DEL RIO, Texas — In placing fourth last year at Lake Amistad, Todd Faircloth found what he calls "a magic tree." It did him one better Sunday in the Bassmaster Elite Series Battle on the Border presented by Mahindra Tractors.
The 32-year-old Jasper, Texas, pro landed a five-bass limit weighing 29 pounds, 14 ounces, jumping all the way from eighth place to the $100,000 first-place check at Lake Amistad. In the three-day event, shortened by one day due to a high wind forecast, Faircloth totaled 76-15.
"I can't believe it," Faircloth said. "Even after I caught what I caught, I didn't expect to win this event."
Rookie Clark Reehm of Russellville, Ark., entered the day in second place and finished there with a total weight of 76-3.
Faircloth was 8-11 behind leader Jason Williamson going into Sunday's 12-angler finale. His 29-14 not only took Berkley Heavyweight Bag honors for the day, it easily outdistanced what any of the other 11 contenders could produce. Kevin Short's 22-7 allowed him to end in third place, exactly where he has started the day.
There were only two other bags over 20 pounds after a calm, sunny day made fishing tougher than it had been all week.
Faircloth's fourth-place finish at Lake Amistad last year included a day in which he caught 36-7 from one tree, isolated just off a point. He caught a 5 1/2-pounder there Friday, but went back to it several times Saturday and didn't get a bite.
"I told my cameraman that I was saving it for the last part of the day," Faircloth said. "I pulled up there with about an hour left and caught two giants.
"That's a magic tree."
The two giants included an 8-6, which was also the Purolator Big Bass on Sunday.
Faircloth relied on two lures this week: a Yamamoto 6-inch Senko and a "big shad-colored swimbait."
He used another lure as a "fish locator" — a jointed wake bait.
"I was just throwing it over these flats and reeling it real fast," Faircloth said. "I caught some on it in practice. But when the sun came out, they wouldn't commit to it.
"It would definitely draw the fish up though. That's how I located a lot of these fish I caught."
Faircloth kept an eye on the water Sunday. When he saw a ripple on it, he'd put down the Senko and pick up the swimbait.
"When it was slicked off out there this morning, I knew they wouldn't hit a swim bait," he said. "I picked up that Senko and caught a limit in about an hour.
"There were a couple of windows throughout the day when the wind would pick up. When it did, I'd go to my areas and throw a swimbait on those isolated trees. You had to pay real close attention to that throughout the day."
Mike McClelland, who was shooting for a record fourth Elite Series win, finished fourth with 71-1. Williamson had only 14-0 Sunday and dropped to fifth with 69-12. Gary Klein took sixth place with 69-2.
The victory marked Faircloth's second in the two-plus seasons of the Elite Series: He also won the 2006 season finale on Missouri's Table Rock Lake.
Faircloth's wife, Angie, and two young sons, Hudson and Harrison, were traveling with him this week. He got emotional on stage after realizing he'd won a tournament he never expected to win.
"I'm an emotional guy," Faircloth said. "These opportunities don't happen much. I realize that. When they do, you need to appreciate them."