2009: West Falls First Year Angler Rises

2009 Weekend Series Championship: West Falls First Year Angler Rises Into Contention

Hojin Chung at the 2009 bassmaster weekend series championship


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 RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. — What was once a blowout by Arkansas' Darrell West has become a tournament of ounces.

 Hojin Chang of Windermere, Fla., boated the biggest bass of the day, a 7.30-pound brute, and his 32.16-pound three-day total leads the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series Championship by a mere tenth of a pound.

 "Going to the Classic would change my life without a doubt," Chang said. "I've wanted to be there ever since I watched Rick Clunn win the Classic on the Arkansas River back in the '80s. Tomorrow, I have the chance of a lifetime to get there."The winner of the event will take home $100,000 and a berth in the Classic next February. Chang's closest challenger, Brandon Gray of Bullock, N.C., brought in 14.59 pounds on Day Three to move into second with 32.03 pounds. Day Two leader Darrell West only managed one keeper and fell to third with 31.48 pounds.

Rounding out the top five was Sam Boss of Paducah, Ky., in fourth with 27.55 pounds and Curtis Staley of Huntsville, Ala., in fifth place with a three-day total of 26.96 pounds.Chang, who is fishing his first year with the Weekend Series, had some company in his primary spot on Friday, and he spent most of the day guarding his best stretch of water.

 "I just sat up on my spot because I didn't want anyone else to pull in there," Chang said. "The big fish came from a spot where I had already made about 30 casts. The next one I made, it felt like I was hung up on a stump and then it started pulling drag."The pressure in his area combined with falling water may make fishing difficult for Chang on Saturday's final day, but his spirits were buoyed by the fact that he found three more spots on the way back in, one of which produced his second-biggest fish of the day.Gray, on the other hand, worked all day for his four bites, but they all were big fish. He moved up from 104th place to third on Day Two after boating the biggest limit of the tournament, and Friday he closed the gap to what amounts to a few drops of water. With a legitimate shot at taking home the crown on the final day, Gray was nervous to find out how many fish are left in his spot, which he plans to fish all day.

"I have been fortunate to get on a good morning bite," Gray said. "I caught my best fish right off the bat today, but after that, it was a painstaking process. There is a lot of hangy stuff out there, stumps and brush that I have to pick apart. I would be happy to have two to three fish tomorrow, but I'm going for the win."Qualifying for the Classic would be amazing and remarkable in itself. People fish all their lives and never get the chance, so to have this opportunity is all I can ask for."Classic dreams have also been on the mind of West, who was frustrated that a few bad decisions seemed to multiply on Day Three. After not having any company in his spot all week, he was joined by two other boats fishing in a small area."Between the dropping water and the other boats, I've just tried to adjust," West said. "I wasted half of the day today trying to find something a little different and it didn't work out. The thing that bothers me is that the leader is getting better and better and I have been getting worse and worse."Fishing was tough for the non-boaters as well on Friday as the top two failed to bring in a keeper, but they still maintained their respective positions atop the leaderboard. Merrill Showers sits in first with 16.86 pounds and Robert Richardson in second with 13.01 pounds.

 The field was cut to the top 25 boaters and non-boaters, fishing Saturday to determine the winner.Anglers launch at 7:50 a.m. ET from the Lake Dardanelle State Park and weigh in at 5:30 p.m. ET. The weigh-in festivities will be preceded by a free concert and the cook-off championship of the American Bass Anglers BBQ Tour sponsored by Early Times Kentucky Whiskey.


Complete results from the event can be found at www.abaproam.com.