By Bill Cooper
July 11, 2020 turned out to be a busy day for Jeff Feeler, tournament director for the local Gascosage Buddy BassMasters Club. “Thirty-one teams showed up to compete for $3,000 in prize money,” Feeler said.
Jeff and Zach Feeler showed up before daylight at Bell Chute on the Gasconade River west of Vienna to prepare for the tournament. Anxious anglers began arriving around daylight to get their boats and gear ready for the 6:00 a.m. scheduled start to the tournament.
A few delays prevented the tournament from beginning on time. However, drawn numbers for the bast off were called out at 6:45 a.m. Two boats were allowed to head out with the calling of each number.
Boats quickly came up onto plane as crews headed both north and south up and down the river. The highly experienced field of river angler teams each hoped to arrive at their favorite fishing holes before the competition.
I often film and photograph fishing tournaments sponsored by Cowtown USA out of Cuba. It’s always great fun to watch talented fishermen work their magic on largemouth and smallmouth bass.
The Gascoande River was in great shape, with water levels near normal, after earlier long spells of rain. Water color appeared to be the normal Gasconade green and promised a good day of fishing.
I left the boat ramp about 30 minutes after the competitors left, in hopes of getting fishing action on camera. Minutes later I came upon Aaron Click of HD Tackle Fame. He indicated that he and his fishing partner already had their four fish limit in the bait. “We don’t have any big fish in the boat,” Aaron said. “But we still have several hours to fish and hope to get some of the big ones.”
I turned my boat south in the direction most of the boats had headed at start time. I covered several miles before encountering the first tournament team. By the time I reached the confluence of the Little Piney, 7 miles upstream, I had fun only two other boats. Competitors were definitely covering a lot of water in hopes of catching a tournament winning limit.
I stopped to film and visit with well-known Gasconade fisherman and guide Tommy Bench. He also said that they had a four fish limit in the boat and were, too, looking for a big kicker fish to put them in the race for a money spot. Tommy never missed a cast while we chatted.
Every team I checked had fish in the boat, but no one had found the big fish. It appeared first and last place in the tournament would only be separated by mere ounces.
Temperatures climbed into mid-90s. Lots of people were out fishing and boat riding on the clear, sunny summer Saturday. But the Gasconade didn’t seem crowded. People were certainly practicing social distancing.
I returned to the boat ramp at noon to get out of the heat. I had caught a few short bass on topwater baits, but my easy chair and a shade tree sounded like the perfect way to while away a hot Saturday afternoon. I enjoyed a 30-minute nap under the shade of a huge riverside sycamore tree.
With the late morning start to the tournament, Jeff Feeler extended the weigh-in time to 2:45 p.m. By 2:15 boats were racing back to the boat ramp to get ready for the weigh-in. Many tournament pairs were still casting in hopes of catching a big kicker fish to help their odds of getting into the winners circle.
It was quite a sight to watch 31 boats converge on the boat ramp. The highly skilled tournament participants quickly maneuvered their boats in an orderly fashion to get loaded and off the water before the weigh-in began. Everyone chatted and laughed with fellow participants as each waited their turn to load up their boat.
Anxious angers gathered around the Feeler’s weigh-in table to see what everyone else had caught. There were a handful of impressive fish brought to the scales, but it was quickly obvious that no one was going to run away with the tournament.
When all was said and done, the team of David Baker and Bradley Deacon won first place honors with an 8.42lb. 4-fish limit. Second place went to Nathan DeLuca and Ross Rhinehart, with 7.83lbs. Jeff and Zach Feeler took third place with 7.65lbs. Jared McBride and Zach Studdard took fourth, with 7.32lbs, Rick and Jeremy Brueter, fifth with 6.92lbs. Robbie and Austin Thomas took sixth place, with 6.62lbs, followed by seventh place finishers Scotty Hansen and Andy Kurljurgen, with 6.54lbs.
BmM Trailer Mfg. provided an extra $100 for both the big smallmouth and big largemouth bass. Bradley Deacon landed the biggest smallmouth bass at 2.764lbs. Jeff Feeler took the $100 for biggest largemouth at 2,89lbs. Feeler also won the $100 prize for top limit by a Cowtown Legend SS owner and also the $100 Evinrude E-Tec prize.
The tournament was sponsored by CowtownUSA, Gascosage BassMasters, BnM Trailer Mfg., LegendSS Boats and Evinrude.
“The tournament was a great event,” said Jeff Feeler. “The Gascosage BassMasters are a great bunch of guys who know how to fish,” said Doug Davis of Cowtown USA.
For more info about the bass club, go to facebook.com/Gascosage-Buddy-BassMasters.