Faber Grabs TBF Championship Lead
April 7, 2017
By Dan Johnson
Table Rock Lake has never been accused of being a boring fishery, or of hosting tediously predictable bass tournaments. As the dust settled following day four of The Bass Federation’s 2017 National Championship, the Rock’s reputation for rollercoaster leaderboard rides and white-knuckle comebacks is as solid as ever.
After a week of cool, rainy, unstable conditions, today’s sunny skies and 60-degree weather boosted the surface temp into the 60s and fueled a flurry of shallow-water action as spawn-minded bass headed toward the bank. Still, the action wasn’t universally fast, and more than a few competitors found their fortunes in flux.
Ty Faber is living proof of the impoundment’s ability to knock you down one day and build you back up the next. Representing the New Mexico Bass Federation, Faber, of Colorado, was 56th overall among the boaters on day one of the five-day event with two bass for 4 pounds, 5 ounces.
The next day, he improved to 40th with 8 pounds, 6 ounces for a 12-pound, 11-ounce two-day total. In the process, he claimed New Mexico’s slot in the next leg of the championship and kept fishing while over half the 204-angler field went home.
Weights were zeroed at this point, giving the remaining 49 boaters and 49 co-anglers a fresh start. Faber responded with a 10-pound, 7-ounce limit that put him in 4th place in the Southwest Division, which he’d need to win to move on to Saturday’s final round.
Today, while his rivals faltered, Faber vaulted into first place overall and won his division with a 15-pound, 15-ounce limit that gives him 26-06 headed into tomorrow’s shootout.
“I didn’t really do anything different today than I’ve done all week, I just finally got around a few good fish,” he says. “It still wasn’t a consistent bite. They bit a little better during the morning, but I caught them throughout the day.”
Looking ahead, he admits tomorrow will be a surprise. “I really have no idea what’s going to happen on this lake,” he laughs. “It’s been different every day. I hadn’t caught a 3-pounder all week until today, I just finally got around a few better fish.”
Indiana boater Allen Boyd, who won the 2011 TBF National Championship on Nickajack Lake, experienced the fickler side of Table Rock’s nature.
The day-three leader brought in nearly 10 pounds less than yesterday, weighing just three fish for 8 pounds, 2 ounces, compared to Friday’s 17-pound, 14-ounce limit. Still, it put him atop the Northern Division and second overall with 26 pounds even.
“I started off this morning catching one of my big fish on the second cast, but it went downhill from there,” he says. “A lot of local boat traffic running around didn’t help anything, and it just wasn’t my day.”
Despite the turn of events, Boyd has no plans to change his strategy. “I’m going back and doing the same thing,” he maintains. “I think the fish are there to win this. They’ve just got to move up and eat.”
North Carolina boater Jeff Hager landed the day’s heaviest limit. The 16-pound, 10-ounce sack gave him the Southern Division’s golden ticket to tomorrow’s grand finale, and moved him into third overall with 25-11.
“At our first spot, we had five keepers in the boat in the first 25 minutes,” he says. “From there we just kept flipping and pitching jigs, and picked up fish all during the day. The last hour and a half we caught some of our bigger fish, and I got one of the best ones on the last cast of the day.”
New York boater Brad Brodnicki has been a study in consistency, landing limits throughout the event. He paced the entire field the first two days. Falling water temperatures and changing water clarity challenged him yesterday, and he slipped slightly in the overall ranks but still lead the Eastern Division.
Brodnicki’s Eastern domination continued today as he moved into the finals with a 12-pound, 8-ounce limit and 25-pound, 2-ounce total weight.
“I’m really excited,” he says. “The Lord blessed me. It was a grind today and I fished all brand-new water. I started out with one fish early and went about three hours without another. So, I went back to the pattern I’ve been using all week, just trying it in different spots. I ended up culling one fish—but it was a big fish at the end, an hour before weigh-in, that really sealed the deal.”
Another past TBF champion, Robert Harkness, will also be in the hunt for the 2017 title tomorrow. The West Virginia boater topped the Mid-Atlantic Division with a 22-pound, 10-ounce total. Though he’s nearly four pounds behind Faber, it’s premature to count the former champ out.
“I was in fifth place and eight pounds out 2009 on Bull Shoals, and I ended up winning,” he recalls. Championship experience aside, Harkness also hopes a unique game plan will fuel another comeback.
While many of his competitors are fishing relatively shallow, he’s plying a deeper pattern. “I’m not sight fishing,” he says. “I’m fishing deep off structure, catching smallmouths and spots.”
Certainly, Saturday’s forecast for air temperatures in the high 70s could see the shallow bite catch fire. But Harkness notes that the balmy weekend will no doubt intensify pressure on those fish as well. “It could play a role, but we’ll have to wait and see,” he says.
Among the co-angler contingency, Steven Martins of Connecticut topped the Eastern Division and sits in first overall with a 10-fish, 21-pound, 5-ounce total. He brought in 11-08 today and 9-13 on Friday.
Running April 3-8, the TBF championship pits 204 anglers from the federation’s seven divisions against one another for more than $300,000 in cash and prizes.
Divided equally into boater and co-angler divisions, the full field competed the first two days of the event. The field narrowed to 49 boaters and co-anglers for days three and four, after which the top boater and non-boater from each division move on to the final day.
Regardless of their finish tomorrow, each divisional winner also advances to the 2017 T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League All-American. The winning boater also qualifies for the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup for a shot at winning the biggest payday in bass fishing.
The winning boater will also receive the $100,000 “Living the Dream” package to include a cash prize, fully paid entry fees on the 2018 FLW Tour as a pro, travel expense stipends for each event and use of a “Living the Dream” wrapped Ranger boat with Evinrude outboard for the year. The top co-angler will receive a $20,000 prize package that includes $10,000 cash and fully paid entry fees into the Costa FLW Series division of choice, as well as other prizes.
The championship concludes tomorrow at the Port of Kimberling Marina and Resort, 72 Marina Way, Kimberling City, Mo. Takeoff is at 7 a.m. CT, and weigh-in begins at 3 p.m.
By Division, top boaters headed into the final round are:
Central: Joshua Moore, Louisiana, 22-03 (9)
Eastern: Brad Brodnicki, New York, 25-02 (10)
Mid-Atlantic: Robert Harkness, West Virginia, 22-10 (10)
Northern: Allen Boyd, Indiana, 26-00 (8)
Northwest: Ben Warren, Idaho, 23-02 (10)
Southern: Jeff Hager, North Carolina, 25-11 (9)
Southwest: Ty Faber, New Mexico, 26-06 (10)
By Division, top co-anglers headed into the final round are:
Central: Brad Jernigan, Mississippi, 19-13 (10)
Eastern: Steven Martens, Connecticut, 21-05 (10)
Mid-Atlantic: Brian LaClair, Delaware, 17-03 (8)
Northern: Sport Smith, Minnesota, 17-07 (8)
Northwest: Kevin Higgins, Washington, 13-02 (7)
Southern: Kevin Black, Georgia, 12-08 (6)
Southwest: Paul Aznarez, Nevada, 19-02 (9)