Saturday, at the CITGO Bassmaster Southern Tour at Santee Cooper Reservoir, Niggemeyer finished with 64 pounds, 5 ounces, outlasting South Carolina competitor Jason Williamson (62-10) by less than two pounds.
Weighing in last, Niggemeyer was a bundle of nerves. He wasn’t convinced his weight would be enough to overtake the 25-year-old Williamson. But, in the end, it was a 10-4 lunker that locked up the tournament win for the Lindale, Texas, pro.
“I am absolutely elated with this win,” Niggemeyer said, whose first BASS win occurred at a 2005 ESPN Outdoors Bassmaster Series tournament on the Red River in Louisiana. “I was on pins and needles for a while there and I just didn’t think I had it.
“That fish gave me the fight of a lifetime,” he continued. “It hit my bait on my second cast, and almost broke off multiple times. In the end, it was worth over $70,000 to me.”
For his win, Niggemeyer secured a prize lot valued at almost $75,000 — a Triton boat package worth $45,000 and nearly $30,000 cash.
A West Coast transplant originally from Glendale, Calif., Niggemeyer attributed much of his success to strategies learned on his current hometown fishery, Lake Fork. He said he sight-fished on Santee Cooper, a tactic he’s mastered, thanks to his many hours guiding on the Texas trophy bass fishery.
He said his key bait was a Baby Fork Craw in green pumpkin color made by Lake Fork Trophy Bait and Tackle, and the line he spooled was 20-pound and 25-pound.
With the win, Niggemeyer takes a powerful lead in the all-important Tour points race. The top-five points leaders from each Tour automatically qualify for the Elite Series, and the top three from each Tour also qualify for the 2007 CITGO Bassmaster Classic — accomplishments well within Niggemeyer’s reach if he can continue his current hot streak.
“If my finances line up, my ultimate goal is to fish in the Elite Series,” said the soft-spoken Texan, who just recently had his first child, now a six-month-old. “Making a living fishing is the ultimate dream and BASS is the place to do that with the Elite Series.”
Fearing crowded areas on all three days, Niggemeyer located water devoid of boat pressure. On the final day, he spent the majority of his day in an area buttressed by a major feeder creek; it was the spot that produced the 10-4 lunker. Not only enough to clinch the win, the huge fish gave him Purolator Big Bass Honors and the $1,000 premium.
Despite getting close but ultimately falling short, Aiken, S.C., pro Williamson said he has no regrets.
“I am 100 percent satisfied with my tournament,” Williamson said. “I didn’t lose a fish all week and considering my practice, I certainly didn’t think I would factor in the lead on the final day.”
At just 25 years old and in his first year of BASS action, the South Carolina angler said his focus now is the remaining two events on the CITGO Bassmaster Southern Tour: Lake Eufaula, Eufaula, Ala., May 11-13; and Lake Lanier, Gainesville, Ga., Sept. 7-9.
Rounding out the top five on the pro side at Santee Cooper were the Day 1 leader, Alabama pro Boyd Duckett (59-7); Floridian Bryan Hudgins (59-4); and Goose Creek, S.C., pro Cecil Wolfe (57-3).
On the co-angler side, Palmetto State angler Glenn Kimbrell took home the Triton boat package valued at $30,000 after catching 20 pounds, 13 ounces. Kimbrell outlasted Michigan angler Josh Clark (17-5) and fellow South Carolina angler Albert Pieper (16-1).
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