PADUCAH, Ky. – Boater Brent Crow of Hartselle, Ala., caught five bass weighing 11 pounds, 11 ounces to grab the opening-day lead in the 2005 Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League All-American presented by Chevy – one of the longest running and most respected championships in competitive bass fishing. Eighty-four of the nation’s best weekend anglers are competing in the event, which awards $100,000 to the winning boater and $50,000 to the winning co-angler.
Anglers have faced typical river conditions – the ever-present obstacles presented by current and rapidly changing water clarity due to overnight storms. Temperatures have been hot and the air has been humid, with scattered rain and thunderstorms in the forecast for the rest of the week.
Crow used spinning tackle to catch his bass in 2 to 10 feet of water. “I fished around rocky areas with a jighead and soft plastics,” Crow said. “The water wasn’t especially clear, so I was able to use 15-pound braided line with a 15-pound fluorocarbon leader.” Crow’s largest bass was a 3-pound, 14-ouncer that he caught late in the afternoon.
Crow qualified for the All-American through the Choo Choo Division, where he finished fourth in the points standings and third in the Kentucky Lake Regional Championship.
Rounding out the top-five boaters are Michael Bryson of Lafayette, Ga. (five bass, 11 pounds, 7 ounces); Wayne Hudgens of Hot Springs, Ark. (five bass, 11 pounds); Rick Byrnes of Tamaroa, Ill., (five bass, 10 pounds, 8 ounces) and Brian Hickey of Cadiz (five bass, 10 pounds, 1 ounce).
Only the top-10 boaters following Friday’s weigh-in will advance to Saturday’s final round where competitors maintain their two-day total weight and fish for the heaviest three-day weight to determine the winner.
Co-angler Aaron McManaway of Altamont, Ill., leads his division by nearly two pounds with a five-bass limit weighing 11 pounds. “I feel really good,” McManaway said. “I just wanted to get into the top 10.” McManaway fished rocky areas to catch his bass, one of which was a nice smallmouth that broke the 3-pound mark.
Rounding out the top-five co-anglers are Richard Hooter of Natchitoches, La. (five bass, 9 pounds, 3 ounces); Jamie Floyd of Prairieville, La. (five bass, 8 pounds, 7 ounces); Chip Morris of Mableton, Ga. (four bass, 8 pounds, 2 ounces); and Mark Heimburger of Sidney, Ill.(four bass, 7 pounds, 13 ounces).
The co-angler champion will be determined at Friday’s weigh-in based on two-day total weight.
Adam Wagner of Cookeville, Tenn., caught the day’s largest bass, a 4-pound, 6-ounce largemouth. If it holds up through Friday as the Snickers Big Bass of the tournament, he will receive a $1,000 bonus.
Takeoffs start at 7 a.m. from the Paducah City Ramp in downtown Paducah, and anglers will weigh-in each day at 3 p.m. at the Expo Center located at 1 Executive Blvd. in Paducah. Surrounding the weigh-in is the Family Fun Zone, which opens at noon on Friday and 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 Paducah Sun’s Ranger bass boat giveaway must be present to win at 3 p.m. Saturday.
This year’s championship marks the 21st 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.
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, four-time FLW Tour champion David Fritts and bass-fishing legend Rick Clunn.
Named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood, FLW Outdoors administers the Wal-Mart FLW Tour 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 the title sponsor of the FLW Tour in 1997 and today is the title sponsor of all FLW Outdoors events.