Victory for Thliveros

FORT WORTH, Texas — A few days ago, Peter Thliveros had a dream that he won a fishing tournament.

He wasn't certain which tournament it was, but he clearly remembered that he finished first and his fellow Elite angler Edwin Evers finished second.

Well, the dream turned out to be only half true.

Evers wound up finishing third in the inaugural Bassmaster Major — the Memorial. Thliveros, on the other hand, claimed victory in the tour's first major and collected the $250,000 first prize that accompanied the win.

Thliveros, a Jacksonville, Fla., resident and a 17-year tour veteran, caught a four-fish sack on Sunday that weighed 10 pounds, 5 ounces. The catch gave him a two-day total of 25 pounds, 8 ounces which easily topped the other five anglers who survived two different cuts to fish for the Memorial championship.

Michael Iaconelli finished second with a two-day total of 22 pounds, 3 ounces. Evers caught the largest sack of the day Sunday (13-1) and finished with 20 pounds, 4 ounces. Mark Menendez (17-14), Skeet Reese (14-4) and Greg Hackney (9-13) rounded out the Super Six field.

Both Thliveros and Iaconelli passed the $1 million mark in career BASS earnings at the Memorial. But while those were milestones for both anglers, the day clearly belonged to Thliveros.

"This is by far the most prestigious victory I've ever had," Thliveros said. "My first victory was obviously tremendous. Last year, after a nine-year dry spell, winning then was like winning the first one all over again. But this one is just the most prestigous event I've ever been in."

For the first three days of the tournament (the first two on Eagle Mountain Lake and Saturday on Benbrook Lake), Thliveros found his best fish along rock dams using a 1/2-ounce Team Supreme Ultimate Rattling Rascal jig. But the dam, which was abutted holes No. 1 and 6 on Benbrook's six-hole course, didn't produce the fish Thliveros was looking for on Sunday. So he switched to a 3/8-ounce Team Supreme jig and the fish began to bite. He caught Sunday's keepers in Hole No. 5 (where he started the day) and in Hole No. 2 later in the morning.

"All I did was change the presentation from pitching and flipping techniques to casting," Thliveros said. "And I downsized and that's how I caught three of my four fish. It was the same Team Supreme jig, just a smaller version, lighter, with a slightly-different trailer (a Zoom Critter Craw as opposed to the Zoom Chunk.)

After landing the biggest bass on both Friday and Saturday, Thliveros was surprised the rock dams didn't produce sizable fish again Sunday. He purposely chose Hole No. 5 to begin Sunday so the timing would be ideal when he reached the dam on Hole Nos. 6 and 1.

"I continued to fish the big heavy jig on the rock dam the way I'd been doing it," he said. "But I just didn't catch the fish off it. I did catch one fish on Hole No. 1 with the heavy jig by a standing tree. But the other fish came casting. I was fishing little rough points, little flat points with gravel rock on it and some trees underwater that I couldn't see is actually where I caught (some of my fish.)"

With the unexpected change to his pattern, Thliveros said he had to scramble on Sunday if he was going to maintain his lead.

"The last day of practice is when I figured out the pattern on Eagle Mountain and what got me to this," Thliveros said. "Yesterday is when the tournament was won. Today was kind of just hanging on."

Even though he became one of only a handful of anglers in tour history to surpass the $1 million mark, Iaconelli said that was overshadowed by his not winning the Memorial.

"I had a shot at it," he said. "I lost one this morning. I don't think it would have won it for me, but I think it would have made things more interesting. I was one good bite away. I needed to catch a five or seven-pounder like Pete's been catching and I'm right there. I fished hard and kept my head down."

Each of the anglers was required to spend at least 70 minutes on each of the lake's six "holes" and were then allotted an hour to fish in the location of their choice. The top 12 anglers advanced to fish on Saturday, but had their weights eliminated to begin the second phase of the tournament.

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