Stone, who has not placed higher than 33rd in the past two Tour seasons, pulled 61 pounds, 12 ounces of bass out of the Harris Chain of Lakes, earning the tournament's $100,000 top prize. Stone's last BASS victory came five years ago at Alabama's Lake Wheeler.
An emotional Stone told the crowd at the Pat Thomas Ballfield, "I've seen the bottom of this sport and this just goes to show, you never give up.
"I'll be the first to admit, when I made that first Classic, I thought I was a pretty good fisherman," he said, "but I've been in a self-proclaimed slump for the past few years. I want to be a good fisherman, and to do that I'm going to have to be on the water. I have a lot of work to do."
Stone's victory came by fishing a 7-inch Sweebo Worm, junebug in color, with an American Rodsmith 71/2-foot flipping stick. Stone also used a 3/8-ounce Gambler Ninja Spin spinnerbait, a minnow style spinnerbait that has a white and blue head.
"Those are ideal colors for cloudy weather like today," Stone said.
Stone also picked up an additional $1,000 as the Busch Heavyweight of the day, the daily award for having the heaviest catch of the day. His 15-pound, 13-ounce sack for Day 4 earned him some money, but Stone doesn't think he'll see much of it.
"My wife and I made a deal," he joked. "I can keep all the trophies and she gets the money."
Arkansas pro Scott Rook came up a spot from third to finish the tournament in second, earning him $38,000. Rook came in with a 12-13 sack Sunday, giving him a total of 60-9 for the four days.
Brent Chapman took home third place Sunday and a check for $23,000. Chapman, who was fishing his 100th BASS event, wasn't satisfied with his performance.
"I need to make sure I put every fish in the boat," Chapman said. "I missed two fish today that could have been the difference in the tournament. I'm really trying hard not to think about that now, but it's hard not to."
New Jersey's Mike Iaconelli, who led Saturday's round, wound up fourth (58-12), with Texans Tommy Martin (56-7) and Bud Pruitt (48-1) taking fifth and sixth places, respectively.
The Purolator Big Bass of the day went to Martin, who brought in a 6-pound bass to earn him the $1,000 bonus. The Purolator Big Bass of the Tournament and its $1,000 prize went to Day 1 leader Alton Jones. His 10-pound 13-ounce lunker had already earned him $1,000 for Day 1.
On Friday, tournament officials erred while determining which of the two amateur anglers tied for 12th place would qualify to fish in Saturday's final amateur round.
After tournament officials discovered the error, they contacted the anglers in question and discussed reparations with the amateur who was incorrectly cut. Final measures will be determined when BASS officials meet next week.
Tournament Director Trip Weldon called the incident unfortunate and assured that corrective steps are being taken to prevent a similar situation in the future.
The CITGO Bassmaster Tour heads north next week to Smith Lake in Jasper, Ala., for the second event on the 2004 Tournament Trail, Feb. 5-8.
Fans can catch a telecast of the Harris Chain tournament on Saturday, Feb. 7 at 10:30 a.m. ET/9:30 a.m. CT on ESPN2.
Thousands of fans were on hand Sunday afternoon to take part in the highly interactive and family friendly BASS Sponsor Expo area. Sponsors presented interactive exhibits and provided a fun family experience for all ages.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Skeeter Boats, Mercury Marine, Yamaha Outboards, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.
Associate Sponsors include G3 Boats and Bryant Heating and Air Conditioning.
Local Sponsors are: Lake County, Fla.; City of Leesburg; Lake County Water Authority; Leesburg Chamber of Commerce
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.