By David A. Brown
RICHLAND, Wash. — Justin Campbell literally predicted it. He entered Championship Sunday of the Wild West Bass Trail Pro-Am on the Columbia River presented by Tri-Cities, Wash. knowing he’d need a dramatic reversal of fortune to overtake Ronald Mace, who had led since Day 1.
Essentially, Campbell needed another strong performance to match his big Day 2 and Mace had to stumble. That’s exactly how it played out and with a 3-day total of 59.05 pounds Campbell earned his first WWBT trophy.
“I knew what I had to do and I just stuck with it,” Campbell said. “I knew I had to have big fish to even have a chance, so I stuck around high quality.
“It was a pretty slow day and I had a low fish count. I only had 10 bass and no real flurries.”
By the numbers, Campbell caught 17.75 on Day 1 and placed third. In the second round, he turned in his best bag — 20.67 — and rose to second with a 4.49-pound deficit behind Mace. Championship Sunday saw Campbell nearly match that big bag with a limit of 20.63 that gave him winning margin of 3.19.
“I fished downriver, south of the Casey Pond area and I cycled between a smallmouth area and a largemouth area all day,” Campbell said. “I ended up weighing in three largemouth and two smallmouth, including a 4 1/2.
“On Day 2, I had a 5-pound largemouth, but the smallmouth were better quality today. There were definitely some big largemouth swimming around, but they’re kinda tough later in the year. They have to be in an aggressive mood.”
Fishing in 1-7 feet of water, Campbell targeted sand and weed edges for smallmouth, while a mix of rock and weeds was the right look for largemouth.
Campbell caught most of his fish on a wacky-rigged 5-inch Yamamoto Senko in green pumpkin. He also added keepers on a 3.3 Keitech Swing Impact Fat in flash minnow.
“We got a slight breeze in the afternoon and I caught a couple key fish then,” Campbell said. “Overall, it was pretty slow. I feel like we’d go an hour or so without a bite and then my co-angler and I would catch one about the same time. It might have been bait moving into the area.”
Campbell has his limit by 10 and culled up to his final weight with a nice largemouth around 1 p.m. Ending his day with a good deed, Campbell came to the aid of his team partner Travis Whitney, whose cranking battery died. Pulling out his trolling motor battery, Campbell helped Whitney get his engine started and the two made their way back to weigh-ins a little early.
Mace, who makes his home in Kennewick, Wash. set the early lead with a Day-1 limit of 24.25 and then held on to the top spot by posting 18.66 in the second-round. Day 3 proved challenging and Mace concluded his effort with a bag that went 12.95 and tallied a tournament total of 55.86.
“With the random boat draw, I got to my first spot and found a bass boat siting on it,” Mace said. “I couldn’t get on my main spots, so I just kind of bounced around and scratched out a limit.
Fishing the same general area as Campbell, Mace noted that rising water scattered his fish and forced him to search for more. He caught his fish on a 2.8 Keitech Swing Impact Fat, a Texas-rigged 3.3 Keitech Swing Impact Fat and a Texas-rigged 5-inch Yamamoto Senko.
Travis McKinney, also of Kennewick, Wash. finished third with 52.65. Focusing his efforts downriver, south of the Casey Pond area, he turned in daily weights of 18.81, 14.65, 19.19.
Fishing sand/grass edges in 4-6 feet, Whitney attributed his higher productivity to favorable conditions.
“I was fishing one of those spots where a little breeze can get them going,” Whitney said. “That’s what happened today; we got a little breeze going and we whacked on ‘em from about noon to 2.
“The key for me what just knowing that spot and understanding where the fish come from and where they go to.”
Whitney got his limit around noon and made his last cull around 1. He caught his fish on a 2.8 Keitech Swing Impact Fat in a baitfish color and a dropshot with a green pumpkin Strike King KVD Dream Shot.
Mace won the Big Bass award for his 6.58.
Troy Mays of Ione, Calif won the Co-angler division with 39.92. Compiling his weight with bags of 12.99, 11.83 and 15.1, Mays appeared to have had his best opportunity in the final round. However, that was not the case.
“Today, I had less opportunity, because I was paired with (Campbell) and he was trying to win the tournament, so he was positioned for certain casts,” Mays said. “I had only six keepers and it happened to be that two of them were my personal best — a 4+ and a 5.”
Mays caught most of his fish on rock transitions, but he found his best fish in the weeds. Flipping a Frenzy Nail with a Z-Man FattyZ into a little pocket yielded his 5-pounder. He also caught fish on 2.8 Keitech Swing Impact Fat on a 1/4 ounce darter.
Joseph Androyna of Graham, Wash. won the Big Bass award among co-anglers with a 4.56.