Mercury Pro Team member Bill Weidler came into the fifth Bassmaster Elite Series event of the season at the bottom of the point standings, but he came out of it an Elite Series champion. Until that event, which was held ...
45-year-old sophomore pro wins Bassmaster Elite event on Lake Guntersville
Mercury Pro Team member Frank Talley has dreamed of winning a top-level professional bass tournament his entire life.
But with three children at home, he kept that dream in his back pocket for two decades in favor of coaching youth sports teams, fishing local tournaments and just being a good husband and dad.
Saturday, at age 45, the second-year Bassmaster Elite Series pro affectionately known as “Frank the Tank” finally saw his dream come true, weighing in 18 pounds, 2 ounces of bass during the final round to win the NOCO Bassmaster Elite at Lake Guntersville with a four-day total of 64-3.
Talley earned $100,000 and the cheers and tears of his family, who drove 14 hours through the night Friday from their home in Temple, Texas, to be there for his big moment.
“I was perfectly fine with just raising my kids. That’s why we had kids,” Talley said. “Finally, when my youngest boy got into high school, my kids and my wife kind of had an intervention. They sat me down and said, ‘You’re gonna go do this.’
“That’s what helped me understand it was OK to finally go and chase this dream, and they’re the reason I’m standing here with this trophy now.”
Talley’s wife, Christy, is Frank’s No. 1 supporter.
“We’ve been raising babies since he was 17 years old,” she said, “and he’s been fishing and fishing and saying, ‘one day, one day.’ It was today.”
Five days prior, on the afternoon of the final practice day, Frank Talley might have been tempted to think there was zero chance of notching a victory that week.
“I didn’t find anything very promising down lake during the first three days of practice, so I decided to run up the river for the final afternoon,” he recalled.
What he found when he ran his Mercury 4.6L V8 250hp Pro XS-powered Triton 21 TrX Elite up the Tennessee River toward the Nickajack Dam was current, more baitfish than he had seen down the lake and enough positive signs to start his event there the next morning. Talley made the 30-mile run up the river each of the first three days and fished near the WestRock paper mill.
If you believe local knowledge and past tournament history, anglers don’t run that far up the river at Guntersville and do well. It is, for all intents and purposes, unheard of.
Talley proved many people wrong. He caught 14-3 on day one, followed by 16-5 and 15-9 to earn the sixth position heading into championship Saturday. His weight of 18-2 was the best of the final day, resulting in another Mercury pro coming from behind to win a major event. Mercury pros have won five of the six Bassmaster Elite events of the 2020 season.
Good fishing instincts played a role in Talley’s success, especially with a key decision he made before his first cast Saturday morning.
The pro intended to run up the river from the launch site at Goose Pond Colony like he’d been doing all week. But he said a “gut feeling” caused him to stop on a small stretch of eelgrass before he reached his trusty spot. The almost-immediate payoff was a 5-pound largemouth that put him in the lead to stay.
“It just looked right,” Talley said of the spot where he started Saturday. “On the first cast, I caught a 10-inch bass. Then, about six casts later, I caught that 5-pounder. I boat-flipped that fish. I didn’t realize it was that big.”
He went on to catch his limit at that stop and won the event by a 2-pound, 4-ounce margin over fellow Texas Pro Randy Sullivan. While Talley fished unconventional locations on Guntersville, Sullivan was, in his words, “doing the most Guntersville thing ever.”
Sullivan targeted Guntersville’s famous bridges and causeways. One of the bridges he fished was where Mercury Pro Randy Howell won the 2014 Bassmaster Classic. Another was the site of Mercury Pro Hank Cherry’s Bassmaster Classic triumph earlier in 2020.
The tournament was a breakout event for Sullivan as well. It was the first championship day qualification for the 28-year-old pro from Breckenridge, Texas.
In third, was Mercury Pro Luke Palmer of Coalgate, Oklahoma. It was his best Bassmaster finish to this point as well and completed a Mercury Pro Team sweep of the top three spots.