HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – The All-American cut isn’t the manager’s special at the local barber shop – at least not this week in central Arkansas. It’s what the FLW Bass Fishing League’s 55 best boaters and as many co-anglers are faced with today as they fish on DeGray Lake.
These accomplished fishermen are familiar with the concept of culling; they do it in every weekend tournament they fish throughout the year unless prohibited by species-management regulations. In a sense, the tables will turn by the end of Friday’s fishing, when instead of tossing out the runts of the livewell, these All-American championship contenders will be aiming to avoid elimination. After today’s weigh-in, only the 10 best boaters and 10 co-anglers will survive to fish Saturday’s finale and keep hopes alive of a championship title and payday (the winning boater will earn as much as $130,000 and the winning co-angler will pocket up to $60,000).
Billy Bowen Jr. of Ocala, Fla., is one of the most experienced BFL boaters on DeGray this week, having fished it for nearly 20 years. He has also qualified for six All-American championships. He currently sits in the middle of the pack in 28th with a one-day weight of 5 pounds, 9 ounces, but that’s only 3 pounds, 10 ounces off the current top-10 cut weight – that’s one decent bite on DeGray Lake, and Bowen has a plan.
“I’m fishing out deep mainly, off the stuff you can’t see … mainly buck brush upriver,” he said. “I’m going to focus on one area today where I had some good ones on [yesterday] that came off.”
Bowen said he’s fishing a Smithwick Devil’s Horse or Zoom Fluke on top in the morning and then spending most of the day fishing a jig with a Zoom chunk trailer in about 8 to 10 feet of water.
Bowen’s day-two co-angler – Eric Filburn of Elizabethtown, Ky., who currently sits in 27th place – said he’ll try to entice bass into biting by giving them what they want: baits that resemble shad in the main lake or ones that look more like a bluegill when fishing pockets. He’s rigged either way with a Zara Spook or a swimbait.
It may seem as though Bowen and Filburn both have a long road to travel to make today’s top-10 cut. But with relatively low weights crossing the scale yesterday due to the lake’s slot limit in conjunction with hot, dead calm weather, both anglers are just one largemouth bass over 16 inches in length from a real shot at glory.
All-American anglers will take off from Spillway Ramp located at 284 Skyline Drive in Arkadelphia at 7 a.m. each day. Weigh-ins will be at the Summit Arena located at 134 Commerce Blvd. in Hot Springs, Ark. Friday’s weigh-in will be at 4 p.m. Saturday’s final weigh-in will be at 3 p.m. prior to the final weigh-in for the FLW Tour Chevy Open on Lake Ouachita.
Fans will be treated to the FLW Outdoors Expo at the Hot Springs Convention Center on Friday from 4 to 9 p.m. and Saturday prior to the final weigh-in from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be a drawing for a Can-Am ATV, and rod and reel combos will be given to the first 300 kids under 14 in attendance Saturday. The FLW Outdoors Expo includes Ranger boat simulators as well as the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by sponsors, and to learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. All activities are free and open to the public. For a full schedule of events, additional information and to register for the ATV, visit FLWOutdoors.com/chevyopen.
Coverage of the BFL All-American tournament will be broadcast in high definition (HD) on VERSUS. “FLW Outdoors” will air Nov. 28 from 12:30 to 1:30 ET. “FLW Outdoors,” hosted by Jason Harper, is broadcast to approximately 500 million households worldwide.
On the Web
For bass-fishing fans unable to attend the festivities in person, you can catch all the weigh-in action live at FLWOutdoors.com with FLW Live. Show time starts at 4 p.m. Central today.
Sunrise: 6:03 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 73 degrees
Expected high temperature: 91 degrees
Water temperature at the ramp: 82 degrees
Wind: NNE at 2 mph
Maximum humidity: 76 percent
Day’s outlook: mostly sunny; winds light and variable