DECATUR, Ala. – With two days of competition complete in the $900,000 Wal-Mart FLW Tour stop presented by Pedigree on Wheeler Lake, Yamaha pro Kelly Jordon of Mineola, Texas, leads the Pro Division with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 37 pounds, 1 ounce. He and nine other finalists will start back at zero weight Friday as they continue the hunt for a $100,000 win.
“I lost crucial practice time,” said Jordon, who won the 2005 season opener and $100,000 on Lake Okeechobee in January. “I would have liked to have found some spawning fish today that I could run to, but it was just crazy.”
The craziness Jordon referred to was the loss of trim on his outboard that cut his running speed to an agonizingly slow 45 mph after locking into Guntersville Lake.
“I only had one fish in the boat at 10:45 a.m.,” Jordon said. “Then by 11:30, I put four more in the livewell, just bang, bang, bang. Then I headed back to the lock.”
On his way back to the lock, aided by a borrowed 2×4 that he cut down using a pocket knife and wedged between his outboard and transom to provide some lift, Jordon happened across pro Wayne Jeffcoat of Chapin, S.C., and co-angler Quint Bourgeois of Knoxville, Tenn., who also had engine trouble and needed a lift. After loading the men and their fish into his boat, Jordon continued to weigh-in without further incident. Even with the added weight and makeshift trim, Jordon’s boat managed a respectable 55 mph.
Jordon keyed on bream beds Wednesday using a Lake Fork Baby Creature to put a limit weighing 22 pounds, 15 ounces in the boat by 10:45 a.m. He then added five bass weighing 14 pounds, 2 ounces to his total Thursday using a War Eagle spinnerbait, a Lake Fork Baby Craw and the Lake Fork Baby Creature.
Day one leader Scott Suggs of Bryant, Ark., added three bass weighing 10 pounds, 8 ounces to his opening day catch of five bass weighing 24 pounds, 7 ounces to finish the opening round in second with eight bass weighing 34 pounds, 15 ounces. He caught post-spawn bass Wednesday using a chartreuse and white spinnerbait and a green pumpkin trick worm. He then switched to a Rapala DT crankbait and a spinnerbait Thursday. He was targeting channel swings and shallow grass both days.
“The fish are there,” Suggs said. “I got bites all day, but they are in a different mood. Something has changed. Yesterday the fish were real aggressive, but today I’d get hits, pull them 2 or 3 feet and they’d come off. I’m adding a trailer hook to my spinnerbait tomorrow, so when they hit it, they are going to get a face full of steel.”
Mike Hawkes of Sabinal, Texas, claimed the No. 3 qualifying spot in the final round with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 33 pounds, 7 ounces. Hawkes also earned the Energizer Keeps on Going Award for coming from the farthest behind to advance to the final round for the second time this year. He finished 50th on opening day with five bass weighing 12 pounds, 13 ounces.
Kellogg’s pro Alvin Shaw of State Road, N.C. (10 bass, 32 pounds, 3 ounces) and Toshinari Namiki of Hachioji City, Japan (nine bass, 32 pounds, 3 ounces) rounded out the top five pros. An FLW Tour veteran, Shaw entered the 2005 season having earned five FLW Tour top-10 finishes. He has since added three consecutive top-10s to his already impressive list of accomplishments. Namiki, who placed fourth on Lake Okeechobee and won the Ouachita River tour stop in March, is making his third top-10 appearance as well.
Namiki is a former Japan Bass Angler of the Year (1994) and the first Japanese angler ever to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic (1997).
Mark Hardin of Canton, Ga., earned the day’s Snickers Big Bass award of $750 in the Pro Division with an 8-pound, 4-ounce largemouth. Poulan pro Ray Scheide of Russellville, Ark., earned the overall Snickers Big Bass award of $1,000 for catching the heaviest bass in either division during the opening round. Scheide caught an 8-pound, 10-ounce largemouth on a 10-inch worm while fishing isolated grass Wednesday.
Pro Jonathan Newton of Rogersville finished 50th with eight bass weighing 23 pounds, 14 ounces to earn $10,000.
Derek Jones of Chicago jumped from fourth to first in the Co-angler Division thanks to a two-day catch of eight bass weighing 24 pounds, 13 ounces. Jones caught four bass weighing 11 pounds, 12 ounces Wednesday while fishing with Jeffcoat then added another four bass weighing 13 pounds, 1 ounce to his total Thursday while fishing with pro Marcus Clouse of Las Vegas, Nev.
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Greg Fleming of Jolly Lake Ranch, Texas (10 bass, 24 pounds); Bill Rogers of Jasper, Texas (nine bass, 22 pounds, 10 ounces); Dwight Ameling of Fremont, Ind. (nine bass, 21 pounds, 15 ounces); and Mark Hicks of Millfield, Ohio (five bass, 20 pounds, 6 ounces).
Ken Keirsey of Owasso, Okla., claimed the Snickers Big Bass award and $375 in the Co-angler Division with a 6-pound, 14-ounce bass that he caught on a green pumpkin Senko while fishing with pro William Drown of Roseland, Fla. Drown finished the tournament in 165th place.
At 67,100 acres, Wheeler Lake is one of Alabama’s most popular fishing destinations due to its ever-growing ability to produce big largemouth bass. The lake, created by the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1936, is Alabama’s second largest.
Anglers will take off from Riverwalk Marina at 7 a.m. Friday and 6:30 a.m. Saturday. Weigh-ins each day will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 2800 Spring Avenue SW in Decatur beginning at 5 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.
The community is invited to join the worlds’ top bass anglers as they celebrate the FLW Tour’s 10th anniversary in the Family Fun Zone Friday and Saturday outside the weigh-in tent in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The free Family Fun Zone, which opens at 3 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday, features interactive displays, product samples and games for the entire family to enjoy.
Following Thursday’s competition, the field was narrowed from 200 competitors per division to 10, and weights were cleared. Co-angler competition concludes Friday based on the heaviest one-day weight, and pros continue competition Saturday with the winner determined by the heaviest two-day weight. The winning co-angler earns $20,000 while the winning pro earns $100,000. Pros finishing as low as 50th place earn $10,000 cash.
Anglers are also competing for valuable points that determine Land O’ Lakes Angler of the Year standings and the field for the 2005 Forrest L. Wood Championship, set for July 13-16 in Hot Springs, Ark., on Lake Hamilton. The $1.5 million championship presented by Castrol awards the winning pro $500,000 cash, the sport’s largest payout, and features a world-class outdoor show.
Complete coverage of the FLW Tour stop on Wheeler Lake will be broadcast on FSN June 5 and June 12 as part of the “Wal-Mart FLW Outdoors” television program. “Wal-Mart FLW Outdoors” airs every Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern time on FSN.