HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Mark Schafer of Williamstown, N.J., caught a five-bass limit weighing 13 pounds Friday to boost his two-day total weight to 24 pounds, 14 ounces and claim the Boater Division lead going into the final day of the 2004 Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League All-American on Lake Hamilton. The top 10 boaters advance to the final day of the tournament – one of the longest running and most respected championships in competitive bass fishing – where the winner will receive $100,000.
Anglers were forced to quickly adapt Friday as unexpected clouds and stiff winds moved through the region. Many participants hoped for sunny, calm conditions, which would allow for better dock-flipping and sight-fishing patterns. Overall, weights were similar to Thursday, with 10 pounds being a heavy catch.
“I have a lot of fish,” Schafer said. “I caught three limits today. I’m confident I can catch a limit tomorrow. It was actually good for me that the cloud cover came in because it allowed me to throw a spinnerbait and catch some good fish. Then when the sun came back out, I went back to flipping docks with a watermelon trick worm.”
Schafer won the Boater Division Yamaha Be the Best Award, which pays $10,000 to the highest finishing BFL division points champion. He also won the Shop-Vac High Performance Award, consisting of four Shop-Vac products, which goes to the boater with the heaviest total catch during the first two days of competition.
Rounding out the top five boaters are John Devere of Berea, Ky. (10 bass, 22 pounds, 9 ounces); Allen Hayes of Moody, Ala. (10 bass, 21 pounds, 8 ounces); Kellogg’s pro Dave Lefebre of Erie, Pa. (10 bass, 20 pounds, 12 ounces); and Charles Cummings of Leeds, Ala. (10 bass, 20 pounds, 6 ounces).
Friday saw the conclusion of the tournament for co-anglers, with Scott Boatright of Sheridan claiming top honors and $50,000. Boatright, who earned the 2003 Arkie Division points championship his first season in the BFL, caught a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 17 pounds, 4 ounces to claim $50,000 – the largest first-place co-angler prize in competitive bass fishing. Boatright ran away with the tournament in impressive style by winning the championship by nearly 4 pounds.
“I’m overwhelmed, overjoyed,” Boatright said. “I have fished long enough to know that you usually don’t win tournaments when you lose big fish, and I lost two big fish today. It was really an up-and-down day for me. I didn’t catch my second keeper until 1 p.m.
“I’m extremely comfortable and confident on this lake. I live in this area and know what they’re biting this time of year. I weighted down a trick worm and skipped it under docks with a spinning rod on light line. The sun had to be out for us to catch fish. It was cloudy in the morning, but when the sun came out, I started catching them again right away.”
Boatright also won an additional $5,000 as the Co-angler Division Yamaha Be the Best Award winner and a $500 Wal-Mart shopping card plus $500 worth of Castrol products for winning the Castrol Co-angler Award, which goes to the winning co-angler if he is wearing a Castrol shirt or hat.
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Aaron McManaway of Altamont, Ill. (eight bass, 13 pounds, 9 ounces, $12,500); Daniel Dobransky of Waynesburg, Ohio (seven bass, 12 pounds, 12 ounces, $6,000); Brent Sain of Manchester, Tenn. (nine bass, 11 pounds, 15 ounces, $4,000); and Dick Gum of Woodbridge, Va. (nine bass, 10 pounds, 8 ounces, $3,500).
Miles Johnson of Beavercreek, Ohio, caught the largest bass during the first two days of competition – a 5-pound, 14-ounce largemouth – to claim the $1,000 Snickers Big Bass award.
Other contingencies include the $500 Energizer Keeps on Going Award, which went to Mile Johnson of Beavercreek, Ohio, for advancing to the final round after finishing 21st on opening day, and the Garmin Grand Award, which is a $1,000 award presented to the winning boater for using Garmin electronics.
Takeoff Saturday starts at 7 a.m. from the Fish Hatchery Ramp in Hot Springs, and the final weigh-in begins at 3 p.m. at Summit Arena located at 134 Convention Blvd. in Hot Springs. Surrounding the weigh-in is the Family Fun Zone, which opens at noon Saturday and features games and product displays for fishing fans of all ages to enjoy.
There is no admission fee, and the public is invited to attend. Participants in the US 97-FM Great Ranger Bass Boat Giveaway must be present to win at 3 p.m. Saturday.
This year’s championship marks the 20th anniversary of the first $100,000 award in competitive bass fishing. That historic award was presented to 1984 All-American champion Shaw Grigsby of Gainesville, Fla., for his victory on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in Florida. All-American qualifiers represent the best of more than 30,000 BFL participants nationwide.
Because BFL competitors are weekend anglers and not pros, the All-American and its lucrative cash awards present a unique opportunity for qualifiers looking to launch a professional bass-fishing career. Former All-American contenders who have become fishing superstars on the Wal-Mart FLW Tour include Kellogg’s pro Clark Wendlandt, Chevy pro Tommy Biffle and four-time FLW Tour champion David Fritts.
As the nation’s leading provider of affordable, close-to-home weekend tournaments, the BFL is widely credited with opening competitive bass fishing to the masses. Wal-Mart and many of America’s most respected companies support the BFL and five other FLW Outdoors 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 visit FLWOutdoors.com’s sponsor page.
FLW Outdoors and the Wal-Mart FLW Tour are named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood.