SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Holding tight to the lead he built Saturday, Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Okla., won the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series’ Empire Chase presented by Mahindra Tractors on Oneida Lake on Sunday with 63 pounds, 10 ounces.

Biffle’s first win of the season will air on The CITGO Bassmasters Saturday, July 15, at 10 a.m. ET on ESPN2.

The BASS veteran said he relied on two lures, a Reaction Innovations’ Sweet Beaver and a Stanley Jigs’ Ribbit Frog, to catch each day’s limit, including Sunday’s five fish weighing 16 pounds even. He said he struggled to find fish on Sunday, when only the Elite 12 anglers competed. But when early morning clouds parted and the sun started to shine, the bite turned on and the Day 3 leader found his winning fish under cover in 6 to 8 inches of water.

Biffle was one of the few pros who targeted the largemouth bass of Oneida Lake, a clear-water fishery known for its smallmouth. While many other anglers were catching smallmouth after smallmouth, “I never looked for smallmouth or even rigged a rod for [smallmouth],” said Biffle, 48. “I knew I could win this.”

His win was one of the most emotional in his 21-year BASS career. With the $100,000 top prize, Biffle became the 16th angler to surpass the $1 million mark in BASS earnings, a milestone he was determined to reach this year, just as Elite anglers Michael Iaconelli and Peter Thliveros have done. When Biffle learned of the accomplishment, he fought back the tears, regained his composure and said, “That’s what I’ve been waiting for all this time.”

Spectators, fans and insiders predicted all week long that the Empire Chase would be a battle of ounces. Though Biffle won by 2 pounds, 15 ounces, the angler weights behind him were so close, two ties were declared.

In second was Charlie Youngers of Florida with 60-11. This was Youngers’ first appearance in the Elite 12 and the angler said he felt proud to finish so high in a group of such accomplished athletes. In third was two-time CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion Kevin VanDam of Michigan with 60-8. Tied for fourth with 60-7 were Dave Wolak of Pennsylvania and Ken Cook of Oklahoma. Tied for sixth were Lee Bailey of Alabama and Iaconelli of New Jersey with 60-6.

Nearly every angler blamed their inability to overtake Biffle on the lack of a kicker fish, though Day 1 leader Bailey had the Purolator Big Bass on Sunday that was worth an extra $1,000, a 4-pound, 12-ounce bass.

Also, in an upset move on Saturday, Pennsylvania pension consultant Donald Bishop took the co-angler division with 26-10, winning a Triton boat valued at $45,000.

Elite anglers will have no down time this week. They are headed to Plattsburgh, N.Y., to begin practice Monday for the July 13-16 Champion’s Choice on Lake Champlain. Biffle – who hadn’t won a BASS tournament since 1995 – already made his prediction for the winner at the 9th stop on the Elite Series trail. “I’ve got a lot of confidence going into Champlain,” he said. “I would just tell people that cameramen will be filming me on Day 4 of that tournament.”

Biffle’s obviously looking to add to his Oneida event take of $100,000, which was the winner’s portion of the total cash payout of $673,150. Anglers also competed for points toward qualifying for the Bassmaster Majors and CITGO Bassmaster Classic. They also received points in the race for the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year award.

Local Sponsors: Local sponsors include the Syracuse Convention and Visitors Bureau.

CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series sponsors: Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Advance Auto Parts and Theraseed®.

BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation Nation 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.

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