A Strong First Half Puts Figi in the Driver Seat at Season Opening Champions Tour Event
Forty-three anglers and their high school boat officials took to the Le Homme Dieu Chain this morning under cloudy skies and brisk conditions for the first Champions Tour event of the season. Spirits were high and the air filled with the soft buzz of dock talk and anticipation. Michaela Anderson led the field out as boat number one and period one was underway.
Lake Carlos was the place to be early on as twelve competitor boats all crowded in on one small rocky flat in search of the smallmouth that had pulled up on beds over the past few days. Connor O’Connor, Matt Peters, Austin Felix, and Matt Stefan all jumped out to hot starts just a few feet apart as they scoured over light spots in the dark bottom pitching their drop-shots, jig worms, Ned rigs, and wacky rigs towards visible beds and roaming bronzebacks. Although the bite was initially lights out, the fish soon became tougher to catch as more anglers pressured the small area. A few stuck it out for the whole first period, but many chose to leave the area a couple hours into the first half.
John Figi and Jim Moynagh were the most intriguing storylines during the morning session. Figi found himself offshore on Lake Darling where he put on a clinic with a spinning rod in hand catching largemouth seemingly cast after cast nearly topping the century mark with 55 bass recorded for just under 98 pounds.
Moynagh fished the channel between Darling and Little Darling for largemouth with a Neko rig and kept pace with Figi for the majority of the half finding him in second place with 50 bass for nearly 88 pounds. Over 30 pounds behind the leader was third place Matt Peters who stayed on his smallmouth pattern for the whole morning session with O’Connor and Felix rounding out the top five close behind.
After lunch and an intense game of horse on the basketball court next to the Champions Tour trailer, anglers were back at it for the afternoon session. With Lake Darling no longer in play the top two anglers from the first period were forced to run new water. Moynagh stayed with the Neko rig on shallow edges with weed transitions in both Lake Carlos and Lake Le Homme Dieu.
Figi found his offshore pattern repeating itself, this time on Lake Le Homme Dieu where he drop shot a green pumpkin Zoom trick worm. Austin Felix made a strong push in the second half leaving his smallmouth pattern to target largemouth and finding him in a numbers game and in a tight battle for third with Matt Peters who also chose to go power fishing for largemouth in the second half.
With less than one hour remaining both Moynagh and Figi had 65 recorded bass and were separated by one pound with Figi leading the way with 112 pounds and 2 ounces.
Other anglers made strong pushes throughout the second half as well. Andy Nitchals started the second half in 25th place and worked himself as high as 10th and finished there. Daniel Fabiano ended the first half in last place with just three fish registered, but climbed as high as 24th, ending up in 26th jumping 17 spots in the second half.
It came right down to the wire, John Figi caught his final fish with twenty minutes remaining to widen his lead to over five pounds but he had to fend off a last second surge from second place finisher Jim Moynagh who caught his biggest fish of the day, a 3 pound 2 ounce largemouth with less than ten minutes remaining. Moynagh closed the gap to just eight ounces with five minutes remaining, but could not find one final fish to propel him into the top spot.
Last year’s Champions Tour Angler of the Year, Matt Peters had a flurry of fish catches late in the second half to secure third place, he was also the third angler of the day to eclipse 100 pounds. Austin Felix and Connor O’Connor rounded out the top five and were both consistently amongst the top of the leaderboard throughout the day.
For his efforts, Figi took home the grand prize of $10,000 and is his first career Champions Tour victory, and fourth recorded top ten in his second season fishing the Tour. For Moynagh, in his third season fishing the tour, it was his third top ten finish.
Al Grabowski was the last money man, earning that final check in 18th place. The Wenzel’s Farm Major Mover Award was presented to Daniel Fabiano who increased his weight the most from the first half of the day to second, with 30 pounds 7 ounces and was awarded $250.
The Striker Brands Student Angler Award is presented to the boat official of the winning angler, congratulations to John Figi’s boat official, Trent Olson from who was awarded a Striker UPF shirt and hat for his efforts on the water.
Our DB33 Award is a $1,000 scholarship, awarded to the student boat official whose angler had the closest weight over 33 pounds. The award is sponsored by NHL Professional Hockey Player and Champions Tour Angler Dustin Byfuglien’s foundation which supports youth athletics across the country. Our inaugural DB33 award winner was Chad Henke, whose angler Will Pappa had a total weight of 33 pounds and 1 ounce.
Matt Thompson took home the YETI Big Bass award with an incredible 7 pound 6 ounce largemouth caught on a swimbait, the largest fish recorded in Champions Tour history!
It was an event that will go down in Champions Tour history and the perfect way to kick off what promises to be the most exciting season yet. Next up is the event on Leech Lake on July 18th which promises to boast some of the biggest fish we’ve seen and all sorts of twists and turns for our anglers as they fight for points to make the Championship at the end of the season.
The top ten anglers will be listed below, for the full results visit
https://scoringapp.classicbass.com/LeaderBoard/257 . To view photos and videos from the event head to our website www.classicbass.com.
First Place: John Figi, Bloomington, MN 116-5
Second Place: Jim Moynagh, Carver, MN 115-13
Third Place: Matt Peters, Waconia, MN 103-3
Fourth Place: Austin Felix, Eden Prairie MN 93-5
Fifth Place: Connor O’Connor, Pequot Lakes MN 88-4
Sixth Place: Dean Capra, Blaine, MN 78-9
Seventh Place: Matt Stefan, Junction City, WI 77-10
Eighth Place: Jacob Novak, Clear Lake, MN 76-4
Ninth Place: Jeff Bosshardt, Eagan, MN 76-3
Tenth Place: Andy Nitchals, Wilmar, MN 63-10