Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship heats up on Cross Lake - Major League Fishing

Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship heats up on Cross Lake

September 11, 2002 • MLF • Archives

SHREVEPORT, La. – Call it September madness. With a bracket style similar to the NCAA playoffs and $260,000 of an $800,000 cash purse going to the winning pro, the 2002 Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship presented by Castrol on Cross Lake in Shreveport, La., promised to bring unparalleled excitement to the world of bass fishing.

Day one of the four-day event lived up to the hype. After much speculation on the quality of bass to be caught on Cross Lake, the first pro angler to weigh in brought a sack filled with keepers, two of which were over the lake’s 14- to 17-inch slot limit. No. 13 seed Alton Jones of Waco, Texas, set the pace with a 12-pound, 3-ounce limit followed closely by his competitor, No. 36 seed Craig Powers of Rockwood, Tenn., who landed a five-bass limit weighing 11 pounds, 7 ounces. Three of Powers’ bass were over the slot limit.

Jones’ catch was the heaviest of the day until No. 10 seed Greg Hackney of Oak Ridge, La., the last pro to weigh in, bested the total with a five-bass limit weighing 15 pounds, 13 ounces.

Much to his competitor’s chagrin, Hackney claimed that the fishing was tougher for him than it had been in practice. “I feel fortunate, because there was a lot of pressure around me,” said Hackney, who faces No. 39 seed Kim Stricker of Howell, Mich. Stricker caught one bass weighing 1 pound, 3 ounces.

Newly crowned Land O’ Lakes Angler of the Year and No. 1 seed Jay Yelas of Tyler, Texas, easily outmatched No. 48 seed Harmon Davis of Marlow, Okla., after Davis approached the stage empty-handed. Yelas’ three-bass catch weighed in at 5 pounds, 10 ounces.

Yelas used a variety of patterns to land his fish but still had a tough day on the water. “I didn’t have one fish at noon,” Yelas said. “I’m glad to have these three.”

No. 2 seed Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., who has dominated the professional bass-fishing ranks in recent years, found himself in a tight battle with No. 47 seed Marty Stone of Linden, N.C. With a 4-pound, 9-ounce stringer, VanDam holds a scant 2-ounce advantage over Stone’s 4-pound, 7-ounce catch.

“There are big fish out there,” VanDam said. “It’s a tough lake, and (the competition) will be pretty close.”

No. 7 seed David Dudley of Manteo, N.C., who won the largest cash prize in bass-fishing history at the Ranger M1 tournament this spring, surprised many when he too came to the stage with an empty sack. His competition, No. 42 seed Gerald Swindle of Hayden, Ala., caught three bass weighing 5 pounds, 6 ounces.

Other tight races include the 1-ounce difference between No. 43 seed Randy Blaukat of Lamar, Mo., (2-7) and No. 6 seed Mike Wurm of Hot Springs, Ark., (2-6) and the 5-ounce separation between No. 45 seed Alvin Shaw of State Road, N.C., (4-11) and No. 4 seed Clark Wendlandt of Cedar Park, Texas (4-6).

Though co-anglers did not fish head-to-head, the fervor was not lost in their division. Danny Strand of Champaign, Ill., leads his division after day one with a three-bass catch weighing 7 pounds, 3 ounces followed by Jim Blake of Lincoln, Neb., with three bass weighing 6 pounds, 9 ounces and Gerald Williams of Scottsville, Ky., with four bass weighing 4 pounds, 11 ounces.

Anglers earned their championship berths based on points accumulated during six regular-season events. Forty-eight anglers in each division compete for two days, with the top 24 advancing to Friday’s semifinal round. Fishing head-to-head, the top 12 Pro Division anglers will advance to Saturday’s final round and will then be reseeded according to their total weight from the first three days of competition. Competitors in the Co-angler Division fish against their entire field and advance based on accumulated weight.

Competition begins every morning at 7 a.m. at the American Legion Boat Ramp in Shreveport. Daily weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart store on Pines Road in Shreveport. Anglers will weigh in Thursday beginning at 3:30 p.m. and Friday beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday’s weigh-in will be at 2 p.m.

Sponsors of the 2002 Wal-Mart FLW Tour are Wal-Mart, ALPO Pet Foods, BFGoodrich Tires, Castrol, Chevy Trucks, Conseco, Eagle Electronics, Energizer, EverStart Batteries, Evinrude, Faded Glory, Frito-Lay, Fujifilm, Kellogg’s, Land O’Lakes, Maxwell House, Minn Kota, Newell Rubbermaid, Pepsi, Poulan, Ranger Boats, Shop-Vac, Snickers, Stanley Works, U.S. Bank, Weed Eater and Yamaha Outboards.