The Elite Series veteran and former Kentucky Derby jockey led from start to finish to claim the $100,000 first-place prize and valuable points toward the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. With a four-day weight of 55 pounds, 10 ounces, Wirth, 45, sealed his first BASS win in 14 years and the first wire-to-wire victory of the 2008 Elite season.
Wirth also rallied to 30th in the AOY standings – the top 36 in the standings will qualify for the Classic, set for Feb. 20-22 out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La. The winner of the AOY will receive $250,000 and the points will also determine the brunt of the 2009 Bassmaster Classic qualifiers.
Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Texas, who is in second place in the AOY title race, finished 10th with and 42-14. He closed the gap between himself and leader Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., by three more points, now just 12 behind with only two events remaining in the Trail to the Trophy.
Fishing fans can catch all of the action from the Tennessee Triumph on The Bassmasters on Saturday, July 5, at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN2.
After a disappointing Day 3, Bill Lowen of North Bend, Ohio, rebounded on Day 4 with the Berkley Big Bag of the Day at 14-9 for 50-5 overall. Wirth’s 17-2 catch Thursday won the Berkley Big Bag of the tournament.
Randy Howell of Springville, Ala., held firm in third place with 12-15 for 50 pounds, 0 ounces overall, and he took home the bonus for the Purolator Big Bass of the Tournament for his Day 2 catch of 6-6. Dean Rojas of Lake Havasu, Ariz., was fourth with 48-12, and in a tie for fifth place with 48-10 were 2008 Bassmaster Classic champion Alton Jones of Waco, Texas, and four-time Bassmaster Classic champ Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo. Brent Chapman of Lake Quivira, Kan., who finished seventh with 47-11, weighed one Sunday at 5-8, good for the $1,000 premium for the Purolator Big Bass of the Day.
Wirth said Sunday that on the third day of practice he didn’t like what he was doing, because it went against the grain of how he was accustomed to fishing, but he said he put one rod in his hand and said to himself, “I’m going fishing.”
“I can’t hardly hold my emotions here, you know, because it’s been a long, hard grind,” Wirth said on the weigh-in stage as he fought off tears. “There’s been many a day when you think, man, this is not the right thing to be doing. And right now, this makes it all worth it. Dreams can come true, if you have a dream and stick with it, go get it.”
Wirth’s two biggest fish Sunday came on a buzzbait he hadn’t used the rest of the week. He fished shallow through the competition, mainly flipping a Berkley Power Hog creature bait in green pumpkin.
“I noticed the water come up with a lot of cloud cover, we had some rain last night, so the water was pretty dark,” Wirth said of Sunday’s conditions that led to his using the buzzbait. “I noticed the fish were roaming around and weren’t getting up on the targets. As soon as I pulled in my area I saw a couple flicker up on top, so it had come to me this morning before take-off and I reached in the lock box and tied one on, and it paid off.”
In the Advance Auto Parts Rookie of the Year race, Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla., continues to lead with 1,836 points. He is 409 points ahead of second-place Wade Grooms of Bonneau, S.C.
Mike McClelland of Bella Vista, Ark., leads the Berkley Heavyweight Award race with 307 pounds, 4 ounces through nine events.
Up next is the July 31-Aug. 3 Empire Chase on Lake Erie and the Niagara River out of Buffalo, the 10th event of 11 Elite Series tournaments in the Trail to the Trophy.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit Bassmaster.com. Visit ESPNMediaZone.com for ESPN’s latest releases, schedules and other news, plus photos, video, audio clips and more.
The local sponsor of the Tennessee Triumph is the Sumner County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Sponsors of the Bassmaster Elite Series include Toyota Tundra, Advance Auto Parts, Berkley, Lowrance, Mercury, Purolator, Skeeter, Yamaha, Evan Williams Bourbon, Longhorn, OPTIMA Batteries, Triton Boats, Costa Del Mar, MotorGuide and Ramada Worldwide.
For 40 years, BASS has served as the authority on bass fishing. With its considerable multi-media platforms and expansive tournament trail, BASS is guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans. Through its industry leading publications Bassmaster Magazine, BASS Times and Fishing Tackle Retailer and comprehensive web properties in Bassmaster.com and ESPNOutdoors.com, the organization is committed to delivering content true to the lifestyle. Additionally, television programming on ESPN2 continues to provide relevant content from tips and techniques to in-depth tournament coverage to passionate audiences.
The organization oversees the prestigious Bassmaster tournament trail which includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Opens, Women's Bassmaster Tour and the Bassmaster Classic, the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing. Through its grassroots network, the BASS Federation Nation, BASS sanctions more than 20,000 events annually.
BASS also offers an array of services to its more than 525,000 members while spearheading progressive, positive change on issues related to conservation and water access. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.