Griffin, Elite Series Rookie, Dominates to Land First BASS Victory
SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Thirty-two-year-old Chad Griffin caught his first bass at 22 years old and instantly became addicted. Ten years later, the Cresson, Texas, resident who grew up in Alaska - a state reportedly with no largemouth bass population - cashed in on a dream, to the tune of $100,000, at the regular-season finale, the Ramada Champion's Choice on Oneida Lake. Griffin, an Elite Series rookie, worked Oneida for both relevant species - largemouth and smallmouth - and tallied 65 pounds, 10 ounces, enough to hold off hard-charging Jeff Kriet of Ardmore, Okla., by more than 2 pounds.
He credited his versatility, a must on Oneida, to his years of toiling in grassroots and lower-level tournaments in various states. His main bait for the final two days was a white XCalibur Zell Pop with chartreuse. Heading into the final day, Griffin carried a stout lead of 4-plus pounds and got off to a blazing start Sunday. But as the day progressed so did his troubles - including battery issues and a few missed fish.
"I thought I blew the tournament. I was really worried," said Griffin, who moved up to 42nd in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. "Honestly, I'm not sure what the heck I just accomplished. This means the world to me."
Fishing fans can catch all of the on-the-water action from the Champion's Choice on The Bassmasters, which airs Saturday, August 22, at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Also, the daily weigh-ins for two Elite Series postseason events will air live on ESPN360.com, ESPN's broadband sports network, while a wealth of unique content will also be available at Bassmaster.com leading up to the Postseason.
While growing up in Alaska, Griffin followed The Bassmasters and idolized anglers like Kevin VanDam through hellacious winters. He said his passion was so strong that he used to tell family members that he was going to be a pro.
Seizing the lead Friday, Griffin didn't waiver, catching the biggest bass of the tournament, a 5-pound, 8-ounce largemouth, and landing the biggest limit of the tournament of 18 pounds, 8 ounces, Friday.
He wiped out two less-than-perfect days with two stellar days in the four-day event. On Thursday he failed to cash in on what he thought could have been more than 20 pounds, and Sunday he failed to land several fish that struck his lure. In the end, Griffin's Friday and Saturday performances were enough.
Throughout the tournament, he executed a pattern developed in practice - targeting smallmouth in the grass. It was something he has never done, on a lake he had never before seen. But the one-time BASS winner has spent considerable time in Texas scouring Lone Star fisheries, where an abundance of grass also exists, and that helped his cause in New York.
The victory netted Griffin $100,000 and peace of mind. Perhaps most important, after struggling through his rookie year, Griffin gained confidence in addition to the financial security.
"It certainly takes some pressure off," he said. "It's nice to be able to tell my family that it finally happened. I always wanted this so bad. It's just really special."
Kriet nearly toppled Griffin on Sunday with an 18-pound, 2-ounce limit. Despite some obvious disappointment in the finish, Kriet sewed up a qualifying berth into the 2010 Bassmaster Classic - his sixth - set for Feb. 19-21 on Lay Lake out of Birmingham, Ala.
Kriet strictly targeted smallmouth - despite the tournament being won on largemouth in previous visits. He said his bite didn't really turn on until Sunday, when he boated the event's second-largest catch. He was throwing jigs and a drop-shot rig to suspended fish in the grass.
Second is a familiar position for Kriet who has failed to land an Elite Series win despite being in contention numerous times.
"Sometimes I scratch my head and wonder why I haven't won one of these yet," said Kriet, 40. "I sure would like to. But I have been working it out, and when I win one of these I think the door is going to open and I'm going to get a few."
Last year's Oneida champion Dean Rojas of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., was third with 59 pounds, 3 ounces. Home-state favorite Matthew Sphar of Pavilion was fourth with 58 pounds, 14 ounces, while Jason Quinn of York, S.C., rounded out the top five with 57 pounds, 8 ounces.
Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Ala., finished ninth, which was good enough to sew up the final berth in the inaugural Bassmaster Elite Series postseason. Toyota Trucks Championship Week is set for Sept. 10-18 on two productive Alabama fisheries. The first of the two postseason tournaments, the Trophy Chase, will take place Sept. 12-13 on Lake Jordan out of Wetumpka; the finale, the Evan Williams Bourbon Trophy Triumph, is slated for Sept. 17-18 on the Alabama River from Montgomery. A full story about the race to qualify among the top 12 can be found on Bassmaster.com.
Terry Butcher of Talala, Okla., sewed up his first Bassmaster Classic berth by way of his 10th-place finish at Oneida. A full story on the Classic qualifiers is also available at Bassmaster.com. The final regular-season Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings can be found below.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit Bassmaster.com. Visit ESPNOutdoors.com for images and more.
The local sponsor of the Champion's Choice is the Syracuse Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Official sponsors of the Bassmaster Elite Series: Toyota Trucks, Berkley, BOOYAH Baits, Evan Williams Bourbon, Mercury, OPTIMA Batteries, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha Outboards.
Supporting sponsors of the Bassmaster Elite Series: Bass Pro Shops, Costa Del Mar, Ramada, SpongeTech and Triton Boats.
For more than 40 years, BASS has served as the authority on bass fishing. With its considerable multimedia 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 ESPN360.com, ESPN's broadband sports network, Bassmaster.com, BASSInsider.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, Academy Sports + Outdoors Women's Bassmaster Tour and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Bassmaster Classic. Through its grassroots network, the BASS Federation Nation, BASS annually sanctions more than 20,000 events.
BASS also offers an array of services to its more than 500,000 members while spearheading progressive, positive change on issues related to conservation and water access. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.
Source: bassmaster.com (2009-08-17)
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