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Triton angler Welch wins Southern Open

Posted: 9/24/2002

Triton angler Daniel Welch enjoys his first victory after 20 B.A.S.S. events. COLUMBIA, S.C., Sept. 21, 2002 — Dan Welch struggled to catch four small bass weighing just 4 pounds Saturday, but as it turned out, he only needed 4 ounces to earn the $50,000 top prize at the $320,950 South Carolina CITGO BASSMASTER Southern Open presented by Busch Beer.

Welch, from New Martinsville, W.Va., entered Saturday's final round with a 6-pound-plus lead, which seemed almost insurmountable considering how tough the fishing conditions had been — and that he had posted back-to-back double-digit five-bass limits. Welch's final 4-pound catch boosted his three-day total to 33 pounds, 2 ounces and proved to be more than enough to hold off a late charge by South Carolina's Todd Auten (29-5).

"This is a dream come true," said Welch, enjoying his first victory in 20 B.A.S.S. events. "I am really proud of this. I've been doing this for several years now, and I think this will be a breakthrough tournament for me."

Welch's success came on a buzzbait and a Zoom finesse worm rigged Mojo-style. He fished underwater points with sparse vegetation located within sight of the Dreher Island Recreation Area launch ramp.

The tough conditions, which made Lake Murray uncharacteristically stingy, did not faze Welch. "I'm used to tough fishing," he said. "I live on the Ohio River."

Auten began the final round in 14th place, seemingly without hope of overtaking Welch. But he fashioned a 14-6 limit to come within 3-13 of the winning weight.

Warehouse manager Darrel Hill charged from sixth place to win the $24,000 amateur title. "I feel good about finishing second, because coming into this tournament I didn't think I'd even get a check," said Auten, a 36-year-old who has competed on the BASSMASTER circuit for five years. "So this is a real surprise."

Auten scored on a Texas-rigged Hawg-Caller 6-inch worm.

Local angler Wayne Jeffcoat of Chapin finished third with 29-4, followed by 2002 Busch B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year Davy Hite of nearby Prosperity (29-1) and Florida's Scott Martin (28-11).