Most bass tournaments in Lake Wylie aren’t won with 8.49-pound limits. But newly named King of the Lake Mike Stephens doesn’t mind one bit.
Stephens brought in the only full bag at the Veteran’s Day final, a five-angler finale to the King of the Lake series started back in January. The idea was to test locals in all sorts of seasons and conditions to find the best on the lake.
“I’ve grown up on this lake,” said Stephens, a Gastonia, N.C., resident who works at Lake Wylie Marina. “I’ve fished it a long time.”
The water was low and the skies clear on a difficult day for all five qualifiers. Stephens caught the lone limit by 9:30 a.m. He then waited until weigh-in at sponsor Lake Wylie Bait & Tackle to see if his number would hold.
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“It was really neat,” Stephens said of the final weigh-in. “People actually got to see you, got to see your boat. My grandfather and my family got to see me. It was a great day.”
Stephens started with an eighth place finish out of 24 anglers in January. He then reeled off four straight top four finishes, including two wins, during the spring and summer. With one drop tournament allowed, Stephens took off the October event having already wrapped up the top seed on points.
His approach is one that series organizer Mike Stone hopes others will take during the next round of events. Local pro Jason Quinn won the January tournament, leaving some wondering what odds they might have at winning.
“I think a lot of guys were intimidated after the first one,” Stone said.
Stephens took home $5,000 with his title, which he should get the chance to defend. Already Stone and the tackle shop are talking about King of the Lake for 2013.
“It’s in the works right now,” Stone said. “A lot of it’s going to be how well the sponsors come in.”