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The comeback kid

The comeback kid
Pro Joseph Caporuscio of Coto de Caza, Calif., proudly displays his first-place trophy after winning the FLW Series event at Lake Mead.

LAS VEGAS - In what almost certainly amounts to one of the most improbable stories of triumph and perseverance in the history of National Guard FLW Series competition, Joseph Caporuscio of Coto de Caza, Calif., overcame a daunting list of obstacles to capture his first-ever FLW Series title on Lake Mead.

Starting the day in third place Caporuscio easily out-fished the rest of the final-day field, leapfrogging some of the best anglers the Western Division had to offer to record his stunning victory.

Caporuscio turned in a final-day sack of 13 pounds, 11 ounces, 4 1/2 more pounds than his next closest competitor, to finish with a final four-day total of 49 pounds, 9 ounces on Lake Mead.

For his efforts, Caporuscio walked away with over $43,000 in winnings

"It's like a fairy tale," said Caporuscio, shortly after victory. "I really can't put it into words right now. I've never had a day where I made all of the right decisions. If I had to describe my week with one word it would be, `wow.'"

Anatomy of an unforgettable tournament

Pro Joseph Caporuscio of Coto de Caza, Calif., shows off his first-place catch at the FLW Series event at Lake Mead.Caporuscio's crazy week started during the first day of competition when he suffered major engine problems. But while it looked like Caporuscio's Lake Mead tournament was going to end right then and there, a combination of fate, perseverance and altruism helped to intervene

"I lost my motor on the first day and spent the entire day fishing on my trolling motor," said Caporuscio. "In a lot of ways, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I was able to catch 12 pounds and save some of my better water for later in the tournament."

However, even though he had 12 pounds in the boat, with no main engine, Caporuscio still had to find a way to get back to weigh-in.

"I wound up getting towed back by a pleasure boater," he said. "It was a really nice couple and they really helped me out. So many people helped me out this week it's not even funny. It's remarkable how many people will help you when you're really passionate about something."

But that still left the question of what to during the second day of competition. With no motor and no real way of competing, Caporuscio called his father, Dino - who also happened to be a longtime veteran FLW Outdoors angler.

"I called my dad and he told me never to give up," he said. "That day he drove more than five hours to bring me out another boat. He finally arrived late Wednesday night."

After that, Caporuscio was back in business. Upon completion of Thursday's competition, Caporuscio found himself in fourth place. By Friday, he'd moved up to third place overall heading into the finals.

That's when fate would intervene yet again.

Pro Joseph Caporuscio patiently awaits his fate during final weigh-in at the FLW Series event at Lake Mead."I was all set to go to my main area but I noticed at takeoff that it was dead calm for the first time all tournament," said Caporuscio. "So I decided to go to this area that my dad and I had found during practice about a week and a half ago. We'd caught some really good fish there but the conditions weren't right to fish it during the first three days. I had been checking on that spot every day but I decided to hold off going there until today. Once I got there, I saw five fish and put them all in the boat. I caught my limit in about two hours before the winds really picked up."

Caporuscio said that all five of his limit fish were bedding largemouth, which he caught almost exclusively by throwing a 4-inch worm on a drop-shot.

"The key to catching those fish was to make a real good cast," he said. "It was basically all about (bait) placement."

While Caporuscio was still at a loss for words after capturing the title, he was quick to dedicate his week to all of the people - friends, family and strangers - who had assisted him when the chips were down.

"Without the help of my father and everyone else, I wouldn't be here right now," said Caporuscio, who is only 22 years old. "It's truly unbelievable how this week has gone. I have so many people to thank. The list just goes on and on."

For Caporuscio, the memories of the Lake Mead event almost certainly will as well.

Kerr settles for runner-up position

Pro Justin Kerr of Simi Valley, Calif., weighs in his final-day catch. Kerr ultimately finished the FLW Series event on Lake Mead in second place.Day-three leader Justin Kerr of Simi Valley, Calif., headed into the final day of competition as the frontrunner but had to settle for second place overall after weighing in a relatively disappointing 8-pound, 9-ounce catch in the finals.

"I'd been fishing really shallow all week and as the water levels dropped the fish pulled out more and more. And that really hurt me," said Kerr, who was hoping to capture his first-ever FLW Series title. "I also made a pretty bad decision today but that happens. Overall though, I had a great week."

While Kerr didn't win the title, he did parlay the Lake Mead event into his best-ever FLW Series finish. For his efforts, Kerr won over $17,000 in winnings after recording a four-day total weight of 47 pounds, 12 ounces.

Hickey nets third place overall

Pro Jason Hickey of Weiser, Idaho, used a four-day total of 44 pounds, 14 ounces to grab third place overall at the FLW Series Lake Mead event. Jason Hickey of Weiser, Idaho, used a four-day total of 44 pounds, 14 ounces to grab third place overall at the Lake Mead event. While Hickey was also disappointed he couldn't win his first-ever FLW Series title, he said he did everything he could to remain competitive.

"The last couple of days I started running out of water," he said. "I had to change things up today and did all I could do to get five bites. I had some opportunities today but I still don't know if I could have beaten Joe if everything had worked out. But today was the first day all tournament where I didn't miss a fish."

Amazingly enough, Hickey said that he discovered his prime fishing area almost by mistake.

"On Wednesday, I stopped at the first place I could fish while staying out of the wind," he said. "Although I didn't catch anything there that first day, when I went back to that spot, it really produced for me."

Hickey said that he targeted bass all week with a Zoom Speed Craw as well as the occasional Senko. For his efforts, Hickey walked away with more than $13,000 in winnings.

"To be standing up here with some of the best anglers in the country feels great," said Hickey. "You can't expect to win every time. So, overall, I'm happy. Anytime you get a top-five finish, you can't really complain."

Ehrler finishes fourth

National Guard pro Brent Ehrler of Redlands, Calif., finished the FLW Series Lake Mead event in fourth place. National Guard pro Brent Ehrler of Redlands, Calif., knew heading into the finals that he was a long-shot to win the title. More than 4 pounds behind the leader, Ehrler did what he could but came up short in the end, finishing the day in fourth place with a total catch of 44 pounds.

As such, he had few regrets.

"I've been very fortunate. I kind of played it conservative all week," said Ehrler. "I never really caught a lot of big fish. And I probably lost the biggest fish I had on all week today. It was kind of a struggle out there. The wind really hurt me. But I had a lot of fun."

Ehrler said he landed most of his quarry fishing a combination of spinnerbaits, crankbaits, Senkos and drop-shot techniques.

For his efforts, Ehrler walked away with over $8,600 in winnings as well as his 22nd top-10 finish at FLW Outdoors-related events.

Klinger suffers disappointment

National Guard pro Tim Klinger of Boulder City, Nev., fell to fifth place overall at the FLW Series Lake Mead event after only managing to boat one fish in the finals.For years, National Guard pro Tim Klinger of Boulder City, Nev., had been chasing a tournament title on Lake Mead. And finally, it appeared that this could be the day he got the monkey off of his back. Unfortunately for Klinger, it was not to be.

After turning in a stellar effort for three consecutive days, his bite finally fizzled out. In the end, Klinger only managed a one-fish, 2-pound catch during the final day of competition to settle for fifth place overall.

"Fishing tournaments is a very mental game," said Klinger, who was cheered on by family and friends throughout the final weigh-in. "I caught (my first) bass right away this morning and then 15 minutes later I had a bass bite on a buzzbait. I felt like if I'd caught that fish, I could have won this tournament. I grabbed the net and then the fish came off. My confidence went downhill from there."

Regardless of the outcome, Klinger said it was a joy to be competing on his hometown waters.

"I live 15 minutes from this stage," said Klinger. "I was born and raised in Henderson (Nevada) so this is just awesome. It's always a great feeling to be home."

In the end, Klinger recorded a total weight of 39 pounds, 3-ounces and took home $7,800 in winnings.

National Guard FLW Series Western Division competition resumes at the California Delta, scheduled to take place in Stockton, Calif., June 9-12.

Tags: gary-mortenson  headline-story  2010-05-05-lake-mead 

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