Clifford Pirch's reward for two days of good fishing was a cashier's check for $18,000.
The professional bass angler pocketed the money after finishing 13th at the Forrest Wood Cup, held Aug. 2 to 5 at Lake Ouachita near Hot Springs, Ark.
In the tournament, the former Payson High School three-sport star weighed in a 10-fish limit of 18 pounds, 15 ounces.
Pirch just missed out on finishing among the top-10 anglers who qualified for the final two days of competition. Had he rocketed into the top-10 he would have been eligible for the tournament's $500,000 top prize, which was won by Bryant pro angler Scott Suggs.
"On the second day with about 30 minutes left, I found a fish hole that was pretty well untapped," he said.
"I was pulling fish out of there as fast as I could, all were two pounds or better, but I just ran out of time."
Pirch reasons that with more time, he might have caught enough good-sized bass to qualify for the final two rounds.
"But, that's the way tournament fishing goes," he said.
Although Pirch has been fishing the Eastern Wal-Mart FLW Tour for three years, he found Lake Ouachita to be an unusual challenge.
"It's a deep, clear reservoir with lots of rock, standing timber and grass," he said. "So I used drop shots and heavy Texas rigs to punch through the grass."
Pirch qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup, the granddaddy of all FLW tournaments, by finishing among the top 50 pro anglers in tour points.
He earned the qualifying berth with a clutch performance at a regular season-ending tournament held July 12 on the Detroit River.
"Going in, I knew I had to have a top 10 (finish) to qualify (for Forrest Wood)," he said.
Rising to the challenge much as he did when he was a champion wrestler at Payson High School, Pirch nailed down 10th place with a catch of about 37 pounds of small mouth bass.
"That got me into the Forrest Wood," he said.
Pirch's ride on the FLW tour began Feb. 15 at Lake Travis near Austin, Texas. He also made tournament stops at lakes near Knoxville, Tennessee, Charlotte, North Carolina, Rogers, Arkansas and Charles County, Maryland.
Pirch also fished National Guard Western Series tournaments at Lake Havasu and Bethel Island, California.
"I am on the road a lot," he said.
At most tournaments, he is accompanied by his wife, Alicia, and daughters Kassidy and Kailee.
"It's a family thing for us," he said.
Next on his agenda are stops at a National Guard tournament on the Columbia River and the USA Open at Lake Mead. Both tournaments are in September.
On the tournament circuit, the 31-year-old fisherman is one of 12 members -- six professionals and six co-anglers -- on a National Guard team that competes in FLW Outdoors and National Guard events around the country.
For him, being a member of the elite fishing team is a privilege he holds dear.
"I am representing the men and women of our country who are putting their lives on the line for all of us," he said. "It's a real honor."