Surman leads pros in $500,000 Wal-Mart FLW Tour season opener - Major League Fishing

Surman leads pros in $500,000 Wal-Mart FLW Tour season opener

January 22, 2003 • MLF • Archives

CLEWISTON, Fla. – Pro angler Mike Surman of Boca Raton, Fla., winner of the first-ever Wal-Mart FLW Tour event in 1996, took an early lead Wednesday at the Wal-Mart FLW Tour season opener on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee with a five-bass catch weighing 27 pounds, 6 ounces. Surman’s stringer is the fourth-heaviest weight in FLW Tour history, the heaviest being a 29-pound, 6-ounce catch on the Santee Cooper lakes in 1996.

The four-day, $500,000 tournament presented by EverStart Batteries is the first of six regular-season FLW Tour events, all of which lead up to the historic $1.5 million Jacobs Cup on the James River in Richmond, Va., Sept. 10-13. In 2003, the road to Richmond, Va., is indeed paved with gold, as the pro winner of the Jacobs Cup will receive an unprecedented $500,000 cash prize, the largest guaranteed cash award in bass-fishing history.

Lake Okeechobee, considered one of the nation’s premier bass fisheries, kicks off the FLW Tour season for the seventh time in eight years. Anglers took off Wednesday morning under clear and sunny skies with afternoon highs in the mid-70s. The mild weather was a marked change from the unusually cool temperatures that have plagued Okeechobee anglers in recent weeks and was a contributing factor to the fantastic catches turned in by some of the nation’s top pros.

“I jumped around all day,” said Surman, who caught most of his bass Wednesday on a Gambler Crawdaddy. “I only had 12 to 14 bites. When the water gets below 60 degrees, the fish don’t bite, but after two or three days of warm weather, they’re starting to bite. I did exactly what I wanted, which was to catch enough to go practice-fishing Thursday.”

Surman’s catch included a 9-pound, 14-ounce lunker that earned him $750 as the winner of the Snickers Big-Bass Award. “I knew it was good, but I didn’t know how big it was until its big old head popped out of the grass!” he said.

Rounding out the top five pros after day one are Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Texas (five bass, 24 pounds, 12 ounces); Scott Dobson of Waterford, Mich. (five bass, 22 pounds, 14 ounces); Dan Morehead of Paducah, Ky. (five bass, 21 pounds, 5 ounces); and Pat Fisher of Buford, Ga., (five bass, 20 pounds, 12 ounces).

Doug Caldwell, the mayor of Kane, Pa., leads the Co-angler Division into Thursday’s competition thanks to a five-bass catch weighing 12 pounds, 8 ounces. Like Surman, he caught his bass Wednesday flipping a Gambler Crawdaddy.
“It’s still a thrill,” said Caldwell, whose first fish of the day, a 7-pound, 4-ounce bass, earned him $500 as the co-angler Snickers Big-Bass Award winner. “The older you get it’s still a thrill.”

Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Frank Divis Sr. of Fayetteville, Ark. (three bass, 11 pounds, 6 ounces); Sean Kelly of Greenlawn, N.Y. (five bass, 11 pounds, 3 ounces); Martin Whitaker of Hensley, Ark. (three bass, 9 pounds, 7 ounces); and Jason Knapp of Uniontown, Pa., (five bass, 8 pounds, 12 ounces).

Coverage of the Lake Okeechobee tournament will be featured on the “FLW Outdoors” television show, which is broadcast to 55 million subscribers on the Outdoor Life Network. The newly revamped program features fishing legends Hank Parker and Larry Nixon alongside hosts Charlie Evans, Carlton Wing and Taylor Carr. A preview of the Lake Okeechobee tournament featuring Parker and guest anglers Scott Martin and David Walker will air Saturday at 7 p.m. EST and again Sunday at 1 p.m. EST. Tournament highlights from Lake Okeechobee will air Feb. 1 and 2 followed by a tournament recap featuring Nixon Feb. 8 and 9.

Anglers take off each morning from Roland Martin’s Marina in Clewiston, Fla., beginning at 7 a.m. except for Friday, when takeoff will begin at 8 a.m. Thursday’s weigh-in will also be held at the marina beginning at 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins will take place at the Wal-Mart store located on West Sugarland Highway in Clewiston beginning at 5 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday.

The community is encouraged to attend daily takeoffs and weigh-ins as well as visit the Family Fun Zone, which will be set up in the Wal-Mart parking lot outside the weigh-in tent Friday beginning at 3 p.m. and Saturday beginning at 11 a.m. With games, product giveaways and interactive displays, the Family Fun Zone offers enjoyment for fishing fans of all ages.

Anglers compete for two days to determine the top 10 pros and 10 co-anglers who will advance to Friday’s semifinal round based on their two-day accumulated weight. Weights are cleared for Friday’s competition, and co-anglers compete for one day to determine the winner. Pros continue competition Saturday, with final positions determined by Friday and Saturday’s combined catch weight. The winning pro will earn $100,000 cash, and the winning co-angler will take home $15,000 cash.

The Wal-Mart FLW Tour features a pro/co-angler format in which the pro supplies the boat, fishes from the front deck against other pros and controls boat movement. Co-anglers fish from the back deck against other co-anglers. One hundred and seventy-five pros and 175 co-anglers comprise a full field. Every angler who receives weight credit in a tournament earns points, with 200 points awarded to the winner, 199 points for second, 198 for third and so on. These points determine angler standings, and the top 48 pros and 48 co-anglers following the regular season will advance to the $1.5 million Jacobs Cup.

Wal-Mart and many of America’s most respected companies support FLW Outdoors and its six tournament trails. Wal-Mart has been the title sponsor of FLW Outdoors since 1997. For a complete list of FLW Outdoors sponsors and for more information about the premier products and services they offer, please browse this Web site.