UPCOMING EVENT: Walmart Bass Fishing League - 2015 - Old Hickory Lake

It’s Sappington, Swindle for all the marbles

Pro Gerald Swindle (left) of Hayden, Ala., and John Sappington (right) of Wyandotte, Okla., will battle against one another for the 2002 FLW Championship title.

Fisher, Chapman miss out on 2002 FLW Championship title match by mere ounces

SHREVEPORT, La. - In one of the more exciting weigh-ins in recent memory, Gerald Swindle and John Sappington came from behind to pull off a berth in the 2002 FLW Championship title match. However, it didn't come easy.

Weigh-in heats up

With all eyes on Greg Hackney, who led the tournament throughout the first two days of competition, bass fishing enthusiasts and anglers alike watched anxiously as the native of Oak Ridge, La., walked to the scales. However, when Hackney was only able to weigh in a 1-pound, 3-ounce catch, Brent Chapman, his opponent, took the opening and ran with it.

Chapman, who had the third-highest weight coming into the semifinals, produced a 5-pound, 15-ounce stringer. By defeating Hackney in the head-to-head matchup, Chapman appeared to be almost assured of qualifying for the title match with a combined three-day total of 23 pounds, 4 ounces.

Hackney's defeat also seemed to clear the way for Pat Fisher, who entered the semifinals with the second-most weight in the tournament. However, while Fisher was able to knock off his opponent, Alton Jones, his catch of 4 pounds, 1 ounce only increased his overall weight to 22 pounds, 11 ounces. With two of the top four anglers already eliminated (Hackney and Jones) and Fisher and Chapman turning in relatively small weights, it was clear that the rest of the field still had a chance to sneak into the title match.

Per tournament rules, the 12 anglers who defeated their opponents in today's head-to-head matchups would be reseeded according to their combined weight totals over the first three days of competition. However, only the top two seeds after today's weigh-in would fish for the championship. So, after Chapman and Fisher had weighed in, the remaining anglers knew they would need at least a combined weight of 22 pounds, 11 ounces to have a shot at the title and the $260,000 first-place prize.

However, when Mike Wurm, Rick Clunn, Tracy Adams, Dion Hibdon, Aaron Martens and Takahiro Omori all failed to bring in a good enough catch to leapfrog Fisher or Chapman, only three anglers remained with a realistic chance of breaking into the title match: Gerald Swindle, Kevin VanDam and John Sappington.

Battle rages on

First up was Swindle. Although he came into the semifinals with a marginal total weight of 13 pounds, 7 ounces, Swindle didn't disappoint on the most important day of the tournament, producing a hefty 10-pound, 1-ounce stringer. His combined weight of 23 pounds, 8 ounces was enough to temporarily grab the No.1-qualifying position and knock Fisher out of the title match.

Then it was VanDam's turn. However, VanDam was only able to produce a 1-pound, 4-ounce catch that wasn't even good enough to defeat his opponent on this day, Kevin Vida. That left Sappington as the only angler with a realistic chance of upsetting Chapman, who clung tentatively to the second qualifying position with a combined weight of 23 pounds, 4 ounces.

As Sappington approached the scales, Chapman watched anxiously with the full knowledge that any stringer less than 9 pounds, 8 ounces would not be enough to evict him from the title match. However, Sappington did not comply. In dramatic fashion, Sappington produced one lunker after another, eventually turning in the best stringer of the entire afternoon, an 11-pound, 14-ounce catch.

To his delight, Sappington now had a total weight of 25 pounds, 6 ounces as well as a berth in the all-important title match with Swindle.

Sappington prevails

"It's exhilarating. I love it," said Sappington. "I really didn't think I caught enough to make it. But the Lord really blessed me today. This is my highest-ever finish on the FLW Tour, so it feels great."

Sappington, a resident of Wyandotte, Okla., said that he knew coming into the semifinals that he was going to have to fish as well as he's ever fished before in his life.

"Today was really the most important day of the tournament," he said. "I knew I was going to have to come out today and catch as many fish as I could. Yesterday, I finally figured out how to get the bigger bites and it really paid off. Today, I just focused on getting those big bites."

Although Sappington knows that he has a tough final-day opponent in Swindle - ironically, one of his best friends on the tour - he said he likes his chances in tomorrow's head-to-head matchup.

"I really have confidence in the area that I'm in," he said. "But I'm definitely have to go all out tomorrow. Because nobody remembers who finishes in second place."

Swindle struggles to contain excitement

If Sappington was pleased with his finish, Swindle was downright giddy with the prospect of fishing for the FLW Championship and a chance at $260,000 in prize money.

"It's kind of overwhelming, but I'm so pumped up right now I can hardly believe it," he said. "I've been able to turn my fishing up a notch each day, and, today, I turned it up to full blast. I am pumped!"

Swindle, who has been targeting largemouth bass near boat docks in less than 5 feet of water for most of the tournament, said his practice sessions on Cross Lake were indispensable.

"I fished a lot of different stuff in practice and I was eventually able to rule everything out but two different things," he said. "That gave me a lot of confidence coming in. Because of my practice, I knew I was going to be able to generate a lot of bites, but I also knew there would be a lot of luck involved with the slot limit. Because there is no way you can pattern a 17-inch fish."

Swindle was referring to the difficult slot limit in which anglers were not permitted to keep any fish between 14 and 17 inches or any fish under 12 inches.

"With a slot limit, it's a lot like golf," he said. "Sometimes you hit the fairways and sometimes you hit it into the woods."

Swindle said that neither the hefty prize money nor his friendship with Sappington would enter into his mind for the next 24 hours.

"You only get a few opportunities to win a tournament like this in your lifetime, so I'm not going to get caught up thinking about the money," he said. "And I know John and I are friends, but I'm going to have to temporarily put aside our friendship during the finals. When I hit that water tomorrow, I'm going to let it all hang out."

And what if he were to win the championship?

"I'll tell you what, you better have your cameras ready," he said. "Who knows what I might do. I might just do what those soccer guys do and rip off my shirt and run around on the stage. You better be ready."

Best of the rest

Although the Swindle-Sappington duel will be the premier matchup during tomorrow's competition, there will be a number of other compelling head-to-head contests.

Brent Chapman of Shawnee, Kansas and Pat Fisher of Stone Mountain, Ga., will square off for third and fourth place; Aaron Martens of Castaic, Calif., and Dion Hibdon of Stover, Mo., will compete for fifth and sixth place; Bernie Schultz of Gainesville, Fla., and Rick Clunn of Ava., Mo., will vye for seventh and eighth place; Takahiro Omori of Emory, Texas, and Kevin Vida of Clare, Mich., will battle for ninth and 10th place; and Wes Thomas of Hanover, Ind., and Alvin Shaw of State Road, N.C., will battle for 11th and 12th place.

Tomorrow's final takeoff is scheduled to take place at 6:30 a.m. at the American Legion, located at 5315 Southlake Shore Drive in Shreveport.

Related links:
Photos
FLW Championship bracket
Cross Lake Connection: FLW Championship, day three
Results
Results of day-three pairings
Press releases

Tags: headline-story  gary-mortenson 

/news/2015-08-29-matual-masters-erie

Matual Masters Erie

David Matual of Chicago, Ill., leaned on his spot hard and sacked up the biggest bag of day three weighing 22 pounds, 6 ounces. For his final-day rally he claimed the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division victory on Lake Erie with a three-day total of 65 pounds, fending off Jared Rhode by a mere 7 ounces. Drop-shotting over shallow reefs delivered all of Matual’s fish and earned him a check worth more than $31,000. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-29-webster-runs-and-guns-for-win

Webster Runs and Guns for Win

Michael Webster of Gastonia, North Carolina, brought a five-bass limit totaling 13 pounds, 9 ounces to the scale Sunday to win the Walmart Bass Fishing League South Carolina Division Super Tournament on Lake Wylie with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 27 pounds, 10 ounces. For his victory, Webster earned $4,476. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-29-experience-pays-for-boggs

Experience Pays for Boggs

Drew Boggs of Lebanon, Tennessee, brought five bass totaling 13 pounds, 12 ounces to the scale Sunday to win the Walmart Bass Fishing League Music City Division Super Tournament on Old Hickory Lake with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 27 pounds, 2 ounces. For his victory, Boggs earned $4,257. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-29-jig-crankbait-carry-gray-to-victory

Jig, Crankbait Carry Gray to Victory

Brandon Gray of Bullock, North Carolina, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 14 pounds, 3 ounces Sunday to win the Walmart Bass Fishing League Piedmont Division Super Tournament on Kerr Lake with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 32 pounds, 14 ounces. For his victory, Gray earned $5,886. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-29-hemken-searched-deep-for-bigger-bites

Hemken Searched Deep for Bigger Bites

Shawn Hemken of Walshville, Illinois, brought a five-bass limit to the scale Sunday weighing 11 pounds, 6 ounces to win the Walmart Bass Fishing League Illini Division Super Tournament on Lake Shelbyville with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 26 pounds, 1 ounce. For his victory, Hemken earned $6,882. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-29-topwater-lifts-ragan-to-top

Topwater Lifts Ragan to Top

Thadeus Ragan of West Park, Florida, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 26 pounds, 8 ounces Sunday to win the Walmart Bass Fishing League Gator Division Super Tournament on Lake Okeechobee with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 47 pounds, 10 ounces. For his victory, Ragan earned $6,922. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-29-martinkovic-runs-away-with-title

Martinkovic Runs Away with Title

Chris Martinkovic of Hamilton, Ohio, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 12 pounds, 9 ounces Saturday to win the fourth Walmart Bass Fishing League Hoosier Division tournament on the Ohio River. For his victory, Martinkovic earned $6,244. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-29-lake-erie-day-3-midday-update

Lake Erie Day 3 Midday Update

Lake Erie put on a different face for day three of the final Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division event. After a rough day one, yesterday’s calm and mostly sunny conditions offered comfortable running and fishing conditions. Today was still a far cry from the brutal waves of day one - and prior practice days - but windier conditions and overcast skies seemed to present a more challenging scenario. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-28-top-5-patterns-from-lake-erie-day-2

Top 5 Patterns From Lake Erie Day 2

Pennsylvania pro Dave Lefebre and Ohio pro Jared Rhode tied for the day-two lead in Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division action on Lake Erie with 43 pounds, 9 ounces. Both pros caught their fish on drop-shots. Here are the details of the rest of the top five. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-28-lefebre-rhode-tied-at-the-top

Lefebre, Rhode Tied at the Top

Notching his second day of 20-plus pounds, FLW Tour pro Dave Lefebre tallied 43 pounds, 9 ounces and tied day-one leader Jared Rhode for the day-two top spot at the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division event on Lake Erie. Lefebre caught his 22-3 limit on Rapala DT-10 crankbaits, while Rhodes tempted his 19-15 catch with drop-shots. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-28-lake-erie-day-2-midday-update

Lake Erie Day 2 Midday Update

With winds shifting from yesterday’s northerly blow to a warmer southerly direction, day two of the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division event on Lake Erie brought calmer conditions with greater ability to methodically work key spots. Offshore, waves ran 1 to 2 feet, with leeward areas behind the Lake Erie Islands nearly flat. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-27-rhode-cracks-23-10-for-erie-lead

Rhode Cracks 23-10 for Erie Lead

Jared Rhode played his cards and the gamble paid off better than expected, as the pro from Port Clinton, Ohio, took the day-one lead at the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division event on Lake Erie with a limit catch weighing 23 pounds, 10 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-27-top-5-patterns-from-lake-erie-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Lake Erie Day 1

Taking off this morning, the FLW Tour pro from Erie, Pa., knew the day’s north wind would keep him from making a long run to a big-fish spot close to his home. However, keeping it local and fishing a little past Pelee Island to the west delivered a solid second-place catch. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-27-lake-erie-day-1-midday-report

Lake Erie Day 1 Midday Report

Winds have subsided considerably since practice, but Lake Erie’s still showing her temperamental side to Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division anglers fishing the last divisional event out of Sandusky, Ohio. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-25-top-10-patterns-from-the-forrest-wood-cup

Top 10 Patterns from the Forrest Wood Cup

If you don’t believe that summertime bass fishing in the dog days of August is all over the map, just take a look at the top 10 patterns from the best bass pros on earth at the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. Brad Knight captured the Cup by mining one small creek end for four days. But beyond that, the rest of the top 10 patterns ran the gamut, from targeting schoolers over 40 feet to wolf packs of bass on the bank to brush piles to grass to mud flats and everywhere in between. Here’s a rundown. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-23-knight-slays-ouachita

Knight Slays Ouachita

Lancing, Tenn., pro Brad Knight won the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart on Lake Ouachita with a four-day total of 51 pounds, 12 ounces. In front of a standing-room-only crowd at Bank of the Ozarks Arena in Hot Springs, Ark., Knight weighed in 11-07 on day four to surpass Jacob Wheeler, who started the day with a 12-ounce lead. Fishing in just one area all four days, Knight locked up the first win of his FLW career. He earned $500,000 for his victory and pushed his career earnings total to more than $688,000. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-23-forrest-wood-cup-day-4-coverage

Forrest Wood Cup Day 4 Coverage

Daily updates from the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-22-wheeler-back-in-front

Wheeler Back in Front

Jacob Wheeler loves Lake Ouachita. It’s where he fished his first Forrest Wood Cup in 2011, and it’s where he’ll take the tournament lead into the final day of competition at the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart and hosted by Visit Hot Springs and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. Wheeler, the 2011 Cup champion, led this tournament on day one and slipped a couple spots on day two. He now has a very slim 12-ounce lead over Tennessean Brad Knight. The anglers will square off tomorrow on Ouachita starting at 7 a.m. against the rest of the top 10 pros for the top prize of $500,000. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-22-top-5-patterns-from-the-cup-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from the Cup Day 3

Jacob Wheeler may have regained his lead in the Forrest Wood Cup on day three, but Brad Knight is right on his heels. Going into the final day, the two pros are separated by just 12 ounces. The margin is tight, and what’s going to make the final day fun to watch is the difference in the two anglers’ strategies. Wheeler is running a topwater pattern on the main lake, and fishing new water is part of his plan. Knight, however, has caught almost all of his weight from one 250-yard stretch of bass-rich creek channel. He literally knows every target he is fishing by heart. On the surface, Knight’s area looks to be the better bet. But he has shared the general area with Brandon Cobb and Mark Daniels Jr. for three solid days. And the bad news, at least for Knight, is that both Cobb and Daniels will be sharing the water with him again on the final day as both made the top-10 cut. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-22-forrest-wood-cup-day-3-coverage

Forrest Wood Cup Day 3 Coverage

Daily updates from the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. READ MORE »