May 19, 2001 by Gary Mortenson
Craig Powers outduels VanDam for first-ever FLW title, $100,000 first-place prize
SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER, La. - Craig Powers of Rockwood, Tenn., couldn't have written the script any better himself. Fishing in his fifth FLW final-five tour event of his career, Powers made sure that this one was not going to slip away. With his mother in the audience and thoughts of his father - who passed away 2 1/2 years ago - close to his heart, Powers used a formidable 14-pound, 11-ounce catch to walk away with the FLW Tour title on the Red River. Clearly, this was a moment to cherish.
"What can I say? It's a sigh of relief. It's been a long time coming," said Powers, barely containing his emotions. "I've waited my whole life for this. I hope it never gets dark. I hope this day never ends."
Powers, who survived a 10-minute battle with a stubborn bass that lodged itself in a huge pile of floating timber on the Red River only a few hours earlier, said that once he landed that fish, he knew he was destined to win.
"When I pulled that fish out, I looked at the sky and thanked my father," he said. "At that point, I knew I was probably going to win the tournament. Things like that happen for a reason. But win, lose or draw, I knew I had a great day of fishing. And when you have such a great family, nothing else really matters."
Although Powers spent much of the tournament feeling out new fishing holes and trying to adapt to the ever-changing conditions on the Red River, he said that his confidence slowly began to grow as the week went on.
"Every day I learned a little more and my pattern got stronger and stronger," said Powers, who spent most of the tournament flipping a black and blue jig. "But I definitely got a little bit lucky today. The water level rose about 4 inches and the current really picked up. And that's the way I like to fish. I just expanded my pattern into a little oxbow and caught some pretty good fish."
Although Powers put on a clinic on the Red River today, he said he'd rather be lucky than good any day of the week.
"You can fish as well as you can and have about as good of a pattern as there is, but you definitely need some luck to win one of these things," he said. "And today, it was just meant to be."
VanDam comes in second ... again
Coming into today's finals, Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., had come in second place twice in two out of five FLW Tour events. After today's weigh-in was over, VanDam was able to add yet another second-place finish to his long list of accomplishments. However, VanDam was quite aware of the fact that victory had eluded him yet again.
"I was pretty disappointed. I had an opportunity to blow this out today," said VanDam, the current overall points leader on the 2001 FLW Tour. "On my very first bite of the day, I lost a 5-pound bass. On my next bite, I lost a 3-pound bass. And a few minutes later, I lost a 4-pound bass. I'd been experimenting every day, refining my patterns. And today, I thought I nailed it. The problem was that I just didn't execute."
However, VanDam said he wouldn't let his finish tarnish his accomplishment. Nor was he content to fall back on any excuses.
"I had a good tournament. But it was just one of those kind of days," said VanDam, who picked up a check for $35,000. "I had a real hard day and I managed to overcome a lot just to get the fish I had in the boat. So I'm proud of my performance. All you can do is put yourself in a position to win. And I think I did that. Sooner or later, things are going to fall into place."
VanDam, who recorded a final catch of 13 pounds, 15 ounces, also walked away with an additional $1,000 for winning the tournament's Pepsi/Frito-Lay Big Bass award for netting the largest fish of the tournament - a 7-pound, 8-ounce bass.
The best of the rest
Bill Chapman of Salt Rock, WV, used a gritty performance to finish in third place, registering a final catch of 13 pounds, 2-ounces. Fishing in his first-ever finals, Chapman said he was happy with his accomplishment.
"I had one of the best days of tournament fishing that I've ever had," said Chapman, who took home $20,000 for his efforts. "The only thing I did wrong was that I broke off one big fish. But other than that, everything worked out well. Anytime you can fish for four days and catch the equivalent of 17 limits, you've got to be happy."
Dwayne Horton of Knoxville, Tenn., came in fourth place after landing a catch weighing 10 pounds, 1 ounce. Horton, who won $16,000, said that his biggest opponent today appeared to be the wind.
"I think the wind really muddied up the water where I was fishing today," he said. "And that sort of hurt me. But overall, I've had a good tournament. I'm happy to be here."
Rounding out the top five was Dan Morehead of Paducah, Ky. Morehead, who lead the tournament after day two, recorded a final-day catch of 4 pounds to win a check for $14,000. Morehead said that his main problem was that his premier fishing hole finally dried up after producing a host of huge stringers for the first three days of the tournament.
"Obviously, I ran out of fish today," he said. "But I can't complain. With these other guys in the tournament, I knew that I needed to catch quality fish. It just didn't work out."
Television coverage of the FLW Tour event on the Red River is scheduled to air on ESPN on June 17 at 4 p.m. CST. The next FLW Tour event will take place on Lake St. Clair in Detroit, Mich., from June 20-23.
Quick Bites: Day 4