SHREVEPORT, La. – After three days of battling Cross Lake’s intimidating 14- to 17-inch slot limit, John Sappington of Wyandotte, Okla., claimed the No. 1 spot in Saturday’s final round of the $800,000 Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship presented by Castrol on Cross Lake in Shreveport, La. He will face No. 2 seed Gerald Swindle of Hayden, Ala., for $260,000 cash.
Sappington, who entered the championship as the No. 24 seed, said Thursday that he was onto something, and he backed it up Friday with a five-bass limit weighing 11 pounds, 14 ounces. The weight gave Sappington nearly a 7-pound advantage over 2002 Land O’Lakes Angler of the Year and No. 1 seed Jay Yelas of Tyler, Texas.
Swindle, who came into the championship as the No. 42 seed in a field of 48, brought in a 10-pound, 1-ounce limit that toppled No. 18 seed Chris Baumgardner of Gastonia, N.C. Baumgardner landed four bass weighing 6 pounds Friday.
Fishing for third- and fourth-place money are Brent Chapman of Shawnee, Kan., and Pat Fisher of Stone Mountain, Ga. Chapman, who entered the championship as the No. 34 seed, defeated No. 10 seed Greg Hackney of Oak Ridge, La., by 5 pounds, 2 ounces Friday. “I stepped it up,” Chapman said. “I stuck with it and had a decent day.” Hackney finished with a one-bass catch weighing 13 ounces while Chapman landed three bass weighing 5 pounds, 15 ounces.
Fisher, the No. 12 seed coming into the championship, slipped past No. 13 seed Alton Jones of Waco, Texas, by 15 ounces Friday. He brought in three bass weighing 4 pounds, 1 ounce while Jones weighed in one bass weighing 3 pounds, 2 ounces.
Fishing for fifth- and sixth-place money are No. 16 seed Aaron Martens of Castaic, Calif., and No. 19 seed Dion Hibdon of Stover, Mo. “I’m tickled to be fishing, but I have no clue what I’m going to do,” Hibdon said. “I’m on no real pattern, and I’ve been using all kinds of different baits.” Martens triumphed over No. 40 seed Bill Chapman of Salt Rock, W. Va., Friday while Hibdon ousted No. 6 seed Mike Wurm of Hot Springs, Ark.
No. 8 seed Bernie Schultz of Gainesville, Fla., and No. 11 seed Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo., will compete for seventh- and eighth-place cash awards. Clunn defeated No. 35 seed Larry Nixon of Bee Branch, Ark., Friday while Schultz topped No. 32 seed Dale Teaney of Williamsburg, Ohio.
No. 46 seed Takahiro Omori of Emory, Texas, will face No. 23 seed Kevin Vida of Clare, Mich., for ninth- and 10th-place money. Omori surpassed No. 27 seed Chuck Economou of Redington Shores, Fla., to advance. Vida vanquished perennial contender Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., the No. 2 seed coming into the championship.
No. 29 seed Wes Thomas of Hanover, Ind., and No. 45 seed Alvin Shaw of State Road, N.C., round out the 12 finalists and will compete for 11th- and 12th-place cash awards. Shaw earned his berth after defeating No. 28 seed Tracy Adams of Wilkesboro, N.C., by merely 14 ounces. Thomas defeated No. 5 seed Sam Newby of Pocola, Okla.
Co-angler Division competition concluded Friday with Keith Pace of Monticello, Ark., earning the $25,000 winner’s check plus a $5,000 cash bonus from Castrol. Pace caught five bass weighing 7 pounds, 2 ounces to defeat second-place angler Todd Lee of Jasper, Ala., who caught four bass weighing 5 pounds, 15 ounces.
Danny Strand of Champaign, Ill. (one bass, 3 pounds, 2 ounces); Katsutoshi Furusawa of Tokyo, Japan (two bass, 2 pounds, 15 ounces); and Asa Godsey of Mechanicsville, Va., (two bass, 2 pounds, 6 ounces) rounded out the top-five co-anglers. Co-anglers competed against their entire field each day.
Competition begins Saturday at safe light at the American Legion Boat Ramp in Shreveport. Saturday’s weigh-in will begin at 2 p.m. at the Wal-Mart store on Pines Road in Shreveport.
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.