The pro angler plucked 45 pounds 13 ounces of bass .
By JACK WOLLITZ
SPECIAL TO THE VINDICATOR
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Topping a near perfect week of fishing through tough conditions in sweltering Alabama heat, popular pro angler Jay Yelas won the 2002 CITGO BASS Masters Classic Saturday with 45 pounds 13 ounces of bass plucked from Lay Lake.
Yelas, of Jasper, Texas, became only the third angler in the 32-year history of the BASS Masters Classic to lead wire to wire.
He established a solid lead Thursday, added to it Friday and claimed the championship trophy before more than 15,000 fishing fans by a margin of just more than six pounds.
Before he could cement his victory, however, Yelas watched as Aaron Martens of Castaic, Calif., momentarily took the lead with Saturday's heaviest sack - 14 pounds 6 ounces of spotted bass that he caught near Yelas' fishing hole.
Yelas started the final round slowly, with just one small fish in his livewell at 11:30 a.m.
As the 2:30 p.m. check-in time loomed large, he nailed down the $200,000 first prize with a 4-pound 13-ounce largemouth that he caught off the same overhanging tree that yielded his 6-pound 4-ounce largemouth Friday.
His Saturday catch of four bass, one short of the limit, totaled 10 pounds 11 ounces.
Yelas fished two primary lures throughout the competition.
Early each day he tossed a firetiger Berkley Frenzy crankbait and then, when Alabama Power Co. began releasing water from the upstream Logan Martin Dam, Yelas switched to a 5/8-ounce Berkley Power Jig with a Power Frog trailer.
The jig was black, brown and pumpkin colored and the trailer was green pumpkin.
The key to his victory was the flow of water that started around mid-day each of the three competition rounds. He claimed each of the three $1,000 lunker bonuses with fish caught on the jig after the current started ripping through his fishing spot.
Martens, meanwhile, relied on a 1/2-ounce white bucktail jig, which he fished under spotted bass that had herded shad to the surface.
Third went to David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn., with 35-13. He flipped six-inch worms and tossed Lucky Craft topwater lures around grass beds in Peckerwood Creek some 50 miles south of the spots selected by Yelas and Martens.
Fourth was O.T. Fears of Sallisaw, Okla. He finished with 31-6. Fifth went to Larry Nixon, the 1983 Classic winner on the Ohio River in Cincinnati.
Nixon sacked 31-3 by flipping Power Worms in grass beds and working a topwater Snagproof Frog over thick moss.
Ken Christ of Kansas City, representing the 50,000 anglers of the B.A.S.S. Federation, hooked up with 31-3 and claimed sixth place, the highest among the amateur qualifiers.