LAKE WYLIE -- Local pro angler Todd Auten finished up some spring cleaning this month just about anyone can appreciate -- to the tune of $50,000 in cash and prizes.
Auten stormed from behind April 11 on Lake Neely Henry in Alabama to win the Carrot Stix Professional Anglers Association Tournament Series event, besting almost 150 anglers in the series billed as "the only angler owned, angler operated professional tournament series."
"The PAA, it's getting started and it's really the tournament of the future," Auten said. "You've got the best from FLW, the best from BASS Elite, then you've got the Strens and guys from local events. They're all kind of going head to head."
Auten, one of three Bassmaster Elite Series pros from Lake Wylie, scored his win despite never casting the first line into Neely Henry.
"I'd never fished it before, and I kind of didn't know what to expect," he said. "When we got there it had rained, and the water was muddy and high."
Those conditions played right into Auten's hands, as the shallow water fisherman bagged a 4-pounder in the first 30 minutes. His main weapon of choice was a white chartreuse swim jig prototype he hopes to produce for other anglers. About half a dozen anglers within a 30-minute drive of each other fished the same bait and finished with checks, including Chris Baumgardner of Gastonia, N.C., who ended up seventh.
Still, Auten's first day bag of 12.64 pounds left him almost 10 full pounds behind leader and home state pro Boyd Duckett with half the event remaining.
"I've seen stranger things in fishing," Auten said. "You just never know."
But nobody caught a bigger bag on day two than Auten, with 18.38 pounds. Duckett managed only 7.37 pounds, finishing fourth. Auten's win came by more than a pound atop Duke Jenkel and Dalton Bobo.
"This is a fabulous crash and burn story, fabulous," Duckett said, according to the PAA Web site, fishpaa.com. "I had only one big bite (on day two) and it jumped off."
Auten was surprised by his win, but plans on taking it just the same.
"Anything can happen fishing," he said. "I'm surprised because Boyd's from Alabama, and I don't know how many times he's fished that lake. After his day one catch, I figured he must know it pretty good."
PAA events have a $1,500 entry fee, paying back $50,000 in cash and prizes for first place. Three tournaments throughout the year lead into a championship event for the top 20 finishers. That final, the Toyota Texas Bass Classic World Championship on Lake Conroe, will be held Oct. 16-18 with a $500,000 payout.
Auten hopes his success in Alabama leads to a promising 2009 season, both in the PAA and Elite series.
"I had two good tournaments before this one," he said. "It's been a good year for me."
For more information about the event, visit fishpaa.com.