Yamaha/Skeeter Pro Angler Taku Ito Wins Bassmaster Elite at Smith Lake

Yamaha/Skeeter Pro Angler Taku Ito Wins Bassmaster Elite at Smith Lake

Yamaha/Skeeter Pro Angler Taku Ito came from behind to win the Bassmaster® Elite on Smith Lake with a four-day total of 58 pounds even, claiming the $100,000 for finishing first in the derby. The victory marks Ito’s second Elite win, and one he accomplished on his favorite U.S. fishery.

“Smith Lake always is 100 percent my favorite lake,” he said. “It’s beautiful for sightseeing and it has beautiful bass. And the spotted bass, I like them. I don’t like so much the largemouth bass and there aren’t that many here. So, Smith Lake is perfect for me.”

Yamaha Pros took six of the top 10 spots in the four-day tournament. In addition to Ito’s first place finish, Robert Gee placed second with 53 pounds, 15 ounces; Tyler Williams placed fifth with 52 pounds, 8 ounces; Kyle Patrick placed seventh with 51 pounds, 9 ounces; JT Thompkins placed eight with 50 pounds, 7 ounces; and 2024 Bassmaster Classic Champion Justin Hamner placed tenth with 49 pounds, 10 ounces.

“Finally, I got a blue trophy on Smith Lake, and I’m so excited,” said Ito. “This is a big lake with a lot of boat traffic which generates a lot of boat wakes and waves. I know I can always trust my 250-horsepower Yamaha V MAX SHO® and my Skeeter to help me navigate crowded conditions so that I can concentrate on fishing all day. That makes a big difference.”

Ito had bags of 13 pounds, 10 ounces, 13 pounds, 11 ounces and 14 pounds, 2 ounces leading up to his tournament-best bag on Day 4. His three-day total of 41-7 trailed only Gee, who had 41-9 and the pole position to start Sunday.

A single ounce separated the first three places during the morning, but Ito bagged a 2 pound, 5 ounce bass before noon that gave him a slim five-ounce cushion on his top two rivals at Smith. He blew the derby open an hour later with a 5 pound, 12 ounce catch, easily the biggest bass of the tournament.

It was a wild finish to what had been a difficult tournament for many of the Elites. The Alabama heat made Smith’s fabled spotted bass bite go slack at times, and most bass caught ranged from 1-to-2 pounds. The heat index, which climbed into triple digits during the final three days of the tournament, made the sluggish bite that much more grueling.

Ito won an additional $2,000 more for the Rapala CrushCity Monster Bag (he caught 16-9 on Championship Sunday) and a separate $1,000 prize for the 5-12 spotted bass that anchored the bag. That fish was both the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the day and of the tournament. As part of the Yamaha Power Pay program, Ito earned an additional $4,000 while Gee claimed an additional $1,500 for being the second-highest placing entrant.

Yamaha pros remain in contention for the Angler of the Year race. Hamner currently leads with 595 points, and Trey McKinney is in second with 571 points. McKinney also leads the Rookie of the year standings with 571 points followed by Yamaha Pros John Garrett in second with 553 points and JT Thompkins in third with 547 points.

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