New York bass fishing tournament: Bertrand’s final-day push wins on St. Lawrence

Waddington, N.Y. — Josh Bertrand called it “a tough day,” yet he still managed to catch a five-bass limit of 23 pounds, 1 ounce.

That may say as much about the St. Lawrence River smallmouth fishery as it does Bertrand, who rallied to win the Huk Bassmaster Elite Series event on the famed northern New York water last month.

Bertrand, of San Tan Valley, Arizona, finished with a four-day total of 95 pounds, 3 ounces, which flirted with a Bassmaster first – the 100-pound mark.

Even then, his huge tourney total was a mere 13 ounces ahead of runner-up Justin Lucas of Guntersville, Alabama, who finished with 94 pounds, 6 ounces.

“It’s hard to put into words how I feel right now,” said Bertrand, who earned $100,000 for the win as well as valuable Toyota Bassmaster of the Year points. “I am so happy to have finally won one of these, and I’m excited to extend my season into the Angler of the Year championship. But right now I’m going to let this victory sink in.”

Bertrand, 29, called the final day a struggle but remained confident in his presentation, fishing a Berkley MaxScent Flat Worm.

“My main pattern was drifting rock humps with the river current,” he said. “Most of my fish came from (depths of) 40 to 50 feet, and that program held all week. On the final day it was critical to fish some fresh spots I had checked out during practice.”

Lucas and Brandon Lester of Fayetteville, Tennessee, each brought in heavy, 24-3 limits, but Lester finished third with 94-1. David Walker of Sevierville, Tennessee, the leader going into championship Sunday, fell to fourth with 92-11 after weighing in a “mere” 20-6 limit. Mike McClelland of Bentonville, Arkansas, totaled 90-1 for fifth place.

McClelland earned the Power-Pole Captain’s Cash Award of $1,000 for being the highest-placing angler who is registered and eligible and uses a client-approved product on his boat.

Brett Hite of Phoenix, Arizona, received $1,500 as the winner of the Phoenix Boats Big Bass award. He had the largest bass of the tournament with a 6-12 smallmouth on Thursday’s opening round.

Lucas overtook Bradley Roy for the lead in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. He now has a 9-point edge over Bertrand. Lucas was awarded $1,000 for the leading the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race at the end of the event.

The derby served as the final regular-season event before the Top 50 pros in the points race advance to the AOY Championship at Georgia’s Lake Chatuge in mid-September.

Bertrand earned the Toyota Bonus Bucks Award of $3,000 for being the highest-placing eligible entrant in the program. The second-highest-placing eligible entrant, Lucas, received $2,000.

While the best bass anglers in the country poured into Waddington for the four-day event, the real star of the show may have been the St. Lawrence River itself. From the opening day when Matt Lee of Guntersville, Alabama, weighed in an eye-popping 27-pound, 12-ounce bag that led to talk of perhaps a 100-pound total over the four days, the river consistently yielded huge smallmouths and met with rave reviews from the competitors.

Fifty-two five-bass limits topping the 20-pound mark were brought to the scales on the opening day.

“What an amazing day,” Lee said. “Things literally went perfectly for me today, and that seldom happens in this sport. On every spot I fished today I caught a big one, and plenty of them. It was amazing.”

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