Wendlandt leads opening round of $500,000 Wal-Mart FLW Tour season opener - Major League Fishing

Wendlandt leads opening round of $500,000 Wal-Mart FLW Tour season opener

January 23, 2003 • MLF • Archives

CLEWISTON, Fla. – Seemingly unaffected by the day’s cooler temperatures and breezy conditions, Kellogg’s pro Clark Wendlandt of Cedar Park, Texas, made a solid move to the top of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour leaderboard Thursday with a five-bass catch weighing 19 pounds, 6 ounces.

The hefty limit, which ranked as the day’s second heaviest, propelled Wendlandt from 10th place to the lead with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 37 pounds, 1 ounce heading into Friday’s semifinal round on Lake Okeechobee. Wendlandt and nine other Pro Division contenders start from zero Friday for the final two days of competition.

“I’m not happy it’s going to be cold [Friday], but the wind doesn’t bother me at all,” Wendlandt said. “I had about 14 pounds and just went practicing and caught a big one weighing 7 pounds, 13 ounces. I have several areas and several techniques that seem to be working, so we will just have to wait and see.”

Wendlandt, who leads second-place pro Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tenn., by 4 ounces, said he did not believe the incoming cold front would affect Friday’s fishing. “I found my fish during a windy cold front,” he said. “So the wind will probably help me. To win I’ll have to have the right technique going at the right time.”

The four-day, $500,000 event presented by EverStart Batteries is the first of six regular-season Wal-Mart FLW Tour events, all of which lead to the $1.5 million Jacobs Cup on the James River in Richmond, Va., Sept. 10-13. The road to Richmond, Va., is indeed paved with gold, as the Jacobs Cup champion will earn $500,000, the largest guaranteed cash award in competitive bass-fishing history. The winning pro on Lake Okeechobee will collect $100,000 cash.

Falling temperatures did not seem to bother the leading pros, as heavy sacks crossed the weigh-in stage for the second consecutive day. But freezing temperatures overnight as well as high winds are expected to change a few anglers’ tactics.

Rounding out the top five pros are Morgan (nine bass, 36 pounds, 13 ounces); Mike Surman of Boca Raton, Fla. (seven bass, 35 pounds, 6 ounces); Pat Fisher of Buford, Ga. (nine bass, 33 pounds, 13 ounces); and Dan Morehead of Paducah, Ky., (10 bass, 33 pounds, 9 ounces).

Doug Caldwell of Kane, Pa., caught three bass Thursday weighing 4 pounds, 2 ounces, to continue to lead co-anglers in their quest for a top award of $15,000 cash. Caldwell led Wednesday’s competition with five bass weighing 12 pounds, 8 ounces for a two-day total of eight bass weighing 16 pounds, 10 ounces. Co-angler competition concludes Friday.

“I think the wind is going to mess the fishing up, but it is not going to mess me up,” said Caldwell, who started throwing a spinner bait after his regular bait stopped being effective in the cooler temperatures. “I think I can win it, because if I have a winning attitude, I can do anything.”

Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Alton Lackie of Germantown, Tenn. (six bass, 15 pounds, 13 ounces); Ralph Mulleins of Cumberland, Va. (seven bass, 15 pounds, 2 ounces); Frank Divis Sr. (six bass, 14 pounds, 15 ounces); and Sean Kelly of Greenlawn, N.Y., (eight bass, 14 pounds, 11 ounces).

Morgan earned $750 as the winner of the Snickers Big-Bass Award in the Pro Division thanks to a 9-pound, 15-ounce bass and another $1,000 from Snickers for catching the heaviest bass in either division over the first two days. Robert Blosser of Poynette, Wis., took the co-angler Snickers Big-Bass Award and $500 with an 8-pound, 7-ounce bass. Snickers will award $5,000 at the end of the year to the angler who catches the heaviest bass during the regular season.

A total of 940 bass weighing 1,852 pounds, 4 ounces were caught Thursday, and 100 percent where released alive. If the tour maintains a 98 percent live release rate throughout the season, Energizer will donate $25,000 to the Children’s Miracle Network.

Pros and co-anglers competed for two days to determine which 10 from each division advanced to Friday’s semifinal round. Weights are cleared for Friday’s competition, as co-anglers compete for one day to determine the winner. Pro Division anglers continue competition Saturday, and the winner is determined by the heaviest two-day accumulated weight.

Temperatures in the Lake Okeechobee area are expected to fall lower than they have in several years. While some fishermen claimed the wind and cold could actually be to their benefit because of the cool conditions they faced in practice time, others believed the big bass brought to the scales Wednesday and Thursday would not be found Friday or Saturday.

Anglers take off from Roland Martin’s Marina in Clewiston, Fla., at 8 a.m. Friday and 7 a.m. Saturday. Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins will be held 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 invited to attend daily takeoffs and weigh-ins as well as visit the Family Fun Zone, located outside the weigh-in tent in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The Family Fun Zone opens at 3 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday. With games, product giveaways and interactive displays, the Family Fun Zone offers enjoyment for fishing fans of all ages.

Coverage of the Lake Okeechobee tournament will be broadcast to 55 million Outdoor Life Network subscribers on “FLW Outdoors,” featuring fishing legends Hank Parker and Larry Nixon alongside hosts Charlie Evans, Carlton Wing and Taylor Carr. A tournament preview featuring Parker 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.

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. 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.