DAYTON, Tenn. — Maybe Casey Martin needed the champagne bath he received after winning his first-ever Forrest L. Wood fishing tournament championship. It was the coolest he’d been all weekend.
The rookie from New Market, Ala., finished with a four-day total of 103 pounds, 3 ounces to win the Walmart FLW tour event on Lake Chickamauga in Rhea County and claimed $125,500 in winnings. Second place went to Rhea County’s Wesley Strader, who finished at 80 pounds, 8 ounces.
How dominating was Martin’s tournament? His four-day total was the second-largest of the season, as was his margin of victory. His worst day, which he had five fish weighing 22 pounds, 15 ounces, was still the seventh-best day recorded by competitors.
“It’s awesome. This can’t be happening,” he said. “I can’t believe I won by 20-something pounds. I thought it would take 82 or 83 pounds to win.
“It still hasn’t sunk in yet. It probably won’t until tomorrow or next week.”
Natives of Rhea County took three of the top five spots. Michael Neal finished third with 79 pounds, 13 ounces, while Andy Morgan — who was named the Angler of the Year — was fifth.
Neal said that Martin’s production over four days in the summer is “incredible.”
“It’s kind of like fishing for second place,” he said. “It’s fishing, so it could have happened to anybody, but everything went right for the fourth straight day for him. When you’re on a roll like that you’re hard to beat.
“There’s not many places you can go to produce that kind of weight. I didn’t think it was possible in the spring. Anything above 80, 85 pounds is unheard of.”
Dan Morehead of Paducah, Ky., finished fourth.
Martin went out in style on Sunday, bagging five fish with a combined weight of 30 pounds, one ounce.
“My first stop this morning didn’t pan out, so I went to my backup area,” he said. “I didn’t want to burn up all of my fish earlier in the week, so I saved my big fish spot for today.
“The fish were eating today — I can’t believe how many big fish were in this lake.”
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.