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Lewisville fishes tough, provides stage for big bass news

By Lynn Burkhead
For the Herald Democrat

A pre-Thanksgiving Day bass fishing tournament isn’t the usual platform for big angling news. But even so, last weekend’s season ending Bassmaster Central Open event at Lake Lewisville provided the stage for some big headline grabbing stories, not all of it on the water.

On Lewisville itself, Shepherdsville, Ky. angler Tommy Williams persevered through tough angling conditions and some unfortunate circumstances to win the Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Open on Lewisville Lake with a three-day total of 41 pounds, 15 ounces.

After an opening round weight of 18-08 last Thursday, Williams landed 15-08 on last Friday’s Day Two to take a 6-03 lead onto the water for last Saturday’s Championship Day. Despite landing only three keepers on the third and final day, his weight of 7-15 was enough to claim the $35,934 top prize and a berth in the 2021 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Ray Roberts next spring.

“Everybody knows how tough it is to win a tournament when you have a missed opportunity and I had a couple of them,” Williams said to Bassmaster.com writer David A. Brown in the aftermath of his tournament victory. “The fish bit funny today (last Saturday). I had fish blow up on a spinnerbait and I lost fish on a flipping stick.

“I fished clean all week, but today, they just pulled off. But it’s been a wonderful experience. Texas has treated me well. This is the first time I’ve been in contention to win one of these events.”

In addition to Williams’ win, Branden Hollingshead of Azle finished 2nd with 40-6; Brian Clark of Haltom City finished 3rd with 37-11; Bryan New of Belmont, N.C. finished 4th with 33-05; and Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La. — the 2014 B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year and the derby winner of the 2016 BASSfest event on Lake Texoma — finished 5th with 31-11.

Some of the biggest news to come out of the Lewisville derby involved Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., who won the Central Opens Angler of the Year title with 719 points. Christie, who finished 29th at Lewisville last weekend, earned an automatic invitation to fish the 2021 Bassmaster Elite Series, which he will apparently do as he exits Major League Fishing’s Bass Pro Tour circuit after two seasons.

Hackney finished 2nd in the Central Opens AOY points race with 716 points, and he too will earn an invite to the 2021 Elite Series. Like Christie, Hackney will apparently exit BPT — and likely Major League Fishing as well, where he has competed in the league’s made-for-television Cup events for several years now — after two seasons of BPT competition. In doing so, the angler known to many as “Hack Attack,” will apparently return to the Elite Series circuit he spent a number of years on as he won three events.

And then there’s Mike Iaconelli, who is also exiting MLF’s BPT lineup, hinting at possible retirement in recent months. Ike, the 2003 Bassmaster Classic champ and a longtime competitor in Major League Fishing events on Outdoor Channel, could apparently return to the Elite Series if he chooses to do so under the league’s Legends exemption.

While it’s currently unknown what Ike plans to do next year, if the sport does indeed lose the entertaining New Jersey pro and prominent angling podcaster, it would be a noticeable loss for the 2021 season if the future Bass Fishing Hall of Famer leaves the sport’s pro level stage.

As the year of 2020 winds down, the defections of Christie, Hackney, and Ike from BPT certainly has added some intrigue to the final weeks of a tournament year unlike any other in memory, thanks to the fishing schedule disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak around the world.

Add in BPT’s loss of Jacob Powroznik as well, a two-time BPT winner the last couple of seasons, and the offseason intrigue heats up even more for fans of professional bass fishing. While Pow-Pow doesn’t seem to have a clear route back to the Elite Series right now, he’s apparently done with BPT.

Equally intriguing is John Cox exiting the Elite Series after one season — he finished 16th at the recent Lake Fork event — and heading to BPT and the FLW Pro Circuit. That news is according to writer Joel Shangle and a Major League Fishing news release a few days ago that announced BPT’s 2021 angler lineup on its website at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

With BASS recently announcing a move to Fox Sports for live tournament coverage, the Bassmaster Classic heading to Lake Ray Roberts, and the MLF REDCREST Bass Pro Tour championship event heading to Oklahoma’s Grand Lake, the early days of the 2021 season will certainly offer much intrigue from on-the-water and off-the-water news.

Part of that is due to the TV switch for BASS, while BPT and MLF remain with Outdoor Channel, World Fishing Network, and more. Another part of that is due to dueling championship level events early next year, both on well-known big bass waters an easy drive from Texomaland. And finally, there’s also the fact that next year serves as the third and final year of a three-year commitment made by some of the sport’s biggest stars when the BPT circuit began in 2019.

What will happen at this time next year, when those BPT stars can exit the league without penalty if they choose to do so? Nobody knows for sure, but since Christie, Hackney, Ike, and Powroznik are leaving this fall and Brandon Palaniuk and Gerald Swindle left last fall, it is sure to be interesting as decisions loom from the sport’s biggest names.

By the way, if you want to follow along next year, visit John Johnson’s excellent work at BassFan.com and you’ll consistently stay up-to-date with the latest news in the tournament fishing world as 2021 runs its course on the calendar.

Get your popcorn ready, because the sport of professional bass fishing will be incredibly interesting in 2021. And that’s no matter what happens next year with the pandemic and its effects on the schedule and fan attendance.