The Classic Swap Up Challenge lived up to it's name.  The challenge of putting together a winning strategy covering two lakes on two different days proved to be a lot of good decisions at the right time.  Prefishing was tough on most of the teams on the Day One lake.  Water levels and temperatures were not what most would expect in December.  Day Two lake had showed a much more consistent quality bite for over a month.  Every technique was used trying to figure out what it was going to take to get it done.  The weather did not make much of an issue except the fog on Day Two that rolled in on the lake after sunrise.  Twenty teams pulled out all their tricks and worked hard to catch their weigh-in fish each day.  The group of anglers we have here in GA is by far the most versatile group of anglers in the South.  They always seem to find a way to get the big fish in the boat during the tournament hours. 

     With the help of the raffle ticket sales, $4,650.00 in cash and $2,000.00 in prizes were paid out to the anglers participating in the tournament.  That equals over 150% payback!  That is an outstanding payout for a tournament with only twenty boats and an entry fee of only $150.00.  We were able to change the payout to 1 in 3 instead of 1 in 5.  Thank You to those who sold raffle tickets.  In addition, one very happy lucky lady in central GA, Cassandra Bullington, now has $1,000.00 right before Christmas too.  Congrats to her and I am sure it will help make it a even more Merry Christmas for sure. 

     Day One was on Sinclair which normally does not produce the larger average size fish.  All the Classic anglers were required to fish only on Sinclair during Day One.  These anglers also had to compete with a bass tournament that had over 150 boats entered.  The boat traffic did not help at all.  A lot of the larger fish were caught shallower than would be normal in a cold month like December.  Six fish over two pounds were weighed in the Big Fish category, yet only the top 5 teams had over 7 lbs on Day One.  Here is the top 5 and Big Fish from Day One:

  1. 9.81 lbs Churchwell / Young
  2. 8.31 lbs Hilburn / Shields
  3. 7.79 lbs Thiel / Willis
  4. 7.16 lbs Brown / Carson
  5. 7.03 lbs Johnson / Alligood

        Big Fish:  2.47 lbs Johnson / Hanson

     Day Two was on Oconee which had been putting out a lot of 2+ lbs fish over the last month.  This is not uncommon for Oconee in the fall/early winter.  A lot of teams were hoping to make up some weight on Oconee from what they had fallen behind on Sinclair.  Most of the teams found the "regular" fish they had been catching had either shut off or had moved by Sunday.  A lot of different spots were hit on Oconee during Day Two trying to find those bigger fish.  The fog slowed the teams down for a few hours during the morning, but by 11 AM it was fairly clear.  The low water allowed a lot of docks to be shot that are normally tough to fish from the ridiculous amount of boards used on the faces of the docks.  The longliners and spiderriggers found their fish shallower than normal on Oconee too.  The "go to" areas did not pay off for most of the teams in the early part of the day.  Some of the teams returned to those areas after midday, and did find some hungry fish then.  Another unusual part of Day Two was the lack of 2+ lbs fish that were weighed in.  None!  The Big Fish from Sinclair held on to win the overall Big Fish category as well as the top 5 Big Fish did not change from Day One.  

     Congratulations to a team that has worked hard and has fished hard trying to win their 1st ever tournament.  They are a fairly young team compared to most of the tournament anglers, but they showed they can get it done.  They were also 2nd in the GA State Championship Series earlier this year.  The EZT Pole Perch team of Churchwell and Young who took the lead on Day One with 9.81 lbs, which included a kicker big fish of 2.26 lbs that was 2nd big fish overall.  The were pretty happy, but nervous knowing they had to really step it up to keep the lead going to Oconee.  Well they did step it up and weighed in 10.23 lbs on Day Two for a total of 20.04 lbs.

     Close behind them was the 2nd place Sugar Bug Jigs team of Thiel / Willis who came up from 3rd place on Day One.  They weighed a total of 18.33 lbs with a kicker big fish of 2.13 lbs by shooting docks, pitching brush piles, and long line trolling jigs both days.  They moved around a lot during both days to find their weigh-in fish.

     Third place overall was the team of Hilburn / Shields that was in 2nd place on Day One.  They weighed in a total of 17.10 lbs with a kicker big fish of 2.15 lbs by spiderrigging minnows/jigs, shooting docks, longlining jigs, and pitching jigs to wood structure.  They also moved around a lot on both lakes to find their fish.

     4th Place went to the Ocmulgee Timber team of Billy and Scott Williams.  This father/son team weighed in a total of 16.40 lbs after spiderrigging and shooting docks on both lakes.  5th Place was the Five Star Automotive team of Robert and Robby Huff who also are a father/son team.  They spiderrigged and shot docks also on both days to weigh-in 16.16 lbs.            

     We would like to say thank you to Sav-A-Lot BP, The Tackle Box, B'n'M Pole Company, EGO Nets, Jiffy Jigs, EZT Pole Perch, Five Star Automotive Group, Moss Back Fish Attractor, Roziers Jigs, Hall's Taxidermy, Buck Master Taxidermy, Crappie Masters, Knights Wildlife Studio, and The Lodge on Lake Oconee for all their help in making this trail possible.

     Check out the complete results by clicking on the Slab Masters logo below and scroll down to see some pictures from the tournament too.