Florida Rookie Claims Victory on Lake Okeechobee
OKEECHOBEE, Fla. - Jan. 19, 2003 - Terry Scroggins, a rookie on the Bassmaster Tour, posted his first Tour win Sunday and left a field of more experienced pros struggling in his wake.
Scroggins, of Palatka, Fla., weighed in the final day's only five-fish limit at 12 pounds, 11 ounces. That weight brought his four-day total to 62-2, nearly 10 pounds more than his closest competitor, Roger Boler.
Boler, of Slidell, La., posted a final weight of 52-11, followed by Bernie Schultz of Gainesville, Fla., 52-5; California's Mark Tyler, 47-9; Chad Morgenthaler of Illinois, 46-0; and Louisiana's Mark Sabbides, 44-5.
Scroggins said winning an event in his first season on the Tour is a heady taste of success, but won't affect how he fishes the remaining eight events.
"These are the top fishermen in the world," he said. "I'm still measuring up to them."
The six anglers earned the right to compete in the final round by making a day two cut that reduced the field from 182 to 12, and a second cut on day three to narrow the competition to Sunday's Super Six.
In addition to putting him in the lead in the Rookie of the Year chase, Scroggins' 62-2 catch also launched him into the BASS record books, topping the previous heaviest weight on Lake Okeechobee, 60-0, set by Ron Shuffield in 1987.
The new record belied the tough conditions that had the world's best anglers struggling to put together limits on the usually generous Okeechobee. Scroggins picked up his $100,000 check by correctly predicting that the dropping temperatures would force bass deeper into floating mats of vegetation. While many pros focused on sight fishing, Scroggins flipped a 3-inch Fireclaw lure into hyacinth mats and waited for the bite.
"I knew the fish were there," he said. "I just kept beating them on the head."
In addition to the awards ceremony, fans at the final weigh-in also saw Jim Bitter of Fruitland Park, Fla., take the lead in the BASS Angler of the Year race. Bitter's finishes on the first two Tour stops gave him 327 points, 16 points ahead of Scroggins, his closest competitor.
The BASS Angler of the Year program rewards the season's most consistent angler with an ultimate prize of $100,000. The points leader after every tournament earns a $1,000 bonus and the right to wear a special leader's life vest at the next Tour stop.
The event from Lake Okeechobee will be telecast on ESPN2 Saturday, Feb. 1, at 10:30 a.m. (ET).
Anglers will head to Lake Seminole near Bainbridge, Ga., Feb. 6-9, the third stop on the 10-event Bassmaster Tour. Along with four days of exciting weigh-ins, fans can enjoy chances to meet the pros, check out the latest merchandise and play at free interactive exhibits at the BASS Sponsor Expo, open Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at all stops on the Tour.