Washington rookie Luke Clausen made his first tour-level win count big-time. He won the FLW Tour Championship on Logan Martin Lake today with a 14-10 limit, beating 2nd-place finisher Scott Martin by 6 ounces in a nail-biting finish and winning $500,000 in the process.
Even though the FLW Tour Championship has a bracket format where it's possible for those without the top weights to advance and win, Clausen won the tournament wire to wire: He posted the heaviest weight in each of the three rounds of the bracket-style competition.
Martin had a limit of 14-04. Anthony Gagliardi, in 3rd, had 13-07 today and Jimmy Millsaps finished 4th with a 12-04 limit. Mickey Bruce was 5th with 11-12. All but two of today's final 12 anglers weighed in a limit.
Clausen on Cloud Nine
Clausen beat Shad Schenck in the first round of the bracket format, and then dominated the second round match-up against the always dangerous Greg Hackney. That set him up to fish for half a million cool ones against just 11 other competitors. And though his bites dwindled throughout the week, he still found enough to come out on top when it counted.
"I've had a phenomenal week," he said. "It's incredible. I can't believe it. It hasn't sunk in. It's just crazy. I don't know what all goes with it, all I can see is that big check right now.
"I was so scared and nervous this morning. I was a mess. I couldn't fish, couldn't cast. I would make like seven casts to a dock and only one would go were I wanted it to. For a while I didn't think (the win) was going to happen."
He managed to calm his nerves and proceed to fill the livewell with $500,000 worth of Coosa River bass. He caught his biggest daily weight of the tournament today, but has been strong all week, with over 14 pounds on three of the four days. (His winning pattern will be up soon.)
"I came into the tournament confident," he said. "But I thought that everybody else was catching them too. I was disappointed with my weight the first day, but ended up leading the tournament. That's when I thought, my God, if I have a couple really good days, I could blow this thing out. It's great to fish against guys like this and be competitive."
Martin Fine With 2nd
Scott Martin felt that he fished a flawless tournament.
Fresh from a win at the Forest Wood Open on Lake Champlain, Martin came into the Championship with the aim to win. He came close, but ended up scoring his first 2nd-place finish among his several Top 10s. The difference in money? One zero, an order of magnitude, $450,000 less: he won $50,000.
You'd think missing a big payday like that by just 6 ounces would be pretty rough, but Martin isn't taking it hard. "I feel perfectly fine with it," he said. "This week was magical. I had a gameplan and I executed it well. The Lord blessed me and I stayed faithful, and He had me finish where He needed me to.
"I was faced with adversity yesterday and I kicked it in the teeth. I didn't have any fish in the boat by 11:00, but I stayed with it and finished out the day with a limit. I had been hanging up jigs a lot early in the week, but today I fished the same jig all day.
"I just fished super-efficient, super-flawlessly, made no mistakes and the day ran on schedule, so I can't say I could have done anything differently."
Anthony Gagliardi had a couple of good bites today, but not enough to win.
"I knew I had a shot (at winning) today, but I had two small fish that I couldn't cull that came back to haunt me," he said. "I'm disappointed. I couldn't get the right ones to bite."
He had been posting steadily increasing weights during the tournament, and today weighed his best limit. It wasn't easy, though. "Even at noon, when I didn't have a limit yet, I still felt good," he said. "I'd caught two big fish before 9:00 on my limit-fish spot. But they never turned on like I expected."
He added: "I didn't catch any on a crankbait today like I had been doing. I caught them all on a worm. The biggest two were on a dropshot rig."
Millsaps' Bite Cooled Off
Millsaps' 4th-place finish today was 2-06 off the winning mark, but was still his best limit of the tournament. He wasn't discouraged, saying: "I've been in the Top 10 five times now. I'm going to win one. It's just a matter of time."
He had a great practice, but that was when the weather and water were hot. A cold front came through as the tournament got underway, and his bites cooled off along with the water. "I had a strong practice and I was catching them on stumps in 8 feet next to a drop, but it had to be hot. The water cooled and the fish hit the banks."
Jimmy Millsaps felt that he needed sun and hot water to win.
"I needed sunshine today, and it came out late," he said.
Today he hit the banks first too, but things weren't going well. "At 10:00 I started moving out away from the shore, but I had so many places it took a while to hit them all. I got the big fish at the end of the day, and I had only 15 minutes to fish there. The sun put them back out there even with the cooler water, I guess. Bass like to get by or under something when the sun's out."
> He hooked a nice fish under a dock but had a problem getting it in. The line was snagged on a 2 x 6 board about 10 feet long, and the fish was fighting on a 4-foot length of line that he feared would break any second. He managed to net the fish and boost his limit, but right after he got the fish in, the board sank down with his line still snagged. It jerked his rod and reel out of the boat, and took them to the bottom.
Bruce Okay With 5th
"I feel good," Bruce said. "I guess I'm happy with it. The dollars are pretty good down that far ($30,000). I did think I had a chance to win, though. I had a great practice."
That showed, as his days 1-2 weights were among the best. He needed those big bags to get by Aaron Martens and FLW Angler of the Year Shinichi Fukae in the first two rounds. But Bruce may have had to burn up his fish to make the final day, though he didn't think so. "I was trying to manage my fish to just make the cuts," he said. "I had the fish on to win, I think. Two of them cut me off on rocks or (discarded fishing) line today. I think I just ran out of fish."
Did fishing for the $500,000 prize affect him this morning? "I'm seasoned enough that the nerves don't bother me anymore."
> Dave Lefebre – 7th, 6-15 (5 fish) – "I did what I thought I needed to do to get some big ones. I got all I caught in the last hour. They dropped the water today, and I couldn't figure out where the fish went."
> Charlie Ingram – 8th, 6-10 (5 fish) – "I think my partners and I wore out the fish on my docks. I moved from flipping docks to the river ledge around noon. I hung a giant on a jig, and he went around a stump and came off."
> Clark Wendlandt – 9th, 6-03 (5 fish) – "I feel really lucky and blessed to get this far. My practice didn't go well, and then I didn't adjust (during the tournament). The big fish seemed to be suspended and I got some good bites, but couldn't get them in the boat."
> Glenn Browne – 10th, 5-0 (5 fish) – "I went out to swing for the fences today. There's only one place to fish for and that's 1st."
> Jason Kilpatrick – 11th, 4-06 (2 fish) – "It was a shock today. I really thought that yesterday afternoon I'd found the fish to win on. They bit late yesterday, so I had to stay there all day today and it just didn't happen."
> John Crews – 12th, 3-15 (3 fish) – "I knew where some big fish lived, and I stayed on them all day, but they wouldn't bite."
> How's this for irony: The Bassmaster Classic was won by a Ranger/Yamaha pro (for the second year in a row), while the FLW Tour Championship was won by a Triton/Mercury pro.
> Day 3 stats – 12 anglers, 10 limits, one 3, one 2.
1. Luke Clausen – Spokane, Wa – 5, 14-10 – $500,000
2. Scott R Martin – Clewiston, Fl – 5, 14-04 – $50,000
3. Anthony Gagliardi – Prosperity, Sc – 5, 13-07 – $40,000
4. Jimmy Millsaps – Canton, Ga – 5, 12-04 – $35,000
5. Mickey Bruce – Buford, Ga – 5, 11-12 – $30,000
6. Kevin Vida – Clare, Mi – 5, 11-08 – $24,000
7. Dave Lefebre – Erie, Pa – 5, 6-15 – $23,000
8. Charlie Ingram – Santa Fe, Tn – 5, 6-10 – $22,000
9. Clark Wendlandt – Cedar Park, Tx – 5, 6-03 – $21,000
10. Glenn Browne – Ocala, Fl – 5, 5-00 – $20,000
11. Jason Kilpatrick – Satsuma, Al – 2, 4-06 – $19,000
12. John W Crews – Jetersville, Va – 3, 3-15 – $18,000