Martin Marine Center 2018 Series is a big-money wrap!

CLEWISTON — When the final fish was weighed, the names on the big check for $25,000 were Howard Kleman and Pat Kelley with a two-day total weight of just over 40 pounds.

Championship weekend started on Friday, Dec. 7, at the John Boy Auditorium in Clewiston with the presentation of 2018 Team Of The Year, presented by ARK Rods, going to the team of Brandon Medlock and Charles Metheney. Thanks to ARK Rods, their registrations for the 2019 Qualifiers are all paid up.

But this weekend was about something even more. MO’ MONEY! With a record $25,000 on the line, focus quickly turned to the action on the water.


Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Courtesy of RMMC
Howard Kleman and Pat Kelley with a two-day total weight of just over 40 pounds took the biggest check home.

Saturday started with high hopes and sunshine, but the wind was going to be a factor. With air temperature in the mid-60s and water temperature a chilled mid-60s as well, the anglers were going to have to work for it to fill the wells. As it turned out, the champions ignored the wind and milked a honey-hole for all it was worth.

“We went to one spot on Saturday, and except for brief stop and one other place, we stayed at our first spot all day and caught 15 fish,” said Kleman. “We went back on Sunday and stayed there all day with the same results.”

Bagging 19.79 pounds on Saturday and 20.92 pounds Sunday was 3/4 pound better than the rest and good for $25,000.

“We were throwing spinnerbaits and Chatterbaits,” said Kelley. “Howard was using white but they seemed be hitting the chartreuse better. We were fishing down south around submerged structure, like cattails underwater that Howard knew was there and that’s where we found them.”

In second place with 40.13 pounds was the team of Chris Schirling and Kail Stevens that came close but had to settle for the runners-up check for $9,000.

“Our pregame plan was to cover water and find something different,” said Schirling. “We ended up finding something and were punching mats all day long. We beat them up a little too hard on Saturday and just didn’t hold up for Sunday.”

“We ran up north but I think the wind and lack of sun on Sunday cost us the championship,” said Stevens. “We were punching 1.5 ounce weights with Gambler Stingers in Gold Rush.”

Cashing in the third place check for $4,500 was the team of Nicholas Hoinig and Matt Wietheha.

“We discovered a new place in practice and that’s where we caught most of our fish out of on day one,” said Wietheha. “On Sunday we only had two big bites and had to move around to catch the rest.”

“We might have had the winning fish on around two o’clock that could have won it but we can’t talk about the ones you miss,” said Hoinig.

They were flipping ¾-oz. weights with Gambler Burner Craws in green pumpkin and black and blue.

And since this is Lake Okeechobee, it’s all about the big bass. And the biggest was caught by Chris Jerdan with the U.S. Sugar Big Bass of 8.46 pounds.

With that, the 2018 Roland Martin Marine Center Series is a wrap. But with a couple last sips of Red Bull, Tournament Director Ramon Iglesias whispered to Emcee Chris “Peanut” Brill, “I got some ideas on how we can make 2019 even bigger.”

Happy Holidays and we’ll see you all next season.

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