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The pictures pretty much prove it’s real.

There’s West Frankfort’s Brennon McCord holding a $100,000 check. There’s another with McCord kissing a trophy for winning the T-H Marine Bass Fishing League All-American on the Potomac River June 1.

But, the reality hasn’t sunk in yet.

“It’s honestly mind-blowing,” said the 22-year-old. “It’s like a dream. I have to get on the FLW site about six times a day just to see it’s still on there. It definitely could change my life.”

McCord has been successful fishing Illini Division tournaments with four top-10 finishes in five years. And, his third place finish at the Lake Chickamauga regional last fall gave him his first berth in the All-American.

He made the most of it.

“Everything just worked out in my favor, I made all the right moves,” he said. “The Good Lord blessed me, I guess is what you’d say.

“There was just a little patch of grass I found. It was a couple hundred yards long, but there were a couple sweet spots in there I found. It fell in place. It worked out for me. I really wasn’t going to go back in that creek. My gut feeling was telling me to go try to find something. I stumbled onto something at the right time.”

It feels a lot different now than it did after McCord’s first practice day on the Potomac River system. This was his first experience fishing a tidal river, which he said is 180-degrees different than fishing the Ohio or other inland rivers.

“The first day was a waste,” he said. “Actually, it wasn’t. The first day taught me a lot, what not to look for. You’re on a new body of water and you go 10 hours without catching a fish you’re like, “I’m doing something wrong. I had no idea.

“You have a bigger biting window throughout the day than you do here. The tides will switch, you’ll go down a grass bed and not get bit, the tide flips and you can just load the boat up in no time.”

Eventually, he pieced things together well enough to be trailing the tournament leader by just three pounds, two ounces going into the final day. A spur of the moment decision to fish an area of Mattawoman Creek produced several fish.

McCord was throwing chatterbaits into an area of milfoil that produced in a big way with three keepers. He finished Saturday with 16 pounds, 3 ounces. That gave him enough to overtake Joseph Thompson of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, who led after each of the first two days.

McCord’s winning weight was 45-pounds, 11 ounces while Thompson’s three-day total was 44 pounds, 7 ounces.

Waiting to bring his fish to the scales, McCord badly underestimated the weight of his fish.

“I had way more weight than I thought I had,” he said. “I was really shocked. That right there was the time I knew I had a shot to actually win it. “

Tournament organizers had the top 10 anglers lined up in inverse order of the standings. McCord’s weight obviously pushed him into first place, but then he had to endure an agonizing 10 minutes before Thompson came on stage.

“It felt a lot longer than that,” McCord said. “I was pretty nervous, I’m not going to lie about that. I don’t have any fingernails left.”

In addition to the $100,000 check, McCord is eligible to fish the 2019 FLW Cup which will be held at Hot Springs, Arkansas, in August. And, he also gains a berth in the 2019 Cost FLW Series Championships in Tennessee’s Lake Cumberland in October.

He plans to fish both events.

McCord also faces another decision. He has been toying with the idea of turning pro.

“It’s definitely put me in a different position,” he said. “I’m just going to let whatever happens, happen. I would love to try it. It’s difficult to get started out.”

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les.winkeler@thesouthern.com

618-351-5088

On Twitter: @LesWinkeler​

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Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

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