Lakecaster Online

East Texas Pro David Wharton wins Citgo BASSMasters for a $100,000 payday
By Patty Lenderman

After a grueling four day tournament that was scheduled for February 20-23rd but extended to the 24th due to second day weather delay, David Wharton of Sam Rayburn, TX took the field by storm, winning the tournament by more than 12 lbs over Takahiro Omori, who took 2nd place. Whittling down from 175 pro's trying to qualify for the first cut after a two day total weight, only the top 12 advanced to day 3 of competition, which marked the final day for the amateurs. The field was cut to only 6 pro's to fish the final day of competition.

Day one shelled out stormy, rainy conditions that soaked everyone to the bone. David was by no means leading the pack after the first day, being in 60th place and fairly disgusted. The morning of the second day came with heavy fog and tornado warnings, forcing officials to make the call to postpone the second day of competition to Saturday. This gave everyone a chance to rest and regroup. By Saturday the weather couldn't make up its mind what it was going to do, dishing out a mixture of straight line winds, some rain and some sunshine. Having fished this lake all of his life, he put his knowledge and skill together coupled with a little luck fishing the Patroon area. He caught a 6 ½ lb kicker to go with his limit Saturday to make the first cut going into day 3. The last two days the anglers had a series of six assigned fishing holes with a schedule to go to each one. On day 3, in Lanana Creek, he overcame a series of critter problems. "Bucky", a resident beaver, played peek-a-boo with him at every bush and cypress tree he tried to pitch to with his tube baits and jigs. He decided to fish a dock in the area and when he threw a spinnerbait at it a dog jumped off the pier after it, followed by another dog. I guess the 20 mph sustained winds with gusts to over 40 mph, rain and fog just weren't enough obstacles to overcome, he needed a few more. Finally on day four, utilizing the combined knowledge of the pattern the fish were on from the days before, David pitched tube baits and spinnerbaits in areas where the water had 4-5' depths near and against buck brush and cypress trees. When he weighed his fish, being the last to weigh in, his wife Carla ran onto the stage to congratulate her husband. Their son Blake rooted for his dad from the USS Kittyhawk. When asked what he would say to young tournament anglers David grinned and said "Follow your dreams". David is sponsored by Nitro boats, Tracker Marine, All Star Rods, Bass Pro Shops, Mercury Outboards, Mad Man Lures, Alan Samuels, Kite Brothers RV, Rayburn Tackle and Rippler Lures.

Takahiro Omori of Emory, TX finished second and stated that his last two days in the assigned areas were much different than his first two qualifying days. He had been fishing on the south end of the lake, watching for clear water fishing a Gary Yamamoto Senko in 5' depths. The last two days were in muddy coves and creeks so he changed tactics to flipping a 5/16 oz black neon tube in the brush way back in the creeks in 2' depths. Sitting in the "hot seat" during the final weigh in, holding on to first place until the last angler, Wharton, weighed in, Omori shot out of his seat as soon as David put his fish on the scales knowing Wharton had just won. Omori is sponsored by Yamaha, Ranger, Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits, Daiwa, Lucky Craft, Gamakatsu, Sunline and Hondex.

Jay Yelas, 2002 Citgo Bassmaster Classic winner, rounded out third place and even though he didn't win this tournament was happy with his standings and stated that it was great to come back to fish Toledo Bend. With his wife and daughters with him, Jay said he was blessed that his family could travel with him to follow his dream. When Fish Fishburn asked him about the upcoming 2003 Classic, Jay noted that to date Rick Clunn is the only Bassmaster who has ever won back to back Classics. Jay is going to try to be the second one to do this.

Top 6:
1st - 32 lb 6 oz David Wharton Sam Rayburn, TX
2nd - 19 lb 10 oz Takahiro Omori Emory, TX
3rd - 18 lb 15 oz Jay Yelas Tyler, TX
4th - 18 lb 4 oz Jeff Kriet Ardmore, TX
5th - 14 lb 15 oz Mike Wurm Hot Springs, Ark
6th - 13 lb 14 oz Shaw Grigsby Gainsville, FL

On Saturday, prior to weigh, 27 CastingKids ages 7-14 yrs pitched, flipped and casted their way in competition for their opportunity to advance to state competition. State winners will compete for scholarships including a $5,000 scholarship to the champions in both the 7-10 and 11-14 age groups. This event is presented by Chevy Trucks and was conducted by the Louisiana BASS Federation.

This event will be aired on ESPN2, part one on Saturday, March 1 at 10:30 am (Eastern) and part two airing Saturday, March 8 at 10:30 am.

Sponsors of the Citgo Bassmaster Tour, presented by Bush Beer include: Citgo Petroleum Corp., Buch Beer, Chevrolet Trucks, Mercury Marine, Yamaha Outboards, Triton Boats, Skeeter Boats, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, Kumho Tires, Progressive Insurance, Abu Garcia, Berkley, Diamond Cut Jeans, MotorGuide Trolling Motors, Bass Pro Shops, Armstrong Industrial Hand Tools and BASS Platinum Visa/First USA.

Associate Sponsors include: Bass Cat Bats and G3 Boats

Presented locally by: Sabine River Authority, State of Louisiana, Cypress Bend Golf Resort & Conference Center

David Wharton took the field by storm with a two day weight of 32 lb 6 oz, for a $100,000 payday

Takahiro Omori took second place with a two day total weight of 19 lb 10 oz
< photos by Patty Lenderman >

Top 6 Pro's - David Wharton, Takahiro Omori, Jay Yelas, Jeff Kriet, Mike Wurm & Shaw Grigsby

Jay Yelas took third place with his daughters standing with him

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