Million-dollar tourney richest in Arkansas history
GILBERTSVILLE, Ky. – When the $4.4 million Wal-Mart FLW Tour swings into Northwest Arkansas April 12-15 for the fourth stop on the 2000 tour, the world’s best anglers will compete for a share of the largest bass tournament purse in state history – $1 million – and a first-place cash award of $200,000.
The $200,000 award for the winning pro is $67,275 more than Ward Burton collected for last week’s Mall.com 400 NASCAR victory and $52,205 more than Dale Earnhardt won for last year’s DieHard 500 victory in Talladega.
Anglers vying for a share of the purse include Land O’Lakes Angler of the Year points leader Clark Wendlandt of Cedar Park, Texas, and rookie sensation Scott Martin of Clewiston, Fla. Wendlandt, the winner of last year’s Wal-Mart Open on Beaver Lake, is coming off a win on South Carolina’s Lake Murray and a top-10 finish on Lake Okeechobee in January. Martin is also on a hot streak since winning the Spiderwire Co-Angler of the Year Title in 1999. In just his second pro start, Martin led team Timex to victory on the Pascagoula River in February.
With two top-five appearances in the past three tournaments, Marty Stone of Fayetteville, N.C., seems poised for victory, too. A win by Stone would be the first of the season for the Land O’Lakes team, which has had an angler in the top 10 of each tournament this year.
When the tournament gets under way, more than just money will be at stake. Also on the line is the prestigious Land O’Lakes Angler of the Year title and a spot on a special edition series of Kellogg’s cereal boxes. Currently, Wendlandt leads the field with 195 points. But Randy Howell of Trussville, Ala., and Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Ala., can make a run at the top spot with 163 and 154 points respectively.
Another race being contested is the Coca-Cola Big Bass competition, which awards $1,000 to the angler who catches the heaviest bass during the first two days of each tournament and another $5,000 at the end of the season for the biggest bass of the year. Co-angler Quinton Stacy of Bassett, Va., leads the race with an 8-pound, 4-ounce largemouth he caught on Lake Murray, S.C.
Competition begins April 12 with a field of 175 pros and 175 co-anglers taking to the water for two days of competition. After the two day first round, the top 10 anglers from each division advance to round two, where the pros compete for one day to qualify for the five-man final round. Co-angler competition ends after round two.
Prairie Creek Marina in Rogers, Ark., 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 Prairie Creek at 3 p.m. Weigh-ins Friday, April 14, and Saturday, April 15, will be held at the Wal-Mart Supercenter located at 406 South Walton Blvd. in Bentonville, Ark., at 5 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. respectively. Bentonville is the home of Wal-Mart corporate headquarters.
Coverage of the tournament on ESPN is scheduled to air May 14 at 1:30 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 starting at 3:30 p.m. EST Saturday, April 15.
Continuing as the most lucrative tournament series in history, the Wal-Mart FLW Tour has increased cash awards for the fifth consecutive year. Even the runner up in the Wal-Mart Open Pro Division will take home $100,000 and the winning co-angler will collect $40,000.