FLW Tour pros present their picks for the Lake Okeechobee FLW Outdoors Fishing Challenge and tell you why they picked them
Welcome back, FLW fans, to another season of tournament picks. This year, four opinionated FLW Tour pros have generously agreed to offer their expertise in this column throughout the 2003 tournament season. Since we at FLWOutdoors.com are constantly in search of new ways to bring you, the fans, ever closer to the tour pros, we happily enlisted their services.
Allow me to introduce the four FLW Tour pros who have boldly thrown their hats into the hallowed ring of tournament punditry:
– Randy Blaukat of Lamar, Mo. Five-time FLW Tour finalist with two runner-up finishes, 2002 Ranger M1 runner-up. Notable: Likes long walks on the beach and drinking champagne under a full moon.
– Koby Kreiger of Osceola, Ind. Four-time FLW finalist and reigning EverStart Series champion. Notable: Was voted MVP of his high-school intramural paper-football league.
– Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Ala. 1998 Wal-Mart Open champion, 2002 FLW Championship runner-up, five-time FLW finalist. Notable: Recently won the role of Joe on TV’s “Joe Millionaire” but had to decline due to heavy fishing schedule.
– Clark Wendlandt of Cedar Park, Texas. Two-time FLW Angler of the Year, three-time FLW winner, including two Wal-Mart Open victories, 15-time FLW finalist. Notable: Once ate a whole box of Frosted Flakes in one sitting and was subsequently escorted out of the stands at a Dallas Stars hockey game for “playing too rough.”
Welcome to all. We hope that these pros’ keen and various insights gleaned from actual on-the-water tournament experience will provide readers and FLW Outdoors Fishing Challengers alike new and interesting perspectives as we look ahead to each FLW tournament this season.
On the other hand, some of us here hope that they’re not too good at this. See, like last year, we’re going to be running a little contest. In 2002’s Pundits’ Picks, it was every man for himself. In 2003, we’re teaming up. We’ll run two columns of picks prior to each FLW tournament: Pros’ Picks and Pundits’ Picks (the pundits consisting of FLW Outdoors writers), and we’re keeping score. At season’s end, we’ll see who really knows what about competition on the Wal-Mart FLW Tour – the guys who fish it, or the guys who write about the guys who fish it.
Again, hopefully this column will help guide you as you pick your own five anglers in the Fantasy Challenge this season, and maybe provide a little entertainment along the way.
One thing – and here comes the disclaimer – please keep in mind that these picks are simply the respective opinions (educated or otherwise) of these pros and writers, and that they in no way represent any kind of favoritism on the part of FLW Outdoors, the pros or the writers. Every FLW tournament is different. Almost everyone will have a different top-five prediction list for each tournament, and, in the end, only one list will be correct. Judge for yourself. We’ll see how smart we really are after the tournament.
It’s going to be a battle for the ages, FLW fans, so buckle your life vests. The games are about to begin.
– Jeff Schroeder
Wal-Mart FLW Tour stop No. 1
Lake Okeechobee, Clewiston, Fla.
FLW pro, Lamar, Mo.
1) David Walker. Walker is poised for a top finish here for several reasons. First, as the common thread that bonds all five of my picks, he will be coming off a week of fishing the BASS Tour event on Okeechobee the week before the FLW. All of my picks, including Walker, will really be in tune with the energy of the fish going into this event. Secondly, Walker has some close friends who are excellent Okeechobee regulars, and, like several of us, he will be extra motivated this year to do well on the FLW Tour as he shifts emphasis from BASS events to FLW Outdoors.
2) Brent Chapman. This guy is a future superstar in this sport, and he will be in many of my picks this year. His versatility is his strength, and you have to be able to adjust to the conditions at Okeechobee in January. Also, he loves to eat Baskin-Robbins ice cream in his pajamas the night before tournaments.
3) Takahiro Omori. I really like Takahiro. He is the most fanatical bass pro on the circuit. He does things like playing with his spinner-bait skirts at 2 a.m. on Friday night even when he’s not at a tournament. I am picking him not for his prowess at a specific technique that will work here, but for his attitude about this event.
4) Todd Faircloth. He is new to the FLW Tour, but by the end of the season, you will know who he is. He hasn’t had much experience on Florida lakes, but I have seen through the BASS Tour that he is a hard worker with a lot of natural ability. Another future superstar.
5) Bernie Schultz. Coined “the dinkmaster” by FLW pundit Rob Newell, Schultz is the only “local” in my pick. He has good hair, and he uses whippy rods. Like a lot of us, he will have spent the entire month of January in competition on Florida waters when the event starts. I pick Bernie because, by the time our event begins, Okeechobee will have been totally beat up by the prior BASS event and the heavy local pressure. This could play into his hands.
FLW pro, Osceola, Ind.
1) Billy Bowen. He always does well at Okeechobee and he knows the lake really well. Last year at the EverStart Series here he led all days except the last.
2) Jim Tutt. He is an excellent grass fisherman and also always seems to fare well on the Big O.
3) Kevin VanDam. Just because he is the VanDaminator.
4) David Dudley. He is a good bed fisherman and, if the weather is right, he will be tough.
5) Clark Wendlandt. I should pick him higher than this, but for some reason fifth just feels right. Clark always fishes well here but never seems to get over the hump.
FLW pro, Warrior, Ala.
Editor’s note: Swindle, generally considered one of the most outspoken anglers on tour, surprised us when he provided no explanations for his respective picks. But leave it to Swindle to surprise us even when he says very little. Our guess is that he didn’t want to peak too early; it’s a long season, after all. Smart play, we think. Expect big things from this guy as the year wears on. His picks carry just as much weight – explained or otherwise.
1) Clark Wendlandt.
2) Steve Daniel.
3) Larry Nixon.
4) Chip Harrison.
5) Kevin VanDam.
FLW pro, Cedar Park, Texas
1) Mike Surman. Mike has not done well on Okeechobee since he won in 1996, but his knowledge of the lake is unsurpassed. The lake is fairly high and that is the way he prefers it, especially if there is a cold front. If there is any flipping bite at all, Mike will do very well.
2) Kevin VanDam. Kevin is the only angler I am picking who is fishing the BASS tournament at Okeechobee the week before the FLW event. I think it is hard to fish a tournament one week and not go out the next week and fish the same patterns. Fish typically change too fast, but Kevin fishes efficiently enough to figure out new patterns.
3) Clark Wendlandt. You might be surprised that I am picking myself third instead of first, but, as in fishing, you just have to go with your instincts. I have fished four tournaments at Okeechobee, and I have made the semifinal cut three times. I love the Big O because of its size and its incredible population of bass.
4) Koby Kreiger. Koby has been on a roll of late, and, if there is any sight-fishing, he will definitely excel. He has also demonstrated that he can catch fish in a variety of ways, and I look for him to continue his hot streak.
5) David Dudley. This is one of those gut-feeling picks. I am not really sure why I am picking him other than the fact that he is a really good fisherman and I think he will do well.
Check back tomorrow as the pundits weigh in with their picks for FLW Lake Okeechobee.
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