Richest tourney in South Carolina history set to begin
GILBERTSVILLE, Ky., (Feb. 29, 2000) – After two straight top-five appearances, Marty Stone of Fayetteville, N.C., is looking to guide the Land O’Lakes team to its first win at the upcoming $500,000 Wal-Mart FLW Tour event on Lake Murray in Lexington, S.C. To do so, however, he’ll have to get by Lexington, N.C., native David Fritts, the tour’s all-time leading money winner.
Stone, who currently leads the Land O’Lakes Angler of the Year race with 140 points, also will face stiff competition from 24-year-old Scott Martin of Clewiston, Fla., who is coming off his first professional victory in Biloxi, Miss. Martin, the son of legendary angler Roland Martin and a member of team Timex, won the tournament just one day after knocking his father out of contention.
“I hope he doesn’t have any hard feelings,” said Martin, who qualified for pro competition by winning the Spiderwire Co-Angler of the Year title in 1999.
With 131 points, Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Ala., could challenge Stone’s supremacy in the Angler of the Year race, as could Randy Howell of Trussville, Ala., who has 124 points. Clark Wendlandt of Cedar Park, Texas, and Bob Sanders of Hughes, Ark., are also within striking distance with 123 and 122 points respectively. Each of these anglers represents the next generation of bass fishing superstars.
Coverage of the tournament on ESPN is scheduled to air May 6 at 1 p.m. EST. Additionally, the tournament’s final weigh-in will be broadcast live to the electronics department of more than 2,400 Wal-Mart stores nationwide beginning at 3:30 p.m. EST Saturday, March 18.
The field of 175 pros and 175 co-anglers will take to the water March 15 for two days of competition, attempting to make the first-round cut. The top 10 anglers from each division advance to round two on March 17, where the pros compete for one day to qualify for the five man final round and a shot at $100,000. Co-angler competition ends after round two with the winner collecting $15,000.
Lighthouse Marina located at 1925 Johnson’s Marina Road in Chapin, S.C., is the site of each day’s 6:30 a.m. take-off. Weigh-ins for the first two days of competition also will be held at Lighthouse Marina at 3 p.m. Weigh-ins Friday, March 17, and Saturday, March 18, will be held at the Wal-Mart Supercenter located at 5556 Sunset Blvd. in Lexington, S.C., at 5 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. respectively.
Already the most lucrative tournament series in history, the FLW Tour has increased cash awards for the fifth consecutive year, bringing the total purse for the seven-event 2000 season to $4.4 million. The winner of the Land O’Lakes Angler of the Year race will receive $25,000, an Evinrude-powered Ranger bass boat and be featured on a series of Kellogg’s cereal boxes.
Presented by Evinrude Outboards, the Lake Murray tournament will feature colorful NASCAR-style Chevy tow vehicles and Ranger Comanche fishing machines that are used by competitors in the final two rounds. Sponsors of the graphically enhanced boats and trucks include: BFGoodrich Tires, CITGO, Coleman, Energizer, EverStart, Fujifilm, Kellogg’s, Land O’Lakes, Poulan/Weed Eater, Timex, Visa USA, Wrangler and Wal-Mart. Additional tour sponsors are: Black & Decker, Chevrolet, Coca-Cola, Eagle Electronics, Mitchell, Ranger boats, Shop-Vac, Spiderline and U.S. Bank.
More than 750 employees from two BFGoodrich Tire plants in Lexington, S.C., are expected to attend the event. Two lucky employees also will be fishing as co-anglers. Employees at the Fujifilm plant in Greenwood, S.C., are planning special activities around the tournament as well.