Mercury Pro angler Mark Rose of Wynne, Arkansas, put an exclamation point on “heavy” last week at the inaugural Major League Fishing Toyota Heavy Hitters tournament by catching the week’s largest bass – a massive 9-pound, 2-ounce largemouth that netted ...
Bassmaster Elite Series rookie Buddy Gross, fishing only his second event on the trail, caught a tournament-best five-bass limit.
Bassmaster Elite Series rookie Buddy Gross, fishing only his second event on the trail, caught a tournament-best five-bass limit that weighed 27 pounds, 11 ounces, and sprang from 10th place to a victory in the DEWALT Bassmaster Elite at Lake Eufaula with a four-day total of 84-8.
Gross earned $100,000 and became the third Bassmaster angler to come back from last place (10th) and win on the final day of the event in the past 12 months. Mercury Pro Jamie Hartman pulled the trick last June at Lake Guntersville. Mercury Pro Micah Frazier accomplished it last August on the St. Lawrence River in New York.
Instead of the usual routine of being handed the trophy by Elite Series Tournament Director Trip Weldon, Gross received the prize onstage from his family due to strict social distancing measures in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gross hails from Chickamauga, Georgia, and is sponsored by Fish Lake Chickamauga and Fish Dayton, two initiatives that highlight the lake and surrounding tourism of the TVA impoundment.
Gross’ prowess on that fishery helped him tremendously on Eufaula, a massive 45,000-acre impoundment of the Chattahoochee River, which creates the border between Alabama and Georgia.
“Eufaula fishes a lot like back home,” said Gross. Before Chickamauga had grass in it, there was all this brush in the lake This week it fished identically to Chickamauga. The fish set up on the same stuff as they do back home, so I got lucky.”
Gross started his week probing brush piles with a swimbait. That strategy netted him just 16-14 on Day 1 and left him in 43rd place.
“On the second day of the tournament, I switched over to a jig,” he said. “First cast, I got bite. Second cast, I got bite. It was just consecutive. Every brush pile I went to, it probably increased my bites by 50 or 60 percent.”
The magic lure was a prototype jig and allowed him to catch 20-7 on Day 2, 19-8 on Day 3, and then the monster bag of 27-11 during Saturday’s final round.
The giant limit of fish erased a deficit of over seven pounds from the leader. Gross had seen a comeback like that happen before but didn’t really think he had a shot until the final day afternoon.
“I caught the first big fish this morning and thought ‘we are going to have a good showing,” and then I went back to the same brush pile this afternoon about 12:30 and I caught that 6-13 (the biggest fish of the day) and I thought right then that it might really happen.”
Gross, 47, is a bit of an outlier when it comes to the top ranks of bass fishing professionals. He didn’t have the chance to fish in college or work his way up through the ranks fishing individual-weight events. Gross was a team tournament angler for many years. He teamed up with James Milling of Rossville, Georgia, and the duo was a force on Lake Chickamauga and Lake Nickajack.
In 2015 Gross decided to fish the FLW Series and qualified for the FLW Tour, making it on the first try. He competed on the FLW Tour for four years, notched two Tour wins, and then qualified through the Bassmaster Opens to fish the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2020.
The victory at Eufaula, combined with an 11th place finish at the Elite Series opener back in February, puts Gross in second place in the Angler of the Year standings.
The Elites were scheduled to fish Lake Chickamauga in February, but the event was postponed due to flooding. It had to be rescheduled again due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event is now scheduled for mid-October. Bassmaster rescheduled the remainder of their season and will fish a full nine-event schedule, finishing up in November on Lake Fork in Texas.
Gross runs a Bullet 21XRS boat powered by a Mercury 4.6L V8 250hp Pro XS.
The event was broadcast live each day on ESPN2. Live fishing on a major network had not happened since the mid-2000s when ESPN provided live coverage of the Bassmaster Classic.
Photo Credit: Pro Fishing Management