February 15, 2004 by Jeff Schroeder
MORGAN CITY, La. - It came down to the very last bass. The players: hometown favorite Sam Swett versus Wisconsin dominator Tom Monsoor. The stakes: $100,000 and the pride of Louisiana anglers everywhere. The outcome: With his last fish, Swett clinched a close victory and brought the trophy home on the bayou. Needless to say, the capacity crowd approved. Swett, who hails from Covington, La., edged out La Crosse, Wisconsin's Tom Monsoor by 10 ounces Saturday to win the Pro Division of the second stop of the 2004 Wal-Mart FLW Tour at the Atchafalaya Basin. "I love you, Louisiana," Swett told the packed house at weigh-in. "I'm proud to call you home." A good bet is that he was happy to be fishing near home, too, this week. While Swett admitted that he has only fished the basin twice in his career, he took advantage of the tidal water throughout the week. All four days, he made a long run down toward the Gulf of Mexico to a little unnamed area of natural bayous near the Intracoastal Waterway and worked an area where the tide - and the week's dismal weather - was crucial. "The saltwater doesn't intimidate me," he said. "It tends to push the bass up against the bank when the tide comes in. I knew that the northwest wind could blow that clear water off the bayou, and I had to worry about the muddy water coming in. The key for me was clear water and patience." Given a week's worth of fishing under cold, rainy, muddy-water conditions, patience was indeed a virtue at Atchafalaya. Swett didn't catch them fast Saturday, nor did he catch very many. But, by calmly working his 1/2-ounce white spinnerbait with gold and silver Colorado blades through the cleanest, tide-driven water he could find, he landed a five-bass limit weighing 10 pounds, 11 ounces. His two-day, final-round total of 23 pounds, 9 ounces beat Monsoor's final tally of 22-15. "I just went searching for what I needed to do," Swett said. "Today, it was do-or-die for me. You just don't have time to second-guess your decisions." There was definitely no second-guessing anything for Swett Saturday. Having fished the tour since 2001, the Team Fujifilm pro's $100,000 victory was his first FLW win, and it came in just his first visit to the top-10 final round. "It hasn't hit me yet," he said. "It was definitely special to win in front of the hometown crowd with all my friends and family here." Bayou voodoo derails Monsoor Monsoor, who crushed the field in the opening round with a weight over 32 pounds, had been hooking up - and landing - the moneymaking bass all week. His luck changed Saturday, however, when it counted most. "I lost five of them," he said. "And they were all good ones, too. Any one of them would have won it. I haven't lost a fish in three weeks." Despite the lost fish, Monsoor still cobbled together a limit weighing 10 pounds, 9 ounces Saturday. His final weight of 22-15 earned him $37,000 for second place. Monsoor is a standout pro from the North with a long, successful track record in the BFL Great Lakes Division. He's also a heavyweight in the EverStart Series Northern Division, with a number of top-10s and a victory to his name. Last year, when he moved up to fish the FLW full time, his impact was felt almost immediately when he finished third at Kentucky Lake. While he was happy enough to finish in the runner-up spot at this week's tough-fishing tournament, he wondered if maybe he fell prey to a little Louisiana destiny. "Maybe it was meant to be for Sam to win, but I should have won it," he said with a nod to his lost fish. "My day is coming. I've never fished a circuit where I haven't won a tournament. Three, two, one (a reference to the possible progression of his FLW top-10 finishes): That's my motto now." Bird's biggest bag Cody Bird of Granbury, Texas, found some fish again Saturday and caught the biggest sack of the day, a limit weighing 13 pounds, 5 ounces. But his 5-7 weight from Friday meant he would only rise to finish in third place with a two-day weight of 18-12. He collected $25,000. "The day started out with that really good (bass) and I thought, `Here we go,'" he said. "But I only caught five keepers." Baumgardner drops to fourth Day-three leader Chris Baumgardner of Gastonia, N.C., couldn't capitalize on his slight head start in the first half of the final round. He caught just two bass weighing 4 pounds, 5 ounces Saturday and ended with a two-day total of 17-9. He collected $20,000 for fourth place. "I don't know what it was," he said. "The current slowed down and the water got cold. I just couldn't get them to bite." Tosh fifth Steve Tosh of Waterford, Calif., a newcomer to the FLW Tour, had the best finish of his career at Atchafalaya. He caught three bass weighing 7 pounds, 12 ounces Saturday, combined for a two-day total of 16-2 and ended up in fifth place. He collected $18,000. "I'll tell you what, I've had the best time of my life. This is it. It doesn't get any better than this," he said. Rest of the best Rounding out the top 10 pro finishers at FLW Atchafalaya Basin are Dean Rojas of Grand Saline, Texas, with a final-round total weight of 11 pounds, 2 ounces (6th place, $17,000); Randy Blaukat of Lamar, Mo., with a weight of 9-9 (7th, $16,000); Mike Surman of Boca Raton, Fla., with a weight of 9-2 (8th, $15,000); Bill McDonald of Indianapolis with a weight of 4-0 (9th, $14,000); and Mark Rose of Marion, Ark., with a weight of 1-11 (10th, $13,000). With two top-10 finishes in the first two tournaments of the season, Rojas has also taken the lead in the FLW standings by a narrow two points over Osaka, Japan's Shinichi Fukae. The third FLW Tour stop of the season is scheduled for Old Hickory Lake near Gallatin, Tenn., March 10-13.