The anglers that competed in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open No. 3 presented by Allstate at Lake Norman had to stay on their toes. The first day was sunny, calm and warm. The second day brought wind, clouds and rain. A brisk Day 3 was blustery and bright.
South Carolina Elite Series pro Andy Montgomery made the right adjustments and claimed victory by sacking three solid limits that totaled 37 pounds, 10 ounces. He outfished David Williams on Saturday, the last day of the tournament, after Williams held the lead on Days 1 and 2. Williams finished the tournament in eighth place with 32-3.
Montgomery excels at skipping jigs under docks, and this tactic duped most of his bass on Lake Norman. A 1/2-ounce Shooter Elite Series Jig dressed with a Strike King Rage Bug accounted for most of his bass. “I caught a lot of bass under the walkways of docks on flat banks,” Montgomery said.
A white buzzbait also accounted for a portion of Montgomery’s catch. He cast it to flat, rocky banks when the sky was overcast.
Montgomery knows Lake Norman well and typically has his best luck here in autumn. “I thought I could outlast the field in a three-day event this time of year,” Montgomery said.
Along with the trophy, Montgomery received $5,980 and a Skeeter ZX200 rigged with a Yamaha VF200LA outboard and prop, a Skeeter Single Axle Trailer, a Minn Kota Max 80F 42” 24v Trolling Motor and an in-dash Humminbird 788.
Montgomery had already qualified for the 2015 Bassmaster Classic via the Elite Series. He did not double qualify after winning Saturday’s Southern Open as he had not fished the previous two events in the division.
Floridian Richard Howes claimed second place Saturday with three five-bass limits that weighed a total of 36 pounds, 2 ounces. Unlike Montgomery, Howes was new to Norman and had to start from scratch.
A jig was his primary lure, but Howes also brought a few bass to the scales that were caught on a spinnerbait and a Heddon Super Spook Jr.
Lake Norman has far more spotted bass than largemouth, but the odds of catching a heavy kicker bass are with the largemouth. “I knew I would need at least one good largemouth a day to have a chance to win,” Howes said.
Howes started each day fishing docks near the mouths of creeks with the goal of boxing a limit of spotted bass. After securing his limit, he fished docks in the shallower backs of creeks where he was able to cull with bigger largemouth bass.
Ronald Farrow, of Rock Hill, S.C., came in third place with 35 pounds, 1 ounce. This was the first Bassmaster Open he had ever fished. On Thursday, he boated less than 6 pounds of bass. “I had to give myself a pep talk Friday morning,” Farrow said.
That must have been some pep talk. He proceeded to catch the biggest limit of the tournament Friday, which weighed 16 pounds, 10 ounces. It jumped him from 101st place Thursday to 10th place Friday.
And apparently, Farrow gave himself another pep talk Saturday, as he landed the biggest limit of the day, 13 pounds, 1 ounce. “The calm weather on Thursday killed my bite,” Farrow said. “I needed the wind.”
The wind blew Friday and Saturday, and Farrow slammed the bass by casting a square bill crankbait and a spinnerbait to windblown banks. “The best banks today were in the shade,” Farrow said.
Alabama’s Tyler Boyle was one of four co-anglers to catch a three-bass limit each day of the Norman Open. The 19-year-old’s winning total of 19 pounds, 8 ounces earned him a Triton 17 Pro rigged with a Mercury 115 Pro XS and prop, a Triton single axle trailer, a MotorGuide FW46 42” 12v trolling motor, Lowrance Mark 5 graphs on the dash.
“I’ll be on the water fishing in it every day I’m not working or at classes,” Boyle said when asked what he will do with the boat. Boyle currently attends ITT Technical Institute.
Virginia’s Barry Brandt Jr. claimed the Livingston Leader award for leading the co-angler pack on Day 2. The award is good for $250 worth of Livingston Lures. Williams, the leader on Day 2 on the pro side, received $250 cash for winning the Livingston Leader award.
Farrow won the $250 Allstate Good Hands, Great Day award on the pro side for his move up the leaderboard on Day 2. On the co-angler side, Reid McGinn of Fort Mill, S.C., earned $150 for the Allstate Good Hands, Great Day award for leaping from 90th to 29th place with a Day 2 catch of 6 pounds, 15 ounces.
Alabama’s Jordan Lee brought in the Carhartt Big Bass award of $500 for the 5-14 he caught on Day 2.
Williams topped the Southern Open standings after this tournament with 553 points, qualifying him for the 2015 Elite Series. The rest of the anglers who qualified for an invitation to the Elite Series are Jesse Wiggins (545 points), Todd Auten (538 points), Matt Lee (499 points) and Stephen Longobardi (499 points).
Image courtesy Ronnie Moore/Bassmaster