GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. Bryan Talmadge got two days worth of intense fishing lessons on Lake Guntersville and made the most of them to win the co-angler championship in the Bassmaster Elite Series Southern Challenge presented by Purolator.
Talmadge, 32, originally is from New Mexico and is an avowed fly-fishing nut, so bass fishing is new to him. He moved to Pell City, Ala., last February to work as a tournament assistant for American Bass Anglers and has competed in Bassmaster Federation Nation tournaments, but never in an Elite Series event.
"I had never been on the lake until my friend said he'd come up with me during practice so I could get an idea of what's going on and what lures to use," Talmadge said. "I fished Friday with Zell Rowland and Saturday with Kevin VanDam, and both days were huge learning experiences for me.
"Rowland concentrated on docks and I'm not any good at that, so that was great to learn about that technique. He really taught me a lot. Then, on Saturday I was paired with Kevin and that was worth any amount of money. When you grow up watching someone on television you can learn things, but it's nothing like being in the boat with the guy for a day."
Talmadge won a Triton-Mercury package worth $50,000. He caught eight bass that weighed 29 pounds, 3 ounces. Jimmy Sparks of Alabama was second with 28-15 and Keith Sykes of Virginia was third with 28-13.
Talmadge used a Rad Lures Chatterbait and Excalibur Bayou Boogie, both in shad or white-chartreuse colors, both days to catch his fish. He threw a 3/8 ounce Bayou Boogie on Friday with Rowland, working areas between docks as they trolled along, and then threw a heavier ½-ounce Chatterbait on Saturday with VanDam in deeper areas along grass lines.
"I was watching Kevin's GPS unit on his console and he had the waypoints keyed in where he had caught fish or there was milfoil," Talmadge said. "Then we would get there I'd put up everything else and pick up the Chatterbait.
"Kevin was on my butt pretty good all day about not paying attention and keeping in contact with my bait. He got on me really hard once when I lost a good fish, but I didn't mind. He could do that every day of the year. Learning from him was more important than this (the trophy)."
Talmadge said one other key was VanDam's strong suggestion to add a trailer hook to his bait. That resulted in two of his four keepers Saturday.
He said to never fish a spinnerbait or blade bait like that without a trailer hook," Talmadge said. "If the guy says put on a trailer hook, then I'm going to put one on."
Editor's Note: Sunday, April 29, ESPNOutdoors.com will be having LIVE Video coverage of the Southern Challenge presented by Purolator throughout the entire day. Check in at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., and 1 p.m. ET for Live video updates from the event with Bassmaster TV hosts Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders. Elite Series: Hooked Up, the Bassmaster Elite Series Final Day pregame show, begins at 3 p.m. ET, followed immediately by the Final Day Bassmaster Elite Series weigh-in where you can see who wins the $100,000 prize!