June 22, 2001 by Gary Mortenson
VanDam captures Angler of the Year title, co-angler Shockey vaults into first place
DETROIT - Larry Nixon of Bee Branch, Ark., and Pat Fisher of Stone Mountain, Ga., turned in identical two-day catches of 32 pounds, 13 ounces to climb atop the leaderboard at the $1 million FLW tour event on Lake St. Clair. With an extraordinarily competitive field and huge stringers abound, both Nixon and Fisher demonstrated tremendous determination, consistency and technique to advance to the all-important semifinal round of competition.
Not surprisingly, Nixon and Fisher were pleased with their respective performances.
"It feels real good. I like this lake, it's always been good to me," said Nixon, who finished in fifth place at the FLW tour event on Lake St. Clair in 1999. "I think I have a knack for fishing this lake. I always seem to be hanging around at the end."
Nixon, who has been fishing primarily with tube baits in relatively shallow water, says that his confidence has been growing throughout the tournament.
"It took me awhile to adapt to the conditions, but I think I finally figured it out," he said. "I think I have a good chance to make the top five tomorrow. I should be able to catch between 15 and 17 pounds and that should be enough to qualify for the finals."
Fisher said he was equally happy with the way things have turned out so far.
"I'm on cloud nine. This is the best fishing I've had all year, it's just unreal," he said. "I set three goals this season. My first goal was to qualify for the FLW Championship. My second goal was to make the top 10 at St. Clair. And my third goal was to win this tournament. So far, I'm accomplished two out of three. And with a little luck, I can accomplish them all."
Fisher, who caught a limit this morning by 8:30 a.m., said that he has honed in on a few very productive spots that could easily carry him into the finals.
"I've narrowed down my fishing to two spots and they've both turned out to be very good areas," said Fisher, who is fishing with spinnerbaits and tube baits in 2 to 6 feet of water. "I'm not worried about those areas holding up either because every day more and more fish seem to come there. I know the fish are out there, I'm just going to have to adapt to the weather condititions.
The best of the rest
Terry Baksay of Monroe, Conn., was in third place heading into the semifinal round after netting a two-day catch weighing 31 pounds, 15 ounces. Koby Krieger of Osceola, Ind., took the fourth spot after registering a total catch of 31 pounds, 8 ounces. Steve Daniel of Clewiston, Fla., finished in fifth place with a two-day catch weighing 31 pounds, 7 ounces.
Rounding out the top-10 semifinalists were Scott Dobson (sixth) of Waterford, Mich., with a two-day catch of 30 pounds, 7 ounces; David Dudley (seventh) of Manteo, N.C., with a catch of 30 pounds, 2 ounces; Mickey Bruce (eighth) of Buford, Ga., with a catch of 30 pounds, 1 ounce; Sean Stickler (ninth) of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with a catch of 29 pounds, 8 ounces; and Jimmy Millsaps (tenth) of Canton, Ga., with a catch of 29 pounds, 6 ounces.
Chris Daniels of Clayton, N.C. took home a check for $1,250 after winning the day's Big Bass award in the Pro Division. Daniels, who ultimately finished in 15th place, used a 4-pound, 8-ounce smallmouth to grab the award.
As expected, VanDam wins angler-of-the-year title
After yesterday's performance, it would have taken a near miracle for anyone other than Kevin VanDam to walk away with the 2001 Land O' Lakes Angler of the Year award. Fortunately for the native of Kalamazoo, Mich., there would be no divine intervention today. Bolstered by a two-day catch of 25 pounds, 10 ounces, VanDam cruised to one of the most prestigious victories in all of tournament bass fishing.
Although VanDam fell a little short of his goal of making the top 10 at Lake St. Clair, he said the angler of the year award greatly softened the blow.
"I made a couple of bad mistakes today. And on a lake this good, you can't make many mistakes," said VanDam, who missed the cut by less than 4 pounds. "But it's definitely pretty exciting to win Angler of the Year. I've kind of been looking forward to (the title) all year long. It's a really neat deal."
As Land O' Lakes Angler of the Year, VanDam is recognized as the best, most consistent professional bass angler in the world. His picture will soon be featured on special collector's edition of Kellogg's cereal boxes and he will receive a $25,000 bonus plus a brand new Ranger 518 VX bass boat for his accomplishment.
Shockey-ing for position
James Shockey of Wellington, Fla., used the largest stringer of the day in any division - an 18-pound, 2-ounce catch - to vault from 37th place to first in the Co-Angler Division heading into tomorrow's final round of amateur competition. Shockey, who has had a difficult year by his own admission, said he was ecstatic with tournament results so far.
"I've never had so much fun in my life. I'm loving every minute of this," he said. "I just had one of those days where no matter what I did, everything just worked out. I was kind of in a zone."
Shockey said today's performance has given him a much needed boost in confidence heading into the finals.
"It's been a really tough year for me until this tournament," he said. "But this week, everything has started to go right. I thought the fish would be biting on jerkbaits and that's the type of bait I like to fish. I knew if I came in here and got around some fish, I would catch them. And that's pretty much what has happened so far."
Shockey said that Lake St. Clair continues to be one of his favorite lakes on the FLW Tour.
"The fishing here is just insane," he said. "It's the only place I know of where you can go out, park your boat in 4 feet of water and catch fish anywhere on the lake."
John Jacobs of Birmingham, Ala., grabbed second place in the Co-Angler Division after landing a two-day catch of 26 pounds, 10 ounces. Jacobs also won $750 for winning the day's Big Bass award in the Co-Angler Division after netting a 4-pound, 15-ounce smallmouth.
In third place was Tommy Gaffney of Little Switzerland, N.C. Gaffney turned in a two-day catch weighing 26 pounds, 8 ounces.
Wesley Burnett of Hot Springs, Ark., used a two-day catch of 26 pounds to grab fourth place heading into tomorrow's finals. However, that wasn't his only accomplishment of the day. Burnett's strong showing during today's competition also allowed him to wrap up the Co-Angler of the Year award.
"It feels really good," said Burnett of his new title. "I knew I only had to finish in 21st place or higher to get it. I'm glad I was able to concentrate and accomplish my goal."
Kelly Greer of Green Forest, Ark., took the fifth qualifying spot with a two-day catch of 25 pounds, 10 ounces.
Rounding out the top-10 finalists were James Green of Lincoln, Ala., with a catch of 25 pounds, 3 ounces; George Polosky of Alliance, Ohio, with a catch of 24 pounds, 14 ounces; day-one leader Rick Parnell of Casselberry, Fla., with a catch of 23 pounds, 11 ounces; Armil Morgan of Mineral Springs, Ark., with a catch of 23 pounds, 9 ounces; and Michael Brown of Chatsworth, Ga., with a catch of 22 pounds, 14 ounces.
Competition continues at 8 a.m. Friday at Metro Beach Metropark in Mt. Clemens, Mich., followed by a 5 p.m. weigh-in at the Wal-Mart Supercenter at the intersection of 12-mile Road and Van Dyke Avenue in Warren, Mich.
Quick Bites, Day 2