It was new water for the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, and Texas’ Lake Travis proved to be a honeyhole for new blood on the roster of sponsor teams competing in 2007.
Sponsor-team competition on the FLW Tour has become tradition over the last several years, giving rise to some spectator-worthy rivalries among the who’s who of professional bass fishing – even a couple team dynasties. And though the brands, jerseys and team lineups may change, one thing remains the same in this unofficial competition: Sponsored pros come to play.
More than 30 teams – separated into two divisions based on team numbers – hit the water fishing hard when the FLW Tour visited Lake Travis last month. With new teams already asserting themselves in a field much fuller than ever before, 2007 is poised to be the most noteworthy season to date in terms of quality competition among sponsored teams.
Team Duracell electrified Division I, and Team PTSI pulled ahead of Division II when the tour came to town Feb. 15-18 and set up shop in Austin, Texas. Duracell ended its first tournament as the official battery sponsor of FLW Outdoors a commanding seven points ahead of its nearest divisional competition. PTSI got things moving early in its tenure as FLW Outdoors’ official transportation sponsor by posting a near-perfect score in Division II.
Like in years past, sponsor teams are divided into two divisions: Division I, comprising teams of three or more professional anglers, and Division II, comprising teams of fewer than three pros. Keep tabs on your favorite teams’ progress as they compete next week at 2007’s stop No. 2: Fort Loudon-Tellico lakes, another new fishery for the FLW Tour. If you’re not in Tennessee to see the bass-fishing action unfold in person, you can keep an eye on the anglers via FLWOutdoors.com’s live weigh-in application, FLW Live.
Look for results from Fort Loudon-Tellico in early April. Results from Lake Travis, as well as an explanation of team scoring, are detailed below:
Team Duracell proved its mettle at Travis, opening the season with a strong 164-point showing. After a rough first year on tour in 2006, Team Gain made up ground at Travis, finishing only seven points behind the leaders for second place.
Young Michael Bennett of Roseville, Calif., anchored Duracell’s performance with his admirable 13th-place finish, while teammate Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tenn., added valuable points by cracking the top 35. Morgan may be one to watch as the tour visits Fort Loudon-Tellico lakes in his home state for the second contest of the season.
Duracell will have to visit Knoxville, Tenn., fully charged to maintain a buffer between itself and current Division II runner-up Team Gain. In the midst of an undeniable hot streak, Koby Kreiger of Okeechobee, Fla., landed an excellent 12th-place finish for Gain at Lake Travis and followed it up with a Stren Series win on Lake Eufaula just a few weeks later. If Gain’s Vic Vatalaro of Kent, Ohio, can earn another strong finish in Tennessee like his 15th-place position at Texas, the team may be ready to take a shot at the top slot.
But with a mere 20 points separating first place from fifth in the current Division I standings, nobody has a lock on the uppermost notches of the leaderboard.
A relative newcomer to the FLW Tour, PTSI’s Ron Shuffield of Bismarck, Ark., is wasting no time at all establishing himself among the ranks of bass fishing’s pro elite; his superior fifth-place finish at Travis drove PTSI into the lead.
Hot on Team PTSI’s trail, however, is Banana Boat, which parlayed a great 11th-place finish from Clare, Michigan’s Kevin Vida into a strong season opening. Though 100 full points separates PTSI’s top slot from 10th place, there’s plenty of time for any of Division II’s 19 teams to place itself in position to wear the crown by season’s end. And since Division II’s teams have fewer numbers of anglers to cushion seasonal averages, the points can swing wildly and swiftly from one event to the next.
Explanation of team scoring
Points in the 2007 sponsor-team race will be earned during the FLW Tour’s six qualifying events and monitored throughout the season. Standings are based on the average number of points earned by a team’s anglers as assigned in the tour’s Land O’Lakes Angler of the Year competition.
Sponsor teams competed in the most recent FLW Tour tournament at Lake Travis near Austin, Texas, and results from that event have been tallied:
Division I (teams with three or more anglers)
1. Duracell – 164.33
2. Gain – 157
3. Castrol – 151.80
4. Bounty – 148.67
5. BP – 144
6. Kellogg’s – 129.80
7. BFGoodrich Tires – 129
8. Folgers – 124.33
9. Chevy – 124.20
10. Fujifilm – 105.17
11. National Guard – 90.33
12. A&W – 84.33
13. Land O’Lakes – 58.67
Division II (teams with fewer than three anglers)
1. PTSI – 196
2. Banana Boat – 190
3. Suave – 179
4. Berkley – 174.50
5. Slim Jim – 165
6. Tylenol Rapid Release – 161
7. Imodium – 152
8. Pepcid – 141
9. Lawry’s – 131
10. Tylenol Sinus – 97
11. Snickers – 93
12. Pedigree – 84.50
13. Wet Ones – 76
14. Totino’s – 75
15. Wal-Mart – 73
16. M&M’s – 65.50
17. Hamburger Helper – 57
18. Spiderwire – 55
19. Abu Garcia – 45
Other notable performances at Lake Travis among anglers on sponsored teams included the one-two punch of Kellogg’s cohorts Clark Wendlandt, fourth, and Dave Lefebre, seventh; an eighth-place finish for Castrol’s Darrel Robertson; a ninth-place finish for BFGoodrich Tires’ Jerry Green; 10th and 23rd for BP teammates Tracy Adams and Jim Moynagh, respectively; 17th place for National Guard’s Scott Martin; 20th place for Berkley’s Glenn Browne; 22nd place for Suave’s Mark Rose; and 24th for Bounty’s Ken Wick.