Washington State Pro Scores 5- Pound Plus Victory on Lake Kissimmee

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — On a day when weather wreaked havoc on his closest pursuers, Luke Clausen of Washington state put the finishing touches on a rare wire-to-wire victory Sunday in the 36th annual CITGO Bassmaster Classic on Lake Tohopekaliga.

Fishing fans who couldn’t watch the win in person saw it on ESPN beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET.

A cold, steady rain and relentless 20 mph winds shuffled the leaderboard in the final round, but Clausen managed to catch a third consecutive limit. His catch of 11 pounds, 13 ounces, gave him a total of 56-2. That was enough to hold off hard-charging CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series angler Rick Morris of Virginia, who had a total of 51 pounds, and Ron Shuffield of Arkansas, who had 47-14.

Clausen became just the seventh angler to post a wire-to-wire win in Bassmaster Classic history. He also set the record for heaviest winning Classic weight, which formerly was 55-10 and held by Davy Hite. A capacity crowd of 10,019 at the Orange County Convention Center watched Clausen receive the most important trophy in professional fishing.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” said the 27-year-old, who was the youngest Bassmaster Classic competitor in this year’s tournament and won $500,000 with the Classic title. “It’s like you’re in the middle of a dream. It’s surreal.”

Clausen’s biggest career achievement centered around fishing isolated vegetation in 3 to 4 feet of water in the southeastern corner of Lake Kissimmee. He said he fished a 6-inch, junebug-colored Mann’s HardNose worm along the lake bottom.

“I probably had the strongest area of the lake and I understood it better than the other guys,” Clausen said. “That was why I won.”

Meanwhile, Morris, 44, made a charge from fifth place into the runner-up position with a final-round catch of 13-11. His success came on a Chatterbait and War Eagle spinnerbait. Unlike the other Bassmaster Classic contenders, he concentrated his efforts in the Kissimmee River.

“It would have been nice to have had the Classic as my first (BASS) win,” said Morris, who has fished BASS for 14 years. Morris qualified for the Bassmaster Classic by finishing second in the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship in December 2005. “I seem to be second quite a bit. I guess you have to finish second before you can be first,” he said.

Shuffield, 50, made a gallant run in his 15th Classic appearance, but dropped from second to third with a final-round total of 7-15. The same lures and area in Lake Kissimmee that produced his 21-pound limit on Saturday weren’t much of a match for Sunday’s drastic weather conditions. He only weighed in three bass and reported missing 10 other strikes.

“It just wasn’t my day,” Shuffield said. “I always said that when it’s your time to win a tournament, you can’t help but win.”

Tournament favorite Terry Scroggins, 37 years old and one of two Floridians in the field, fought his way into a nail-biting fourth-place finish. The angler’s intimate knowledge of the tournament waters allowed him to sandwich two solid performances (10-14 and 7-11) around a second-round charge of 28-6 to finish with 46-15. He fished on Lake Kissimmee with a prototype Zoom crawfish imitation around deeper pads and hydrilla.

“I lost this tournament on the first day,” he said. “Nothing I did that day seemed to work out.”

Defending Classic champion Kevin VanDam capped off a remarkable comeback after opening in 25th place. He rebounded with limits of 14-15 and 15-7 to finish in fifth place with 44-8. Last year, VanDam won the Bassmaster Classic in Pittsburgh with the a record-low winning Classic weight of 12-15.

Clausen took Sunday’s Purolator Big Bass award with a 5-13 largemouth.

Total attendance enjoying the weigh-in for the three-day event was 21,742. In total, more than 62,000 fishing fans attended some facet of the 2006 Bassmaster Classic.

The 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic is hosted by the Kissimmee Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Central Florida Sports Commission.

BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.

BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry’s widest array of services and support to its nearly 550,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit