TAVARES, Fla. – Boater Steve Hatler of Lakeland earned $3,762 Saturday as winner of the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League Gator Division event on the Harris Chain of Lakes. The tournament was the third of five regular-season Gator Division events and featured 117 boaters vying for the win, which earned Hatler 200 points in the Boater Division.
Hatler’s winning catch of five bass weighed 18 pounds, 13 ounces. Hatler was flipping Gambler junebug worm around grass when he caught his bass. Hatler earned an additional $1,500 as winner of the Ranger Cup and Powered by Yamaha awards.
Finishing second was Matthew Phillips of Lakeland with five bass weighing 17 pounds, 8 ounces that earned him $1,881. Clint Boyles of Deltona claimed $1,229 as the third-place finisher thanks to five bass weighing 17 pounds. In fourth was Tommy Hatfield of Kissimmee with five bass weighing 16 pounds, 5 ounces worth $958, and finishing fifth and earning $787 was Terry Free of Mount Dora with five bass weighing 15 pounds, 13 ounces.
Jeremy Smith of Plant City took Boater Division big-bass award honors, earning $585 for an 8-pound, 7-ounce bass. He caught his big bass on a Zoom junebug worm.
Richard Boogaerts of Cocoa bested 117 Co-angler Division competitors to earn $1,881 as the co-angler winner, thanks to three bass weighing 12 pounds, 2 ounces that he caught on a Zoom fluke. Boogaerts won an additional $293 as the co-angler big-bass award winner with a 7-pound, 13-ounce bass.
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Lamar Carpenter of Gotha (four bass, 11 pounds, 15 ounces, $941); Lance Eckdahl of Valdosta, Ga. (five bass, 10 pounds, 12 ounces, $615); Mike Calloway of Titusville (five bass, 10 pounds, 7 ounces, $479); and Danny Drew of Polk City (four bass, 9 pounds, 8 ounces, $393).
The Gator Division’s next event will be held April 23 on Kissimmee Lake near Lake Wales. The Gator Division will wrap up its regular season Sept. 24-25 with a two-day Super Tournament on Lake Toho near Kissimmee.
Following the regular season, the Gator Division boater with the most points will earn $1,000 as the Yamaha “Be the Best” points champion. The co-angler amassing the most points will earn $500 as the Yamaha “Be the Best” points champion in the Co-angler Division.
Every angler who receives weight credit in a tournament earns points, with 200 points going to the winner, 199 for second, 198 for third, and so on except for Super Tournaments, which award 300 points to the winner, 299 for second, 298 for third, and so on. The top 40 Gator Division boaters and co-anglers based on year-end points standings will advance to the Lake Martin Regional near Alexander City, Ala., Oct. 18-22 where they will compete against Everglades, Mississippi and Savannah River Division anglers for one of six slots in the 2006 All-American. With a total purse of $1 million and a potential $140,000 cash prize going to the winning boater and $70,000 going to the winning co-angler, the All-American is one of the most prestigious and lucrative events in bass fishing.
The $8.4 million Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League features 28 divisions nationwide. In BFL competition, boaters and co-anglers are randomly paired, with boaters supplying the boat and fishing against other boaters and co-anglers fishing from the back deck against other co-anglers. For more information or to enter a tournament, call (270) 252-1000 or browse this Web site.
Named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood, FLW Outdoors administers the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League and seven other national tournament circuits offering a combined $30 million in awards through 214 events in 2005. The 27-year-old organization is the purveyor of America’s largest and most prestigious fishing tournaments, including the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, EverStart Series, Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye League, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour and Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series.
Wal-Mart and many of America’s largest and most respected companies support FLW Outdoors and its tournament trails. Wal-Mart signed on as title sponsor of the FLW Tour in 1997 and today is the title sponsor of all FLW Outdoors events. For more information on Wal-Mart, visit Wal-Mart.com.