MANY, La. Bassmaster Elite Series pro James Niggemeyer thought the Toledo Bend Bassmaster Central Open win had slipped away when Jerrel Pringle weighed in a 20-pound, 2-ounce sack of bass on what was supposed to be the final day of competition.
Both anglers shared the exact weight of 37-14, but Niggemeyer and everyone else thought the tiebreaker would be the heaviest one-day stringer. That put the advantage to Pringle by 8 ounces.
When it was time to introduce the winner, however, it was revealed that there was only one exception to the tie-breaker rule.
"In the BASS rules, there is a tiebreaker for every place but first place," Tournament Director Chris Bowes announced. "That means we have to go to a sudden-death fish-off."
Niggemeyer and Pringle led the field by more than 2 pounds. Texas' Todd Castledine finished in third with 35-11, followed by Keith Caka of Texas with 35-1. Florida's Arnie Lane rounded out the top five with 34-4.
The two anglers will launch at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow, and weigh in at 11 a.m., so Pringle and Niggemeyer will have to capitalize quickly.
Both said they will head back to the areas that put them in position to claim the victory. Niggemeyer will be heading all the way to the south end of the lake, and Pringle will run almost to the top end of the reservoir.
"I've got to haul butt," Pringle said. "I have to get back to where I was fishing. It's another roll of the dice."
Pringle is relying on some small drains, working Strike King spinner baits and 8-inch Zoom plastic lizards to snatch fish from around flooded stumps.
"It's about attrition, making enough casts to get the bites," he said.
Niggemeyer is sight-fishing two areas of the lake, and he said he hopes he has an ace in his pocket.
"I left a 5-pounder on the bed this afternoon," he said. "I'm just going to go right back to where I left that 5-pounder and hope I can get it to bite. Then I'm going from there and start searching."
The winner walks away with the $51,000 top check.
The launch and weigh-in will take place at Cypress Bend Park, and is open and free to the public.
In the co-angler division, Louisiana's Robbie Latuso took home the Triton 18X3 rigged with a Mercury 150 OptiMax, a MotorGuide trolling motor and Lowrance electronics valued at $32,000 with a two-day weight of 27-12.
Donnie Reynolds of Texas wrapped up the event in second with 26-11, and Texas' Lindy Hadley ended up in third with 24-0. Travis Pattillo of Texas took fourth with 23-15, while Mississippi's Mike Mcadams finished in fifth with 21-11.
Sponsors of the 2009 Bassmaster Opens include: Toyota Trucks, Berkley, BOOYAH Baits, Evan Williams Bourbon, Mercury, OPTIMA Batteries, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha Marine.