SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Needing every ounce of his two-day total of 39 pounds, 0 ounces, Peter Thliveros of Jacksonville, Fla., defended his Bassmaster Memorial presented by Evan Williams Bourbon crown Sunday, holding off his nearest competitor, Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., by just 2 ounces.
Thliveros, who scored victory in the 2006 Bassmaster Memorial in Fort Worth, Texas, enjoyed a solid start, catching four bass in the first hour of competition. With the victory and the top prize of $250,000, he has amassed more than $1.5 million in BASS career earnings.
Weights were zeroed for the top 12 anglers after two days of competition on New York's Oneida Lake. The final two days were held on Onondaga Lake and a rotating six-hole course set up by BASS officials.
Fishing fans can catch all the action from Thliveros' narrow victory at 9 a.m. ET Saturday, Aug. 4, on ESPN2.
"It seems like destiny," said Thliveros, a six-time BASS winner. "This victory and defending this title are the hallmark of my career."
Thliveros, 47, clinched the victory by boating a smallmouth bass at 4:35 p.m. ET, in his final hour of fishing. His final catch, however, perhaps was not as beneficial as what he did before his first cast of the tournament. Thliveros used a portion of his practice day to ride Onondaga Lake and locate productive areas, which is permissible under BASS rules.
"That was the best decision I made all week," he said. "I felt very good about this tournament coming in, and after practicing at Oneida the first two days, I knew I had a chance to make the finals."
Calling his pattern a "patience deal," Thliveros caught every fish he weighed on a Zoom superfluke. He credited his Florida roots in helping him slow down and entice the biggest bass.
Despite his disappointment, Kennedy, who posted a two-day total of 38 pounds, 14 ounces, continues a superb season in which he has notched one Bassmaster Elite Series victory and set the BASS record at California's Clear Lake for heaviest four-day weight in a tournament. Kennedy was penalized 4 ounces for weighing an expired fish Sunday — one that was caught minutes before the end of his fishing day.
For the majority of his fishing day, Kennedy worked a swimbait to big structure and targeted bigger bites. Using a jig, he nearly boated a fish he estimated at more than 5 pounds, but he was unable to land it.
"Unbelievable!" said Kennedy, a one-time BASS winner. "This one hurts. It really does. But there is nothing I can do about it now."
Finishing third and fourth were two Arizona anglers. Moving up one spot to third was John Murray of Phoenix, with 37 pounds, 10 ounces. In fourth was Dean Rojas of Lake Havasu, with 36 pounds, 0 ounces.
Day 3 leader Dave Wolak of Wake Forest, N.C., slipped to fifth with a two-day total of 35 pounds, 15 ounces. Finishing sixth was Jared Lintner of Arroyo Grande, Calif., with 34 pounds, 12 ounces.
The next stop on the Bassmaster Elite Series is the Capitol Clash presented by Advance Auto Parts on Aug. 9-12 at the Potomac River. The next and final Bassmaster Major of the season is scheduled for Aug. 23-26 on the Arkansas River.
With only two events left in the season, the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, unaffected by the Bassmaster Majors, remains a tight race. Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., leads two-time Bassmaster Classic champion Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., by 21 points.
As with every Elite-level tournament, www.ESPNOutdoors.com is providing live, streaming video of the daily weigh-ins. Additionally, visitors to the site can access analysis, photo galleries, blogs from Elite Series anglers and abundant coverage of events. On Sunday, fans can catch Hooked Up with ESPN2 Outdoors personalities Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders at 5:30 p.m. to preview the final weigh-in.