The second-year Elite angler placed 38th on Day 1 with 17-15, then improved to 11th with a second-round limit of 22-14. Day 3 saw Ito secure his Championship Sunday berth by adding 23-3 and improving to seventh.
Earning $100,000 for his Elite win, Ito anchored his third and fourth days’ limits with a ,
6-pound smallmouth, both of which earned $1,000 daily awards for Phoenix Boats Big Bass.
“I love Waddington — I’m very, very happy,” Ito said with the engaging sincerity Elite audiences have come to love. “When I was 8 years old, I won the (Bassin’s Black Bass with Hank Parker) video game and now, on the St. Lawrence River, I won the Bassmaster Elite Series. Big Bass. Big Stage. Big Dreams. Bassmaster!”
Ito, who placed sixth at last year’s St. Lawrence River event, devoted all four days to Lake Ontario. The first two days, he fished rock structures in approximately 20 feet of water. On Saturday those areas failed to produce, so he relocated to a spot in 26 to 27 feet near Chaumont Bay.
Calling this spot “Taku Disneyland” for its abundance of fish, Ito caught his Day 3 limit there and started on the spot Sunday.
“I was driving about two hours (each way) and I had about two hours and 30 minutes of fishing time,” Ito said.
Arriving at his spot on the final morning, Ito thought his graph was malfunctioning when he saw what appeared to be a false bottom at 13 to 14 feet. To his delight, it was a massive school of Lake Ontario giants.
Ito said he noticed a distinct water clarity difference, and he assumed the fish had followed the clean water into his area. Also, Ito said the gobies he incidentally caught on his drop shot were a couple of inches larger than the 3- to 4-inchers he saw the previous three days.
“I was using many Japanese techniques,” Ito said. “I would cast and sometimes the fish would take (the bait) while it was falling. Sometimes, I kept my bait on the bottom for 10 seconds, 15 seconds, with no action.”
Yamaha Pro and 2020 Bassmaster Angler of the Year Clark Wendlandt finished third with 88-10. Coming in at sixth place with 82 pounds, 7 ounces, Yamaha Pro Brandon Palaniuk earned $20,000 for being the highest placing Yamaha Power Pay participant in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year competition during the St. Lawrence event. In addition to the $100,000 grand prize, Ito earned $4,000 through Yamaha’s Power Pay program, while Wendlandt claimed and additional $1,500 for being the second highest placing entrant. Yamaha Pro Patrick Walters won the $1,000 Phoenix Boats Big Bass award for the week with a 6-5. Walters also claimed the $1,000 daily Big Bass award for Day 2.
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