GALLATIN, Tenn. – It was certainly no surprise that Dave Lefebre won $100,000 on the final day of Wal-Mart FLW Tour competition at Old Hickory Lake. What was extraordinary was how he ran away with it over the last two days. The 33-year-old pro from Erie, Pa., caught another five-bass limit weighing 12 pounds, 5 ounces Saturday and won his first FLW Pro Division title with a final-round total weight of 27-7.
To put his win in perspective, second-place Dion Hibdon caught almost 9 pounds fewer than Lefebre in the overall finals. It was one of the biggest margins of victory seen on the FLW Tour.
“The key is confidence and just being in control of what I’m doing,” the champion said. “I just feel so good here; it’s similar to stuff I fish back home. I can’t explain it; it’s just prespawn fish and shallow fish, which is what I like.”
Old Hickory was tough on a lot of anglers this week; not a single pro or co-angler out of the 400 competitors who entered the tournament was able to catch a limit all four days. Lefebre came the closest, catching three days worth of limits and coming in one day, day two, with four bass. He caught the limits when it counted, however, on the final two days, and that’s all that mattered.
“This is so unbelievable,” he said. “You can’t put it into words. I was talking to Ray Scheide (pro winner at FLW Lake Okeechobee in January) to see what it felt like to win one of these things, and he said you just can’t explain it. He was right.”
With words or without, it was Lefebre’s flipping stick and his crankbait that did all the talking this week. He all but turned the outcome of this event into a foregone conclusion Friday when he crankbaited his way into the only limit of the day and leapt in front of the field by more than 6 pounds. While he again landed one of just two limits caught by the pros Saturday – Hibdon caught the other one – Lefebre said it was a challenging day despite his huge lead.
“That’s one bite at this place,” he said about his 6-pound lead heading into Saturday. “I had a horrible day today, too. I lost a 5-pounder and one that was probably 3 ½ pounds. I lost a ton of fish, probably close to 15 of them. I missed four fish in a row on one crankbait.”
To lose that many bass on the last day and still win is a testament to Lefebre’s fruitful fishing spot as well as his pattern. Fishing a creek about 15 miles upriver from Bull Creek Ramp, he flipped “a little bit” Saturday, but mainly threw his crankbait in shallow water. Frustrated after breaking off so many fish, he upsized the treble hook on the back of his crankbait and was able to get a few bass into the boat and scratch out his limit.
“People label me as a jig-fisherman, but I like to do it all,” he said. “But I am really nervous about catching them on treble hooks in a tournament. The weird thing was the area that I ended up winning the tournament in was not the creek that I thought I’d do well in.”
And Lefebre, if anyone, seems to know how to excel at fickle Old Hickory Lake. This was just his second time fishing on the Tennessee lake, and both visits met with undeniable success. His first trip here was last October at the EverStart Series Championship, a tournament where he finished in third place.
One of the hottest pros on the FLW Tour at the moment, Lefebre had three top-five finishes coming into Old Hickory this week. Coming out of the EverStart Northern Division, he only started fishing FLWs last year and made a big splash when he finished third in just his second event.
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could win,” he said. “I just really had a lot of confidence at this lake. It’s great to win. I mean, some of the best fishermen in the world fish their whole careers and haven’t won one of these tournaments. (My wife and I) are still new at this, and we’ve got a long road ahead of us.”
While he didn’t win, Hibdon took solace in leading the other nine pros who seemed to be fishing a different lake than Lefebre in the finals. Hibdon’s second-place finish earned him $35,000 and will help him gain points toward the year-end championship in Birmingham, Ala.
“I needed this,” said Hibdon, who caught a total of 18 pounds, 8 ounces in the finals using mainly a crankbait and a Gambler jig. “I’ve been to Birmingham before and won a championship once. I’d like to get back there.”
Shimizu claims second big Japanese win of the week
Morizo Shimizu of Osaka, Japan, caught three nice bass weighing a total of 13 pounds, 9 ounces Saturday and vaulted into a $20,000, third-place finish with a final-round total of 15-12. Fishing in roughly the same creeks as Lefebre and Rick Clunn, he threw a blue-and-chartreuse Modo Wild Hunch crankbait in shallow water to hook into his big, prespawning bass.
“My area had many big fish,” he said. “The water warmed up and we had a very good wind. Yes, I’m happy.”
Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La. – who won the Energizer Keeps On Going award for his 26-pound, 116-place comeback on day two – made another rebound of sorts Saturday with his four-bass catch weighing 11 pounds 1 ounce. He started the day in 10th place after a 1-13 performance Friday but finished in fourth place with a final-round total of 12-14 and collected $16,000
“Going out this morning in 10th was actually a good position,” he said. “You know, I’m laid back. From there, you don’t have anywhere to go but up.”
Day-one leader Marcel Veenstra of Brighton, Mich., finished in fifth place and collected $14,000 with a final weight of 11 pounds, 1 ounce.
Veenstra tipped his cap to Lefebre, whom he has battled before. In 2002, he edged out Lefebre for the EverStart Northern Division points title in the last tournament of the year.
“That’s the way it goes,” Veenstra said. “He puts a lot of effort into it and he deserves it.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pro finishers at FLW Old Hickory Lake are Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo., with a final-round total weight of 10 pounds, 14 ounces (6th place, $11,000); Mickey Bruce of Buford, Ga., with 10-4 (7th, $10,000); John Murray of Phoenix with 10-0 (8th, $9,000); Glenn Browne of Ocala, Fla., with 8-14 (9th, $8,000); and Tracy Adams of Wilkesboro, N.C., with 8-7 (10th, $7,000).
With the win, Lefebre moved up into a tie for third place in the yearly standings with 536 points. Browne nearly took the lead with 559 points after his third good tournament of the year, but he sits in second place behind Dean Rojas of Grand Saline, Texas, who clings to first place in the standings with 560 points.
The fourth FLW Tour stop of the season is the Wal-Mart Open scheduled for Beaver Lake near Rogers, Ark., March 31-April 3.