Clunn certain to set single-season earnings record
SHREVEPORT, La. – Bernie Schultz of Gainesville, Fla., will lead a star-studded lineup into Friday’s semifinal round of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship after catching an opening-round total of 10 bass weighing 25 pounds, 13 ounces on the Red River.
Joining Schultz in the hunt for the largest cash prize in tournament fishing – $250,000 – are two former FLW Tour champions. Darrel Robertson of Jay, Okla., the reigning FLW Tour champion, qualified in fourth place with 10 bass weighing 24-6, and David Fritts of Lexington, N.C., winner of the 1997 championship, qualified in seventh place with 10 bass weighing 23-12.
Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo., will also advance to the semifinal round for the 11th time in his career with nine bass weighing 23-14 to secure the fifth qualifying spot. If not for a second-place finish in Memphis four months ago (he fell short by less than a pound), Clunn would be looking for his fourth victory in as many tournaments. But regardless of the outcome here, Clunn has already set the FLW Tour’s single-season earnings mark. The only question now is: How high will it go?
Clunn has already won $441,800 this season. A $250,000 victory in Shreveport would boost his earnings to $691,800 – more money than any bass angler has ever won in a single season. Prior to this year, Fritts topped the all-time money winner’s list with $305,500 that he amassed during the 1997 season. Fritts won three tournaments that year.
Statistically, the odds could be in Clunn’s favor. Once he advances to the semifinal round, Clunn goes on to make the final cut 80 percent of the time. And once he’s in the final five, Clunn wins 38 percent of the time.
Larry Nixon of Bee Branch, Ark., caught 10 bass weighing 24-14 to qualify in second place, and Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Okla., ended the first qualifying round in third with 10 bass weighing 24-13.
Weights are cleared for Friday’s semifinal round as 10 of the world’s best professional bass anglers vie for a bid in Saturday’s five-man final round. Weights will be cleared again for the final round.
Tom Hunley of Stamping Ground, Ky., led the Co-Angler Division with eight bass weighing 18-3. Co-Angler competition ends Friday with the winner collecting $25,000.
Coca-Cola’s annual $5,000 award for the biggest bass of the season went to Quinten Stacy of Bassett, Va., who caught an 8-pound, 10-ounce largemouth during the FLW tournament on Lake Murray near Lexington, S.C.
Historically, the FLW Tour maintains a 98 percent live release rate. If the tour continues that rate through the next two days, BFGoodrich Tires will donate $25,000 to the Children’s Miracle Network.
Friday’s weigh-in will start at 5 p.m. at the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Westport Avenue off Pines Road in Shreveport. Saturday’s final weigh-in, which will be broadcast live on ESPN Extra and to Wal-Mart stores nationwide, begins at 3:30 p.m. at Wal-Mart. The weigh-in also will air Oct. 22 as part of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour series on ESPN at 4 p.m. EST.