Faircloth clinches Elite Series win on Wisconsin’s Mississippi River

Victory earns Texas pro ticket to 2013 Bassmaster Classic on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake

Todd Faircloth clinched his third Bassmaster Elite Series yesterday (June 24) during the Top 12 finale on Wisconsin’s Mississippi River.

Faircloth put together a four-day total of 62 pounds, 4 ounces to earn the $100,000 first-place check and automatic berth to the 2013 Bassmaster Classic to be held in February.

“I feel like a brick’s off my shoulder now,” he said. “It was a pretty nerve-racking day.”Mississippi’s Cliff Pace put in his second runner-up performance in less than a month with a 61-pound total.

Oklahoma’s Terry Butcher placed third with 60-11, and Alabama pros Jamie Horton (59-11) and Aaron Martens (58-11) placed fourth and fifth, respectively.

Click here for final results.

Faircloth said he was nervous all day long, gaining some confidence he might have won the event only when he pulled in a 3-pounder with about 15 remaining of his fishing day.

Faircloth said he had 12 pounds in his livewell early on Sunday, the final of four days of competition. Then he went to his second area and upgraded several times to 13 or 14 pounds.

“And then I really struggled the rest of the day,” he said. “I felt like the flipping bite would have turned on when the sun got up, but I couldn’t get anything going. I couldn’t catch them on topwaters, and I flipped and flipped and couldn’t get bit.”

Then he made a decision. He moved. Thirty minutes before he had to start the run back to the dock, he went to what had been one of his best spots. He flipped out a Yamamoto creature bait and brought back a 3 1/2-pounder.

“That’s probably what won the tournament for me,” he said.

Faircloth said he’d never competed on the Rumble’s section of the Mississippi, Pools 7 through 9. But the first day of practice showed him the potential of the grassy flats of Pool 8.

Early in the morning, he keyed on a shallow spot on the point of an island. There was a hole in the grass and a cut through the grass. He eased his bait through the cut, quietly, with one of three baits: a frog, an All-Terrain swim jig in green pumpkin, or a Yamamoto D Shad, which is a fluke-shaped plastic.

“One of the biggest things about that spot was there was current coming through it,” he said. “That was a key.”

A variety of grasses with duckweed on top — the anglers call it “slop” — on a hard bottom was another key, he added. If he missed a strike on top, he’d punch through the weeds and manage to catch the fish that way.

He also had a deeper spot of 3 to 5 feet. It was another grass flats with a few key areas that held largemouth. There he worked a shad walking bait he’d modified with frog hooks to reduce the amount of vegetation that would cling to treble hooks.

“I made good decisions on where to start and where to finish the day,” he said.

The money, he said, “definitely means a lot.” The Classic berth also, but in a different way.

He likely would have qualified for the Classic through the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race at the end of the season — he was sixth in points going into the La Crosse event — but he still smiled wide when he was reminded he’d bagged his 11th Classic trip by winning an Elite event.

Yet he’s got something else on his mind.

“My focus now is the AOY title,” Faircloth said. “If guys say they aren’t thinking about it, that’s fine and dandy with me, but I’m thinking about it.”

Sunday’s win boosted Faircloth from sixth to second in the AOY race, 18 points behind Brent Chapman of Lake Quivira, Kan., who held his previous lead.

Pace finished in second after hanging at sixth place for two days. He threw the dice yesterday by locking through to a spot he hadn’t been to since practice.

He stayed for two hours, landed two fish, and then gave up on it. Back in Pool 8 where he’d been all week, he went back to the working current breaks along the main river.

He culled the first two fish to amass 16-1, the day’s largest bag.

“I took every risk I could take to win this deal,” Pace said, who took second place on Toledo Bend on June 10 behind Brent Chapman.

Pace accepted the back-to-back bridesmaid role with perspection.

“I could have won either one, and eventually I will,” he said. “All of us go into each one to win. Sometimes you finish 90th. Second’s a whole lot better.”

The Elite Series moves to Lake Michigan this week, with competition beginning Thursday (June 28) out Green Bay, Wisc.

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