KENNEWICK, Wash. – After leading the first two days at the CITGO Bassmaster Northern Open presented by Busch Beer, Chris Lambert knew it was his tournament to lose when he launched into the Columbia River Saturday morning. And when he returned to Columbia Park after a full day of fishing, he was pretty sure he had lost it.

“I thought I needed about 16 pounds today to win it,” the Olympia, Wash., angler said. “I had about 12 pounds. I thought I would maybe be able to hold on to second.”

But Lambert got some lucky breaks – chief among them that his closest competitor, Gene Batey, of Pasco, Wash., only brought in 9 pounds, 15 ounces, not enough to close the 2-ounce gap that separated the two after Friday’s weigh-in.

“After I checked in, I heard a few of the guys that were right behind me had a tough day, and it was at that point that I figured I might win.”

And win he did, weighing in a cumulative 42-9, enough to pick up the $46,850 top prize in the boater division, along with a hefty trophy – his first from BASS.

“I’m going to put this in our living room,” Lambert joked. “It’s decorated real frou-frou and I think this trophy will fit in great.”

Lambert was drop-shotting a combination of watermelon- and smoke-colored Yamamoto 3-inch Senko lures and sand-colored Sniper Snubs into a small patch of water on the Snake River. He planned to fish from the spot for as long as it kept producing competitive smallmouth bass, but said it took a lot of discipline to stick to that strategy on the final day.

“Today it took about an hour before I got a bite,” he said. “I almost left.”

The home team made a good showing this week, with Washington anglers taking the first four of the top five spots in the competition. David Kromm, of Kennewick, ended in second with 40-6; followed by fellow Kennewickian Ron Mace (39-6); Clint Johanson, of Benton City, Wash., (38-12); and California’s Skeet Reese (37-7).

In the non-boater division, Japan’s Hisashi Kawashima led the field with 33-8, followed by Kyle Rasmussen, of Angel’s Camp, Calif. (32-10); Patrick Wilson, of Petaluma, Calif. (28-8); David Swendseid, of Aloha, Ore. (26-12); and Kevin Gray, of Hermiston, Ore. (26-11).

This was the first of three events in the Western Division that will send the top anglers to the inaugural Bassmaster Open Championship in December — and, ultimately, the coveted CITGO Bassmaster Classic next summer.

BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass-fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.

Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Chevrolet Trucks, Yamaha Outboards, Mercury Marine, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, Kumho Tires, Progressive Insurance, Abu Garcia, Berkley, Diamond Cut Jeans, MotorGuide Trolling Motors, and BankOne.

Associate Sponsors include Bryant Heating and Air Conditioning and G3 Boats.

Local sponsors include Apollo, Inc.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.espnoutdoorsmedia.com.