LAKE TOHOPEKALIGA, Fla. — On a day when weather wreaked havoc on his closest pursuers, Luke Clausen of Washington state put the finishing touches on a rare wire-to-wire victory in the 36th annual Bassmaster Classic on Lake Tohopekaliga.
Fishing fans who couldn't watch the victory in person saw it on ESPN.
A cold, steady rain and relentless 20 mph winds shuffled the leaderboard in the final round, but Clausen managed to catch a third consecutive limit. His catch of 11 pounds, 13 ounces, gave him a total of 56-2.
That was enough to hold off hard-charging Bassmaster Elite Series angler Rick Morris of Virginia, who had a total of 51 pounds, and Ron Shuffield of Arkansas, who had 47-14.
Clausen became just the seventh angler to post a wire-to-wire win in Bassmaster Classic history. He also set the record for heaviest winning Classic weight, which formerly was 55-10 and held by Davy Hite.
A capacity crowd of 10,019 at the Orange County Convention Center watched Clausen receive the most important trophy in professional fishing.
"It hasn't really sunk in yet," said the 27-year-old, who was the youngest Bassmaster Classic competitor in this year's tournament and won $500,000 with the Classic title. "It's like you're in the middle of a dream. It's surreal."
Clausen's biggest career achievement centered around fishing isolated vegetation in 3 to 4 feet of water in the southeastern corner of Lake Kissimmee. He said he fished a 6-inch, junebug-colored Mann's HardNose worm along the lake bottom.
• Many Classic records were broken including heaviest day catch with a five-fish limit (Clausen with 29-6), heaviest bass caught in the Classic (Preston Clark with 11-10) and heaviest winning Classic weight with a five-fish limit (Clausen with 56-02).
• Clausen was the youngest competitor in the field at age 27.
Top 6 finishers
1. Luke Clausen Spokane Valley, Wash. 15 56-02 0
2. Rick Morris Lanexa, Va. 15 51-00 0
3. Ron Shuffield Bismarck, Ark. 13 47-14 0
4. Terry Scroggins Palatka, Fla. 15 46-15 0
5. Kevin VanDam Kalamazoo, Mich. 15 44-08 0