On Sunday, the 2020 3X9 Series came to a close with the completion of the one-day championship event held on Stillhouse Hollow Lake, the same body of water where the series’ 30 weekly events were held leading up to the championship.
Fifty-two teams competed in this event.
The boats launched according to their year-to-date rankings based both on participation and performance.
The 23rd boat to launch at start time carried the team of Ed Cole and Billy Freeman. Cole and Freeman won the final regular season event Sept. 29.
The championship event varied slightly from the regular season events in a number of ways. First, the tournament duration was several hours longer. Second, the tournament took place entirely during daylight hours, and third, the limit was increased from three fish to five fish.
Cole summarized his day on the water with his partner, “Pull into our first stop and, lo and behold, we are sharing water with several other boats. Starts out pretty slow, just couldn’t get to exactly where we wanted to be due to sharing water. Boats come and go, but we keep fishing. Billy catches a keeper, I catch a short fish, Billy catches another keeper, and I finally put a keeper in the box, but fishing is really slow.”
Cole continued, “12 o’clock comes around and we only have three for maybe six pounds. Only 3 hours to fish and we only have three fish. Things aren’t looking good. Finally, about 1:15 p.m., I make a long cast and let it fall to the bottom. Suddenly the line got heavy and I set the hook. Things got real heavy.
“She came to the top and wallowed around, we knew we had a good fish but had no idea how big until we got her in the boat. OK, we are feeling a little better,” said Cole, referring to the 11.24-pound largemouth he just landed..
Cole concluded, “Maybe five casts later, Billy puts a four-pound fish in the boat. It’s 1:30 p.m. and we are thinking we have 19 or 20 pounds. We are going to get a check. Thanks for luck and the good Lord above, we managed to have 21 pounds and some change to win the championship. We felt extremely lucky to have the win with so many awesome anglers fishing the championship.”
Cole and Freeman walked away with $5,500 in earnings.
Justin Rogers and Thomas Wells finished in second place with 16.20 pounds and earned $2,000.
Gary Johnson and Mike Soden finished in third place with 13.33 pounds and earned $1,500.
Stillhouse stood at just more than 3 feet above normal elevation with surface temperatures in the high 70s and the abundant crop of hydrilla still in a healthy, green, growing condition.
Once again, Stillhouse produced at least a half-dozen quality fish over five pounds from a total number of 124 fish weighed in.
Tournament director Dean Thompson said if all goes according to plan, 2021’s 3X9 Series will kick off on March 2.