They are the cream of the crop, the best of the best, the finest in the Midwest. When 30 boats took to Bay Lake, everyone knew it wouldn’t be easy to separate themselves from this impressive crowd. They arrived to Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge under dark and wet skies with the threat of severe weather looming. The wind howled from the south and into the docks where anglers staged, the grand prize, a 2020 Skeeter Boats ZX200 with a 200 horsepower Yamaha SHO outboard perched on the hill above them waiting for the victor to claim it.
Anglers had the ability to choose which side of the lake split they wanted to start on, 19 anglers went east and 11 went west to their starting areas and it didn’t take long for fish to hit the Livewell App. Throughout practice anglers expressed that there were plenty of fish to be caught but good ones would be tough to find but just a few minutes into the first half Jim Moynagh set the bar high with a 3-11. Storms set in just after 8:30am with heavy rains giving way to fierce thunder and lightning forcing anglers to seek shelter around 9:30, fishing resumed just before 10:00. Matt Peters, James Lindner, Jeff Bosshardt, and Arnold Helgerson hovered around the lead. Peters and Lindner fished offshore vegetation with jigs and dropshots while Bosshardt and Helgerson stayed shallow working lily pads and docks.
Things changed rapidly in the second half and the leaderboard was even less predictable than the weather. Mark Courts put up a quick 26 pounds in the second half to climb as high as fifth place before trailing off slightly as the half went on. Adam Rasmussen also had a great second half as he climbed the leaderboard to put himself in the hunt. Things heated up as the half wore on, battling on and off rain showers the leaderboard tightened up. “Big Fish” Matt Thompson surged seemingly out of nowhere with a 2 pound 12 ounce average which was nearly double the other anglers average per fish including Yeti big bass of the tournament at 4-13 (his third big bass award of the year), with just 17 fish caught he had himself within 3 pound of the leader Noah Schultz who had caught 32 fish up to that point. As time ticked away the tension increased as Schultz knew just one of Thompson’s “average” fish would be enough to bump him from the lead and that brand new Skeeter boat. James Lindner and John Figi also made hard pushes late but couldn’t close the gap to the two front runners. With less than ten minutes left, Schultz, who had been primarily fishing offshore made a run to a shallow stretch of windblown lily pads and found one more legal fish that would prove to seal the deal. His weight of 49-10 would make him the 2019 Champions Tour Champion and also the second ever two time Champions Tour winner.
Things below Schultz and Thompson couldn’t have been much close with only 1 pound 9 ounces separating third through seventh place and Adam Rasmussen claiming the last check spot in sixth by just one ounce over Jeff Bosshardt. John Figi’s finished but also solidified his position as Angler of the Year, winning a trip to Florida with Scott Bonnema to enjoy some saltwater fishing later this year. Jim Moynagh and Brad Leuthner rounded out the top 3 in final AOY standings. For Noah Schultz it really was a dream come true as he got emotional on stage after receiving the keys to his new Skeeter, he plans to return to the Champions Tour next season in that ZX200 to defend his title.
It was a fairytale end to a storybook season for the Champions Tour and we are already looking forward to what 2020 has to offer. We have received some great feedback from our competitors and hope to have tentative plans in place and a schedule out by early November. Stay tuned for video coverage from the event, photos, full results, and more on www.classicbass.com. Thank you to all our anglers, sponsors, fans, and supporters for making this the best season the Champion Tour yet.