After pulling three fish out of his bag Sunday afternoon at the Chattanooga Convention Center, Clifford Pirch had the nervous look of somebody that was about to come up short.
Instead, Pirch captured his first career Walmart FLW Tour event by pulling out his two biggest bass — only slightly bigger than his smile — that he caught Sunday on Chickamauga Lake.
Pirch, of Payson, Ariz., closed the four-day event with five fish weighing 16 pounds, 10 ounces. It was the second-highest total of the day and gave him a winning total of 77-3.
“I got five bites and these are the five that I got,” said Pirch, who earned $125,000.
Though Pirch wound up winning by more than six pounds, he was far from stress-free while fishing Sunday. He said it took him a couple of hours to land his first fish and he didn’t get his last two until shortly before returning to Chester Frost Park.
“The last two fish came pretty late in the day and I knew [the other anglers] were really going to have to catch them, but you never really know what anybody else has got,” Pirch said.
A crowd of well more than 1,000 attended the weigh-in and all the anglers spoke very highly of their experience on Chickamauga. Pirch said he’d be happy to see the FLW Tour return to the Chattanooga area.
“I’d love to come back here,” he said. “This is a great time of year to be here and I’d love to come back. ... It’s fun any time you catch big ones and to have the opportunity to weigh a sack like that.”
The overnight leader after days 2 and 3, Pirch had a 1-pound cushion over second place Shinichi Fukae heading into the final day. Fukae caught the five-fish limit Sunday, but didn’t have any lunkers.
The Japanese Fukae, who lives in Palenstine, Texas, brought in a haul weighing 10-15, which was good enough to keep him in second place with an overall total of 70-8. It also earned him $35,000, pushing his career total over $1 million.
The field was cut to 10 following Saturday’s fishing and Scott Caterbury of Springville, Ala., was in ninth when he hit the lake Sunday. Five big bass later, he finished fourth after his catch weighed in at 19-9.
Tom Monsoor, of La Crosse, Wis., finished in third with a total of 69-5 and his 9 pound, 11 ounce bass that he caught on Day 1 held up as the largest of the tournament.
Monsoor said it was the largest fish he ever caught, but not the biggest he ever hooked.
“This lake is phenomenal and what nobody knows is 30 years ago I was here in a tournament and I lost the biggest bass I’d ever seen in my life,” he said while signing a young fan’s T-shirt. “It was either 15 or 20 pounds. This lake has some whoppers in it.”
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...