BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – BFGoodrich Tires pro Scott Martin of Clewiston, Fla., who won the last regular-season event of the 2004 Wal-Mart FLW Tour, maintained his momentum Thursday at the $1.5 million Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship presented by Castrol by bringing in a day-two-leading limit of 15 pounds, 2 ounces. The heaviest two-day accumulated weight, however, belongs to day-one leader Luke Clausen of Spokane, Wash., who advanced to the semifinal round with 26 pounds, 3 ounces over two days.
The four-day tournament began Wednesday on Birmingham’s Logan Martin Lake with the top 48 pros and 48 co-anglers based on year-end points standings competing head-to-head in bracket-style competition. Anglers are seeded according to their year-end ranking, with the No. 1 pro fishing against the No. 48 pro, the No. 2 pro fishing against the No. 47 pro, and so on. The winners of each of the 24 brackets advanced to Friday’s semifinal round, where their weights will be cleared and head-to-head competition will continue. Co-angler competition concludes Friday with the winner taking home $25,000 cash. The 12 pros who win Friday’s match ups will fish Saturday for a life-changing top award of $500,000 cash – the sport’s largest award.
Clausen, the No. 26 seed, attracted attention Wednesday with an opening-day weight of 14 pounds, 4 ounces that led the field. He stepped it up Thursday to topple No. 23 seed and 7UP pro Shad Schenck of Waynetown, Ind., who brought in a two-day total of 18 pounds, 2 ounces – 8 pounds, 1 ounce behind Clausen.
“I was fortunate,” said Clausen, a rookie on the FLW Tour. “It’s really been tough, and I was lucky. Shad’s been fishing really well.” Clausen will face No. 2 seed Greg Hackney, a Yamaha pro from Gonzales, La., during the semifinal round. Clausen and Hackney fished some of the same water Thursday, but Hackney said he expects to change spots if the weather turns sunny.
Hackney’s matchup against local pro Todd Ary of Birmingham left hometown fans brokenhearted Thursday, as the two anglers tied with a two-day total of 18 pounds, 15 ounces. The higher seed advances, leaving Hackney still on the playing field and Ary, a Tyson pro, headed home.
After falling nearly a pound and a half behind his competition, Martin’s staggering catch Thursday vaulted him past Kellogg’s pro Alvin Shaw of State Road, N.C., by almost 5 pounds.
“I had a little different game plan,” said Martin, the No. 32 seed. “It was a beautiful day today, and if the sun will come out tomorrow I’ll catch some really good fish. I’ll have to step it up a bit, but I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Martin will face Lee Bailey Jr. of Amston, Conn., in the semifinal round. He caught all of his fish – 25 keepers – on a brown and orange Matzuo jig. “It was nice, but I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me,” he said. “I’m fishing an area that’s really inaccessible, and I don’t know if I can get there tomorrow or not.”
Also coming from behind to advance was 2004 Land O’Lakes Angler of the Year and No. 1 seed Shinichi Fukae of Osaka, Japan, who caught a two-day total of 16 pounds, 4 ounces to knock off BFGoodrich Tires pro Chad Grigsby of Colon, Mich., by 14 ounces. Fukae will fish head-to-head against Mickey Bruce of Buford, Ga., in the semifinal round.
Bassmaster Classic champion Takahiro Omori of Emory, Texas, will not unify the sport’s most prestigious titles, as he missed his shot at becoming the FLW Tour champion by falling to Mark Rose of Marion, Ark. Rose caught a two-day total of 20 pounds, 3 ounces, more than 5 pounds heavier than Omori’s catch of 15 pounds, 2 ounces.
Local pro Matt Herren of Trussville will compete Thursday after defeating Yamaha pro Jacob Powroznik of Prince George, Va. Herren barely squeaked past Powroznik, advancing by a 12-ounce margin.
With a two-day weight that registered just shy of Clausen’s, co-angler Greg Gulledge of Monticello, Ark., continued to lead the Co-angler Division thanks to his two-day total weight of 26 pounds. He leads the 24 semifinal-round co-anglers by a 7-pound, 5-ounce margin, but weights are also cleared for co-anglers in Friday’s competition.
“I did a lot of experimenting today,” said Gulledge, who has six FLW Tour top-10 finishes to his credit, four of them coming in 2004. “I caught nine or 10 keepers. It wasn’t quite as easy, but it wasn’t hard either. It’s about time.”
Competitors take off from the Pell City Lakeside Park, located at 2801 Stemley Bridge Road in Pell City, at 7 each morning, and daily weigh-ins begin at 5 p.m. at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. In conjunction with the championship is a world-class boat and outdoor show featuring more than 140 exhibits and free daily giveaways, including hats and T-shirts, tackle kits, tackle boxes, and rods and reels, at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. The outdoor show runs noon to 9 p.m. Aug. 13 and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 14. One lucky person attending Friday’s semifinal-round weigh-in will win the newly unveiled Ranger Z-Series Comanche powered by Yamaha, and one lucky fan attending Saturday’s final weigh-in will win a NASCAR Limited Series Ranger 521VX Comanche powered by Evinrude courtesy of The Birmingham News and Birmingham Post-Herald.
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 visit FLWOutdoors.com.
Day 2 Notes:
• Seven of the top 10 pro seeds advanced.
• In 13 of the 24 brackets, the lower seed advanced.
• Co-angler Simon Morrow of Alexander City, Ala., had a very “eventful” day. On the way to takeoff Thursday, Morrow was involved in a serious car accident that blocked traffic for more than an hour on Interstate 20. Fortunately, Morrow was not injured. By the time he joined his pro partner, it was 9 a.m. Morrow went on to catch the fourth-largest weight of the day in the Co-angler Division and finished the first round in third place with 17 pounds, 1 ounce. His partner, pro Mickey Bruce of Buford, Ga., started the day with an observer aboard his boat.