Jeremy Starks of Charleston, W.Va., edged three-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam by 8 ounces to win the Elite Series: Southern Challenge on Sunday at Alabama’s Wheeler Lake.
Starks caught 21 pounds, 15 ounces the final day, finishing with 78 pounds, 10 ounces to win the $100,000 first-place check. VanDam had 20 pounds Sunday for a 78-pound, 2-ounce total and won $41,000, pushing his career BASS earnings to more than $2.8 million.
Terry Scroggins of Palatka, Fla., placed third with 67.1 pounds and won $26,000.
The top Texas finisher in the event was Todd Faircloth of Jasper, who placed sixth with a four-day catch totaling 65.1 pounds for $17,500. Corey Waldrop of Fort Worth finished ninth with 58.7 pounds and won $14,000.
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Throughout the tournament, Starks used a 10-inch Berkley power worm in plum color to catch every fish. When he pulled into his best spot on Sunday morning, he found a local angler already fishing the spot. Starks fumed for 30 minutes, not making a single cast, BASS officials said. Eventually, the local angler pulled away, leaving Starks alone. In the end, his patience paid off with his catch of 21 pounds, 15 ounces, the biggest five-bass limit of the day and just enough for his first BASS Elite victory.
The tournament will be aired at 8 a.m. Saturday on ESPN2.