Bow Kings of Carp
Georgia archers bring in 376 pounds to top 235 teams in U.S. Open
The Georgia team of John Hood, Brian Ellenburg and Greg Campbell took the lead with 376 pounds of fish. (Mike Suchan photo)
RIDGEDALE, Mo. – Now they’ll definitely have to come up with a name for their bowfishing team. With others like Nocturnal Madness, Sticknmofish and Bottom Pokers, the team name of Hood-Campbell-Ellenburg just doesn’t cut it.
They did cut it on the water, and everyone can call them winners of the 2014 Bass Pro Shops U.S. Open Bowfishing Championships. John Hood, Greg Campbell and Brian Ellenburg of Georgia arrowed 376 pounds of fish to top 235 other teams and take home the winning check of $10,000 in the world’s largest bowfishing event.
“We put our homework in,” Ellenburg said, which included scouring Google maps the past two months for “flats, pockets, good bank and clear water” before three nights scouting on the water.
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“The first night, we didn’t find anything,” Ellenburg said. “This front came in and we didn’t find nothing out there. The second night, we maybe seen 10 fish. The third night it got a little bit better.
“We were just checking different spots on the lake and seeing more fish as the nights got warmer and warmer. The last night we scouted we knew where we wanted to shoot.”
While they won’t say where they went -- “We might want to fish there next year” -- it was about 50 minutes from the new Bass Pro Shops Outdoor Academy in Ridgedale, where the 900 competitors from 27 states converged.
The three-day event started Friday with registration on the sprawling grounds of a scenic Ozarks hilltop, where competitors and their families were treated to a festival atmosphere. There was food, live music, vendors, giveaways and shooting activities for young and old.
The fest continued on Saturday, and Outdoor Channel celebrities Lee and Tiffany Lakosky of “The Crush” and “Bone Collector” Travis “T-Bone” Turner made appearances and took part in a celebrity shoot.
After the finals of the Top Shot competition testing the competitors’ skills at shooting balloon targets in a tank, a water patrol officer gave final instructions before the field was set on their way. It took only 51 minutes for all the boats to leave the grounds and head to launch ramps near their chosen spots.
The archers could fish either Table Rock or Bull Shoals lakes, and had from 7 p.m. until final check-in time of 7 a.m. The anglers began weighing in at 4 a.m. Sunday morning, and by 7 the line of boats stretched a mile as they waited to weigh their 50-gallon barrels with their best 20 fish.
John Paul Morris, son of Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris and the passion behind this event, said he was pleased with most all aspects of the weekend.
“I think it went great. I just wish the fishing would have been better for these guys,” he said. “Not only the cold, but they drew some water down and it scattered the fish, made them go a bit deeper.”
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The participants removed 40,000 pounds of rough fish from the lakes, the undesirable carp, gar and buffalo that degrade water quality and hurt survival of sportfish. The event donates the fish, which are used in fertilizer, and gave $8,000 toward a local water clean-up effort.
Table Rock guide Mike Webb served as emcee and gave away some big prizes to registered anglers before announcing the winners.
“As a 20-year veteran of running tournaments and other events, I have never been a part of a more excited and happy group of fisherman,” Webb said. “This was our biggest event to date and it was our most enjoyable one also.”
Chris McDougald was thrilled to win a Bad Boy Buggy while Ben Patterson won a Tracker Grizzly 1860 Bowfishing Boat.
“I’m about to pass out,” Patterson said. “I’m in shock.”
The big fish belt went to the Midnight Mafia team from Jay, Okla. The team not only earned $1,600 for finishing fourth, but their 45.55-pound carp first hit by Chaz Trujillo earned the Oklahoma State championship another $5,000.
“I’ve been bowfishing since 1993 and this was the most organized and complete tournament I’ve ever been to,” Hood said. “It was amazing how well the large crowds were dealt with and how efficient the weigh-in process was.”
Hood said his team would definitely be back next year, but no word on a name.