After an impressive weigh-in attendance at Berry’s and a day where our Elite 8 anglers spent time looking over their shoulders at spectator boats, the highly anticipated, much-talked-about Aaron Batson/Mike Cleveland Skeeter Eliminator Series fishing match at Lake Jackson is in the books.
Aaron won the event with a 10.09-lb. limit, a nice bag consisting of four largemouths and one spotted bass. His 2.76-lb. spot was his heaviest fish in the sack.
Every one of Aaron’s keepers came on a Zoom Super Fluke as he keyed on rocky, main-lake seawalls and points near deep water. This aggressive bite lasted most of the tournament, thanks to overcast skies.
Aaron had his first limit in one hour, 18 minutes, and he culled several times throughout the day. He had 10 pounds in the livewell for most of the tournament and spent the remaining portion of his day looking for a big fish. Late in the tournament, Aaron found three fish in the 5-lb. range cruising shallow.
"They weren’t bedding fish; I’m not sure what they were doing," said Aaron.
He spent 40 minutes trying to push his bag into the 13- to 14-lb. range, throwing a Fluke, Pointer 78 and an assortment of plastic baits, but it just didn’t work. Aaron finished the tournament cranking a deep point with a Fat Free Shad.
Aaron caught 28 fish in his seven-hour tournament.
Mike Cleveland put together a limit of bass that weighed 7.50 pounds and collected $750 for making the Elite 8.
Mike’s tournament began fast and furious. Two minutes after blast-off, Mike put this first keeper in the livewell, a 12 1/2-inch spotted bass that smashed a Sammy along a seawall up the Alcovy arm of the lake. A minute later, Mike set the hook on a good spot, a 3-pounder at least, that threw the treble hooks on the its third jump almost at the boat. Four minutes after blast-off, a 2-lb. largemouth went in the box. Then, three minutes later another good spotted bass that also looked to be in the 3-lb. range pulled off right at the boat. After the early topwater bite on the seawall, Mike worked hard to fill his limit. Keeper No. 3 was a 12 1/2-inch spot that hit the Sammy at 7:18 a.m. After several moves, still fishing topwater on a very overcast morning, Mike caught keeper No. 4 at 7:55 a.m., also on the Sammy. It was 12:01 p.m. when Mike filled his limit with a 12-inch spot that ate an Ol Monster worm up the Yellow River. Then at 12:11 he was able to cull one of his smaller spotted bass with a 1 1/2-lb. largemouth. Mike’s five keepers weighed 7.50 pounds, and his big fish was a 2.04-lb. largemouth.
The Batson/Cleveland match has been the most talked about Round 4 fishing match since the Eliminator’s inception in 2006. Both anglers have had incredible tournament success on the lake, and word at the ramps were the scales could have favored either angler.
"Mike’s one you can never take lightly," said Aaron. "He’s often up there in the money in tournaments; he could have easily busted a big bag."
Aaron felt like the Eliminator tournament would come down to which angler caught a kicker fish.
"I almost had one, he almost had one, it could have easily come down to that," said Aaron. "If either one of us had a 5- or 6-pounder, the other would have been in trouble.
"Now I’m ready for Clarks Hill. I’ve got to get over there and do some practicing."
Aaron’s Round 5 Clarks Hill match-up against Shawn Malcom is set for June 5. The winner moves to the championship at Oconee in November.
Aaron and Mike’s fishing diaries will be documented in the June issue of GON.