UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Lake Erie

Cross Lake Connection: FLW Tour Championship, day four

Cross Lake Connection: FLW Tour Championship, day four
Gerald Swindle felt the pressure while waiting to find out if he had enough weight on the final day of the 2002 Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship to be victorious. He missed the mark by only five ounces.

Final weigh-in anxious affair for top anglers; pros consider remainder of year

SHREVEPORT, La. - John Sappington and Gerald Swindle proved Saturday that the competitive spirit can conquer adversity - or maybe it's the thought of a $260,000 paycheck. Either way, these two anglers showed they had a right to be fishing for the title of champion of the 2002 FLW Tour by fishing well ahead of the pack and creating an exciting, down-to-the-wire weigh-in that held the audience transfixed until the very end.

Anglers tried to outmaneuver a slot limit on Cross Lake all week, a factor that usually led to few keepers being caught and low catch weights for most. Adding to the difficulty of turning in top performances was the fact that the smallest lake on the FLW Tour got fished hard many days in row by some of the world's most successful fishermen.

But somehow Sappington of Wyandotte, Okla., and Swindle of Hayden, Ala., rose to the challenge of strong fishing pressure and a tricky no-catch zone for bass between 14 and 17 inches long. They offered the weigh-in and television audiences more than 9 pounds of bass apiece - some of the healthiest catches of the entire tournament - on the final day.

Both anglers were visibly shaken by anxiety as they waited their turns to weigh their fish, neither knowing what the other had lurking in his bag. You could see the tension build as Sappington and Swindle anticipated the final round of their championship matchup.

With sweat pouring down his face, Sappington tried to keep his cool while answering questions from television announcers before the last weigh-in began. He admitted he was extremely nervous.

"Let's get the show on the road," he said. "Why don't you go interview (Swindle), and let's get the fish up there."

Though Swindle is said to rarely be short of witticisms and humorous comments, he said the pressure had engulfed his ability to joke about the situation. He added that "there's nothing funny about two guys" pitted against one another when there's $260,000 on the line. However, he rallied long enough to elicit quite a bit of laughter from those in attendance while adding commentary to video footage of his fishing day.

Finally the fish were being weighed, one at a time, beginning with the smallest. It seemed as though each angler could match the other within just a few ounces until Sappington pulled out his fourth and final fish, and it was a large one. Swindle shook his head, despite the fact that he had a fifth fish to weigh, as he suspected correctly that it would not make the grade.

In a week that saw pros yielding one- and two-fish catches, including most of the rest of the finalists on Saturday, Sappington and Swindle managed final-day catches of 9 pounds, 12 ounces and 9 pounds, 7 ounces, respectively. It is doubtful that anyone would ask for a more exciting finish to a pro angling season.

Looking forward

With a few months off of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour before the beginning of the 2003 season, some pros will be taking a break from the game. Others will still be fishing in various tournaments this fall or recreationally, but these hard-core professional anglers need to mix it up when they have the time.

Here is what a few FLW Tour pros will be doing before the end of the year:

Fifth-place finisher Dion Hibdon of Stover, Mo., said his children keep him on his toes year-round, whether he's on the tournament trail or trying to take a break from the action.

"I don't really ever have time off," he said. "You see those three little boys there? I'm always busy."

Just as Hibdon's father - the great bass fisherman Guido - passed on his love for bass fishing, Hibdon is doing the same thing. He said he enjoys time away from the FLW Tour in the fall fishing, hunting and getting involved in other activities with his children.

"I'm going to enjoy my time with my boys," he said.

Tenth-place finisher Kevin Vida of Clare, Mich., is also an avid outdoorsman and a bit of a family man, himself.

Vida said, "I always go hunting, and it's my fun fishing time - in the fall. And I'll spend time with my family."

But Vida also reserves some time to enjoy the other side of the athlete-spectator equation.

"Of course, it's also football season and basketball season - so there's that," he said.

Right in line with his fellow fishermen and what appears to be the nature of the angler, third-place Brent Chapman of Shawnee, Kan., said he spends a good portion of the fall in pursuit of animals that don't live underwater. However, he qualified that by saying he's also got two more fishing tournaments to finish this year.

"One thing I love to do during the fall is goose hunting and bow hunting," he said. "... And spending quality time at home, because I'll be on the road another six months next year."

Hmmm. Perhaps a trend is emerging here. Let's see ... FLW anglers, family, the outdoors? Well, let's see.

Fourth-place finisher Pat Fisher of Stone Mountain, Ga., said he's got a couple more tournaments to complete this year, but then he's going to kick back for a bit.

"I'm going to relax," he said. Not one to buck the system, however, Fisher added that he's also "going to bow hunt."

Second-place Swindle made it a clean sweep of those surveyed. Like a good dog or a good FLW angler, he, too, will hunt.

"I hunt every day," he said. "It's not so much killing as it is being out there ... and being in nature: things like knowing the wind and understanding an animal and its patterns."

Swindle, who also cites bow hunting as one of his favorite types of hunting, said he's not thinking about trophies or competing when he's off the water.

"There's a tremendous amount of pressure in bass fishing; so, if you're a competitor, you can drive yourself crazy out there," he said. "Hunting is my time to get away from it all."

By the numbers

A dozen pros fishing in today's final round weighed in a total of 25 bass weighing 42 pounds, 3 ounces, all of which were released alive. Only one five-bass limit was caught.

Related links:
Photos
FLW Championship bracket
Results
Sappington survives
Press releases

Tags: patrick-baker  quick-bites  2002-09-11-championship 

Breaking Down the Cup Field

Breaking Down the Cup Field

The 2018 FLW Cup field includes 56 of the best bass pros in the world who qualified over the course of the 2017 and 2018 seasons. On Aug. 10-12 at Lake Ouachita they’ll compete for their share of the $1,097,500 prize purse, which includes the $300,000 first-place prize. READ MORE »

Studio Notes: Smith Lake

Studio Notes: Smith Lake

The fun of Studio Notes is going back in hindsight and looking at an FLW Tour event with 20/20 vision to see what happened and what could be learned. After all, when a bunch of the nation’s best bass anglers fish a lake for a week, there are a lot of observations to be made that make for some interesting theories. READ MORE »

Size Limit Lifted at Cumberland

Size Limit Lifted at Cumberland

As part of a program to determine the impact of tournaments on the fishery, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources has temporarily imposed a 12-inch minimum size limit on largemouths and smallmouths during the Lake Cumberland event. Since 2001, the minimum size limit for largemouths there has been 15 inches, and 18 inches for smallmouths. The five-fish daily limit remains the same. READ MORE »

FLW Live Schedule for Lake Cumberland

FLW Live Schedule for Lake Cumberland

FLW Live coverage picks up again this week at stop No. 4 of the 2018 FLW Tour at Lake Cumberland in Somerset, Ky. The event, which is presented by General Tire and hosted by Somerset Tourist & Convention Commission, runs Thursday, April 12 through Sunday, April 15. READ MORE »

Quick Bites: Forrest Wood Cup, Red River, Day 4

Quick Bites: Forrest Wood Cup, Red River, Day 4

In 2011, EverStart team pro Randall Tharp of Port Saint Joe, Fla., thought he had fished the perfect Forrest Wood Cup only to lose out at the very end to FLW Tour pro Scott Martin on Lake Ouachita. Although Tharp walked away from that tournament $100,000 richer, he couldn’t help but think of what might have been. READ MORE »

Quick Bites: Forrest Wood Cup, Red River, Day 3

Quick Bites: Forrest Wood Cup, Red River, Day 3

A change at the top … For two straight days, EverStart team pro Randall Tharp of Port Saint Joe, Fla., had led the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup. Well today that all changed … just barely. READ MORE »

Quick Bites: Forrest Wood Cup, Red River, Day 2

Quick Bites: Forrest Wood Cup, Red River, Day 2

By the start of day two, the new conventional wisdom was that the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup was now simply a two-man duel between Tharp and Thrift. While that narrative made perfect sense at the time, multiple-day, high-stakes bass-fishing tournaments sometimes have a tendency to veer off from a carefully written script. READ MORE »

Quick Bites: Forrest Wood Cup, Red River, Day 1

Quick Bites: Forrest Wood Cup, Red River, Day 1

Heading into today’s competition, the conventional wisdom was that it would take anywhere from 11 to 12 pounds a day to win the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup. However, apparently EverStart team pro Randall Tharp and Chevy team pro Bryan Thrift weren’t listening. READ MORE »

Quick Bites: Forrest Wood Cup, Lake Lanier, Day 4

Quick Bites: Forrest Wood Cup, Lake Lanier, Day 4

In the end, the 21-year-old upstart from Indianapolis, Ind., was just too much for the rest of the field. Bolstered by an 11-pound, 15-ounce catch on the final day of competition, FLW Tour rookie Jacob Wheeler blew away four former Forrest Wood Cup champions, three FLW Tour Angler of the Year title holders as well as the rest of the top-10 field to claim the most prestigious title in bass fishing. READ MORE »

Quick Bites: Forrest Wood Cup, Lake Lanier, Day 3

Quick Bites: Forrest Wood Cup, Lake Lanier, Day 3

After three grueling days of Forrest Wood Cup competition, the top-10 pro qualifiers have been determined and will now get a chance to fish Sunday for the sport’s ultimate prize. The lineup includes: Fatheadz pro Jacob Wheeler (first), Straight Talk pro Scott Canterbury (second), Chevy pro Bryan Thrift (third), National Guard pro and defending Forrest Wood Cup champion Scott Martin (fourth), Chevy pro Jay Yelas (fifth), Chevy pro Luke Clausen (sixth), Evinrude pro Andy Morgan (seventh), Troy Morrow (eighth), Castrol pro David Dudley (ninth) and Chevy pro Dion Hibdon (10th). READ MORE »

Quick Bites: Forrest Wood Cup, Lake Lanier, Day 2

Quick Bites: Forrest Wood Cup, Lake Lanier, Day 2

After stunning the field and electrifying bass-fishing fans everywhere with his amazing 21-pound, 15-ounce stringer during the opening round of 2012 Forrest Wood Cup competition, 21-year-old Jacob Wheeler found the going a lot tougher during Friday’s action. READ MORE »

Quick Bites: Forrest Wood Cup, Lake Lanier, Day 1

Quick Bites: Forrest Wood Cup, Lake Lanier, Day 1

With six returning Forrest Wood Cup champions, multiple FLW Tour Angler of the Year winners and a lethal group of veteran pros comprising the 46-member field, the day-one leader at the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup turned out to be none other than a 21-year-old rookie upstart named Jacob Wheeler. READ MORE »

Students becoming masters

Students becoming masters

As the sun sets on the third season of National Guard FLW College Fishing, it seems like a good time to evaluate the impact of this program on some of its participants. Many young anglers have now been tested in the post-collegiate arena, and in several cases the students are becoming the masters of tournament fishing. READ MORE »

Stier steals show at Bismarck

Stier steals show at Bismarck

BISMARCK, N.D. — EverStart pro Dan Stier seemed to be backsliding after the opening day of the 2011 National Guard FLW Walleye Tour Championship – he endured diminishing weights, fish counts and his place in the standings. But he never gave up on his spot or his game plan, and he was greatly rewarded for his tenacity Sunday with his first championship win. READ MORE »

Final battle at Bismarck

Final battle at Bismarck

BISMARCK, N.D. — It has already been a championship to remember, with big bags of fish weighed and beautiful weather gracing the 80 anglers who competed on the Missouri River at Bismarck, N.D., this week to close out the 2011 National Guard FLW Walleye Tour season. But today marks the moment the walleye world has been waiting for: the crowning of a pro champion. READ MORE »

Skarlis stays on top

Skarlis stays on top

BISMARCK, N.D. — Evinrude pro Tommy Skarlis won the 2008 championship on the Missouri River at Bismarck, N.D., and on Saturday he positioned himself to make National Guard FLW Walleye Tour history by sacking another strong limit weighing 17 pounds, 2 ounces. He now has a three-day total of 58 pounds, nearly a 5-pound lead heading into the final day and a solid shot at a repeat performance. READ MORE »

Dankert gets it done

Dankert gets it done

BISMARCK, N.D. — Todd Dankert of Anoka, Minn., has come close to a tournament title before with three prior top-10 finishes in walleye events operated by FLW Outdoors, including a runner-up finish on Lake Oahe last year. When he finally got his win Saturday, it was a big one – a championship title. READ MORE »

Skarlis surges ahead on Missouri River

Skarlis surges ahead on Missouri River

BISMARCK, N.D. — The community hole that powered most of the top-10 performances on day one of the National Guard FLW Walleye Tour Championship dried up for almost everyone Friday – everyone but Evinrude pro Tommy Skarlis, that is. The walleye veteran from Waukon, Iowa, brought an impressive 21 pounds, 1 ounce to the scale today for a two-day total of 40-14 and first place. READ MORE »

Traffic jam downriver from Bismarck

Traffic jam downriver from Bismarck

BISMARCK, N.D. — The day-one weigh-in of the 2011 National Guard FLW Walleye Tour Championship revealed it: There’s a hot spot on the Missouri about 25 miles downriver from the takeoff site at Hazelton Access Point. At least the top seven pros fished there for all or part of the day Thursday, and early reports indicated that probably half of the 40-boat field was trying to mine the same 30-yard stretch again Friday. READ MORE »

Kavajecz’s big-fish blitz

Kavajecz’s big-fish blitz

BISMARCK, N.D. — He may be a first-year FLW Walleye Tour pro, but make no mistake – Keith Kavajecz is far from a rookie. The Freshwater Fishing Hall of Famer from Kaukauna, Wis., took a commanding lead on day one of the National Guard FLW Walleye Tour Championship on the Missouri River with five walleyes weighing a staggering 26 pounds, 12 ounces. READ MORE »