Tyler Rivet claims first Bassmaster Elite Series victory at Lake Okeechobee

(Photo courtesy B.A.S.S. / Seigo Saito)

Tyler Rivet called his shot on Day 1.

The fifth-year Elite Series pro from Raceland, La., said Thursday he had the location and game plan to win the SiteOne Bassmaster Elite at Lake Okeechobee in Okeechobee, Fla. — and on Sunday, his claim came to fruition as he finished with a four-day total of 86 pounds, 15 ounces to earn his first career blue trophy.

After placing third on Day 1 with 24-5, Rivet gained one spot with a second-round limit of 29-2 on Friday. A slower Saturday yielded only 14-11 and Rivet dropped back to third. But he turned in a Championship Sunday bag that went 18-13 to seal the deal and collect the $100,000 top prize.

“This is what I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid,” Rivet said. “I remember every day at the (Lake Cataouatche) Tank Ponds during the 2011 Bassmaster Classic in New Orleans, hearing boats coming through the fog and seeing all the big names and thinking ‘One day, I want to do that.’”

Rivet spent this week in the Kissimmee River, about two miles upstream from the lake. With the exception of a few local boats, he had the river all to himself.

“Nobody else was doing what I was doing and that’s the key to winning an Elite tournament — finding that one little thing off the wall,” Rivet said. “That’s how it’s won (most) of the time.

“I thought this one would be won out in the lake on one of the community holes. But when I found my spot in the river, I thought, ‘This could be something.’ But I didn’t know until that first day and I was like ‘We could win.’”

The story of how Rivet landed in this area enhanced his victory experience.

“I just went sac-a-lait (French for crappie) fishing before the tournament,” Rivet said. “I’m the cook in my travel family, so I went up the river and caught some sac-a-lait. Then I looked to the left on Garmin LiveScope and said ‘That looks like a bass.’

“I threw over there with a jerkbait and caught a 6-pounder. I went down about 20 yards, saw another one, caught it on the first cast — 4-pounder. I just kept going down the river and they were staging everywhere.”

In the river, Rivet targeted hard-bottom spots off the bank. These classic pre-spawn staging areas attracted groups of bass that seemed to periodically come and go throughout each day.

“The main spot was a dead-end canal with a little dam at the back of it, and I guess the fish were going in there to spawn, or they were sitting on a little hard point that was coming off of it,” Rivet said. “They would come in waves. You’d see them on Garmin LiveScope.

“You’d have to hit them perfectly. You’d have to throw in front of them and not behind them. If you come from behind, it would spook them away, so you had to have that perfect angle.”

(Photo courtesy B.A.S.S. / Seigo Saito)

Rivet said he caught 80% of his bass on a Berkley Stunna jerkbait. He also caught a few of his weight fish by punching hyacinth mats and Kissimmee grass with a black/blue and junebug Xcite Baits Sucka Punch. A Carolina-rigged Xcite Baits Hawgalicious produced a couple more keepers.

Rivet dedicated his victory to his grandmother who passed in January.

“She was watching me from up there every day,” Rivet said with a trembling voice. “Every fish that I caught this week that was over 4, I said, ‘Thank you Mammaw.’”

Rivet also took home an additional $3,000 for being the highest-placing entrant in the Toyota Bonus Bucks program.

You can read more about the event on Bassmaster.com.