There was a lot of talk about 20-pound bags swimming in the shallow bushes of Wheeler, but that threat remained largely idle and Tommy Biffle rode the strength of his 20-pound day-2 sack and won the weather-shortened Wheeler Bassmaster Elite Series by a 4 1/2-pound margin.

Biffle began the morning with just a 2 1/2-pound cushion over Takahiro Omori,

but even Omori in his comments yesterday seemed haunted by Biffle's legendary abilities with the big stick.

Students of the sport know that Biffle's No. 1 strength is flipping, but more precisely, flipping flooded shoreline brush in rapidly rising, off-color water. Those exact conditions presented themselves this week.

Biffle didn't wow the day-4 crowd with a super-sack, but instead put up a workmanlike 14-13 limit, which was more than enough to win easily.

The win was the fourth of Biffle's career, his third with BASS and his first since the 2006 Oneida Elite Series (which he also won in inches of water). He's finished as the runner-up seven times, and can claim more than 50 Top 10s.

The win also delivers him some much-needed points in the Toyota Tundra BASS Angler of the Year (AOY) Race. He entered the event at 38th in the points – a few spots below the 36th-place Bassmaster Classic cutoff – but moved up 27 spots in the AOY race to 11th.

Omori, who trailed Biffle by 2 1/2 pounds at launch this morning, weighed 12-01 and dropped one spot to finish 3rd. He would have needed a little better than 17 pounds to surpass Biffle – certainly doable, since Omori caught better than that on day 1.

Casey Ashley made a monster move with a 19-11 limit – the day's best – and improved from 15th to finish 2nd.

Brent Chapman also climbed substantially today. An 18-10 limit pushed him up 10 spots to finish 4th.

And Mike Iaconelli completed a successful comeback after a near-last-place disaster at Dardanelle last week. Ike stumbled a little yesterday with 12-12, but caught 15-06 today to preserve 5th place.

Alton Jones led day 1 of the event, fell to 16th yesterday and climbed two spots to finish 14th. He now leads the AOY race with three events completed.

Stephen Browning, who climbed from 41st to 11th to finally finish 10th today, trails Jones in the AOY race. He's followed by Dardanelle winner Mark Menendez, who finished 8th today.

Biffle Glad To Win

Biffle typically fishes 18 to 20 events a year, but the FLW Tour and Elite Series overlap this year, and the FLW Tour no longer allows event-by-event entries. Plus, the Elite Series was shortened to eight events from 11 due to the slow economy.

There are thus considerably fewer opportunities to win now, so Biffle's glad he closed the deal today.

"I'm tired and hungry right now, but it's good," he said. "You need to win one at least every year to make money, but it doesn't always happen that way. I was glad to win it.

"I'm hating (fewer tournaments)," he added. "A lot of us are sitting around thinking, 'What are we going to do this summer?' It's definitely hard to make any kind of money, so this is good timing."

He worked a secluded backwater that he'd fished at various times over the years, and was surprised he had it to himself all 3 days.

He felt like he was going to win once the water started to rise overnight after day 1, and knew his biggest threat would be a big-time water drop, since it would dry up the area.

He worked slowly down the bank inside the backwater, and took up to an hour and a half to move just 60 yards.



ESPN Outdoors/Seigo Saito
Photo: ESPN Outdoors/Seigo Saito

Biffle flipped with a jig, Sweet Beaver and his namesake Biffle-O lizard.

"This morning the water looked like it dropped about 8 inches, but I knew there was still enough water in there – just as long as the fish didn't run off," Biffle noted. "After I got to my spot I started fishing some of the key outside bushes – the ones farthest out – because I figured with the dropping water they'd bite on them. But then I caught some back in the thick of it where it was real shallow, and that told me they didn't leave.

"I probably caught 50 fish today. I just had a hard time catching the bigger ones."

Terry Butcher did spend some time in the area late yesterday, but was too far from Biffle for either to recognize the other. Butcher stopped there today, but gave the water to Biffle.

"He was a good guy, and I'll do him the same when it's his turn," Biffle noted.

Biffle flipped three baits over the course of the 3 days:

  • A 3/8-ounce Lunker Lure Rattleback jig (black/blue) tipped with a Gene Larew Super Salt Biffle craw (black/blue with sapphire-blue claws)
  • A Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver (black/red)
  • A Gene Larew Biffle-O lizard, which is a hollow-tail lizard (black neon)

    The full details of his winning pattern, plus pattern information for the other top finishers, will be posted soon.

    2nd: Ashley Ecstatic

    Ashley would have needed the mother of all bags to pass Biffle today, so he effectively fished for 2nd. Thus in his mind, Ashley achieved all he could today.

    "I feel great," he said. "I would have needed 24 pounds to pass Tommy, so I feel real good about what happened today. I've never done well on Alabama lakes, so this is a pretty big deal for me."

    Ashley had a stretch of jerkbait water that accounted for all of his day-1 weigh-fish. During the day-2 cancellation the area muddied significantly, so he needed to use a jig there yesterday when competition resumed. The water had cleared enough overnight, however, that the jerkbait was back on today.

    ESPN Outdoors/Seigo Saito
    Photo: ESPN Outdoors/Seigo Saito

    Casey Ashley boxed an early limit, then 'went fishing' and whacked a 6-04.

    "I guess they pulled some water overnight because it cleared up," he noted. "I caught 13 pounds in 30 minutes, which was about the best I was going to do in the place, but with that limit, I was able to relax and fish the rest of the day. I just picked up a jig and went to some real muddy water and started pitching. That's how I caught that big 6-04."

    3rd: Omori Pleased

    Omori had the best shot at catching Biffle, but came up a little more than 5 pounds short. He worked a crowded backwater and threw seven or eight different baits this week.

    "I feel good about it," Omori said of his finish. "I'm happy to be where I finished. I didn't have any Top 10s at all last year, so this is a relief.

    "I started (today) in the same place I've been fishing," he added. "Then this afternoon I moved to a different creek. The last half-hour, I lost a 4 and a 3 and a 2 1/2. I would still not have had enough to catch up to Tommy anyway. Other than that, I fished technically good."

    The win gave him a huge boost in the AOY points – from 74th to 35th.

    4th: Chapman Happy

    Chapman, who caught 18 pounds today, described his day as "awesome" and said he had "a blast" all week. Given his 13-10 opening limit and the day-2 cancellation, he never figured he had a chance to win, so like Ashley, he's pumped to have made such a significant improvement today.

    ESPN Outdoors/Seigo Saito
    Photo: ESPN Outdoors/Seigo Saito

    Takahiro Omori dumped three late fish, but still wouldn't have had enough to beat Biffle.

    "I'm tickled to death to have this," Chapman said. "In your mind you'd always like an opportunity to win, but I'm looking at the whole season and the AOY points and making the Classic.

    "So yeah, I'll take opportunities to win when I can get them, but the main thing this year is surviving – making a little money, having a good AOY finish and making the Classic."

    He junk-fished all week. He literally drove around the lake and pulled up on anything that looked good. He threw both a crank and jig.

    "I was just going fishing and trying to figure out what the fish were doing every day," he noted. "I managed to catch them each day. All the fish I weighed yesterday came out of water I didn't even fish in practice. And half my fish today came from new water."

    6th: Hallman All Right With It

    Bradley Hallman sat within striking distance this morning – in 3rd and 5 pounds behind Biffle. But he brought in 13-15 today and slipped three spots to finish 6th.

    "It's all right – I'm happy with it," he said. "It was a good week. I had some opportunities and I didn't take advantage of them. That's pretty much how it went. But I'm happy with how it worked out.

    "Obviously I would have like to finish higher, but anytime you get in the Top 12 it's a good week. And I have two Top 12s back-to-back, so hopefully I'll keep going and get myself in the Classic."

    He stuck with what he had today and ran docks with a 3/16-ounce Jewel Eakins' jig. "I just never had the bites to catch Tommy," he added.

    About his 18th-place position in the points, he noted: "I need that cushion. I'm the world's best at finishing 100th, or 90th or something like that. If I get just one more Top 10 it'll allow me to have a couple of those bad finishes I've had in the past."

    7th: Tucker Mixed

    Mark Tucker weighed 12-15 today and dropped three spots to finish 7th. He's not upset with his finish, but he's still a little frustrated over the cut – specifically, that he wasn't allowed to fish the final day last week at Dardanelle, but the Top 50 were given that chance today.

    "In practice, I caught a couple 20-pound bags and there was an opportunity for me to catch a 24- or 25-pound bag, but the water was warming up and those big fish on the bluffs were moving into the pockets," he noted. "I knew to catch 20 or 21 pounds today I had to stay out there and catch fish that weren't thinking about moving in yet.

    "I tried to skeep myself near some deep water where I thought I could catch a 5- to 7-pounder.

    "But I don't feel real good right now," he added. "I didn't get an opportunity to gain ground last week, but these guys got an opportunity to jump up on the leaderboard today. I don't know what's up with all that. That's just life in the fast lane I guess. Things change and it's a shame."

    14th: Jones Likes Points

    Alton Jones told BassFans at the season-opener that the AOY title was a major focus for him this year – in ways it hadn't been in years past. So although he led the first day here and ultimately finished 14th, he's now the points leader, and that's something he likes.

    "Obviously, I look back at the decisions (this week) and I should have done some things differently and moved up a few places in the tournament, but with AOY, you really can't ask more of yourself than to put yourself consistently in that Top 20," he said.

    "So I'm very, very pleased with the way the season's going overall. It gives me a lot of confidence in the way I'm fishing, but there's a lot of fishing left. It's one of those seasons where I have to keep my nose to the grindstone and I hope to stay in the hunt right to the end."

    He caught his big sack the first day on a 6" Yum Dinger, then switched to a 4" Yum Vibra King tube yesterday. "It was so much fun. I love Wheeler when the fish go to the bushes. When they do, there's no place like this lake."

    37th: Butcher Happy

    Butcher came in light today with 10-02, which cost him seven places, but he did move up five spots in the AOY points to 36th and now occupies the final Classic spot.

    He spent day 1 cranking an XCalibur Xrk 75 One Knocker in foxy shad, then went to flipping a Yum Wooly Bug in black neon.

    "With the practice I had I feel good about it," he said. "Of course, I'd have liked to have caught them a little better today, but I didn't have a real good practice and I kind of shot from the hip the whole tournament and it went pretty well."

    Notable

    > Day 4 stats – 50 anglers, 50 limits.

    > To view the updated AOY points, click here.

    > John Murray changed up completely and headed up the river this morning. His 13-08 limit bumped him up 20 spots and he finished 28th. He also sent out a special thanks to Wilson Frazier for tech help during the cancellation. For his final report, click here to go On Tour With the BassFan Big Sticks.

    > BASS reported that 45th-place finisher Kevin VanDam had a severe flu this week.

    Day 4 (Final) Standings

    Note: Day 2 was canceled due to weather. Today's weights are reported as day 4 below, and day 3's weights as day 2.

    1. Tommy Biffle -- Wagoner, OK -- 15, 50-13 -- 310 -- $100,000
    Day 1: 5, 16-02 -- Day 2: 5, 19-14 -- Day 3: 5, 14-13

    2. Casey Ashley -- Donalds, SC -- 15, 46-04 -- 295 -- $25,000
    Day 1: 5, 12-11 -- Day 2: 5, 13-14 -- Day 3: 5, 19-11

    3. Takahiro Omori -- Emory, TX -- 15, 45-10 -- 290 -- $20,000
    Day 1: 5, 17-08 -- Day 2: 5, 16-01 -- Day 3: 5, 12-01

    4. Brent Chapman -- Lake Quivira, KS -- 15, 45-04 -- 285 -- $15,000
    Day 1: 5, 13-10 -- Day 2: 5, 13-00 -- Day 3: 5, 18-10

    5. Michael Iaconelli -- Runnemede, NJ -- 15, 45-03 -- 280 -- $14,000
    Day 1: 5, 17-01 -- Day 2: 5, 12-12 -- Day 3: 5, 15-06

    6. Bradley Hallman -- Norman, OK -- 15, 44-13 -- 276 -- $13,500
    Day 1: 5, 13-01 -- Day 2: 5, 17-13 -- Day 3: 5, 13-15

    7. Mark Tucker -- Saint Louis, MO -- 15, 42-15 -- 272 -- $13,000
    Day 1: 5, 11-09 -- Day 2: 5, 18-07 -- Day 3: 5, 12-15

    8. Mark Menendez -- Paducah, KY -- 15, 42-08 -- 268 -- $12,500
    Day 1: 5, 16-01 -- Day 2: 5, 11-00 -- Day 3: 5, 15-07

    9. Todd Faircloth -- Jasper, TX -- 15, 42-03 -- 264 -- $12,000
    Day 1: 5, 14-15 -- Day 2: 5, 14-14 -- Day 3: 5, 12-06

    10. Stephen Browning -- Hot Springs National Pa 15 -- 41-15 -- 260 -- $11,500
    Day 1: 5, 11-11 -- Day 2: 5, 16-04 -- Day 3: 5, 14-00

    11. Gary Klein -- Weatherford, TX -- 15, 41-05 -- 257 -- $11,000
    Day 1: 5, 14-00 -- Day 2: 5, 14-03 -- Day 3: 5, 13-02

    12. Rick Morris -- Virginia Beach, VA -- 15, 40-11 -- 254 -- $10,500
    Day 1: 5, 16-13 -- Day 2: 5, 11-15 -- Day 3: 5, 11-15

    13. Bernie Schultz -- Gainesville, FL -- 15, 40-06 -- 251 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 11-06 -- Day 2: 5, 13-15 -- Day 3: 5, 15-01

    14. Alton Jones -- Waco, TX -- 15, 39-10 -- 253 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 17-12 -- Day 2: 5, 08-12 -- Day 3: 5, 13-02

    15. Todd Auten -- Lake Wylie, SC -- 15, 38-09 -- 245 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 12-12 -- Day 2: 5, 12-07 -- Day 3: 5, 13-06

    16. Randy Howell -- Springville, AL -- 15, 38-03 -- 243 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 16-06 -- Day 2: 5, 11-14 -- Day 3: 5, 09-15

    17. Jason Williamson -- Aiken, SC -- 15, 37-07 -- 241 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 15-07 -- Day 2: 5, 08-15 -- Day 3: 5, 13-01

    18. Aaron Martens -- Leeds, AL -- 15, 37-07 -- 239 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 13-10 -- Day 2: 5, 09-06 -- Day 3: 5, 14-07

    19. Dustin Wilks -- Rocky Mount, NC -- 15, 37-06 -- 237 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 11-11 -- Day 2: 5, 11-03 -- Day 3: 5, 14-08

    20. Brian Clark -- Haltom City, TX -- 15, 37-02 -- 235 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 13-14 -- Day 2: 5, 11-00 -- Day 3: 5, 12-04

    21. Marty Robinson -- Lyman, SC -- 15, 37-01 -- 233 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 13-11 -- Day 2: 5, 12-10 -- Day 3: 5, 10-12

    22. Kenyon Hill -- Norman, OK -- 15, 37-01 -- 231 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 12-00 -- Day 2: 5, 13-08 -- Day 3: 5, 11-09

    23. Cliff Pace -- Petal, MS -- 15, 36-13 -- 229 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 14-14 -- Day 2: 5, 09-12 -- Day 3: 5, 12-03

    24. Skeet Reese -- Auburn, CA -- 15, 36-10 -- 227 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 15-10 -- Day 2: 5, 07-03 -- Day 3: 5, 13-13

    25. Bill Lowen -- North Bend, OH -- 15, 36-09 -- 225 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 11-06 -- Day 2: 5, 14-01 -- Day 3: 5, 11-02

    26. Edwin Evers -- Talala, OK -- 15, 36-06 -- 223 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 13-06 -- Day 2: 5, 15-06 -- Day 3: 5, 07-10

    27. Steve Kennedy -- Auburn, AL -- 15, 36-05 -- 221 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 12-09 -- Day 2: 5, 10-05 -- Day 3: 5, 13-07

    28. John Murray -- Phoenix, AZ -- 15, 35-15 -- 219 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 10-04 -- Day 2: 5, 12-03 -- Day 3: 5, 13-08

    29. Jason Quinn -- York, SC -- 15, 35-09 -- 217 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 13-14 -- Day 2: 5, 09-03 -- Day 3: 5, 12-08

    30. Matt Herren -- Trussville, AL -- 15, 35-09 -- 215 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 12-12 -- Day 2: 5, 12-07 -- Day 3: 5, 10-06

    31. Jeff Connella -- Bentley, LA -- 15, 35-08 -- 213 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 13-03 -- Day 2: 5, 12-11 -- Day 3: 5, 09-10

    32. Kevin Short -- Mayflower, AR -- 15, 35-07 -- 211 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 08-01 -- Day 2: 5, 15-10 -- Day 3: 5, 11-12

    33. Denny Brauer -- Camdenton, MO -- 15, 35-07 -- 209 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 10-11 -- Day 2: 5, 12-05 -- Day 3: 5, 12-07

    34. Greg Hackney -- Gonzales, LA -- 15, 35-06 -- 207 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 11-09 -- Day 2: 5, 12-12 -- Day 3: 5, 11-01

    35. Ish Monroe -- Hughson, CA -- 15, 34-13 -- 205 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 15-02 -- Day 2: 5, 07-12 -- Day 3: 5, 11-15

    36. Russ Lane -- Prattville, AL -- 15, 34-06 -- 203 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 13-13 -- Day 2: 5, 13-01 -- Day 3: 5, 07-08

    37. Terry Butcher -- Talala, OK -- 15, 34-03 -- 201 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 11-04 -- Day 2: 5, 12-13 -- Day 3: 5, 10-02

    38. Charlie Hartley -- Grove City, OH -- 15, 34-00 -- 199 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 11-06 -- Day 2: 5, 11-15 -- Day 3: 5, 10-11

    39. Timmy Horton -- Muscle Shoals, AL -- 15, 33-13 -- 197 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 15-02 -- Day 2: 5, 08-14 -- Day 3: 5, 09-13

    40. Vince Fulks -- Purcell, OK -- 15, 33-11 -- 195 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 11-03 -- Day 2: 5, 12-11 -- Day 3: 5, 09-13

    41. Mark Davis -- Mount Ida, AR -- 15, 33-09 -- 193 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 14-07 -- Day 2: 5, 08-07 -- Day 3: 5, 10-11

    42. Shaw E Grigsby -- Gainesville, FL -- 15, 33-05 -- 191 -- $12,000
    Day 1: 5, 08-02 -- Day 2: 5, 14-10 -- Day 3: 5, 10-09

    43. Kotaro Kiriyama -- Moody, AL -- 15, 33-05 -- 189 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 10-11 -- Day 2: 5, 13-12 -- Day 3: 5, 08-14

    44. Jared Lintner -- Arroyo Grande, CA -- 15, 33-00 -- 187 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 10-12 -- Day 2: 5, 11-08 -- Day 3: 5, 10-12

    45. Kevin VanDam -- Kalamazoo, MI -- 15, 32-09 -- 185 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 12-02 -- Day 2: 5, 10-02 -- Day 3: 5, 10-05

    46. Matthew Sphar -- Pavilion, NY -- 15, 32-07 -- 183 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 12-11 -- Day 2: 5, 10-10 -- Day 3: 5, 09-02

    47. Guy Eaker -- Cherryville, NC -- 15, 32-06 -- 181 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 10-09 -- Day 2: 5, 12-02 -- Day 3: 5, 09-11

    48. Mark Burgess -- Norton, MA -- 13, 31-06 -- 179 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 3, 10-07 -- Day 2: 5, 12-12 -- Day 3: 5, 08-03

    49. J Todd Tucker -- Moultrie, GA -- 15, 30-13 -- 177 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 13-05 -- Day 2: 5, 11-01 -- Day 3: 5, 06-07

    50. Scott Campbell -- Springfield, MO -- 15, 29-08 -- 175 -- $10,000
    Day 1: 5, 14-12 -- Day 2: 5, 08-04 -- Day 3: 5, 06-08

    Big Bass

    > Day 3 -- Brent Chapman -- Lake Quivira, KS -- 06-07
    > Day 2 -- Shaw E Grigsby -- Gainesville, FL -- 07-02
    > Day 1 -- Alton Jones -- Waco, TX -- 07-00