BUFFALO, N.Y. — Only two weeks ago, Tim Creighton's name could still be found in the 20th slot on the waiting list, among those seeking to fish the co-angler side of the Empire Chase presented by Farmer's Insurance.
On Saturday, the 34-year-old Buffalo resident found his name atop the tournament leaderboard with 11 pounds, 5 ounces for a total of 38-14.
"It's amazing. I was just dragging tubes the whole time," said the soft-spoken angler, cradling his trophy from the stage. "But I'd like to thank (Elite Series pros Scott)
Campbell, (Matt) Sphar and (Brian) Snowden, because if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be in the position I'm in."
Brazil's Marcos Malucelli came closest to catching the leader with 11-4, but Creighton's 3-pound lead established on Day Two proved to be too much. Malucelli upgraded one spot to finish the tournament in second place.
Dave Elder, who won the co-angler side at Clarks Hill Lake, leapt into the top five on Saturday, taking third place with 13-10. In fourth place, Craig Daino boated 11-14, and Marlon Whoolery finished fifth with 9-7 on the day.
After weighing in a three-smallmouth limit — the lowest weight of the three days for the hometown hero — Creighton was forced to watch the remaining field threaten to take his lead as his wife, son and a handful of friends waited it out in the audience.
Despite assurances from overconfident friends believing Creighton's lead was too much to overtake, the employee of Bison Scaffold and Mason's Supply admitted to a healthy amount of pressure between Day Two's weigh-in and Day Three's launch.
But perhaps Creighton secretly knew he would have to look good for the cameras come weigh-in time. Asked about a suspicious new tournament jersey complete with his BASS club's crest sewn across the chest, the angler sniffed at the inference and simply laughed.
"No, I just wanted to save it for today," he said. "I didn't want to wear the same old stuff I had on for the other two days. I'd look like a scumbag up there."
As for the fishing, the local Canisius High School and Buffalo State University graduate said he "didn't lose any fish that mattered" while dragging tubes alongside Snowden.
"I was throwing back keepers this morning, because I didn't want to take a chance at smaller fish dying on me."
The penalty would have cost him the title, but the risk paid off with a $25,000 first-place prize.
Creighton's win, his first ever as a co-angler, came almost a full year after placing eighth in the same tournament.
"I did nothing different from last year," he said about braving Lake Erie's waters while working the bottom. "I'd throw half the spool out every time."
Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Empire Chase with weigh-in host Keith Alan, July 31-Aug. 3, 2008. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 5:00 p.m. ET. On Saturday, catch "Bassmaster University" at 4:15 p.m. ET before the weigh-in. Then on Sunday, get "Hooked Up" with hosts Tommy Sanders and Mark Zona at 1 p.m. and 4:20 p.m. ET, with the final day weigh-in and real-time leaderboard content starting at 5:00 p.m. ET.