Wal-Mart FLW Series
Lake Lanier, Gainesville, Ga.
Opening round, Wednesday
A series success … Today marked the beginning of bass fishing’s newest premier tournament trail, the Wal-Mart FLW Series. One of the anglers instrumental in the creation of the new FLW Series is Arkansas’ Mark Davis, who is one of the most successful pros in the history of bass fishing, despite his relatively young age. After today’s first FLW Series weigh-in, Davis said he is thrilled with what he saw. “First of all, I’m as happy as I’ve ever been to be here,” he said. “We’ve already got a great group of anglers competing. Some of these guys I’ve fished with for 20 years, and to see all of them plus a lot of new faces, it’s exciting for all of us. I’m glad to be here.” … The series got off to a spectacular start, with 142 five-bass limits crossing the scales and 194 out of 200 pros weighing in fish. There is also a full field of anglers competing this week, with 200 pros and 200 co-anglers taking on Lake Lanier for the history-making event.
Siriusly? … Pro Chip Harrison ended the day in 117th with a five-bass catch that weighed 8 pounds, 10 ounces, but it’s possible that the other thing he caught today could have bumped up his weight a little bit – a bright blue flipper that, except for the dirt, perfectly matched his Sirius Satellite Radio-wrapped boat. “It came off my best fishing hole,” Harrison said. “I caught it 35 feet deep, and it fought like the dickens.” Harrison fished with co-angler Bud Strader today and said that Strader said, “Well, at least it doesn’t have a foot in it.” … Later, Strader found himself hung up, leaving the pair to wonder what he might have dragged in. “He said, `I found the rest of the diver,'” Harrison said. “At least (the flipper) matches my boat.”
Get rhythm … Many anglers fishing this week’s inaugural FLW Series event are on their second-straight tournament, if not their third in a row. Quite a few fished last week’s Wal-Mart FLW Tour event on Pickwick Lake, and a few others fished the week before at the Stren Series Central Division event on Lake Amistad or at the Bassmaster Classic. When your livelihood is dependent on how many fish you bring in, competing in back-to-back-to-back tournaments can wear on the nerves. “As far as fishing them, back to back doesn’t bother me because I’m in the same rhythm,” said pro Scott Martin,, who was at Pickwick last week and who ended day one on Lanier in 18th place. “The only thing I didn’t like was the limited practice, and I miss my family a tremendous amount.” Adds his Lake Lanier roommate Jason Kilpatrick, “When we haven’t been talking about strategy, we talk about kids. He’s right on the money. You just pick up a different bait and go fishing.”
Lucky 17 … No. 2 pro Terry Baksay is fishing his first tournament in months due to the January arrival of his son Blake. Baksay’s 18-pound, 1-ounce limit led the tournament for almost the entire weigh-in until leader Tim Farley bested it at the very end with a 19-pound, 9-ounce sack of his own. But according to Baksay, today’s good fortune was in the cards. “I was in boat No. 17 this morning, and my baby was born on Jan. 17,” he said. “My wife said yesterday, `You’re going to do well tomorrow.’ Seventeen’s the number. It was an easy limit.”
That’s why they call them partners … Ramie Colson Jr. may have ended day one far down the leaderboard in 124th place, but it could have been a lot worse had it not been for his co-angler partner, Kenny Botts, who fared much better in his division and is currently in 12th. “At 12 o’clock, he had a limit, and I didn’t even have a fish,” Colson said. “He just turned around, handed me his rod and reel and said, `Here, get you five.’ Well, I got four.” … Botts seemed proud to help his pro partner, saying, “I would have liked it done to me.” As for Colson, he hopes for an opportunity to pay it forward. “He didn’t have to do that,” Colson said. “Hopefully I can return the favor someday.” Said Botts, “You get out of it what you put in it.”
New faces … Standing in the weigh-in line today were several pros known more for their success in the BASS ranks, such as Stacey King (22nd), Woo Daves (40th) and Mike Auten (67th). In fact, one of the reasons why the FLW Series was created was to provide a way for more competitors to compete in bass fishing’s upper ranks for some serious cash without having to pay exorbitant entry fees. “I’ve been doing this since 1973, and I’m probably the oldest guy out here except maybe Tommy Martin,” said Daves, one of the sport’s legends. “It’s great to know these young guys have a future now.” … One of those “young guys” is Daves’ own son Chris, who ended day one in 61st place on the pro side with 11-3.
Home-lake hardships … It’s been a while since a major FLW tournament has come to Lake Lanier, and many expected local favorites like Tom Mann Jr. of nearby Buford and Jody Cordell of neighboring Flowery Branch to perform well. However, Mann (88th) and Cordell (132nd) were decidedly upstaged by lesser-known locals like Farley and No. 3 Tim Peek. Peek, though, hardly chalked up his success to local knowledge. “One of the big differences is that I’m a local but I’m not local,” said Peek, who lives south of Atlanta in Sharpsburg. “I come up here an average of one to two times a year because of the traffic around Atlanta.” Farley, though, lives only 12 miles from the host city of Gainesville and is certainly putting his local skills to good use. This is his first FLW Outdoors event.
97: Percentage of pros who brought in bass on day one.
1-8: Farley’s lead over Baksay, in pounds and ounces.
2: Number of co-anglers who caught a 5-pound bass, splitting co-angler big-bass honors on day one. They were John Bruce of Dacula, Ga., and Scott Gibson of Biloxi, Miss.
7-5: Weight of the heaviest bass brought in today, caught by pro Tim Shmigal of Akron, Ohio.
0: Number of FLW Outdoors events that leader Farley had fished before this week.
“I like it. It lets you stumble one day and recover.” – Pro Curt Lytle on the FLW Series’ three-day cut format, which differs from the FLW Tour.
“He gave me all the bent ones, and they didn’t work.” – Pro Steve Wilson, who fished with the creator of the Spot Remover, Roy Altman Jr., on day one but apparently did not reap the benefits.
“I kept looking for that 20-pound bag I had on Pickwick, but it was not to be.” – Pro Rob Kilby, who was smoking last week on Pickwick but cooled off slightly on Lanier with a 46th-place day-one catch of 12-1.
“These Georgia fish are mean. They about pulled me in the water.” – Pro Ray Scheide, whose tussles with the bass were worth it as he currently sits in fourth.
Tomorrow’s takeoff is scheduled to take place at 7 a.m. Eastern time at Little Hall Park, located at 3501 Dawsonville Highway in Gainesville.