Twenty-six states represented
SHREVEPORT, La. – Shreveport will be host to 100 of the nation’s top weekend bass anglers June 5-8 as they cast for a share of $345,000 cash in the 20th annual Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League All-American Championship on Cross Lake.
Competitors will fish the 8,600-acre impoundment northwest of downtown Shreveport for a top award of $100,000 cash in the Boater Division and $50,000 cash in the Co-angler Division plus eligibility to fish the 2003 Wal-Mart FLW Tour – the world’s most lucrative professional bass fishing series. Additionally, Ranger Boats will award a new Ranger 518VX Comanche bass boat powered by Yamaha or Evinrude to the highest-placing participant in the Ranger Cup incentive program.
“Qualifying for the Wal-Mart BFL All-American is a monumental accomplishment,” says Charlie Evans, chief operating officer for FLW Outdoors. “There are 55 million anglers in this country, but the people who qualify for the All-American are among the best. Throughout the season, they have performed consistently well on a variety of different waterways and under a variety of conditions. No matter what the outcome, everyone who qualifies for the All-American is a champion in their own right.”
Competitors from 22 Wal-Mart BFL divisions qualified for the prestigious event by ranking in the top 30 anglers through five regular-season tournaments and finishing eighth or better in one of five regional championships. A sixth (Western) regional advanced four boaters and co-anglers to the All-American, and six boaters and co-anglers advanced through the Chevy Trucks Wild Card Regional.
This year’s tournament features the two youngest qualifiers in All-American history – brothers Richard and Michael Bennett of Grass Valley, Calif. Richard, 19, and Michael, 17, qualified through the Western Division after finishing second and fourth respectively in the Lake Shasta, Calif., regional.
Boater Wes Campbell of Dayton, Ohio, is another notable angler fishing the All-American. He is the only divisional points leader to qualify for the tournament, and that makes him the Yamaha “Be the Best” Points Champion and $10,000 richer just for showing up. In the Co-angler Division, points leaders T.J. Edwards of Waldron, Ind.; John Breeden of Brandon, Miss.; Tyler Brinks of Henderson, Nev.; Brad Baldwin of Dayton, Ohio; and Rudy Wozney of Arcadia, Wis., will be competing for the Yamaha “Be the Best” title and $5,000 cash. The highest All-American finisher will take the crown.
Competition starts Thursday, June 6, at the American Legion Boat Ramp following one day of practice on Cross Lake. The full field of 50 boaters and 50 co-anglers will compete for two days with only the top 10 boaters advancing to the final day. Co-angler competition ends Friday, June 7, with the heaviest two-day total catch determining the winner. Boaters start from zero Saturday, June 8, with the heaviest one-day catch determining the champion.
Weigh-ins start Thursday and Friday, June 6-7, at 3:30 p.m. at the L. Calhoun Allen Exposition Hall located at 400 Clyde Fant Parkway in Shreveport. The final weigh-in Saturday, June 8, starts at 2 p.m. at the exposition hall. Doors open to the public at 12 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free, and fishing fans are invited to attend the weigh-in, which will be broadcast live as part of “FLW Outdoors” on the PAX TV network. There will be free children’s games, and sponsor giveaways to entertain the family. The final weigh-in is also a great opportunity to collect autographs and receive expert fishing advice.
The Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League has traditionally been a proving ground for bass fishing’s brightest stars since the first All-American in 1983. Many All-American contenders, including Team Kellogg’s pro and two-time Land O’Lakes Angler of the Year Clark Wendlandt have become top Wal-Mart FLW Tour contenders. Wendlandt won the 1992 All-American on the Arkansas River in Muskogee, Okla.
Yamaha pros Jay Yelas and Skeet Reese; Team Alpo’s Tony Couch; Team Fujifilm’s Joel Richardson; and FLW Tour champions Tommy Biffle, Rick Clunn, David Fritts, and Peter Thliveros are a few other former All-American contenders who became successful pros.
Awards for the 2002 Wal-Mart BFL season could reach $7 million based on full fields at each tournament. Ranger Cup participants are eligible to win up to a $1,000 bonus at each regular season Wal-Mart BFL tournament. If the winner’s boat in any regular season tournament is equipped with a fixed-mount Garmin GPS/Sounder, they are eligible for a $1,000 bonus from Garmin.
Sponsors of the 2002 Wal-Mart BFL are Wal-Mart, ALPO Pet Foods, BC Powder, BFGoodrich Tires, Castrol, Chevy Trucks, Coleman, Conseco, Energizer, EverStart Batteries, Evinrude, Faded Glory, Frito-Lay, FujiFilm, Garmin, Kellogg’s, Land O’Lakes, Minn Kota, Newell Rubbermaid, Pepsi, Poulan, Ranger Boats, Shop-Vac, Snickers, Stanley Works, Stren, US Bank, Weed Eater and Yamaha Outboards. Associate sponsors are Abu Garcia, Berkley, Eagle Claw, Laker, Maxwell House, Plano and Solar Bat.
The Shreveport Regional Sports Authority sponsors the Wal-Mart BFL All-American locally.