Saturday’s T-H Marine Bass Fishing League N.C. Division tournament at High Rock Lake turned into a nail biter between two of the lake’s best-known piscatorial wizards, Lexington’s David Wright and Winston-Salem’s Steve Sink. Eventually, it would take a penalty to determine the winner.
Although 44 limit catches were brought to the scales by 79 contestants, Wright and Sink separated themselves from the field by more than 2 pounds, but only a mere ounce separated the two of them.
Sink weighed in first and took the lead with a stunning haul of 22-04 that withstood challenges from New London’s Kevin Chandler and Grennsboro’s James Wall. Chandler would finish third with 20-14 for $1,097 plus a Costa award of $200 and an additional $395 for a 7-pound, 3-ounce bass, the biggest fish of the day. Chandler said he caught four of his five bass from piers with jigs. Wall placed fourth with 20-05 for $787.
Wright weighed in with the final flight; he approached the scales with a bag bulging with quality bass.
As Sink stared at the proceedings, the weigh-in master placed Wright’s catch on the scales, hesitated, waited until the fish were perfectly still, and weighed them again before announcing the weight as 22-05, giving the Lexington angler the top prize of $3,289 plus a Mercury bonus of $1,000.
What many onlookers didn’t know was that Sink had been assessed a penalty for dead fish, which cost him the victory.
Sink said he did everything he knew to keep those fish alive.
Overall, 94 percent of the fish caught were released alive.
While fishermen caught fish every which way, Wright relied upon a deep-water bite taking his fish from stumps, rocks and brush in 8 to 9 feet of water using a Rapala DT-14 crankbait in hot mustard and bluegill colors and a shaky-head jig paired with a black Zoom Magnum Trick worm.
“I culled 15 to 18 3-pound bass trying to add 4-pound fish to my livewell,” said Wright. “I’d usually catch a fish on my first cast because I knew exactly the location of the stump or brush. Once the first one hit, others would soon follow.”
Wright’s fishing holes included Abbotts, Crane and Second creeks. He said he caught more than 30 keepers.
While the pier bite has dominated at High Rock in recent years, Wright couldn’t explain why this June a good number of fish have moved offshore.
Concord’s Eric Moser, the early leader with 19-13, finished fifth and received $658.
Other top boaters were Ladd Whicker of Winston-Salem, sixth, with 19-12 for $603; Rob Digh of Denver, seventh, with 18-10 for $548; Ricky McCrary of Lexington, eighth, 18-02 for $493; and Mike Miller of Trinity and Scott Hamrick of Denver, tied for ninth with 17-11, for $411 plus a Costa award of $100 each.
Also receiving checks were Todd Harris of Clemmons, 11th, with 17-04, winning $345; Robert Walser of Lexington,12th, with 16-12, winning $318; Doug Young of Salisbury, 13th, with 16-09, winning $307; Eric Bailey of Lexington, 14th, with 15-14, winning $290; and Chris Baldwin of Lexington, 15th, with 15-14, winning $274.
Zach Lyles of Charlotte placed first among the co-anglers with 18-09 that paid $1,723 plus a Costa award of $100. Lyles also had the co-angler big fish of the day, a 6-pound, 12-ounce bass worth an additional $195.
Co-angler Michael Smith of Lexington placed 14th with 11-08 for $143.
The bass fishing has exploded at Jordan Lake. At the June 2 Piedmont Bass Classics Academy Sports & Outdoors tournament, the top three teams weighed in 5-fish limits each exceeding 30 pounds; the top 13 teams each weighed in more than 22 pounds.
Jaime Fajardo of Fuquay Varina and Jay Hooks of Apex won the contest with 30.66 pounds and shared $1,325. Runner-ups Lee Williams of Durham and Scott Smith of Apex had 30.14 pounds, a haul anchored with an 8.81-pound bass. They collected $765 plus $882 for the big-fish award.
Tony Garitta is a fishing columnist for The Dispatch.