “At 12 o’clock, I had a small limit, with two of the fish I weighed in and I said, ‘Let’s turn that Garmin back on and go do some fishing.’

“I stopped in the canal (exiting Lake Apopka) and caught one really quick and ran back to Little Lake Harris at 12:45. I went back to a spot where I’d caught them the first day and, on my third cast, I caught my biggest fish of the day. So, I probably made a mistake and didn’t stay.”
 

Walters caught his punching fish on a Zoom Z-Craw Jr. (black/blue and green pumpkin) Texas-rigged with a 1- and a 1 1/2-ounce weight. The shallow grass fish bit a Zoom Fluke Stick and a Zoom Zlinky — both Texas- and Wacky-rigged.
 

Charles Proctor of Conway, S.C., won the $750 Phoenix Boats Big Bass award for a 9-0 largemouth.
 

This year’s Opens circuit includes three divisions — Southern, Central and Northern — with three events in each. All nine tournament winners will earn an automatic berth to the 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk if they fish all events in their division. Additionally, the Top 3 finishers from each division’s points standings will receive an invitation to fish the 2022 Bassmaster Elite Series, as will the Top 3 from the overall standings accumulated in all three divisions.
 

With this week’s victory, Tuma took the early lead in the Falcon Rods Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year race. The winner of that award, which is based on points accumulated in all three divisions, will earn a $10,000 prize. The winner in the co-angler division will earn paid entry fees into the Opens division of his or her choice — a value of approximately $5,400.
 

Lake County and the City of Leesburg hosted the tournament.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Omnia Fishing Signs on as Presenting Sponsor for the 2021 MNBN Team Trail

 

MINNEAPOLIS, MN February 25, 2021 Omnia Fishing announced a partnership with Minnesota B.A.S.S. Nation (MNBN) as the presenting sponsor of the 2021 MNBN Team Trail, which is a sanctioned trail of the Bassmaster Team Championship. This trail will feature four tournaments on premier Minnesota waters capped off locally with a no entry fee Team of Year (TOY) Championship. Finally, the MNBN Team Trail will send at least one team to the National Team Championship to compete for an opportunity to fish the Bassmaster Classic!

 

“We are excited to announce Omnia Fishing will be the presenting sponsor for the 2021 MNBN Team Trail”, said Peter Perovich, MNBN President. “This is a great opportunity to have Omnia Fishing on board and we are looking forward to working with them”.

 

“We at Omnia are excited to partner with MNBN Team Trail for the 2021 season. We are a rapidly growing company taking aggressive steps to make shopping for fishing tackle smarter. While our goal is to be a major national retailer” said Pete Przepiora, Head of Merchandising at Omnia Fishing. “Minnesota is our home base, and we want to support the Minnesota anglers. The Team Trail has shown that they are on an upward trajectory. MNBN is doing a lot to protect and grow the sport of bass fishing in Minnesota. Simply--it just makes sense to support them”.

 

Minnesota B.A.S.S. Nation consists of over 500 members and is a member of B.A.S.S. Nation. Core principles include improving anglers’ bass fishing skills, promoting bass conservation, and engaging youth via grass roots bass fishing across Minnesota to anglers of all skill levels. For additional information on how you can become a part of Minnesota B.A.S.S. Nation go to mnbassnation.org or follow us at twitter.com/MNBassNation and facebook/MNBassNation.

Minnetonka Classic Registration

The Minnetonka Classic is BACK and after just 24 HOURS we have over 40 entries into the event! AKA we are almost half full. If you want to fish the Minnetonka Classic you need to get those entries in NOW because we are going to max at 100 Boats.

Tournament Details and Registration Information below. - June 5th
- Surfside Park (Cook's Bay)
- 6 Fish Limit
- $350 Entry Fee

Minnetonka Classic Registration


January 22, 2021
Lake Eufaula Lands 2021 Bassmaster Team Championship Event
BIRMINGHAM, Ala.
The last spot in the 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk will be filled on historic Lake Eufaula as this Alabama fishery hosts the Bassmaster Team Championship and Classic Fish-Off Dec. 8-11, 2021.

View Bassmaster Article


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