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Date: February 3, 2007
Region: 2007 Central Region
Tournament: Lake Belton #1 2007
Tournament Trail: 2007 Bass Champs Tournament Trail
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Mario Hernandez single handedly wins 1st place on Belton
By: Patty Lenderman

Mario Hernandez single handedly wins 1st place on Belton
by Patty Lenderman

22 degree temperatures
+ blue bird skies and high winds
+ rising lake levels
= one tough day on Lake Belton for 202 teams of Bass Champs Central Region anglers. Their morning began with ice on their boats and gear, then continued as they tried to get cold sluggish fish to bite. Although the weights may have been low, top money was paid out, totaling $55,750 in cash and prizes. Lone angler Mario Hernandez won 1st place and $20,000 with nearly a three pound margin!

This was the first tournament of the season February 3rd for the Central Region. It was a test of grit and tenacity to tough out the weather conditions and stick with it to find a bite. Only five limits were brought to the scales, and in 27 places paid it only took 5.08 pounds to grab a check.

Mario Hernandez fished by himself and won 1st place with only four fish. “I think what helped me the most today was a lot of pre-planning. I haven’t fished this lake much, so I asked some locals what the lake has been doing lately, and found out that the lake has come up about four feet recently. I also studied maps. I figured that if I were a fish, and the lake had just come up, I would want to venture to the fresh water areas with new vegetation. After a lot of studying, I marked several places on my map. Today, I took my plan to the water.” Using a shallow swimming Bandit Lure (3'-5') with a 7 ½ foot G Lumis rod, he headed to the freshly flooded banks. “I threw my lure right on the bank and slow rolled it back. Working it really slow, I’d twitch it here, twitch it there. By 10:30 I had my biggest fish in the boat and two others. Then the bite quit. I never gave up, never deviated from my plan. About 2:00, I got another bite at a tree line. I guess I got too excited and pulled the bait right out of its mouth. Finally, at 3:20 I caught my fourth and last fish. My goal was to make top 10 - I had no clue that I would win!” His winning weight was 12.60 lbs, and he was presented with a check for $20,000! “I’d like to thank South Austin Marine. They are really nice guys, and fixed my Skeeter boat with utmost professionalism.”

Jeff Epling had held 1st place with his 9.94 lb sack up until the last 15 minutes of the weigh in. “I was in being polygraphed when my weight was beaten. That’s alright, though - I still got a nice check!” He took home $5,000 for his three fish. “It started out real cold. There was ice on my boat.” Epling also fished by himself. “I didn’t have a single bite until 12:30. I was fishing main lake areas just like a lot of other guys, and they weren’t catching anything either. Finally, I decided I’d better make a move and do something different. I found a subtle rock ridge that no one else had been fishing. In 30 minutes, I caught all three of my fish.” The first two he caught on a Carolina rigged watermelon Lake Fork creature bait. The third was on a jig & pig. “I didn’t get to do any pre-fishing, so I had no expectations. I just wanted to catch enough to gain a few points in the standings. Once I had those three in the boat, I knew I’d be somewhere in the top 25. I had no idea I’d finish 2nd!”

David Shuster and Charles Gerhart took a tight 3rd place with 9.78 lbs. David said “We had a late draw, so we didn’t go to our first spot by the dam. Instead, we looked for an open place by a rocky point. Once we found a spot, we caught a small mouth on a football head jig. After that, we moved and caught another. We moved again after a while, and caught one more. The fish weren’t biting very good at all. At that point we had three in the livewell, but needed two more.” It was 10:00 when they caught their third fish. Hours went by without a bite. Time was ticking, and they went to some deep flooded trees. “We changed baits to a tube jig, and caught two more to wrap up our limit.” Their five fish 9.78 lb limit earned a 3rd place check for $3,000.

Billy Brewer and Johnny Snyder weighed in the Big Bass of the day at 5.62 lbs. They earned a check for $1,000 for that one fish plus another check for $1,030 for a 12th place overall finish. Billy caught their big bass around 9:30am. “I was pitching a white pig & jig near a log out on the main lake. She just picked it up and moved off. It was a tough bite today.”

The next Central Region tournament will be March 3rd at Pace Bend Park on Lake Travis. Don’t miss out! For more information, call 817-438-3274 or click to www.basschamps.com
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