Homer’s odyssey ends with FLW Championship co-angler title

Homer Stephens of Noblesville, Ind., thrusts his arms up in victory after capturing the co-angler FLW Championship in Shreveport, La. Stephens turned in an impressive final catch of 9 pounds to capture the $25,000 first-place prize.

Pro field whittled to top five; streaking Clunn fails to make final cut

SHREVEPORT, La. - Despite battling a nasty flu bug throughout the entire tournament, co-angler Homer Stephens of Noblesville, Ind., lapped the competition on the tournament's final day - recording a final weight more than double his nearest competitor - and easily walked away with one of the most coveted prizes in all of professional bass fishing - the FLW Championship title.

Stephens, who battled gamely through his illness all week, recovered well enough on the final day of competition to record an impressive catch of 9 pounds to take home the prestigious FLW first-place trophy and a $25,000 check.

He also won a year's supply of gasoline from Citgo - the presenting sponsor of the FLW Championship.

"It's pretty awesome," Stephens said. "It took a lot of hard work, a lot of practice, a lot of cold medicine and a lot of junk food, but I did it. I had some really good fish. And when you have that, good things usually happen."

Although Stephens said the prize money was nice, he said the feeling of being a champion was worth a whole lot more.

"It's just a great sport," he said. "I'm not in this for the money. It's nice. But that's not why I'm here. I just love to fish. I enjoy the people and I really like the competition. This is what it's all about."

Tommy Szwankowski of Hope, Ark., finished second with a catch of 4 pounds, 4 ounces for a $7,000 second place prize. Ken Golub of Pittsford, N.Y. earned a $5,000 third-place check for his catch of 3 pounds.

Tom Hunley of Stamping Ground, Ky., who led the Co-Angler Division throughout the entire tournament until the final day, recorded no fish during the championship round and finished in ninth place. However, he said his spirits were still high despite his tough luck.

"I just had a bad day today," he said. "But the food was great and the people were great. I'm thinking of moving down here if I could only get the Kentucky Wildcats (Hunley's favorite sports team) to relocate."

Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers were Mike Cooper of Branson, Mo., (fourth) with a catch of 2 pounds, 11 ounces; Pat Fisher of Stone Mountain, Ga., (fifth) with a catch of 2 pounds, 5 ounces; Andy Heinkelein of Cincinnati, Ohio, with a catch of 2 pounds, 2 ounces; Curtis Thompson of Baytown, Texas, with a catch of 1 pound, 2 ounces; Rodney Chmolack of Phenix City, Ala., with a catch of 12 ounces; and Marc Levesque of Waterbury, Conn., (tenth) with zero fish.

Nixon leads pro field into final day; eyes championship

Larry Nixon appears to be peaking at just the right time.

After climbing from fourth place to second during Thursday's top-10 cutdown, Nixon managed to eek out a hard-fought first-place finish in the crucial day-three standings with a catch of 11 pounds, 4 ounces. Nixon, of Bee Branch, Ark., edged out second-place finisher Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Okla., by 11 ounces. Darrel Robertson of Jay, Okla., finished in third place with a catch of 10 pounds, 7 ounces - only two ounces less than Biffle. In fact, after the end of the Friday's competition, the pro grouping was so close that less than two pounds separated all top-five finalists.

"I think the championship is up in the air right now," said Nixon. "This is where I wanted to be, but these guys are so good that any one of us could win it. I'm just going to grit my teeth and give it my all tomorrow."

Biffle agreed that getting into the top-five was an achievement in and of itself.

"It's a pretty good trick just to make it to the final day," said Biffle, who recorded a day-three catch of 10 pounds, 9 ounces. "If the wind doesn't blow really hard tomorrow and the weather doesn't change, I think I have a pretty good shot. But the competition is real tough."

Robertson said the level of competition was so intimidating that he didn't want to even think about it while he was out on the river.

"I just had to concentrate on catching bass," Robertson said. "If I had to think about who I was fishing against, I probably wouldn't have caught a fish."

Dion Hibdon of Stover, Mo., was in fourth place at the end of day three with a catch of 10 pounds, 6 ounces.

"Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars (first prize) is a lot of inspiration to work hard," joked Hibdon of his motivation to date. "So far I've fished really clean and have had a good tournament. I just need to keep it up."

Craig Powers of Rockwood, Tenn., captured the last spot in the final five with a catch of 9 pounds, 9 ounces. Powers said he was excited just to be among some of the greatest fishing legends of all time.

"I hated to see the (co-angler) competition end because I was able to sit out there (and wait) with a bunch of legends," he said.

The five pros not making the final cut were Carl Svebek III of Sam Rayburn, Texas, who finished in sixth place with a catch of 8 pounds, 4 ounces; David Fritts of Lexington, N.C., (seventh) with a catch of 7 pounds, 10 ounces; Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo., (eighth) with a catch of 7 pounds, 5 ounces; Thursday's leader Bernie Schultz of Gainesville, Fla., (ninth) with a catch of 6 pounds, 8 ounces; and Rick Gasaway of Kennesaw, Ga., (tenth) with a catch of 5 pounds, 13 ounces.

Clunn, one of the favorites heading into the tournament, said he didn't feel comfortable throughout the week.

"I know the kind of water the bigger fish were in, but I just didn't find enough of that water," said Clunn. "I also didn't practice as well as I should have and that hurt me. I've been kind of puzzled (by the fish) over the last two days."

The FLW Championship weigh-in will take place tomorrow in the Wal-Mart parking lot on Westport Avenue off Pines Road in Shreveport at 3:30 p.m. However, fans unable to attend the weigh-in can view it live at any Wal-Mart location in the country.

Click to see Friday's results, other tournament news and Quick Bites: Day 3.



Tags: headline-story  gary-mortenson 

/news/2015-03-29-lefebre-lands-on-top

Lefebre Lands on Top

He left the dock this morning in 7th place, eight and a half pounds off the lead. And when he returned this afternoon, Dave Lefebre shocked the weigh-in crowd with a come-from-behind Walmart FLW Tour win that left his competitors shell-shocked. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-29-lewis-smith-lake-day-4-coverage

Lewis Smith Lake Day 4 Coverage

Day 4 reports from the Walmart FLW Tour on Lewis Smith Lake READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-28-birge-buzzes-ahead

Birge Buzzes Ahead

Today started off with a slightly miserable 31-degree air temperature, but it didn’t take long for the top 20 pros to really heat up on Lewis Smith Lake at the second stop of the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour presented by Evinrude. Reports poured in throughout the day of big bass – especially big largemouths – being caught off beds. It looked at first as if one of the “largemouth lookers” might piece together a big enough bag to snatch the lead away from Oklahoma rookie Zack Birge, who struggled early to make his shallow topwater pattern work. Unfortunately for the rest of the field, the young gun Birge has the coolness and patience of a veteran, and he stuck with his game plan of throwing a buzzbait and soft jerkbait rig until the sun had time to warm the shallows and spur the fish to become more active. Birge tallied 17 pounds, 11 ounces today, raising his three-day total to 54-8 and giving him a lead of 3-11 over Texas veteran Clark Wendlandt in second place. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-28-top-5-patterns-from-lewis-smith-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 3

After three days, it looks as if tournament leader Zack Birge has the quality largemouth bite in the bushes wired. But behind him on the leaderboard are nine pros doing everything from sight-fishing to catching schooling bass and everything in between. Even with all the patterns in play, few have fizzled. The sight-fishers have reported finding new bedders, the schoolers are still schooling and a couple of guys have even started tapping floating docks. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-28-millsaps-wins-on-lake-sinclair

Millsaps Wins on Lake Sinclair

MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. – David Millsaps of Ranger, Georgia, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 20 pounds, 10 ounces Saturday to win the second Walmart Bass Fishing League Bulldog Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Sinclair. For his victory, Millsaps earned $6,009. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-28-walters-nets-third-victory-on-wylie

Walters Nets Third Victory on Wylie

LAKE WYLIE, N.C. – Todd Walters of Kernersville, North Carolina, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 17 pounds, 2 ounces Saturday to win the second Walmart Bass Fishing League North Carolina Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Wylie. For his victory, Walters earned $4,350. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-28-lewis-smith-lake-day-3-coverage

Lewis Smith Lake Day 3 Coverage

Day 3 reports from the Walmart FLW Tour on Lewis Smith Lake READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-28-mosley-on-top-at-arkansas-river

Mosley on Top at Arkansas River

MUSKOGEE, Okla. – Brandon Mosley of Choctaw, Oklahoma, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 19 pounds, 13 ounces Saturday to win the second Walmart Bass Fishing League Okie Division tournament of 2015 the Arkansas River. For his victory, Mosley earned $5,349. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-27-topwater-takes-birge-to-the-top

Topwater Takes Birge to the Top

On a day when chilly, windy post-front conditions challenged many Walmart FLW Tour anglers who were relying on sight-fishing for spawning bass, Zack Birge bucked the trend and pulled out a pair of topwaters to haul in 17 pounds, 14 ounces. Birge jumped from third place past day-one leader Drew Benton to take over the top spot on Lewis Smith Lake in the event, which is presented by Evinrude. Birge’s two-day total of 36-13 has him positioned 1 pound ahead of Benton. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-27-top-5-patterns-from-lewis-smith-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 2

While air and water temperatures plummeted on day two of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lewis Smith Lake presented by Evinrude, the big surprise came in the stability of the fishing patterns amidst such change. Zack Birge found plenty of production on his primary pattern to send him to the top of the leaderboard, and those under him held true to their patterns as well to secure a ticket to day three’s top 20. Among the biggest surprises was the number of pros who were still able to pluck fish off beds. Most pros that were sight-fishing say the bass are committed to beds and that the cold snap will not run them off at this point in time. Despite the cold, some even found new fish on beds that were not there yesterday. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-27-lewis-smith-lake-day-2-coverage

Lewis Smith Lake Day 2 Coverage

Day 2 reports from the Walmart FLW Tour on Lewis Smith Lake READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-26-benton-blasts-20-12-on-lewis-smith

Benton Blasts 20-12 on Lewis Smith

Panama City, Fla., pro Drew Benton jumped into the early lead at the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lewis Smith Lake presented by Evinrude with a five-bass limit weighing 20 pounds, 12 ounces. Benton caught a mix of largemouths and spotted bass, and revealed that both black bass species are spawning. He leads a tight top 20 that includes 18 pros that caught more than 15 pounds each. The first day was an absolute fish-fest. Of the 154 pros fishing this tournament, 138 weighed limits. Brad Roberts of Faubush, Ky., has a 2-ounce lead in the co-angler division with a 13-pound, 4-ounce limit. Tomorrow he’ll try to defend his lead on the final day of co-angler competition. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-26-top-5-patterns-from-lewis-smith-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 1

While Drew Benton was busy bugging bedding fish for his day-one tournament lead, several others behind him were scoring big with other fishing options on Lewis Smith Lake. Sight-fishing also played a role in the top limits produce by Tracy Adams, Scott Martin and Ish Monroe, but Clayton Batts and Zack Birge both brought in big bags with other patterns. Click here to read about Benton’s day-one performance at the second Walmart FLW Tour event of 2015, which is presented by Evinrude. Here’s how the rest of the top five got it done. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-26-lewis-smith-lake-day-1-coverage

Lewis Smith Lake Day 1 Coverage

Day 1 reports from the Walmart FLW Tour on Lewis Smith Lake READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-22-arkansas-anglers-win-college-open

Arkansas Anglers Win College Open

Consistency was the key for the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville here in the FLW College Fishing Kentucky Lake Open as Zachary Pickle and Drew Porto won the event with a two-day total of 43 pounds, 12 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-21-kendrick-king-on-guntersville

Kendrick King On Guntersville

Kendrick, who is fishing the Rayovac FLW Series in hopes of qualifying for the FLW Tour, caught more than 25 pounds each day of the event and finihsid in fine fasion when it counted. Kendick was catching nearly all of his bass around big schools of bait with a Houdini pearl-colored Scottsboro Tackle swimbait from 15- to 25-feet of water. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-21-epting-s-30-pounds-tops-on-santee-cooper

Epting's 30 Pounds Tops on Santee Cooper

SUMMERTON, S.C. – Chris Epting of Chapin, South Carolina, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 30 pounds, 2 ounces Saturday to win the second Walmart Bass Fishing League South Carolina Division tournament of 2015 on Santee Cooper. For his victory, Epting earned $3,679. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-21-wood-rock-key-for-middleton-s-victory

Wood, Rock Key for Middleton's Victory

HUDDLESTON, Va. – Dennis Middleton of Madison Heights, Virginia, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 19 pounds, 11 ounces Saturday to win the first Walmart Bass Fishing League Shenandoah Division tournament of 2015 on Smith Mountain Lake. For his victory, Middleton earned $7,199. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-21-johnson-wins-on-dale-hollow

Johnson Wins on Dale Hollow

BYRDSTOWN, Tenn. – Robby Johnson of Byrdstown, Tennessee, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 22 pounds, 7 ounces Saturday to win the first Walmart Bass Fishing League Mountain Division tournament of 2015 on Dale Hollow Lake. For his victory, Johnson earned $5,689. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-21-griffin-gets-win-on-ross-barnett

Griffin Gets Win on Ross Barnett

BRANDON, Miss. – Jason Griffin of Benton, Mississippi, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 23 pounds, 2 ounces Saturday to win the first Walmart Bass Fishing League Mississippi Division tournament of 2015 on Ross Barnett Reservoir. For his victory, Griffin earned $5,349. READ MORE »