MARBURY, Md. On a day when the 50 co-anglers fishing the Capitol Clash presented by Advance Auto Parts managed a ratio of six limits to 14 blanks, winner Mike Acord didn't need to catch his fifth fish to run away with the victory.
As it turned out, he only needed to weigh in less than three pounds of Potomac River bass to claim the trophy and the fully-rigged Triton/Mercury combination. He managed to catch 4 fish that weighed 9 pounds, 9 ounces for a total of 32-09, thereby running away with the title by a margin of almost 7 pounds.
He spent the third day in Randy Howell's Purolator-wrapped Triton and had what he described as a great day.
"Randy treated me great and put me on the fish to win it. He's a true professional," Acord said.
He credited his success all three days to his ability to remain adaptable and versatile. Co-anglers may be required to use a variety of tactics and fishing styles when paired with different pros what works one day may be totally ineffective the next.
"I did my thing all week long," said Acord. "I caught fish today on a frog, a flipping bait and a topwater. Whatever the situation I was faced with, I just went with my gut feeling. That's the way the whole week went. I felt I was doing everything right. I didn't get caught up in what my pros were fishing."
He managed to top his fifth-place finish in last year's Capitol Clash. He may also have topped, or at least challenged, the fishing achievements of his brother George, a two-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier.
Mike, George and their father are the owners of Susquehanna Fishing Tackle in Lancaster, Pa., and despite the battle for family bragging rights he credited their teamwork and obsession with the sport for his success in this event.
"We all work together and we're a great combination. My brother has taught me a lot, but he's very methodical and I'm more of a gut fisherman," Acord said. "But we're around this all the time and we talk fishing all the time and that definitely helps."
Second place went to Alabama's Joel Etheredge, one of only two co-anglers to catch a five fish limit all three days of the tournament. Etheredge is one of the so-called "Dirty Dozen" who tow the cut day boats around the country to all of the Elite Series events.
He finished 34th in last year's Capitol Clash, but took away a valuable piece of information in the form of a particular lure.
"I caught all but two of my fish this week on a chartreuse, lime and white War Eagle spinnerbait," he said. "I fished with Stephen Browning the last day of the tournament last year and he caught a lot of his fish on that spinnerbait."
Virginia's Mark Heatwole rode the other set of three consecutive co-angler limits to a third-place finish. This was his fourth Elite Series tournament as a co-angler and he bettered his previous best finish by over 40 spots.
Fifth place went to Pennsylvania's Larry Baer. He, Etheredge and seventh-place finisher Dave Barker were the only three anglers in the top 10 whose catches got bigger each day. But Baer had the steepest hill to climb. He caught a paltry 1-9 on the first day of the event, then had a 10-4 limit Friday. Saturday he caught the biggest co-angler bag of the day, four bass that weighed 13-1 and shot him 19 places up in the standings.
He fished with pro Todd Faircloth of Texas and made the most of what his partner left behind.
"I had a great day with Todd. He was on fish and taught me a lot," he said. "It would have been a good time even if I didn't catch a fish. He put a whupping on me and was culling by 8 o'clock. I didn't have a bite until 11 and didn't catch numbers three and four until the last half hour."
All four of his bass Saturday came on a jig fished in the grass, tipped with a black/blue Baby Paca Craw. This was his first Elite Series tournament.
First-day leader James Hill, another member of the Dirty Dozen, slipped to sixth place. He fished with Oklahoma's Ken Cook and managed only a single bite all day, a 3-4 largemouth that kept him inside the top 10. He caught it on a Paca Craw in a hue known as Bama Bug.
"We tried everything we could but it was a long day. But I'm ready for (the final Elite Series tournament at) Toho," he said.
Saturday's Purolator Big Bass award went to another Pennsylvanian, Perry Haas. The tackle manufacturer caught the 4-11 largemouth out of James Kennedy's boat on a 3/8-ounce chartreuse and white Chatterbait.
"We were back in the creek where the leader was but we were trying to stay away from him and fish a different pattern," he said. "We were going down the shoreline, both of us throwing Chatterbaits, but my boater was throwing ahead of the boat. I saw an overhang and skipped the lure under some trees."
Editor's note: ESPNOutdoors.com will air Hooked Up, the live Internet show, on Sunday at 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and noon ET. The full Hooked Up show begins at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, leading into the final live weigh-in and a realtime leaderboard at 3:45 p.m. ET.