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TEAM TOURNAMENT
Date: October 1, 2011
Region: 2011 Bass Champs Championships
Tournament: East Championship
Tournament Trail: 2011 Bass Champs Tournament Trail
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O’Neal & Wuensche hold on tight to win Bass Champs East Region Championship
By: Patty Lenderman

O’Neal & Wuensche hold on tight to win Bass Champs East Region Championship

Teams from Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas converged on Sam Rayburn October 1-2 to lay claim on the Bass Champs East Texas Region Championship title. Over $77,000 was paid back in cash and prizes wrapping up the 2011 season. Cameras were rolling to document the event for the Bass Champs TV Show. Donnie O’Neal and Darrell Wuensche from the Central Region started out with a small lead on day 1, and kept a tight grip on it to win the Championship receiving a new Skeeter ZX20 powered by a Yamaha 225 SHO!

Skeeter Bass Champs has four regions blanketing Texas offering huge paybacks to avid anglers. Many refer to the series as the “working man’s tournaments”. This championship season, any team who has qualified to fish the championships from any region can participate in all four championships.

The weather was brisk and beautiful all weekend, with the first hints of Fall in the air. Temperatures dipped into the 40’s overnight only rising to the 80’s by days end. As with most lakes in Texas, Sam Rayburn has also suffered from the lingering sustained drought. Nearly 13 feet low, land masses are being seen that haven’t been exposed in nearly a half a century. Even the “local boys” are having to re-learn the new structure of the lake and discover new fishing areas.

This may have worked to the advantage of Donnie O’Neal from Pflugerville and Darrell Wuensche of Thorndale, albeit this is not their first rodeo on Sam Rayburn. They have been tournament angling on Big Sam since the mid 90’s.

Day 1 – As teams began coming in to tally their first day creel, several nice chunks were seen. Glen Freeman and Jeff Rice were the first to break the 20 lb mark with their five fish limit weighing 22.94 lbs. They also took over the Big Bass lead with their 8.70 lb kicker. Several more teams brought in nice sacks in the upper teens, but their weight held the lead until Donnie O’Neal and Darrell Wuensche came in with their 24.46 lb sack. They also had a nice kicker in their bag weighing 8.02 lbs, but could not take the Big Bass lead from Freeman & Rice.

Day 1 Top 5:
24.46 lbs Donnie O’Neal & Darrell Wuensche
22.94 lbs Glen Freeman & Jeff Rice
19.35 lbs Brian Shook & Cody Goodman
19.21 lbs Jonathan Garrie & Keith Morris
18.39 lbs Charles Whited & Lee Beuershausen

With changing weather patterns and fluctuating lake levels the bass seem to be just as confused as the anglers trying to catch them. Finding – and catching – a 20 pound sack two days in a row would be daunting at best. As the contending teams began bringing in their second day catch, the overall standings started to shake. Several teams were just shy of a day 2 limit.

Landan Ware and Russell Lee were the first to break the two day 30 pound mark, adding 15.53 lbs to their total. Day 1 leaders O’Neal and Wuensche followed, taking over the lead with a 14.07 lb sack bringing the top weight to 38.53 lbs. Anticipation was high as the remaining top teams were yet to weigh.

The weigh in was nearly over, and all of the contenders from the day 1 top 5 leaderboard had brought in their catch except Glen Freeman and Jeff Rice. O’Neal and Wuensche were brought to the stage as their sack was lifted to the scales. “All they need is about 16 pounds to take the lead,” Chad Potts informed everyone. All eyes were on the scale as it locked in at 12.97 lbs. O’Neal and Wuensche were markedly relieved as they stayed on top of the pack!

It wasn’t over yet. Rusty and Chris Harvey came in on the last flight and had several nice kickers in their bag. First weighing their biggest to contend in the Big Bass race, it locked in at 8.47 lbs. They were in 28th place with 13.16 lbs on day 1, then adding another 17.09 lbs to their total – they launched to a 2nd place finish!

Louisiana anglers Bret Bellard and Nick Simon were among the last to weigh. Putting their largest bass on the scales, they took over the Big Bass weight with an 8.86 lb chunk to win $500 for that single catch. Adding the rest of their limit to the scales, their two day total went to 31.70 lbs to win 10th place overall for an additional $800 check. They also won the Dodge Ram Bonus giving them free entry into any Bass Champs tournament for the next 12 months, $200 from Costa Del Mar and the WFN Bonus.

Once the scales were closed, O’Neal and Wuensche were officially declared Champions of the tournament. Excited and relieved, they told the story of the two day event. “We went to the Five Fingers area and threw spinnerbaits and topwater lures,” O’Neal began. “I caught a five pounder on a spinnerbait, and Darrell caught another five pounder on a Pop-R.” It wasn’t long before Darrell had boated 18 pounds on his Pop-R, so they both went to that pattern. Darrell used an H2O Pop-R while Donnie used a bone colored Yellow Magic. “We fished shallow flats close to matted grass beds on secondary points. We caught a lot of fish on topwater baits. The cadence was key. You’d have to throw it out there then wait. Pop it, then wait again. Patience was integral, and it was hard fishing that slow. You had to give a subtle presentation. Once the sun got high overhead, we hit brush piles and logs in 10’ of water with Grande Bass Honcho and Yum Dinger shaky heads in watermelon red and Black Angel Jigs. The side imaging view from our Humminbird 1197 electronics really helped us pinpoint exact targets, being able to see where the structure was exactly and saved us a lot of time fishing each spot.” Seeing no reason to change tactics, they fished the exact same pattern the second day. Their 38.53 lb two day weight won the championship, and Bass Champs presented them with the Skeeter ZX20 powered by a Yamaha 225 SHO grand prize. They also won $200 from Sure Life for using the product in their livewell. “I’d really like to thank my parents Larry & Ruby O’Neal for all of their support they have always given,” Donnie said. “I would also like to thank my boss, Grande Bass Trophy Lures, but especially thanks to God for always being with us.”

Coming way up from behind to win 2nd place overall was the East Texas team of Rusty and Chris Harvey. “We stayed in 11’ depths, close to deep water,” the team explained. “Rotten wood or brush tops was key.” Using a Series 5 Strike King crank bait, they struggled on day 1 only bringing in 13.16 lbs to put them in 28th place going into day 2. “We lost three that would have really helped the first day.” Still using the crank bait, but also incorporating a Carolina rig, “they bit much better – more aggressively the second day, and we landed the ones that counted.” Having a two day total weight of 36.72 lbs, Bass Champs presented them with a $2,800 check for their 2nd place win. They would like to thank their sponsors, including Ranger, Yamaha, Falcon Rods, Big Bite Baits, Costa Del Mar, “and as always we want to thank God for always looking over us.”

Jonathan Garrie and Keith Morris won 3rd place with their 36.29 lb total. “We used 6th Sense custom crank baits both days and caught a lot of fish this weekend.” Fishing in 10’-15’ depths, they did well catching every bass that bit. “We just didn’t get any big bites.” They came up from 4th place to win 3rd on the final day to receive a check for $2,200.

Top 10 Overall Teams:
1st 38.53 lbs Donnie O’Neal & Darrell Wuensche
2nd 36.72 lbs Rusty & Chris Harvey
3rd 36.29 lbs Jonathan Garrie & Keith Morris
4th 35.60 lbs Jason Horton & Chad York
5th 35.31 lbs Glen Freeman & Jeff Rice
6th 33.40 lbs Landan Ware & Russell Lee
7th 33.24 lbs Eddie Ellisor & Todd Castledine
8th 32.59 lbs Stephen & Gerald Mitchell
9th 31.77 lbs Brian Shook & Cody Goodman
10th 31.70 lbs Bret Bellard & Nick Simon
and last in the money…
18th 26.59 lbs Harold Allen & Albert Collins

The final 2011 Bass Champs Championship will be on Falcon Lake October 8-9. Good luck all qualifiers!

Don’t forget to sign up for the 6th Annual Berkley Big Bass tournament on Lake Fork October 15-16. Thousands of dollars in hourly paybacks are up for grabs in this hourly event. Any Berkley product can be used, but remember only catches from Berkley lures are eligible to win!

“We’d like to thank everyone for fishing with us again this year,” stated Chad Potts, President/Bass Champs. “It is you and our sponsors that make Bass Champs the biggest and most lucrative team tournament trail in Texas. We’ll look forward to seeing you again in 2012.”

Check out www.BassChamps.com for 2012 season dates or call 817-439-3274 for more information.
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