Almost as if he were toying with the Chattanooga, Tenn. audience and others watching the Lake Chickamauga bass tournament weigh-in on FLW live streaming video, Payson pro angler Clifford Pirch rumpled through his sack seemingly searching for the lunker that would earn him $125,000 in prize money and his first-ever FLW Tour victory.
At the time, he was sitting in second place and needed a few more pounds to soar over the top to victory.
The waiting time seemed an eternity for unknowing family and friends in Payson — who were nervously hanging on the edge of their seats — before Pirch yanked from his catch bag two nice-sized bass that propelled him to a first place finish with a four-day limit of 20 fish that tipped the scales at 77 pounds, 3 ounces.
While Pirch’s win was by a considerable margin, the battle for first place was up for grabs from the tournament’s tip off.
After finishing as runner-up on the second day, Pirch entered the final day of the tournament holding a precarious one-pound lead over second place Cheeze-it pro Shinchi Fukae.
Pirch’s five keepers on the fourth day totaled 16 pounds, 10 ounces, which earned him the win over Fukae, who finished 6 pounds, 11 ounces behind the Rim Country angler. Fukae’s final day weigh-in was 10 pounds, 15 ounces.
Following the final weigh-in, Pirch called the win “awesome,” but also said it was nerve-wracking fishing the final day “waiting to see what the other guys have.”
The Rim pro, who was the final angler to weigh in, said he didn’t know he had the championship locked up until Fukae’s completed his weigh-in.
He also said the tournament “is one of those deals where you leave it out on the lake,” which rendered it more than a bit exhausting, but also exciting.
On the victory stand Pirch thanked his Payson-based sponsor High Precision Range (HPR), which manufactures rifle and pistol ammunition at a high-tech plant located near the Payson Airport.
It was only a few weeks ago that HPR agreed to sponsor Pirch as he competes on the Walmart FLW tour held on a series of eastern and southern-area lakes.
Pirch also thanked his other sponsors including Roboworm Creature baits and the Polarized Typhoon Optics he used for sight fishing success.
In closing, he attributed the win to his strong Christian faith saying the glory of victory was to go to God.
The last round
On the crucial final day, with Pirch clinging to the narrow lead, he caught his first keeper at about 9 a.m.
But it wasn’t until about 1:30 p.m. that he landed his 6-pound largemouth that turned out to be the kicker fish at the weigh-in.
The final two fish were caught in a bay he hadn’t previously fished.
“I had about an hour left (to fish) and I had to make a decision,” Pirch said. “I could go back to an area I’d fished, but it didn’t seem there was any (fish) left there, or go to a new (location) and try to find some.”
While the win at Chickamauga was the Payson pro’s first on the tour level, he has won the U.S. Open twice and has an FLW Western Series win to his credit.
This event was the fourth of 10 Walmart tour tournaments for 2011. The next will be held May 5 to May 8 in Branson, Mo.
Coverage of the Lake Chickamauga tourney will be broadcast in high definition on VERSUS “FLW Outdoors” at 10 a.m., Sunday, May 29.