Local Angler Lands Big Payday

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A stringer of 10 bass that tipped the scales at 19 pounds, 15 ounces earned professional angler Clifford Pirch $40,000 in prize money.

"It's the biggest single payday I've had," the pro said. "It was exciting."

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Clifford Pirch's successes at the Wal-Mart Open Powered by Tyson on Beaver Lake tournament near Rogers, Ark. will air at 9 a.m. May 15 on the FLW Outdoors television program and on the Fox Sports Network, cable channel 35 in Payson.

Pirch pocketed the prize money for finishing fourth in the Wal-Mart Open Powered by Tyson on Beaver Lake tournament held April 13 to April 16 near Rogers, Ark.

Pirch's ascension to a fourth-place finish after a miserable start is a tale he'll someday spin to his grandchildren.

The former Payson High School three-sport star began the tournament with a disappointing catch of 8 pounds, 1 ounce that left him sitting in 105th place heading into the second half of the opening round.

Rising to the challenge -- much as he did as a Longhorn state champion wrestler -- Pirch, on the following day,eighed in an enormous 19-pound, 8-ounce catch that vaulted him into first place.

"That was a great day," he said. "It'll be pretty hard to do it again, but I'd like too."

About the lackluster first day, Pirch said, "I just fished too fast. I kind of choked."

Pirch said he changed his strategy the second day to include fishing a shallow shad pattern in the morning and as clouds cleared he switched to sight fishing for bass in the spawn. He also fished deeper water for prespawn fish, he said.

His baits included Castaic Baby Jerky J soft plastic, "lizards creature baits and a Roboworm."

He also threw a jig and drop-shot in deeper water along ledges.

In his five-bass limit were 4-pound, 12-ounce and 4-pound, 8-ounce lunkers.

Although Pirch wasn't able to hold onto first place in the final rounds of the tournament, he did land enough bass to post his first big payday since he began fishing the East Coast Wal-Mart FLW circuit.

"I hadn't had a good tournament in the East," he said. "I was starting to wonder if I should have stayed out West."

Prior to his rally to the fourth-place finish, Pirch was 86th at a Ouachita River tournament and 101st at Lake Toho.

In addition to bumping up the family budget by thousands, Pirch's tournament appearance earned him some national airtime on the FLW television network. The tournament was tape-delay broadcast May 8.

Because he's a rookie on the circuit, Pirch said he was taken back by the attention that goes to fishing in an FLW final round.

"I had to adjust to the whole ‘hat-cam' thing," he said.

For an angler that collected elk horns in Arizona's high country to earn enough money to buy his first bass boat and spent his college years as a wildland firefighter and hunt guide, a nationwide television audience can be intimidating.

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