CLEWISTON, Fla. – After leading the first two days of the $500,000 Wal-Mart FLW Tour bass event on Lake Okeechobee, Dion Hibdon of Stover, Mo., failed to make the final five-man cut while Marty Stone of Fayetteville, N.C., surged to the forefront with five bass weighing 13 pounds, 6 ounces.
The tournament, presented by Eagle Electronics , was the second event in 14 years in which Hibdon competed without his father by his side. Hibdon’s father, bass fishing veteran Guido Hibdon, was unable to make the event due to illness. “I don’t fish many tournaments without my dad being there,” he said. “I wish he was here. I can always use a little inspiration and advice.”
Stone, 34, will lead the field into Saturday’s final round at the helm of the Land O’Lakes boat. Like the four other competitors joining him, he will start from scratch and fish for the heaviest one-day catch to win $100,000.
“I worked hard today,” Stone says. “All I got was the five bass, and that was it. I thought I figured something out yesterday, but it didn’t work at all today. Tomorrow, if the sun doesn’t shine, I might not catch a fish.”
Each contestant who advances to the final two rounds in the FLW Tour fishes from a specially designed Ranger Comanche fishing machine with distinctive NASCAR-type styling. Adorned with corporate logos, each boat is powered by a highly efficient RAM Ficht injected 200-horsepower Evinrude outboard.
Steve Daniel of Clewiston, Fla., qualified for the final in second place with 12-02. Jeff Simes of Punta Gorda, Fla., qualified in third with 10-15 followed by Craig Powers of Rockwood, Tenn., with 10-11 and Stephen Browning of Hot Springs, Ark., with 10-09. Takahiro Omori, 26, became the first Japanese angler to crack the top 10 in an FLW Tour event. Omori moved to the United States from Tokyo five years ago and now resides in Emory, Texas.
Hibdon is leading the Land O’Lakes Angler of the Year points race with 75 after catching a two-day total weight of 27-01 during the opening round. In the co-angler division, Bud Goeke of Pinckneyville, Ill., is leading the Co-Angler of the Year points race with 75 after failing to weigh a fish on opening day and catching the heaviest co-angler stringer of the tournament on day two. Goeke’s jump to the top 10, after zeroing on day one for the second time, is gaining him a reputation as the “Comeback Kid.”
Robert Vogelsang of Jessup, Mo., won the Co-Angler Division Friday and collected $15,000 plus a year’s supply of CITGO gasoline for his catch weighing 10-04. For complete co-angler and pro results, visit www.flwtour.com.
Run by Operation Bass Inc., the world’s largest bass tournament organization, the Wal-Mart FLW Tour historically maintains a 98 percent live release rate. If the FLW Tour continues the rate through 2000, BFGoodrich Tires will donate $25,000 to the Children’s Miracle Network.