Outdoor Life Online Editor

The good Lord willing and the creek does rise, I’ll do well tomorrow,” Jay Yelas told the weigh-in crowd on the second day of the CITGO BASS Masters Classic in Birmingham, Ala., in July.

Fortunately for the 36-year-old angler, both the Almighty and the Coosa River cooperated in the third and final round of the tournament as Yelas claimed the title with a three-day total of 14 bass weighing 45 pounds, 13 ounces. Yelas, who was 2002 Angler of the Year in the rival Wal-Mart FLW tour, has placed near the top in Classics past, and his victory left nobody gasping in disbelief. What was astonishing was the virtuoso performance with which he won the Classic crown, leading the tournament from the get-go and finishing more than six pounds ahead of runner-up Aaron Martens of California. Along the way, Yelas boated the biggest bass of the day in each of the three rounds: 6-2, 6-4 and 4-13. He collected $203,000 in prize money for his efforts.

Yelas caught his winning stringer below Logan Martin dam, one of a string of dams that impound the Coosa River. He noted that he got a total of nine bites the first day, seven the second and four during the final round, proving it’s not the number of strikes you get that counts; it’s how many bass you put in the boat.