UPCOMING EVENT: Bass Fishing League - 2016 - Lake Okeechobee

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: gary-mortenson  headline-story  2002-09-11-championship 

/news/2016-02-08-top-10-baits-from-lake-okeechobee

Top 10 Baits from Lake Okeechobee

The Walmart FLW Tour presented by Ranger Boats on Lake Okeechobee went from a tight race to a runaway in a hurry when Bradley Hallman just wouldn’t stop catching the big ones. As for the lures he used, and those put to work by the rest of the top 10, some Okeechobee staples were applied as well as a few oddball baits. If you’re thinking of heading down to the Big O or anywhere else in Florida soon, you might want to acquire a few of the lures they fished. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-07-hallman-wins-walmart-flw-tour-on-lake-okeechobee-presented-by-ranger-boats

Hallman Wins Walmart FLW Tour on Lake Okeechobee Presented by Ranger Boats

CLEWISTON, Fla. – Pro Bradley Hallman of Norman, Oklahoma, brought just two bass to the scale Sunday totaling 6 pounds, 8 ounces, but it was still enough to earn the win at the Walmart FLW Tour at Lake Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats. Hallman’s four-day cumulative total of 16 bass weighing 71 pounds, 2 ounces earned him the win by an impressive 14-pound, 14-ounce margin over second-place pro Alex Davis of Albertville, Alabama, and $100,000 in the tournament that featured 169 of the best bass-fishing anglers in the world competing in the first FLW Tour event of the regular season. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-07-big-hall-man-on-okeechobee

Big (Hall)Man on Okeechobee

It was the Bradley Hallman show all week long at Lake Okeechobee at the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats. Though, the Norman, Okla., pro struggled on day four and brought in only two fish for 6 pounds, 8 ounces, he pulled off the wire-to-wire victory in his first event on Tour. The 13-pound, 9-ounce lead that Hallman built up through the first three days of competition was enough that he didn't actually have to weigh his fish today. Hallman's tournament total of 71 pounds, 2 ounces far exceeded the 56-04 caught by runner-up Alex Davis. For the win, Hallman earned $100,000. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-07-lake-okeechobee-day-4-coverage

Lake Okeechobee Day 4 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-06-top-5-patterns-from-lake-okeechobee-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from Lake Okeechobee Day 3

Across the board, weights fell off on day three of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats and hosted by Roland and Mary Ann Martin's Marina and Resort and the Hendry County Tourism and Development Council. No one in the top 20 crossed the 20-pound mark. Cloud cover, which prevented the water temperature from rising much above 65 degrees, and low water clarity might both have slowed the replenishment of bass moving into spawn. Tournament leader Bradley Hallman experienced a bit of a stall in the action as well, bringing just four fish to the scales, but he still managed to increase his lead to 13 pounds, 9 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-06-hallman-extends-lead-on-day-three-at-walmart-flw-tour-on-lake-okeechobee-presented-by-ranger-boats

Hallman Extends Lead On Day Three At Walmart FLW Tour On Lake Okeechobee Presented By Ranger Boats

Anchored by an 8-pound, 10-ounce kicker, pro Bradley Hallman of Norman, Oklahoma, brought four bass to the scale Saturday totaling 14 pounds, 3 ounces to extend his lead to more than 13½ pounds heading in to the final day of competition at the Walmart FLW Tour at Lake Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats. Hallman’s... READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-06-can-anyone-catch-hallman-

Can Anyone Catch Hallman?

Despite catching only four keepers on day three, Norman, Okla., pro Bradley Hallman extended his lead at the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats on Lake Okeechobee. With a day-three weight of 14 pounds, 3 ounces and a tournament total of 64-10, his margin over second-place angler Alex Davis is now 13 pounds, 9 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-06-okeechobee-day-3-coverage

Okeechobee Day 3 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-05-top-5-patterns-from-lake-okeechobee-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Lake Okeechobee Day 2

Fueled by 25 mph north winds, the Lake Okeechobee washing machine cleansed some livewells today, keeping them free of the 20-pound limits that are so common here when the weather is sunny, 75 and calm. However, a few 20-plus-pound limits still snuck through the rinse cycle to grace the scales. The biggest limit once again belonged to Bradley Hallman of Norman, Okla. He added 25 pounds, 7 ounces to the 25 he caught on day one. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-05-oklahoma-s-hallman-extends-lead-at-walmart-flw-tour-on-lake-okeechobee-presented-by-ranger-boats

Oklahoma’s Hallman Extends Lead at Walmart FLW Tour on Lake Okeechobee Presented by Ranger Boats

CLEWISTON, Fla. – Pro angler Bradley Hallman of Norman, Oklahoma, brought a five-bass limit weighing 25 pounds, 7 ounces to the scale Friday to extend his lead on day two of the Walmart FLW Tour at Lake Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats. Hallman will bring an 8-pound, 8-ounce advantage into day three of the four-day competition that features 169 of the top bass-fishing anglers in the world competing for a top cash award of up to $125,000. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-05-cales-earns-co-angler-win

Cales Earns Co-angler Win

Co-angler Tim Cales of Sandstone, W.Va., earned his second win with FLW after sacking up 30 pounds, 11 ounces over two days in the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats on Lake Okeechobee. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-05-hallman-way-in-front

Hallman Way in Front

Bradley Hallman is doing his best to make the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats a one-man show. But Alabama pro Alex Davis hopes to spoil Hallman’s hopes of a wire-to-wire victory. Today, Hallman weighed in 25 pounds, 7 ounces to raise his two-day total to 50-07. He’s led the tournament each day thus far. Davis weighed in 20-15 to move from third to second but is still 8 1/2 pounds behind the leader. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-05-okeechobee-day-2-coverage

Okeechobee Day 2 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-04-top-5-patterns-from-the-okeechobee-tour-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from the Okeechobee Tour Day 1

The Walmart FLW Tour has been coming to Lake Okeechobee for the better part of 20 years. And for a vast majority of those years, the north end of the lake has been the business end – where the business of fish catching is done. Today, that tradition was derailed in the first round of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats and hosted by Hendry County Tourism Development Council. Though some boats did sample the Harney Pond area up north, many of the normal fish-producing haunts such as the Monkey Box, Dyess Ditch and Fisheating Bay were complete ghost towns. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-04-hallman-leads-day-one-of-walmart-flw-tour-on-lake-okeechobee-presented-by-ranger-boats

Hallman Leads Day One Of Walmart FLW Tour On Lake Okeechobee Presented By Ranger Boats

Oklahoma pro Bradley Hallman, brought a five-bass limit to the scale weighing 25 pounds even Thursday to grab the early lead after day one of the Walmart FLW Tour at Lake Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats. Right behind him in second place is renowned Okeechobee angler Brandon McMillan of Clewiston, who weighed in five bass totaling 22-8. Hallman now brings a 2½-pound lead into day two of the four-day READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-04-hallman-takes-the-lead-with-25

Hallman Takes the Lead with 25

The old saying is that the third time is the charm, but for Bradley Hallman of Norman, Okla., it’s more like the first time is the charm. Hallman is fishing his first Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee. It’s the first day of the first Tour event of 2016, and Hallman sits in first place with 25 pounds even. Norman, Okla., pro Bradley Hallman sacked up an impressive 25-pound limit of bass to take the lead on day one of the Walmart FLW Tour opener on Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-04-okeechobee-day-1-coverage

Okeechobee Day 1 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-03-5-key-areas-on-okeechobee

5 Key Areas on Okeechobee

There are many well-known areas on Lake Okeechobee that are commonly talked about around the docks before and after each event, but five key spots in particular will certainly play a role in this week’s Walmart FLW Tour opener. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-03-5-to-watch-on-okeechobee

5 to Watch on Okeechobee

This year, the Big O is giving the 169-boat field a different look than they’ve seen in past years in the form of high, dirty water. The odds could favor the locals more than in years past, though the caliber of skill among the entire field is over the top. Really, it could be anyone’s tournament. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-02-scouting-the-big-o-with-wesley-strader

Scouting the Big O with Wesley Strader

Wesley Strader is known and admired for his unique wit and constant cheer, but his consistency is what has been the true hallmark of his successful fishing career. Last week, that consistency paid off with the first big win he’s had since 2002 at the B.A.S.S. Open on the Kissimmee Chain in central Florida. Now he’s got his eye on starting the Walmart FLW Tour season on the right foot a few hours south at Lake Okeechobee. READ MORE »