Rookie romp reaps bass fishing’s richest reward

Luke Clausen, 26, of Spokane, Wash., completed a four-day sweep of the $1.5 million Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship to win $500,000 Saturday. Also pictured is Forrest L. Wood, the founder of Ranger Boats and the FLW Tour's namesake.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - If there were ever any doubts about whether the best pro angler would beat the brackets and win at Logan Martin Lake this week, Luke Clausen put them all to rest Saturday. The 26-year-old rookie pro from Spokane, Wash., led all challengers for the fourth day in a row and won the 2004 Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship with a five-bass limit weighing 14 pounds, 10 ounces. Simply put, Clausen was the best angler here this week, and he earned every penny of the $500,000 winner's check. "I can't even believe what's happening," Clausen said. "I was so stressed out this morning that I couldn't even make a cast under a dock. I was so nervous." Nervous? Maybe. Rattled? Not even close. Clausen spent the week mowing over some of the toughest competition in the brackets, competition that included a heavyweight shootout with Shad Schenck of Waynetown, Ind., in the opening round and a hard-fought win over Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La., in the semifinals. Clausen caught the heaviest limits of the entire 48-angler pro field three of the tournament's four days and led in total weight throughout the event. Overall, he caught 55 pounds of bass during the championship. Luke Clausen caught a five-bass limit weighing 14 pounds, 10 ounces Saturday, his third catch over 14 pounds in four days.Not only did the 26-year-old make history as the youngest to win the FLW Championship, he became the first pro to complete a four-day sweep in an FLW tournament. Several have come close since the tour began in 1996 - like David Fritts of Lexington, Ky., and Alton Jones of Waco, Texas - but none have won before. "I think that's pretty awesome," Clausen said. "Everything was just going right for me this week. It's great to fish against company like this. It's just amazing." What's more amazing is that Clausen defeated the likes of Scott Martin, Mickey Bruce, Charlie Ingram and Clark Wendlandt, among others, on a lake that he had never even fished before. This was his first trip Logan Martin Lake. With the way the fishing developed for this tournament, perhaps that played right into the winner's hands. Water fluctuations - first a drop in water level in the opening round, then a rise on Friday - plus a cold front threw many pros off balance when the tournament started Wednesday. Clausen, however, never strayed from his finesse-fishing pattern around docks, but he did have to adjust every day. "The day it got overcast, I really struggled until I realized that they were under docks. I caught almost all of my fish off of docks, though I did catch a few off secondary points," he said, adding that his magic bait was a prototype Reaction Innovations green-pumpkin finesse worm on 6- and 8-pound line. "I would run out of water each day, so I'd go find some more. A lot of fish I was catching were suspended and they were biting it on the fall. I think the light bait was key." Luke Clausen hoists the 2004 Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship trophy.Clausen said he caught about 10 keepers when it counted Saturday, almost all spotted bass. He caught one largemouth the entire week, he said, which was his big fish this morning. Clausen's win capped a triumphant week for West Coast anglers at this year's championship. The co-angler winner, Stephen Tosh Jr., is from Waterford, Calif., and both he and Clausen came to the FLW Tour this season after posting big numbers in the nascent EverStart Series Western Division the last two years. There, Clausen won the Clear Lake tournament in 2003. Clausen's FLW Outdoors career earnings prior to this week stood at $31,500. Now he can tack a big old "5" on the front of that figure. "This is incredible," he said. "I don't even know what I'll do with the money. I'll probably put it in the bank and look at the balance every day. The hardest part's going to be writing that check to the government." Scott Martin put up another nice limit - 14 pounds, 4 ounces - and nearly won his second FLW tournament in a row.Martin misses win No. 3 Clausen had to earn his win Saturday because Scott Martin put up another nice limit - 14 pounds, 4 ounces - and nearly won his second FLW tournament in a row. Last month, Martin won the Forrest Wood Open and $200,000 at Lake Champlain. The son of TV bass legend Roland Martin, the Clewiston, Fla., native won his first FLW event as a pro at the Pascagoula River in 2000. This week, he earned $50,000 for second place at the championship. Asked about his hot hand right now, Martin said: "I've been getting up really early and staying really late, and it's paid off. "I'm happy. I fished really efficiently and I fished really clean." Finishing third and earning $40,000 was 2004 Kentucky Lake champion Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity, S.C., with a five-bass limit weighing 13 pounds, 7 ounces.Gagliardi falls short of No. 2 Another 2004 FLW winner, Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity, S.C., claimed the third spot with a limit weighing 13 pounds, 7 ounces. Gagliardi, who won at Kentucky Lake in May, added another $40,000 to his career earnings this week. "I got lucky. I caught two big fish before 9 o'clock," he said. "It makes for a long day when you've got two good fish in your livewell and you're struggling all day to get some 2-pounders to go with it." Millsaps fourth, Bruce fifth, Vida sixth Jimmy Millsaps of Canton, Ga., delighted the capacity crowd with a crazy catch Saturday, dredging up a log, some weeds and who knows what else in an valiant effort to land a fish. He finished in fourth place with a limit weighing 12 pounds, 4 ounces and earned $35,000. Jimmy Millsaps and the other finalists made a big entrance at Saturday"This was a heart-attack fish," he said at weigh-in as video of the catch rolled. Mickey Bruce of Buford, Ga., finished fifth and collected $30,000 with a limit weighing 11 pounds, 12 ounces. "I had an opportunity for a big stringer today, but a few of them just got off," he said. Kevin Vida of Clare, Mich., rounded out his solid week at Logan Martin Lake with another decent limit - 11 pounds, 8 ounces - and finished in sixth place. He earned $24,000. "What a tremendous fishery this is," he said. "I've never caught spotted bass like this in my life." Rest of the best A number of pros admitted to "swinging for the fences" and going for big fish instead of just a limit Saturday. Consequently, the weights fell off in the bottom half of the leaderboard. Rounding out the top 12 finishers at the championship are Dave Lefebre of Erie, Pa., with five bass weighing 6 pounds, 15 ounces (7th place, $23,000); Charlie Ingram of Santa Fe, Tenn., with five bass weighing 6-10 (8th, $22,000); Clark Wendlandt of Cedar Park, Texas, with five bass weighing 6-3 (9th, $21,000); Glenn Browne of Ocala, Fla., with five bass weighing 5-0 (10th, $20,000); Jason Kilpatrick of Satsuma, Ala., with two bass weighing 4-6 (11th, $19,000); and John Crews of Jetersville, Va., with three bass weighing 3-15 (12th, $18,000). Catch all the action Coverage of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship will be broadcast on the Outdoor Life Network on the "FLW Outdoors" television program. A tournament preview show featuring bass-fishing legend Hank Parker will air Aug. 15 at noon CDT and Aug. 19 at 4 p.m. CDT, and fishing fans can watch the tournament weigh-in with hosts Carlton Wing, Taylor Carr and Charlie Evans Aug. 22 at noon and Aug. 26 at 4 p.m. Tournament veteran Larry Nixon will host a tournament wrap-up show Aug. 29 at noon, and that show will re-air Sept. 2 at 4 p.m.

Tags: headline-story  jeff-schroeder 

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Lefebre Lands on Top

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Lewis Smith Lake Day 4 Coverage

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Birge Buzzes Ahead

Today started off with a slightly miserable 31-degree air temperature, but it didn’t take long for the top 20 pros to really heat up on Lewis Smith Lake at the second stop of the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour presented by Evinrude. Reports poured in throughout the day of big bass – especially big largemouths – being caught off beds. It looked at first as if one of the “largemouth lookers” might piece together a big enough bag to snatch the lead away from Oklahoma rookie Zack Birge, who struggled early to make his shallow topwater pattern work. Unfortunately for the rest of the field, the young gun Birge has the coolness and patience of a veteran, and he stuck with his game plan of throwing a buzzbait and soft jerkbait rig until the sun had time to warm the shallows and spur the fish to become more active. Birge tallied 17 pounds, 11 ounces today, raising his three-day total to 54-8 and giving him a lead of 3-11 over Texas veteran Clark Wendlandt in second place. READ MORE »

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Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 3

After three days, it looks as if tournament leader Zack Birge has the quality largemouth bite in the bushes wired. But behind him on the leaderboard are nine pros doing everything from sight-fishing to catching schooling bass and everything in between. Even with all the patterns in play, few have fizzled. The sight-fishers have reported finding new bedders, the schoolers are still schooling and a couple of guys have even started tapping floating docks. READ MORE »

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Millsaps Wins on Lake Sinclair

MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. – David Millsaps of Ranger, Georgia, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 20 pounds, 10 ounces Saturday to win the second Walmart Bass Fishing League Bulldog Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Sinclair. For his victory, Millsaps earned $6,009. READ MORE »

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Walters Nets Third Victory on Wylie

LAKE WYLIE, N.C. – Todd Walters of Kernersville, North Carolina, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 17 pounds, 2 ounces Saturday to win the second Walmart Bass Fishing League North Carolina Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Wylie. For his victory, Walters earned $4,350. READ MORE »

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Lewis Smith Lake Day 3 Coverage

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Mosley on Top at Arkansas River

MUSKOGEE, Okla. – Brandon Mosley of Choctaw, Oklahoma, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 19 pounds, 13 ounces Saturday to win the second Walmart Bass Fishing League Okie Division tournament of 2015 the Arkansas River. For his victory, Mosley earned $5,349. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-27-topwater-takes-birge-to-the-top

Topwater Takes Birge to the Top

On a day when chilly, windy post-front conditions challenged many Walmart FLW Tour anglers who were relying on sight-fishing for spawning bass, Zack Birge bucked the trend and pulled out a pair of topwaters to haul in 17 pounds, 14 ounces. Birge jumped from third place past day-one leader Drew Benton to take over the top spot on Lewis Smith Lake in the event, which is presented by Evinrude. Birge’s two-day total of 36-13 has him positioned 1 pound ahead of Benton. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-27-top-5-patterns-from-lewis-smith-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 2

While air and water temperatures plummeted on day two of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lewis Smith Lake presented by Evinrude, the big surprise came in the stability of the fishing patterns amidst such change. Zack Birge found plenty of production on his primary pattern to send him to the top of the leaderboard, and those under him held true to their patterns as well to secure a ticket to day three’s top 20. Among the biggest surprises was the number of pros who were still able to pluck fish off beds. Most pros that were sight-fishing say the bass are committed to beds and that the cold snap will not run them off at this point in time. Despite the cold, some even found new fish on beds that were not there yesterday. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-27-lewis-smith-lake-day-2-coverage

Lewis Smith Lake Day 2 Coverage

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/news/2015-03-26-benton-blasts-20-12-on-lewis-smith

Benton Blasts 20-12 on Lewis Smith

Panama City, Fla., pro Drew Benton jumped into the early lead at the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lewis Smith Lake presented by Evinrude with a five-bass limit weighing 20 pounds, 12 ounces. Benton caught a mix of largemouths and spotted bass, and revealed that both black bass species are spawning. He leads a tight top 20 that includes 18 pros that caught more than 15 pounds each. The first day was an absolute fish-fest. Of the 154 pros fishing this tournament, 138 weighed limits. Brad Roberts of Faubush, Ky., has a 2-ounce lead in the co-angler division with a 13-pound, 4-ounce limit. Tomorrow he’ll try to defend his lead on the final day of co-angler competition. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-26-top-5-patterns-from-lewis-smith-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 1

While Drew Benton was busy bugging bedding fish for his day-one tournament lead, several others behind him were scoring big with other fishing options on Lewis Smith Lake. Sight-fishing also played a role in the top limits produce by Tracy Adams, Scott Martin and Ish Monroe, but Clayton Batts and Zack Birge both brought in big bags with other patterns. Click here to read about Benton’s day-one performance at the second Walmart FLW Tour event of 2015, which is presented by Evinrude. Here’s how the rest of the top five got it done. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-26-lewis-smith-lake-day-1-coverage

Lewis Smith Lake Day 1 Coverage

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/news/2015-03-22-arkansas-anglers-win-college-open

Arkansas Anglers Win College Open

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/news/2015-03-21-kendrick-king-on-guntersville

Kendrick King On Guntersville

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/news/2015-03-21-epting-s-30-pounds-tops-on-santee-cooper

Epting's 30 Pounds Tops on Santee Cooper

SUMMERTON, S.C. – Chris Epting of Chapin, South Carolina, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 30 pounds, 2 ounces Saturday to win the second Walmart Bass Fishing League South Carolina Division tournament of 2015 on Santee Cooper. For his victory, Epting earned $3,679. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-21-wood-rock-key-for-middleton-s-victory

Wood, Rock Key for Middleton's Victory

HUDDLESTON, Va. – Dennis Middleton of Madison Heights, Virginia, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 19 pounds, 11 ounces Saturday to win the first Walmart Bass Fishing League Shenandoah Division tournament of 2015 on Smith Mountain Lake. For his victory, Middleton earned $7,199. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-21-johnson-wins-on-dale-hollow

Johnson Wins on Dale Hollow

BYRDSTOWN, Tenn. – Robby Johnson of Byrdstown, Tennessee, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 22 pounds, 7 ounces Saturday to win the first Walmart Bass Fishing League Mountain Division tournament of 2015 on Dale Hollow Lake. For his victory, Johnson earned $5,689. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-21-griffin-gets-win-on-ross-barnett

Griffin Gets Win on Ross Barnett

BRANDON, Miss. – Jason Griffin of Benton, Mississippi, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 23 pounds, 2 ounces Saturday to win the first Walmart Bass Fishing League Mississippi Division tournament of 2015 on Ross Barnett Reservoir. For his victory, Griffin earned $5,349. READ MORE »