November 5, 2005 by Rob Newell
FLORENCE, Ala. - What's a single ounce worth to Sam Newby? About $350,000. The precious commodity in question is bass, and for the second time in his career, Sam Newby has won a major FLW Outdoors tournament by an ounce.
Saturday, the Pocola, Okla., pro brought in a limit of bass weighing 8 pounds, 3 ounces to snatch the 2005 EverStart Championship title from Gabe Bolivar of Ramona, Calif., by the thinnest margin possible. That single ounce ended up being worth a grand total of $140,000, which included a brand new Ranger boat and $100,000 cash.
It must have been deja vu for Newby, who pulled the same 1-ounce stunt in 2002 to win his first Wal-Mart FLW Tour event, the Forrest Wood Open on Lake Champlain. On the receiving end of that heartbreak was Dean Rojas of Grand Saline, Texas, another Western-born pro who watched in disbelief as Newby pocketed $210, 000 for such a narrow margin of victory.
Just like he did in 2002, Newby stalked his win from back in the pack until the final day when he moved in for the slip. During the four-day event, he moved from 33rd, to fifth, to third and then to the top.
"That's the way I like to do it," said Newby, whose winning style matches his cool, calm demeanor. "I don't like to lead until the clock has stopped."
Newby stuck with the same lure - a 1/2-ounce brown jig teamed with a Net Bait Paca Craw - all four days. His only adjustment was his location.
During the first two days, he fished outside grass lines in about 5 feet of water on the lower end of Pickwick Lake. During the final two days, he switched to pitching the jig on marina docks located in the same area.
"Over the last two days, the wind really positioned these fish for me," he said. "All of these docks had cross members across the fronts in about 5 feet of water. The fish would line up on the cross members that faced into the wind. I would intentionally pitch my bait over the cross member and hop it over the brace. Most of the bites came on the first hop after it cleared the brace."
This win now pushes Newby's FLW Outdoors career earnings to $521,531.
Painful second for Bolivar
Losing by 1 ounce was painful for Gabe Bolivar, but what added insult to injury was that he only brought three bass to the scales and lost several bass that would have put him over the top.
"It hurts, but it is what it is," Bolivar commented. "All I can do is move on to the next one. I feel that my best fishing days are still ahead of me and not behind me."
Bolivar fished riprap-lined banks in the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway leading out of Pickwick. He fished an unnamed, hand-carved Japanese crankbait (blue back, chartreuse sides) that featured a square bill.
"The bait runs about 5 feet deep on 12-pound-test line," he said. "Most of the fish came from the 2-foot range. But they were hard to pattern, it's like the fish would bite in waves. I'd fish for hours without a bite and then catch two or three in a row."
Bolivar picked up $40,000 for his runner-up finish.
Kennedy ends up third
EverStart Series frustrations continued for Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., today. This marked Kennedy's eighth top-10 appearance in EverStarts without a win.
"I think I'm going to cry," joked Kennedy, who finished third in the event with a two-day total of 16 pounds, 2 ounces for $38,500. "I've finished in just about every position in the top 10 except first - I don't know what to do."
Kennedy caught a majority of his fish on a fickle pattern that entailed running bluff banks with a buzzbait. The biggest problem was not being able to connect with the fish in a consistent manner.
"What bothered me most about this tournament was not catching my bites," he said. "I was getting about 10 good bites per day, but I never really understood how to convert a majority of those bites. It's like they would just come up and slap it, or boil just under it, especially when the current was ripping.
"When the current was slow, they would be on the front sides of the current breaks, and they seemed to really eat it then. But when the current was ripping, they would get on the back sides of the breaks, where the eddies were, and they just wouldn't completely engulf the bait."
Newton takes fourth
Jonathan Newton of Rogersville, Ala., posted the biggest weight of the day, three bass weighing 8 pounds, 8 ounces, but it left him in fourth place with a two-day total of 15 pounds worth $31,000.
"I have no regrets," said Newton. "I fished as well as I possibly could; it just wasn't my time. I just received $31,000 for finishing fourth, and that's awesome - that's what FLW is all about."
Newton sacrificed a majority of his fishing time in the EverStart Series Championship to lock into Wheeler Lake.
During the first three days, he pitched a 1/2-ounce black-blue Strike King jig on bluff ends in creeks on the lower end of Wheeler. Today, he went for the gusto by running all the way to Decatur Flats to fish a 3/8-ounce Strike King buzzbait tied to 25-pound line on grass flats.
"I only had about two hours to fish, and it almost worked out," Newton said. "I caught three bass on my first three casts; the first one was about a 5-pounder. I thought then I had a shot to win. I lost two other good ones after that and then never had another bite."
Green settles to fifth
Jerry Green of Justiceburg, Texas, finished fifth with a two-day total of 11 pounds, 5 ounces.
All four days, Green fished in Bay Springs Lake. He targeted steep points with jerkbaits and StrikeWorks jigs to catch some of the biggest spotted bass weighed in during the event.
"The points broke off pretty quick," he said. "I was keying on the steeper sides that were facing into the wind."
Green collected $24,000 for his finish.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 finishers in the 2005 EverStart Series Championship on Pickwick Lake:
6th: Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tenn., two-day total of 10-12, $24,000 in winnings
7th: Jack Gadlage of Benton, Ky., two-day total of 9-0, $17,000 in winnings
8th: Roy Hawk of Salt Lake City, two-day total of 8-11, 16,000 in winnings
9th: Dave Lefebre of Union City, Pa., two-day total of 7-3, $20,000 in winnings
10th: Toby Hartsell of Livingston, Texas, two-day total of 4-7, $8,000 in winnings