Time was standing still for pro angler John Figi during the final few hours of Friday's opening tournament on the 2019 Classic Bass Champions Tour as he fished the Alexandria Chain of Lakes.
Figi, 34-years-old from Bloomington, had an unbelievable morning session and built up a lead in the tournament by lunch. But with the live scoring app allowing everyone to see up-to-the-minute results in this kind of tournament, Figi was able to watch how Jim Moynagh was right on his tail as the day progressed through the afternoon.
"The boat marshall is supposed to give us an update every five minutes, so I was getting one every five minutes," Figi said. "The last two hours of the day was the most nerve-wracking time I've ever had. It didn't even look like time was moving. It was just unbelievable."
Figi still had to sweat the final results out for about an hour after the boats came in at Mount Carmel on Lake Carlos. Once all the fish and weights were verified, he did indeed hold off Moynagh to win his first-ever Champions Tour event and take home a $10,000 payday.
"I will be honest with you, I had a tough practice and every time I've been here, I haven't done that good," Figi said. "I'm kind of speechless about it because my practice wasn't that good and it's not one of my favorite lakes to fish. I don't even know how to explain it really how I could possibly come out on top."
These Champions Tour tournaments feature a catch-and-release format where every fish counts towards an angler's total weight. That differs from a lot of events where it's the five biggest fish that determine a winner.
Numbers, even over size, are king in this kind of tournament, and Figi and Moynagh both found huge numbers on the chain. Figi caught 68 fish, all largemouths, for a total weight of 116-pounds, 5-ounces. That just edged Moynagh's 67 largemouths weighing in at 115-pounds, 13 ounces.
"My mindset in practice was to stay out deep and try to find as many schools as possible where I could catch multiple fish off an area," Figi said. "That is what I did all day. I did go shallow for a little bit in the late afternoon and caught a couple, but I fished anywhere from 14-20 feet all day."
Figi used drop shots and jig worms to catch all of his fish. He found out during one stretch how the clarity of the water on the chain due to zebra mussels can affect the fishing.
"When I first got on that school in the morning and it was blowing pretty good, it was literally one after another for an hour and a half," he said. "Then it laid down and went to glass calm for like 20 minutes, and I didn't catch a fish. All of a sudden, the wind switched and picked up again and the fish fired up again. The wind does play a factor here."
Figi had only been on the Alexandria Chain of Lakes once last year and another time almost 15 years ago. His days on the water pre-fishing this week did not offer him a lot of confidence heading into Friday, but his mood quickly shifted after catching 52 fish weighing in at 92-pounds, 13-ounces through four hours of fishing in the morning.
"It was absolutely stellar," Figi said. "You don't expect a day to go out on the lake and have that, and I didn't move one time. I didn't move my boat. You can never expect that. I knew there was a lot of fish there, but I didn't know how many fish were there."
Moynagh, from Carver, adjusted his early strategy this week of trying to find fish shallow by searching for schools along drop-offs and deeper weed lines on Friday. Like Figi, it worked to perfection for him and almost led to a win.
"Most of my weight today came out of one school of fish I found on Lake Darling," Moynagh said. "It was basically just where you keep your boat in one little area and keep casting into the school. They kept biting for like three hours. I caught over 40 fish out of that school. Once I got over 20, every time I'd catch another one it was like, 'You gotta be kidding me.'" It was so cool."
Moynagh is a veteran tournament angler. He fishes events all over the country, including as far south as Texas and Florida. The bite he experienced in Alexandria was pretty unique.
"You just don't see those kinds of numbers of fish, generally speaking," Moynagh said. "I fished one tournament this year where it was impossible to get five. Some places can be tough. There's other places in this state where you can catch a lot of fish like this, but it's not the norm everywhere you go."
"Fish of a lifetime" takes big bass award
The 43 anglers in the tournament combined to catch 1,204 fish. The biggest of those was a 7-pound, 6-ounce largemouth that Matt Thompson caught off a point of reeds on Lake Carlos using a swim bait.
It's a bass he called a fish of a lifetime when addressing the crowd at Mount Carmel during the awards ceremony.
Full results of the tournament can be found at https://scoringapp.classicbass.com/LeaderBoard/257.