Hemphill native Andrew Upshaw, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, closed out a banner tournament season with a convincing win at the 2019 Costa FLW Series Championship held Oct. 31-Nov. 2 on the Cumberland River in Burnside, Kentucky.

Upshaw, 32, topped the 190-angler field with a three-day total weight of 42 pounds, 15 ounces to grab the winner’s trophy and the $52,500 payday that came with it. He won the event targeting smallmouth bass relating to bluff walls near well-defined river channel swings where the water depth transitioned from 45-50 feet deep to 22-24 feet deep. His go-to baits included a green pumpkin Strike King Ned Ocho Worm rigged on a 1/8-ounce Gene Larew Ned Rig Pighead Jig Head and a Strike King Bitsy Flip Jig paired with a green pumpkin Strike King Baby Rage Craw.

The championship win capped off what has been Upshaw’s most lucrative year since turning pro in 2012. Last April, he won a FLW Tour event on Lake Cherokee in Tennessee that paid $100,000. His FLW and BASS earnings for 2019 total nearly $196,000.

McKinnis passes at 82

Jerry McKinnis, a pioneer in outdoor television programming and an icon in fishing industry for decades, passed away on Nov. 3. He was 82.

McKinnis, a former BASS co-owner from Little Rock, Arkansas, died after being hospitalized for six weeks due to complications from an injury and infection sustained during a Wyoming fishing trip, according to a recent BASS press release.

An avid angler and sportsman, McKinnis was widely known as the originator of “The Fishin’ Hole,” a popular fishing show that aired for more than four decades. McKinnis also was was a member of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame.

BPT announces Lake Fork event

Major League Fishing’s Bass Pro Tour recently announced its 2020 schedule, and Texas’ most fabled big bass fishery is in mix.

Lake Fork, near Quitman, will host one of the eight regular-season events. The six-day tournament is set for March 13-18, which should land the 80-angler field on the 27,000-acre reservoir just ahead of the height of the spawn. Local anglers and fisheries managers alike are anticipating some big fish being recorded using the circuit’s unique catch-weigh-and-release format.

“March can be an awesome time on Fork, but like most months, the weather will be a critical factor to the tournament success,” said Jake Norman, a fisheries biologist who oversees the lake for the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

“However, I do expect to see some big fish regardless of the conditions. Whether that translates into an abundance of 4-8-pounders each day with a few giants mixed in, or a handful of them, will largely depend on the conditions the week before and during the event.”

Norman says another factor that could be a big influence on the outcome of the event is local fishing pressure. Fork attracts hordes of bass anglers during the spring months, particularly when weather conditions are favorable.

“It is going to take some patience and creativity from the pros to consistently catch the fish they need while possibly sharing water not only among other competitors but hundreds of other anglers,” Norman said.

“Regardless of weather patterns or fishing pressure, the BPT guys should put on a great show.”

Big Time Hunt winners named

Lee Ferguson, of Marshall, struck it rich in the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s Big Time Texas Hunts this year.

BTTH is a lottery-style conservation fundraiser run by TPWD. The program offers hunters the opportunity to buy inexpensive chances to win premium hunting packages in a variety of different categories. The deadline for entry was Oct. 15.

Ferguson’s name was recently selected by a random computer draw from nearly 30,600 entries in the Texas Grand Slam package category. The Grand Slam includes four separate guided hunts for Texas’ four top big game animals, including desert bighorn sheep, whitetail deer, pronghorn antelope and mule deer. It is program’s most popular category by far.

This year’s BTTH hunts program drew 106,114 entries and generated about $973,500 in revenue to be used in wildlife research, habitat management and public hunting programs.

TPWD recently announced the 13 other winners in other BTTH categories:

Ultimate Mule Deer Hunt — Carlton Martin, Palmhurst

Nilgai Antelope Safari — Carrie McCoy, Montgomery

Premium Buck Hunt — James Handley III, Campbell

Exotic Safari — Stanley Harris, Cypress

Whitetail Bonanza (5 winners) — John McCall, Arlington; Chris Fields, Corsicana; Phillip Lucky, Waxahachie; Justin Venable, Groesbeck; Darrell Dugas, Nederland

Big Time Bird Hunt — Richard Way, Christoval

Gator Hunt — Gerald Burch, Jr., Bynum

Texas Waterfowl Hunt — George (Kelley) Taylor, Corpus Christi

Wild Hog Adventure — Lance Lang, Minot, N.D.

Giant salvinia: Duck hunters watch out

With the first split of 2019 duck season now underway statewide, waterfowl hunters traveling to different lakes are urged to inspect their boats, trailers, motors, decoys and other gear to help avoid the spread of giant salvinia and other invasive aquatic plants.

Giant salvinia is a noxious, free-floating plant currently known to be present in 17 East Texas impoundments as well as numerous rivers, creeks and marshes in deep Southeast Texas.

The plant is easily spread to different bodies by clinging to boats, trailer axles and bunks trailers. It also can attach to duck decoys, strings and weights. The plant can stay alive for days so long as it stays moist.

Public lakes currently infested with the plant include Caddo, Conroe, B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir, Livingston, Murvaul, Nacogdoches, Naconiche, Lake O’ the Pines, Palestine, Raven, Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Sheldon Reservoir, Striker, Texana, Timpson, Hemphill City Lake and Toledo Bend Reservoir. It was confirmed on Houston County Lake near Crockett earlier this month.

Anyone caught transporting prohibited invasive species could face fines up to $500 per violation.

Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by email at mattwillwrite4u@yahoo.com.

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