SHREVEPORT, La. – Larry Nixon of Bee Branch, Ark., landed a five-bass limit weighing 11 pounds, 4 ounces in the semifinal round of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship to lead five of the world’s best bass anglers into Saturday’s final round.
The finalists will set out on the Red River at first light Saturday in pursuit of $250,000 cash – the richest championship award in tournament fishing. Each angler will be paired with a television crew from ESPN as they start from zero and fish for one day.
“The wind gave me a lot of trouble today,” said Nixon, who used a 3/8-ounce spinnerbait and Texas-rigged worm to catch his limit under windy conditions. “I couldn’t get the bait where I wanted it or the boat positioned just right. Today was really a survival day. If the wind blows hard again, I may have to find a new area.”
Joining Nixon in the championship round is the defending FLW Tour champion, Darrel Robertson of Jay, Okla., who qualified in third with five bass weighing 10-7. Robertson became one of bass fishing’s elite last year by winning the FLW Tour Championship then winning $600,000 in the Ranger M1 Millennium – the richest bass tournament in history and the first tournament to be broadcast live on network television.
Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Okla., qualified in second place with five bass weighing 10-9. Dion Hibdon of Stover, Mo., qualified in fourth with five bass weighing 10-6, and Craig Powers of Rockwood, Tenn., rounded out the top five with five bass weighing 9-9.
Although he missed the top five by 2 pounds, Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo., finished eighth and collected $3,500 to set a new FLW Tour single-season earnings record of $445,300.
The winners of six FLW Tour qualifying events plus the top 44 anglers based on a system of points and pounds awarded during the first two days of competition at qualifying tournaments comprised the original championship field of 50 pros. Each pro survived three days of preliminary competition on the Red River to advance to the final round where anglers fish from specially designed Ranger Comanche fishing machines with distinctive NASCAR-type styling. Adorned with corporate logos, each boat is powered by a highly efficient RAM Ficht-injected 200-horsepower Evinrude outboard.
Homer Stephens of Noblesville, Ind., dominated the Co-Angler Division Friday to win $25,000 cash plus a year’s supply of CITGO gasoline with a five-bass catch weighing 9-0. Co-Angler Tommy Szwankowski of Hope, Ark., finished second with two bass weighing 4-4 to collect $7,000, and Ken Golub of Pittsford, N.Y., rounded out the top three with two bass weighing 3-0 to collect $5,000.
Run by Operation Bass Inc., the world’s largest bass tournament organization, the $4.4 million Wal-Mart FLW Tour historically maintains a 98 percent live release rate. If the FLW Tour continues the rate through tomorrow, BFGoodrich Tires will donate $25,000 to the Children’s Miracle Network.
The final weigh-in, which will be broadcast live to Wal-Mart Stores nationwide and taped for ESPN, begins at 3:30 p.m. at the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Westport Avenue off Pines Road in Shreveport. The weigh-in will air Oct. 22 as part of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour series on ESPN at 4 p.m. EST. The weigh-in also will be broadcast live on ESPN Extra.
The Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship is presented by CITGO.