Local anglers advance to regional tournament
Oct. 12, 2001
Local angler Jimmy Hays of Meridian recently finished the year in first place in the Mississippi Division of the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League Trail. During the rigorous tournament tour, Hays competed against the top anglers in the state. Over the course of the tournament trail this year he won more than $7,000.00 including a bonus of $1,000.00 for being the divisional champion.
Hays has reached the pinnacle of the Mississippi Division in only his 3rd year of competitive fishing in that venue. He is just one of a number of local anglers from our area who have been crowned divisional champion. Throughout the year Hays has been consistently placing among the top finishers with strong finishes at Ross Barnett, Ferguson, and Pickwick. In fact he won the Pickwick tourney on the strength of a 17-pound string anchored by a lunker smallmouth that weighed 5 pounds 9 ounces.
Basically Hays likes to do whatever it takes to catch a fish. His preference however would be to flip a3/8 to1/2 ounce Jawtech Jig or tube. Although Hays doesn't have any secrets, he does credit time on the water with a lot of his success. "I don't fish any smarter than anyone else, just harder," stated Hays. Hays went on to say that he fishes tournaments for two reasons, competition and the fellowship with other anglers.
Hays' divisional championship has vaulted him into the regional tournament that will be held near Shreveport, Louisiana next Thursday through Saturday. The top eight finishers in that tourney will advance to the prestigious All American tournament.
Smith secures strong runner-up position
Ricky Smith ended his season on a high note at Lake Ferguson by finishing the tournament in 12th place and with a divisional standing as runner-up. A scant two points kept him from securing his second divisional championship. However, second place was good enough to send him to the regional and another chance at an All American berth. Last year Smith finished the national tournament in 3rd place, which was the highest finish of any local angler ever. In fact only one other Mississippian had ever finished higher than Smith.
Smith has proven to be one of the most versatile anglers in our area over the years. He didn't pre-fish a single tournament this year, instead relying on past experience and intuition to get him through. According to Smith, a key factor in his strong showing was his ability to understand fish behavior. Knowing how fish act and react during different seasons and under varied conditions was extremely important. Being able to read the current conditions on a lake, together with the time of year and the surface conditions, enabled him to get a jump on the competition. Sometimes it is more important to have your mental strategies planned out than to just beat the banks.
Coming in a strong third place was Hank Perkins of Collinsville. Perkins not only finished an admirable third, but he spent most of the year in friendly competition with two of his best friends, Hays and Smith. These three anglers were far ahead of the rest of the field, as evidenced by the fact that Perkins third place finish was over 157 points ahead of the 4th place finisher. The fact that all three local anglers are friends and finished as the top three fishermen in the state is testimony to their fishing abilities and camaraderie.
The three remaining anglers that qualified for the regional tournament are Joey Knight, former All American qualifier Bruce Roberts, Chris Stokes and John Raines.
On the co-angler side of the tournament division, four anglers from our area qualified for the regional tournament as well. Those qualifiers are Wesley Wheat, Joey Combs, Wayman Newell and former All American qualifier Ken Murphy.