St. Lawrence didn't disappoint, capping off the season with plenty of smallmouth bass and drama.
WADDINGTON, NEW YORK -- For the second week in a row, a Bassmaster Elite victory came by way of Championship Sunday heroics. This time it was Taku Ito, who finished red hot with a 26-pound limit and secured a win at the Farmers Insurance Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River with a four-day total of 90 pounds.
The second-year Elite angler from Chiba, Japan, was only in 38th place after an average Day 1 showing, but seemingly improved as the week went on. He managed to move up to 11th after a 22-14 Day 2 limit, and then on to seventh after his 23-3 Day 3 total, barely securing a Championship Sunday berth.
To make things even crazier, Ito's Day 3 and Day 4 limits were each boosted by 6-pound smallmouths, both of which won Phoenix Boats Big Bass awards and $1,000 cash.
"I love Waddington--I'm very, very happy," Ito said. "When I was 8 years old, I won the (Bassin's Black Bass with Hank Parker) video game and now, on the St. Lawrence River, I wont he Bassmaster Elite Series.
"Big Bass. Big Stage. Big Dreams. Bassmaster!"
After a sixth-place finish at last year's St. Lawrence River event, Ito was confident in his approach. In fact, he fished Lake Ontario for all four days of the tournament. While his strategy was fluid, he didn't have to abandon the script too much, as his past experience would lend itself.
He started out by fishing rocks at roughly 20 feet until they stopped producing on Saturday, prompting a move to Chaumont Bay where he'd fish up to 27 feet and find a limit's worth of fish. He returned to the same spot Sunday morning, too.
"I was driving about two hours (each way) and I had about two hours and 30 minutes of fishing time," he said.
Upon arrival, Ito was confused when he saw what initially looked like a 13- or 14-foot bottom, but quickly realized it was actually a massive school of smallmouth bass.
One of Ito's go-to rigs was a drop shot with a 4-inch Ecogear Aqua Swim Shrimp rigged on a 1/0 Ryugi Talisman hook with a 1/4-ounce Ryugi TG Delta sinker. He also had success with a Neko-rigged 5 1/4-inch Nories Latterie straight worm and a Berkley Hit Worm.
"I was using many Japanese techniques," Ito said. "I would cast and sometimes the fish would take (the bait) while it was falling. Sometimes, I kept my bait on the bottom for 10 second, 15 seconds, with no action."
Alabama pro Justin Atkins finished the day in second with a total of 88-12, boasting solid numbers from start to finish.
Similar to Ito, he too remained fairly consistent in his technique.
"I caught all of my fish out of the lake," Atkins said. "I found a flat that had some grass and rock with some sand mixed in 12 to 20 feet. There was a big school of fish on it, and I was using my Lowrance Active Target to look for them."
Texas pro Clark Wendlandt finished right behind Atkins with 88-10.
While he also stayed on the lake, he went with a wide variety of depths, catching fish as shallow as 12 feet and as deep as 28. However, he said the sweet spot was right around 20.
Patrick Walters claimed the Big Bass award for the week with a 6-5 for $1,000, plus an additional $1,000 for winning the Big Bass Award on Day 2.
Ito took home $100,000 for the win, plus $2,000 for his two Big Bass awards.
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