A north Spokane man won $500,000 in a Florida bass-fishing contest on Sunday, bringing his two-year cash haul to $1 million.
Luke Clausen’s catch of 11 pounds, 13 ounces gave him a three-day total of 56 pounds, 2 ounces. He broke the tournament record of 55 pounds, 10 ounces and outfished 50 other professionals in the three-day, $1.2 million Bassmasters Classic in central Florida.
He also won Sunday’s Big Bass award with a largemouth weighing 5 pounds, 13 ounces.
Fishing isolated vegetation in 3 to 4 feet of water in Lake Kissimmee was the key, Clausen said.
“I probably had the strongest area of the lake and I understood it better than the other guys,” he said. “That was why I won.”
Clausen said he mainly used a plastic worm known as a Mann’s Hard Head each of the three days.
“The money isn’t even a factor in my mind,” said Clausen after a fireworks and streamer celebration before 10,000 fans and a national TV audience at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. “I fished this tournament just like I would have fished if a bunch of guys had thrown $5 into a pot. I fish the same way no matter what.”
Clausen, 27, also won $500,000 in the 2004 Wal-Mart FLW Tour.
He graduated from Eastern Washington University in 2001 with majors in business management and marketing, and a minor in management information systems. Clausen now shares a house with his sister in the Whitworth area.
Clausen said his father got him started fishing in the Inland Northwest, and he fished “pretty much all the fisheries around here of any size,” including Lake Coeur d’Alene, the Columbia River, and Potholes Reservoir.
Clausen said he decided to go pro when he realized, “I could make more money fishing than I could working.”
But Clausen isn’t idly casting a line into the water, said sister Lisa Clausen.
“He is very a driven person. He doesn’t stop; he does this as a full-time job. He comes back to Spokane maybe three months out of the year.”
When he comes back, he brings plenty of trophies home, Lisa Clausen said.
“I keep them in my basement. There’s quite a few, I don’t even count. I just shut the door, let him do what he wants.”
During the other nine months of the year, Luke Clausen “lives on the road,” his sister said.
Sometimes he gets a good hotel deal because his father, Cal, happens to own a chain of them. But he also sleeps many nights in the back of his Suburban, which is provided by Chevy, one of his sponsors. “He’s a very frugal man,” Lisa Clausen said.
“I was always trying to save money and create some longevity for myself,” said Luke Clausen, who is single.
Luke Clausen’s prudent approach applies to Sunday’s winnings. Not only does he have no plans to spend it, he said, but he has yet to spend his 2004 prize.
“I like having money but not spending it,” he said.
Luke Clausen seemed as casual about his fame as his money.
“In the fishing world, I’m a big deal,” he said with a laugh. But that doesn’t translate into star status back home.
“It’s really an unknown sport in the Northwest,” he said. “In the South, it’s a way of life. There’s NASCAR and bass fishing.”
Lisa Clausen agreed. “No one understands it around here but down South, he walks along the streets and people ask him for his autograph,” she said.
As for the rumors of starry-eyed bass-fisherman groupies, Luke Clausen was skeptical. “I wish,” he said. “Let me know if you hear of any.”