Doug Brownridge has finished two tournaments with 71 pounds and ended up second. He had no plans to finish second in the 2014 Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Eastern Divisional, so he resolved to catch 72 pounds — and win.
He did, indeed. Brownridge ended the divisional with 72 pounds, 9 ounces over three days. What’s exceptional about that is all of his bass were smallmouth, averaging nearly 5 pounds each. Well, almost all of them were smallmouth.
“I’ve got one largemouth in my bag today,” he said on the final day. “I had a chance to cull up with a smallmouth that was 1/4 pound heavier, but it didn’t look that healthy.” So Brownridge put the smallie right back into the St. Lawrence River and held onto the largemouth.
Brownridge has led the tournament since its opener on Wednesday and has never even been threatened with losing his lead. He caught 24 pounds, 5 ounces on the first day, and then followed it up with 24-2 sacks on Days 2 and 3. He had the three biggest bags of the tournament.
The Ontario B.A.S.S. Nation angler came into the event with a lot of experience on the St. Lawrence, including 10 to 15 tournament days on the water just this year. In fact, in July, he came in second on the fishery in the Kingston Canadian Open with 70.95 pounds. He knows this water, and he knows his spots.
“The fish in my area are all big,” said Brownridge. “It’s a sunken current break, with clean rock all over it. And I had it all to myself. The closest competitor was 2 miles away.”
He was dragging a 3 1/2-inch Set the Hook tube in a green pumpkin color, called Ten Point, 20 to 22 feet along the rocks at the bottom.
“I was bouncing it as hard as I could,” said Brownridge.
For the first two days, that system worked perfectly, and he had 20 pounds of smallies in the boat by 10 a.m. But on the final day, the spot seemed to give out on him, so he had to make a run. He had been very confident so far in the tournament, but at 9 a.m. on Day 3, he had only two in the boat, and doubt started creeping in.
“That’s why I ran,” Brownridge said. “I took off, 35 minutes or so in the other direction, to another spot similar to this one. That’s where I got the largemouth and a couple of other smallmouth.”
Around 12:30, he went back to his first spot, and the bronzebacks bit then. He got a 4 1/2-pounder within 10 minutes of arriving back at his primary area. Then he culled up to his final-day weight of 24-2.
“I really wanted this trophy,” said Brownridge, gripping his Eastern Divisional hardware.
With that trophy comes a berth in the 2014 Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on Louisiana’s Ouachita River, Nov. 6-8. If he’s the best in the Eastern division there, he’ll advance to the 2015 Bassmaster Classic.
Eight other anglers earned invitations to the championship, as well. Each team sends its top representative. Paul Mueller won Connecticut’s nomination, and he’ll be making a return trip to the championship after competing there last year and advancing to the 2014 Bassmaster Classic, where he finished second. Now he has a chance to compete for a berth in the 2015 Classic.
Other championship qualifiers are Chuck Towns, Maine; Jeff Kenney, Massachusetts; Rob Messenger, New Hampshire; Ken Golubjatnikov, New York; Leo Bevelaqua, Rhode Island; Eric Corbella Salvia, Spain; and Russell Phillips, Vermont.
The teams competed against each other, too, for a chance at a $40,000 Skeeter/Yamaha boat and motor package, based on highest cumulative weight of all of each respective team’s anglers. Host team New York won with 540 pounds, 6 ounces. Behind New York were Connecticut with 532-9 and Ontario with 516-13.
Meanwhile, another competition was brewing. Teenage anglers competed for the award of the top high school division. The young anglers fished the second and third day of the overall competition, and their weight contributed to their team’s overall weight. Ontario’s high schoolers, Cooper Gallant and Danny McGarry, won with 36 pounds, 10 ounces over the two days. They were both competing on behalf of St. Stephens High School. Their sack of 23 pounds, 13 ounces, on Day 2 was the fourth-biggest bag of the tournament behind Brownridge’s bags.
Brownridge can claim the biggest bass of Day 3 with a 5-pound, 11-ounce smallie. But the Carhartt Big Bass award went to James Hanatow and Michael McNamara, both of New Hampshire. Hanatow caught a 6-pounder on Day 1, and McNamara caught the same on Day 2. They will split the $500 award.
Brownridge did claim the Livingston Lures Leader Award of $250 for leading on Day 2. Stay tuned to Bassmaster.com during the 2014 Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, Nov. 6-8, to find out who from the Eastern Division qualifies to compete in the Classic.
Image courtesy Tyler Wade/Bassmaster