|Mercury pro Skeet Reese wins Lake Guntersville Elite Series, with a little help from a friend|
GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — Team Mercury pros Skeet Reese and Byron Velvick have been friends for 25 years. They competed against each other for years in the early 1990s as up-and-coming pros in California, and room together on the road during the Bassmaster Elite Series.
So it’s no surprise that Reese claimed the eighth win of his B.A.S.S. career on Sunday on Lake Guntsersville, thanks in large part to Velvick. Reese brought 25 pounds, 5 ounces of Tennessee River largemouth to the scale for a four-day total of 92.11 pounds, almost all of it on bait that Velvick turned Reese on to the day before the tournament began.
"I wouldn’t be holding this trophy right now if not for Byron," Reese admitted on the Guntersville stage on Championship Sunday. "I had a horrible practice. My whole plan was to just come in here and try to survive, maybe get 13 or 14 pounds a day. But Byron clued me in on a bait that he had been catching the heck out of them in practice, and I ran with that. It turned into something really special."
The bait, a 7-inch Basstrix Paddletail swimbait, is the bigger version of the 5- and 6-inch swimbait that’s been a staple in Velvick’s arsenal for 15 years. The 7-incher is a rarity on tackle-store shelves, though, because it’s relatively new, and because Basstrix is an independent, California-based shop that produces custom bait in small quantities. Velvick ordered a supply of bait, including the Paddletails, before the tournament began, and gave Reese a handful of the 7-inchers before Day 1.
The result: Reese whacked 24-15 on Day 1 to put him in immediate contention, and then sealed the deal with two straight 25-plus pound bags on Days 3 and 4. Over the course of the four-day tournament, 19 of the 20 fish that Reese weighed in were caught on the Basstrix bait.
"Skeet and I have been friends for a long, long time, and you have to be straight up with your friends," Velvick said. "Most guys don’t even know that
Basstrix makes a 7-inch bait. I knew Skeet wasn’t finding much in practice and I was, so it wasn’t a big deal for me to share that bait with him."
"Painfully, painfully slow," Reese said of his retrieve speed. "I basically had to have that bait crawling across the bottom or I wouldn’t get bit. You
have to be pretty slow with a swimbait in general, but this week even more than usual."
"I practiced way, way upriver hoping to find fish that nobody else was finding – actually smoked three or four stumps running on pad trying to get into backwaters I probably shouldn’t have been running – but one thing about those motors, they take a licking and keep on ticking," Reese said.
NOTES: The win is Reese’s second major victory on Guntersville: he claimed the 2010 Elite Series Southern Challenge on Guntersville in 2010 … Mercury pro John Crews finds himself atop the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings after two Elite Series tournaments, with 182 points; Mercury pros Shaw Grigsby and Brandon Lester currently sit in third and fifth, respectively … Reese, Velvick and the rest of the Elite field are gearing up for the first West Coast swing in years: the California Delta (April 30-May 3) and Lake Havasu (May 7-10).About Mercury Marine
Headquartered in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Mercury Marine is the world’s leading manufacturer of recreational marine propulsion engines. A $2 billion division of Brunswick Corporation (NYSE: BC), Mercury provides engines, boats, services and parts for recreational, commercial and government marine applications, empowering boaters with products that are easy to use, extremely reliable and backed by the most dedicated customer support in the world. Mercury’s industry-leading brand portfolio includes Mercury and Mariner outboard engines; Mercury MerCruiser sterndrive and inboard packages; MotorGuide trolling motors; Mercury propellers; Mercury inflatable boats; Mercury SmartCraft electronics; Attwood marine parts; Land ‘N Sea marine parts distribution; and Mercury and Quicksilver parts and oils. More information is available at mercurymarine.com.