Felsenthal Wrap Up
Every circuit at the end of the tournament season, since the inception of tournament bass fishing in the late 1960’s, will have an identity label placed on it. Some years, each event is a shootout, some are full of blow outs, and then, you have the Ark-La Team Tournament trail of 2023. When the forty-nine teams look back on this season, the word “brutal” may describe the fisheries but the term “top notch” describes the competition.
The forty-nine teams who make up the Ark-La Team Trail, are all capable, in any given event or circuit, to take home the top prize. So, when the Felsenthal event concluded, the winning team was a team who is no stranger to winning events on a river system and the Team of the Year have been a factor in each of the five events fished this year. Brutal fisheries, but top-notch competition.
The 1st place team of Scott Smith and Stacy Boggs are no strangers to fishing and winning tournaments on the Ouachita River. These two river rats seem to be at their best when it comes to hot weather, low water events, and this one proved no different. Weighing in a strong limit weighing 15.42, Smith said the key to their success was fishing shallow and fishing thoroughly. “We focused on extremely shallow water, two foot or less around the lily pads. We never could get a moving bait bite so we just did what we do best and flipped and pitched a jig and a Brush Hog. Once we were able to catch our first good fish, it just kind of opened the door for us the rest of the day.”
Weighing in at 10.28 were the 2nd place anglers, Todd Wolff and Robert Massey, who once again put themselves in position to potentially win the event. It was believed before the event, 10+ lbs. would be a potential winning weight, and if not for the heroics of Smith and Boggs, this would have been the case. Settling in an area they had found in practice; Wolff stated their fishing was anything but easy. “Patience and being thorough were key because our bite was mostly flipping and pitching,” Wolff stated. “I tried every little creature bait I had in the boat but Robert was catching them better with a Zoom Speed Craw, so I gave in and started throwing one too. Luckily, it worked out for us.”
The 3rd place team, Connor Nimrod and Jacob Andrews, another team of young guns on the ALTTT, weighed in a limit for 10.20, just a shiners weight from coming in 2nd. According to Andrews, the main key to their success was the wind and a timely spinnerbait bite. “After our starting spot didn’t produce, we decided to go try an area we had some success in last year’s tournament. After Conner caught our first keeper on a spinnerbait, I picked up a spinnerbait too and we both kept a spinnerbait in our hands the rest of the day, focusing on shallow cypress trees. When the wind picked up around lunch, it seemed like they really started biting good.”
The team of Jake and Jimmy Ormond took advantage of a good early morning bite to gain some momentum and eventually culled up to a limit that weighed 9.94. allowing them to finish fourth. According to Jake, their boat draw was critical to their success. “We started inside the Crossett Harbor because we had an early boat number and knew if we could get on one spot, we could catch a few fish. We caught a limit on a jig in the harbor for about eight pounds. And after considering the other event going on down south by the locks, we decided to run up the river where we were able to cull a few times around noon with a ribbon tail worm.”
Another team that was a shiners weight from moving up a place was the 5th place team of Matt Jones and Scotty Sadler with a weight of 9.90. The decision to come back to their starting area in the afternoon proved to be a wise move as the strong afternoon bite allowed the team to cull all the fish they had caught earlier in the day. As Sadler stated, “We caught a lot of small fish but as the day got hotter the fish got a bit bigger. We left a spot where we were catching small fish and that proved to be the key to our finish. We caught them on a spinner bait, topwater and flipping a big worm. We just made the right decisions.”
In the Angler of the Year Race, Zach Johnston and JR Grubb used a 13th place finish at Felsenthal to sew up this year’s AOY championship. These two anglers used a strong, consistent season to hold off several challengers in the last event of the season and head into the season ending championship with a boat load of momentum.
The Ark-La Team Trail Championship will be in October on Lake Darbonne in Farmerville, Louisiana.