Photo finish!

Koby Kreiger of Osceola, Ind., took home first place in the $185,000 EverStart tour event on Kentucky Lake in dramatic fashion. Kreiger edged out fellow competition Shawn Penn in a highly charged tiebreaker.

Koby Krieger wins dramatic tiebreaker to capture $185,000 EverStart tour event on Kentucky Lake

GILBERTSVILLE, Ky. - With the majority of the Blue Grass State transfixed on the pomp and circumstance at Churchill Downs, few sports fans at today's Kentucky Derby were even aware that an EverStart bass fishing tournament was taking place a few hundred miles away at Benton, Ky. And what a shame that was. Because if truth be told, the 2001 Kentucky Derby did not even come close to matching the excitement of this year's EverStart event on Kentucky Lake.

No. Not by a long shot.

In one of the most unbelievable EverStart Series finals ever recorded, Koby Krieger of Osceola, Ind., edged out fellow competitor Shawn Penn in an historic tiebreaker to capture first place in the Central Division tour event on Kentucky Lake. However, for Kreiger, the win would not come easily.

With Penn standing onstage having already weighed in a five-fish limit of 14 pounds, 1 ounce, a procession of anglers walked to the podium in an attempt to dethrone the current leader. However, one by one, they failed. Finally, it was Kreiger's turn. Representing the last and final angler with a chance of beating Penn, Kreiger placed his stringer on the scales.

The crowd held their collective breath as EverStart tournament director Jerry Stakely toyed with the finalists. Instead of showing both anglers Kreiger's weight right away, Stakely held his hand over the digital readout. He then asked both anglers to come right to the podium. They both obliged.

Suddenly, EverStart tournament director Jerry Stakely released his hand and yelled out, "Fourteen pounds, 1 ounce!"

Instanteously, Kreiger pumped his fist in the air, exuding an emotional combination of excitement, relief and disbelief. By contrast, Penn's shoulders only slumped forward.

"Isn't this exciting," Stakely yelled to the crowd. "It doesn't get any better than this."

Thrilling climax

Stakely explained that in the event of a tie, both anglers would be judged on their recorded combined weights of the first two days of the competition.

"Koby Kreiger is your champion," said Stakely.

Penn, who seemed to have the top prize locked up only 10 minutes beforehand, stared into the crowd in disbelief. He then quietly walked off the stage. Kreiger, caught up in the emotion of the unlikely drama, briefly lost his composure and began to sob.

"This is an awesome week," said Kreiger, with tears streaming from his eyes. "My dad passed away two weeks ago. Dad, this is for you."

After waiting for Kreiger to compose himself, Stakely gently asked the Indiana native to tell the crowd how he was feeling.

"I've waited to win one of these events for a long time. I've basically finished in every place but first, until today," said Kreiger, who netted the top prize of $15,000 and a brand new Ranger boat valued at $35,000. "Winning this tournament means more to me than I can describe. This is really the first time I've had all my friends here at a weigh-in. It's really special."

Although Kreiger admitted that he thought he was fishing well enough to make it to the finals, he indicated that he wasn't as confident in his chances today.

"It was a great week. I was catching 10 to 15 keepers every day. So I thought I had a good shot to make the top 10," he said. "But to win, you need to have a perfect day. I'm just ecstatic right now."

Tough-luck Penn

For the native of Benton, Ky., the loss was difficult. Penn had only had one more angler to beat before grabbing the top prize. Just one. However, for the hometown favorite, it was not to be.

"I don't know if I could have fished another hour-and-a-half," admitted Penn, who would go home with a nice consolation prize of $10,000. "But I would have loved to have gone back out there and given it a shot."

John Kramer of Labadie, Mo., finished in third place with a catch of 13 pounds, 7 ounces. Although Kramer said he had a good day on the lake, he said the fishing was far from easy.

"For whatever reason, the fish spooked easily today," said Kramer, who used a variety of Carolina rigs and flipping techniques to catch his fish. "You had to be really quiet to catch them."

Kramer landed a $9,000 check for his finish.

Terry Bolton of Paducah, Ky., finished in fourth place with a catch of 13 pounds, 6 ounces.

"I've had a great time this week. I fished about as good of a tournament as I could fish," said Bolton, who won $8,000 for his efforts. "I found a really good pattern to fish. I don't have any complaints. I'm just tickled to death."

Bill Smith of Prestonsburg, Ky., used a 12-pound, 13-ounce stringer to grab the fifth spot.

"I didn't catch a lot of keepers this tournament. But luckily, I managed to get the bigger bites," said Smith, who received a check for $7,500. "This is the first tournament on Kentucky Lake that I've fished. So I just went running and gunning."

Rounding out the top-10 finalists: Stephen Johnston (sixth) of Hemphill, Texas, with a catch of 11 pounds, 1 ounce; Carl Svebek (seventh) of Sam Rayburn, Texas, with a catch of 9 pounds, 4 ounces; Rhett Fornof (eighth) of South Jordan, Utah, with a catch of 5 pounds, 3 ounces; Harmon Davis (ninth) of Marlow, Okla., with a catch of 3 pounds, 12 ounces; and Craig Powers (tenth) of Rockwood, Tenn., with a catch of 1 pound, 15 ounces.

The next EverStart Series Central Division tournament is scheduled to take place June 6-9 at Lake Ferguson in Greenville, Miss.

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