Editor’s Note: Strike King Pro Luke Estel of Murphysboro, Illinois, and his partner Josh Jackson recently won the U.S.A. Bassin’ Nitro Classic Tournament held on Kentucky Lake April 16 and 17. The prize was a 20-foot Nitro Z-8 boat with a Mercury Optimax 150-horsepower outboard motor, valued at $33,000, that was loaded with special features designed specifically for anglers. Estel’s the kind of fishermen many of us are – a Joe Lunchbucket type of angler who works a regular job 40 hours a week and has family responsibilities that eat-up his time but loves to fish for bass and compete. In this tournament, Estel demonstrated that he knew how to pattern bass and catch them.

Part 1: Luke Estel Fights the Crowd to Qualify for and Later Win the U.S.A. Bassin’ Nitro Classic Tournament at Kentucky Lake

Luke EstelQuestion: Luke, what did you have to do to qualify for the U.S.A. Bassin’ Nitro Classic Tournament?

Estel: There are more than 130 divisions in this tournament circuit in 24 states. I picked the division ran by my cousin Jason Estel on the Kaskaskia River that runs through central and southern Illinois. Only about 30 boats competed in this division. To fish in the regional tournament, you had to earn enough points. I fished four out of six tournaments with my partner Josh Jackson to qualify for the regional and won one event fishing with a Strike King Rage Craw. Josh and I have fished together for about 3 years and have competed as a team in several BASS Open Tournaments.

Luke EstelThis year, we’ll also be competing as a team on the Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters Tournament Trail. We’d earned enough points on the U.S.A. Bassin’ National Tournament circuit to qualify to fish on Rend Lake in southern Illinois for the regional championship, where we’d be competing against about 100 boats. However, since Josh would be out of town during the event, I had to fish by myself. In the regional, you’re allowed to fish as an individual or as a team. In this tournament, you only could weigh-in five bass. I finished in 12th place with only three bass that weighed a total of 8 pounds, but I still qualified to fish in the nationals. I caught all my bass on a green-pumpkin Strike King Finesse Worm with a Strike King Shaky Head Jig.

Fishing with Luke EstelThe national event was held on Kentucky Lake, and more than 200 boats competed in this tournament. Kentucky Lake was only about 2-hours from my home, and I’d fished there my entire life. So, I felt confident about fishing this lake. I was happy to learn that Josh would be able to fish with me in the championship, because we’d always fished well together and made a strong team. Too, I learned that my cousin had qualified, and we’d always fished well together and shared information in tournaments. I felt good going into the tournament and was confident that our team would finish strong, regardless of the outcome.

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