Bass Cat Boats held the company’s annual Owners Invitational this week as 263 teams converged on a windy Beaver Lake in Arkansas seeking to earn the top prize and bragging rights. Strong winds made sight fishing difficult, and a later-than-usual spawn put multiple patterns into play. After two days of competition, Jimmy Morris and Brandon Estepp of Arkansas weighed in two limits totaling 32.59 pounds to claim top honors and a prize of a 2022 Bass Cat Bobcat.
T. Le and Billy Littleton finished second with 27.03 and last year’s champions, Steven Meador and Joey Penzo, finished 3rd, just 1/100th of a pound back with 27.02. Meador and Penzo led after Day One with a weight of 18.80 pounds, which included a 4.58 pound lunker.
There were also various “Wild Card” prizes given to teams finishing in specific spots, as well as prizes for the largest specimens of other species brought to the scales. The big bass of the event was a massive 6.88 pound largemouth weighed in by Toby Lankford and Eric Bradberry on Day One. On Day Two, Derrick Dillion of Texas took top honors with a 5.88 pound largemouth. The biggest crappie was 1.88 pounds, the biggest walleye was 3.73 pounds, and the biggest striper weighed 15.08. As with past Owners Invitational events, one random team was drawn out of hat to win a fully-rigged 2022 Bass Cat Eyra – this year’s lucky winners were Randy Ziegler and Tony Moser. Among the rubber ducks scattered throughout the lake, one was redeemed by Carlos Mayo and Justin Fox for a brand new 150 HP Mercury outboard.
Despite living in Arkansas, Morris and Estepp spend more time on Table Rock and Beaver Lake. Fishing their first Owners Invitational out of Morris’ 2013 Puma FTD, they overcame extremely windy and rough conditions to focus on a pattern that involved flipping a homemade jig into flooded bushes. “There’s not a better platform for flipping a jig out of than that boat,” Morris said. After culling multiple times on Day One, they struggled on the second day of competition, but a near last-minute 5-12 secured their margin of victory.
Le and Littleton followed a bed fishing protocol that involved marking more than 30 likely candidates during practice and then methodically catching them one by one. On the first day of competition they used a creature bait, but when the wind kicked up on Day Two they used a jig to pitch to waypoints where they couldn’t actually see the fish. “We were fishing halfway down between the take-off and the dam and on all three days of practice I rode my 36 volt Minn Kota Ultrex until I burned the batteries down. The way Bass Cat boats are built with the trolling motor pedal near the nose allowed me to stay on the trolling motor and look for fish. I’m only 5’3” so that feature of my 2021 Puma was a game-changer for sure.
Special thanks go out to Visit Rogers for their incredible hospitality and organization. This event was made extra-special by Heath Sanders, who delivered an amazing performance of his “Raised on Red” at the Friday night social.
“After the pandemic years, we were thrilled to be able to meet and greet just like old times,” said Bass Cat Boats President Rick Pierce. “We love seeing new teams, as well as those who come back year after year and Beaver Lake showed out in a way we won’t soon forget.”