HIGH ROCK LAKE, N.C. — Bryan Kerchal, 23, of Newton, Conn., ignored the odds to become the only "amateur" to claim the coveted Classic Champion title and the $50,000 prize that accompanied it.
He did so in grand style, winning before a record weigh-in crowd of 23,000 packed into the Greensboro, N.C., coliseum.
His 15-bass stringer weighed 36 pounds, 7 ounces, 4 ounces better than veteran pro Tommy Biffle, whose 18-14 final day charge left him in the runner-up spot for the second time in four years.
Although he fished six BASS Invitationals during the previous year, Kerchal qualified for the Classic through the BASS Federation, by winning the BASS National Championship in 1994.
Kerchal pitched a red-shad Culprit worm (the color and brand of a worm he found floating in the lake during practice) under boat docks in Second Creek. He was the only contestant to weigh in a limit every day.
• Classic champ Bryan Kerchal finished in last place in the 1993 Classic.
• Kerchal was a true amateur, earning his living as a short order cook at the Ground Round restaurant in Connecticut and keeping a Wrangler cap in his boat so he could gather the autographs of his competition.
• After catching each bass, Kerchal would blow a toy fish whistle that a fellow Federation angler gave him for good luck.
• Tragically, Kerchal was killed in a commuter plane crash just a few months after his Classic victory.
Top 6 finishers
1. Bryan Kerchal Newton, Conn. 36-07
2. Tom Biffle Wagoner, Okla. 36-03
3. Denny Brauer Camdenton, Mo. 34-01
4. Ron Shuffield Bismarck, Ark. 31-02
5. Dion Hibdon Stover, Mo. 30-13
6. Guido Hibdon Gravois Mills, Mo. 29-13