The Wal-Mart Open served as the fulcrum upon which teams Berkley and Wal-Mart leveraged their positions atop their respective divisions in sponsor-team competition. The victory was especially sweet for Team Wal-Mart, which was able to pick up its first event win of the season at its namesake event, held last month on Beaver Lake in northwest Arkansas.
The Wal-Mart Open is a longstanding annual tradition on the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, taking some of the best bass anglers in the world to Beaver Lake for 11 years running. However, the event typically takes place in late March or April during the spawn. So the game was a different one this year when the Tour descended upon northwest Arkansas May 15-18. The typical sight-fishing bite was essentially nonexistent, and the lake’s bass were long past spawning.
But even with Beaver’s waters much higher and muddier than normal, one thing was clear: The door was open to a different class of anglers to graduate to the head of the class. For Berkley and Wal-Mart, the conditions lined up perfectly for their slate of pros to earn their first event wins of the season and to take over the standings on behalf of their sponsors.
In Division I, Team Berkley used a strong Beaver Lake win to unseat Team Prilosec, fresh off two event wins in a row, from the top of the heap. Now Berkley will carry a 35-point lead in the standings into the upcoming fifth event of the season. Team Wal-Mart parlayed its routing of Division II teams at Beaver into a ticket to the top of the standings, where it will enjoy a 37-point buffer over No. 2 Team Snickers as the tour moves toward the final third of the season.
Next week the FLW Tour visits Fort Loudoun-Tellico lakes in eastern Tennessee for the fifth of six regular-season events in 2008. With the season starting to wane, pros have only a couple more chances to earn valuable standings points that will determine whether they earn a berth into the lucrative and prestigious Forrest Wood Cup, so upcoming competition is sure to be as exciting as anything seen to date.
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, June 19-22, at the fifth stop of 2008: Fort Loudoun-Tellico lakes in Knoxville, Tenn.
Look for results from Loudoun-Tellico by early July. Results from the May 15-18 Beaver Lake event, as well as an explanation of team scoring, are detailed below:
Berkley made Beaver Lake its own, notching an impressive team average of 173 points, almost 32 points ahead of runner-up Team Chevy. Not only was the effort good enough for the Wal-Mart Open team win, it allowed Berkley to finally reach the top of the Division I standings.
Berkley’s pros fished solidly across the board, but it was Sam Newby of Pocola, Okla., who hammered home the win with an amazing seventh-place finish. Teammate Glenn Browne of Ocala, Fla., is still in rare form, having earned enough points to remain in second place in the overall FLW Tour pro standings.
The upper end of the Division I leaderboard saw changes other than Berkley displacing Prilosec in the No. 1 slot. Team Pringles moved up a rung to third, while Team Duracell, a top contender in the first half of the season, fell an agonizing three slots down the ladder.
Wal-Mart made sure all Division II teams knew that the Wal-Mart Open was indeed its event, commanding an astounding 199-point win. The closest competition, runner-up Team Folgers, crossed the finish lean from 37 points back.
Past Forrest Wood Cup champion and two-time Bassmaster Classic winner George Cochran of Hot Springs, Ark., sent a love letter to his home state and his primary sponsor, Wal-Mart, in the form of a stupendous second-place finish at Beaver.
Other than Team Wal-Mart making up a 33.5-point deficit to take over the leaderboard by displacing Snickers, the Division II standings stayed relatively static.
Explanation of team scoring
Points in the 2008 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 event, the Wal-Mart Open at Beaver Lake in Rogers, Ark., and results from that event have been tallied:
Division I – Beaver Lake (teams with three or more anglers)
1. Berkley – 173.00
2. Chevy – 141.17
3. BP – 124.25
4. Castrol – 116.50
5. Kellogg’s – 110.40
6. Land O’Lakes – 107.33
7. Pringles – 98.67
8. Prilosec – 95.67
9. National Guard – 86.57
10. Duracell – 78.00
11. Coppertone – 72.67
Division II – Beaver Lake (teams with fewer than three anglers)
1. Wal-Mart – 199.00
2. Folgers – 162.00
3. PTSI – 156.00
4. Snickers – 128.50
5. M&M’s – 62.50
6. Iams – 61.00
7. Abu Garcia – 46.00
8. Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee – 21.00
Current overall standings for sponsor teams competing on the 2008 FLW Tour have been tallied:
Division I (teams with three or more anglers)
1. Berkley – 599.00
2. Prilosec – 564.00
3. Pringles – 487.33
4. Kellogg’s – 480.00
5. Castrol – 478.25
6. Duracell – 474.00
7. BP – 470.75
8. National Guard – 450.57
9. Coppertone – 430.00
10. Chevy – 424.67
11. Land O’Lakes – 299.00
Division II (teams with fewer than three anglers)
1. Wal-Mart – 649.00
2. Snickers – 612.00
3. PTSI – 582.00
4. Folgers – 566.00
5. M&M’s – 417.50
6. Iams – 331.00
7. Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee – 326.00
8. Abu Garcia – 80.00
Other notable performances at Beaver Lake among pro anglers on sponsored teams not already highlighted: Alvin Shaw‘s outstanding ninth-place finish for Team Kellogg’s; a nice 19th-place finish for National Guard angler Tim Klinger; David Walker‘s solid 23rd-place finish for BP; and a respectable 25th-place finish for Dion Hibdon on behalf of Chevy.