One week ago, Trey McKinney celebrated his 19th birthday. Sunday, the celebration continued as the Carbondale, Illinois native made history on Championship Sunday at the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at Lake Fork.

McKinney finished with a four-day total of 20 bass weighing 130 pounds, 15 ounces, outlasting the field of 103 anglers in what was one of the most productive tournaments in the history of competitive bass fishing.

He became the youngest winner in Elite Series history and earned $100,000, while missing the all-time record for total weight in a four-day B.A.S.S. event — set by Paul Elias on Falcon Lake in Texas in 2008 — by just 1 pound, 9 ounces.

Photo by Seigo Saito/B.A.S.S.
Photo by Seigo Saito/B.A.S.S.

“This is crazy to even be up here, much less come that close to setting the all-time tournament record,” McKinney said. “To think, that one more fish and I could have had it. I lost a 7 1/2-pounder yesterday that would have given me 33 pounds and enough weight to break it.

“But I couldn’t be happier. This lake is just awesome. It was stressful and I had adrenaline. I was really spinning out today when I had 28 pounds and didn’t know if I had enough to win. I knew I had to have more.”

According to a release from B.A.S.S., McKinney’s total was the fourth-highest produced in a four-day tournament in B.A.S.S. history, trailing Elias and two other anglers who each caught more than 131 pounds at that historic 2008 event at Falcon.

The tournament on Lake Fork was only McKinney’s second since qualifying for the Elite Series. The rookie caught more than 30 pounds each day (the only angler to do so this week), posting totals of 33-11, 33-10 and 30-0 before closing with another 33-10 limit to clinch the win on Championship Sunday.

McKinney figured he could get the extra weight in his favored spot of the week, but it was filled with locals when he arrived there Sunday morning, compounding his stress. Then, showing a maturity beyond his age, he slowed down and considered his options.

Google Maps
Google Maps

He settled into a small pocket just a stone’s throw from the Caney Point Recreation Area where daily takeoffs and weigh-ins were held. He noticed the small cove earlier in the week, but didn’t rely on it until the final minutes of the tournament.

“It was just loaded in there,” he said. “I finally wound up catching one more that weighed 7-6 and that put me over 33 pounds overall with 30 minutes left to fish. I had a feeling it was gonna happen right there, and it just worked out perfectly.”

He caught his Day 4 bass using a Strike King KVD Ocho stickbait with an 8-pound Seaguar Tatsu line on a St. Croix 7-foot medium-heavy Legend X rod. Earlier in the week, he hooked his biggest bass using a St. Croix Physyx 7-1 medium rod with a Strike King Z Too lure on a 10-pound Seaguar Tatsu line.

“The Lowrance ActiveTarget was essential to finding these fish up on the shallow flats, too,” McKinney said. “I started the tournament fishing in 20 to 30 feet of water and then today, I was in 4 feet … They were moving off the timber toward the bank. I had to follow them.”

Each of the 10 Elites who survived the final Phoenix Boats Cutline became members of the Century Club, meaning they caught more than 100 pounds of bass over four days. It was only the second time in history that has happened, with the historic 2008 tournament on Falcon the only comparison.

Tyler Rivet, of Raceland, La., finished second with 125-9. Hamner finished third with 124-10 and his 11-7 was the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the day and the tournament, earning him an additional $3,000 in prize money.

Rivet’s 125-9 is the eighth-highest four-day weight in B.A.S.S history. Hamner’s 124-10 is ninth all-time and Tyler Williams’ 124-9 is 10th.

Lake Fork has now produced 19 Century Club members, passing Falcon (15) for most in B.A.S.S. history.

After his victory, McKinney tied Texas pro Ben Milliken for the AOY lead with 195 points and Patrick Walters of South Carolina follows closely with 194 points.

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