Kerry Malone came up with an apt description of the difference between his championship bass and the one that finished second in the Big Bass Bash at Lake of the Ozarks.

“Maybe a couple drops of water,” said Malone, who lives in Mt. Pulaski, Ill. “Or maybe a small shad that the other fish spit up.”

Get the idea? It was close.

In the first five minutes of the tournament Oct. 1-2, Malone caught a bass weighing 7.16 pounds (shown in this photo). Less than an hour later, Kevin Welch of Jefferson City brought in a bass that weighed 7.15 pounds.

That slimmest of margins looked big in the checkbook. Malone won $100,000 for taking the championship. Welch took home $20,000 for his second-place finish.

Yeah, the Big Bass Bash was a winner-take-almost-all tournament. One big bass, one big check.

The event’s total purse was $250,000. But it was that first-place check that lured 3,800 fishermen to the Lake of the Ozarks. It was pretty much an even playing field. No professional fishermen or guides were eligible. This event was reserved for amateurs.

Fishermen in everything from small aluminum boats to bass boats beat the water to a froth with their casts.  When the tournament was over, two bass caught in the opening hour of the event decided the outcome – and by the slimmest of margins.

Malone caught his golden bass on a Chatterbait only four minutes after the competition started Saturday. Welch lured his fish with a DD22 crankbait, retrieving it over the top of a deep brush pile.

“I really wasn’t that upset that I lost by just a fraction of a pound because I was never leading,” Welch said. “His (Malone’s) bass was already on the board by the time I brought mine in.

“If I had been leading the whole tournament, only to get beat out at the end, that would have been a different story. “