Lake Guntersville is known for big bass, and those caught in the Berkley Bassmaster Elite at Lake Guntersville provided great impact for those who landed them. In a transitionary time, fishing was a bit tougher on the famed lake. Caleb Kuphall scored a breakthrough victory in the event by averaging more than 4 pounds a fish, but for others, big fish meant checks and moves in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.
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Only 13 of the 98-man field failed to produce a limit on Day 1, with the average fish weighing 2 pounds, 13 ounces. Pat Schlapper had a two-in-one with a 5-9 in his 16-2 bag that had him in a three-way tie for 16th. His weights fell over the next two days and he fell to 39th.
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This 6-5 made Derek Hudnall smile as it was more than a third of his 16-5 that put him 15th. Without a similar lunker, Hudnall’s weights decreased to 14-1 and 13-15, but he finished 26th to gain six spots in the AOY standings to 43rd. With two events left, he’s in position to move inside the top 40 and qualify for the 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic.
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Patrick Walters brought in a surprise bag of 17-0, bolstered by this 6-7 to cut into his 41-point deficit to AOY leader Seth Feider. Walters entered his big fish as 5-0 on BassTrakk, where his estimates had him outside the cut and he was barely mentioned on Bassmaster LIVE while he did make a move. Their fortunes turned, however, with Feider climbing to finish 24th and gain 11 points on Walters in the standings.
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Todd Auten seemed to regain his mojo with a 7-0 in his bag of 21-3 that put him second. His Day 2 bag was less than half that, then he only mustered three fish to fall to 44th. He stands outside the Classic cut at 63rd, after being the Classic runner-up at Guntersville.
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Nabbing this 7-6 birthday bass had Caleb Sumrall falling backward with joy. He called it a “total lifesaver” as he only caught three other bass, and the lunker was more than half his 14-4 that put him 41st. He missed the Day 2 cut after a limit of 13-1 tied him with Matt Robertson at 48th with 27-5. Robertson won the tiebreaker with a bigger bag, and with it a payday of $10,000.
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Sumrall cashed $6,000 — the first two out of the cut get an extra $2,500 to help ease their pain — and his 7-6 held out as Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the event to garner the overall $1,000 bonus.
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Kuphall had a dream day on Guntersville, taking the lead early as he fished near the takeoff at Goose Pond. Kuphall landed a 6-2 and another just under 5 pounds en route to 27-10, an average of 5-8. He took a 6-7 lead into Day 2, when fishing got stingier for him.
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On Day 1, Brandon Card came across the weigh-in stage right after Sumrall’s fireworks, saying “it’s kinda bad when I have three fish smaller than Caleb’s 7-6.” Card was 94th with 7-3 but found redemption in his Day 2 18-7 that jumped him to 63rd. It saved a much-worse drop than his fall of nine spots to 26th in points.
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Rookie Justin Hamner also posted a nifty turnaround with the help of this 6-1, nearly doubling his 10-6 first day to 19-9. His jump 60 spots from 82nd was among the biggest of the day. Hamner added 10-15 to finish 36th and moved up two spots to just outside the Classic cut at 41st in points.
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Chris Johnston showed anglers could reach the Top 10 with consistency, as in consistently bigger bass than the average. The first Canadian to win an Elite had bags of 19-1 and 19-10 to go into Semifinal Saturday in second place just 4-9 back of Kuphall. His bigger bite slowed — he had 13-9 then 11-8 — to finish ninth.
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Catching 10-9 on Day 1 had Scott Martin in 80th and dropping in the points outside the Classic cut. Martin, son of nine-time AOY Roland Martin, got the big Day 2 he needed with 19-11, jumping to 27th. He finished 12th, ounces from making the Top 10, and climbed seven spots to 18th in AOY after things looked dismal.
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Chris Zaldain had a climb similar to Martin. He started 83rd but his deeper water bite activated for 20-3 on Day 2 and gave him a jump of 61 spots. On Day 2, there were 83 limits with the average fish bumping up slightly to almost 2-14.
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Mark Menendez caught a 5-15 in his Day 2 limit of 21-5 — the biggest of the day — to climb from 45th to fifth. Menendez finished 19th to move six spots and gain an inside line on making his seventh Classic at 38th in the standings.
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Wes Logan, coming off his first Elite victory two weeks prior, came back big from a 14-1 first day. With 20-12, including a 6-9, Logan built the second biggest bag of the day and moved into the Top 10.
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Bill Weidler’s 6-11 took Phoenix Boats Big Bass on Day 2, but the only real difference was giving him the $1,000 bonus. While the giant was more than half his 12-7 that came on three fish, he missed the cut in 64th. After winning last year on Lake St. Clair, Weidler is mired deep in the AOY standings at 85th, with only long-shot hopes of climbing into Classic contention.
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Tyler Rivet came back from a slower first day with 18-4 on Day 2 to climb to 22nd, then he slipped into the Top 10 by one ounce with 17-15, which included this 5-10. Rivet finished strong with 16-12 to take sixth. He went from being last man out of the Classic (41st) to 30th in the standings.
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Australian angler Carl Jocumsen, who first made noise on the Elite with a top finish on Guntersville in 2015, showed he does indeed enjoy the Big G. Jocumsen landed this 6-0 in his Day 3 bag of 16-12. He followed with 16-4 and narrowly missed Championship Sunday, but he did post his fourth top 20 at Guntersville by taking 13th.
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Austin Felix, the 2020 Rookie of the Year, was Mr. Consistent with bags of 15-7, 15-2 and 16-6. He was helped by this 5-7 on Day 3 and finished 14th, gaining 10 spots in the points to 29th.
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A 5-8 on Day 3 helped Zaldain to 19-4 which put him in the Top 10. By finishing fifth, Zaldain gained 15 spots in the AOY standings to 51, and he has two events to gain another 11 spots in hopes of reaching the Classic.
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Shane Lineberger posted his first Top 10 finish in the Elites with bags ranging from 15-10 to 17-3. He had a 4-7 on Championship Sunday to help him climb a couple spots and finish seventh.
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After weighing 10 pounds less than his opening limit on Day 3, Kuphall found several more in the five-and-a-half-pound range to build the second-biggest bag of the tournament with Day 3’s 23-9. It gave him an 11-8 lead heading into Championship Sunday.
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Logan also continued his run, landing a 4-14 in his 20-8 on Day 3. He and Kuphall were the only anglers to top 20 pounds twice in the event that saw eight bags over that mark. Logan managed 12-11 on the final day to total 68-0 and finish second. It was a fruitful May with paydays totaling $135,000, and he’s eighth in the AOY race.
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Kuphall might have started slowly on Championship Sunday, but he was never threatened and increased his lead with a bag of 19-1. It was the biggest limit of the day and included his second Phoenix Boat Big Bass daily bonus with a 4-14.
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For the event, Kuphall totaled 85-14 to score the second-most lopsided victory in Elite history. Patrick Walters won last year at Lake Fork by 29-10 to nearly double the previous record of 15-9. Kuphall won by 17-14, a remarkable feat for a late May event on Guntersville.
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Kuphall, who won a Basspro.com Open on Alabama’s Smith Lake during his qualifying run for the Elites in 2019, has two wins in 21 B.A.S.S. events. The victory gave him a 12-spot jump in the AOY stnadings to 33rd, and he heads to Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River events needing to hold serve to qualify for his second Classic. He is the first angler from Wisconsin to win an Elite.