Bass anglers representing 29 states cast for $100,000
HOT SPRINGS, Ark., – Curt Fannin of Prestonsburg, Ky., cleared the first of three final hurdles in his quest to be crowned the best weekend bass angler in the nation Thursday by leading the $345,000 Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League All-American with five bass weighing 11 pounds, 12 ounces.
Fannin, who qualified for the All-American by winning the Chevy Trucks Wild Card on Old Hickory Lake in Tennessee, must finish in the top five Friday to advance to the final round of competition for a shot at $100,000 and the championship title. Weights from the previous two days will be cleared for Saturday’s final round so competitors start on equal footing.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence,” Fannin said. “I caught all of my fish on a single bait, so I think I’m on to something. It will have to get real tough for me not to catch another limit.”
Randy Kelly of Inola, Okla., led the Co-Angler Division with four bass weighing 13 pounds, 5 ounces. He is fishing for a top award of $50,000 Friday. Co-Angler competition ends after two days.
“I was shaking like a leaf,” said Kelly, describing his reaction to landing a 7-pound, 14-ounce largemouth that ranked as the biggest bass in either division. “It hit real light, so I didn’t know it was a big fish until it started pulling off line. It ran around the boat several times before I got it in.”
All-American qualifiers represent the best of thousands of participants in 22 Wal-Mart BFL divisions nationwide. Each angler earned a berth in the All-American by finishing 30th or better in his division after four one-day qualifying tournaments and a two-day super tournament in 2000. Each angler then finished eighth or better at one of five three-day regional championships. A sixth (Western) regional advanced four anglers to the All-American, and six anglers who failed to qualify for a regional championship advanced through the Chevy Trucks Wild Card Regional. This process produced 50 boaters and 50 co-anglers as All-American contenders.
Allan Cagle of Winter Haven, Fla. (five bass, 10-13); Ray Scheide of Cookson, Okla. (five bass, 10-11); Rodney Hardwick of Connersville, Ind. (five bass, 10-7); and David Wright of Lexington, N.C., (five bass, 10-7) rounded out the top five boaters.
Doug Napier of West Alexandria, Ohio. (five bass, 10-6); Billy Dehart of Bay Point, Calif. (five bass, 10-0); Philip Borsa of Redford, Mich. (five bass, 9-4); and Ron Haseker Jr. of Louisville, Ky., (five bass, 8-3) rounded out the top five co-anglers.
Four boaters and four co-anglers remain in contention for the CITGO National Points Championship that is awarded to the highest finishing divisional points leader at the All-American. Boaters Jeremiah Kindy of Benton, Ark.; Todd Tucker of Moultrie, Ga.; Jim Carnell of Muskogee, Okla.; and Paul Redwine of Crab Orchard, Tenn., each topped their division during the regular season. As divisional points champions they are competing for the CITGO title and $10,000.
Co-anglers Kelly; Billy Joe Boley of Dover, Ark.; Rob Sierschula of Huber Heights, Ohio; and August Pflum of Fond Du Lac, Wis., each topped their division and are competing for the CITGO co-angler title and $5,000.
Additionally, Ranger Boats will award a new Ranger 518VX Comanche bass boat to the highest placing participant in the Ranger Cup incentive program. Ranger Cup participants are also eligible to win a $500 to $1,000 bonus at each regular season Wal-Mart BFL tournament.
Competition resumes at 7 a.m. Friday at Dare Devil Boat Launch on Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs. The weigh-in will commence at 3:30 p.m. at the Hot Springs Convention Center. Saturday’s final take-off begins at 7 a.m. at Dare Devil Boat Launch, and the championship weigh-in starts at 3:30 p.m. at the Convention Center. Starting at noon Saturday the Convention Center will feature an antique tackle show, climbing wall and trout pond. Special guest appearances by Gov. Mike Huckabee, Miss Arkansas Sara Harris and two Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders begin at 1 p.m. Saturday.
At last year’s All-American in Hot Springs Wal-Mart announced its title sponsorship of the popular Red Man Tournament Trail series that has acted as a proving ground for bass fishing’s brightest stars since 1983. The new program, which was renamed the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, will award up to $5.7 million based on full fields at each of a 119 tournaments in 2001.