HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Tracy Adams of Wilkesboro, N.C., the No. 44 seed in the Wal-Mart FLW Tour Forrest L. Wood Championship presented by Castrol on Lake Hamilton, brought in the heaviest two-day catch during the first round of competition. Adams’ catch, anchored by Wednesday’s 12-pound, 12-ounce limit, weighed a total of 23 pounds, 5 ounces. Friday’s semifinal round will determine which 12 pros advance to fish Saturday for the sport’s richest first-place award – $500,000.
“I’m just flipping a jig around docks and seawalls,” Adams said of his fishing pattern. “I’ve been staying shallow and covering lots of water. The bite was quite a bit slower today than it was yesterday.”
Adams upset No. 5 seed Dave Lefebre of Erie, Pa., and he will advance to face No. 29 seed Wesley Strader of Spring City, Tenn., in Friday’s semifinal round.
Adams acknowledged that he’ll have his work cut out for him while fishing against Strader but said he still has a game plan for Friday. “I was only catching about 7 pounds in practice,” Adams said. “So I think I can catch a few more.”
Anglers again dealt with steamy temperatures and humidity Thursday, although some cloud cover and rain moved in later in the day. Catches were small Wednesday, and anglers also struggled to catch quality fish Thursday.
Other notable finishes included the shoot-out between Chevy pro Larry Nixon of Bee Branch, Ark., and rookie pro Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla. Nixon, the No. 24 seed, hauled in a two-day total weight of 17 pounds, 8 ounces. Lane, the No. 25 seed, held his own by catching 15 pounds, 5 ounces, but was cut from the competition.
While Nixon chose to keep the exact make of his bass-catching lures to himself, he did disclose that he was fishing fast and covering a lot of shallow water with soft-plastic lures and several hard baits.
Nixon will go on to face No. 1 seed and Land O’ Lakes Angler of the Year Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La.
“Competing for a half-million dollars while fishing against my hero in the sport is just awesome,” Hackney said.
The four-day tournament will conclude Saturday with the winning pro walking away $500,000 richer. The top 48 anglers from the six-event 2005 Wal-Mart FLW Tour advanced to the championship – the most lucrative bass tournament in the history of the sport. Anglers were seeded according to their year-end ranking, with the No. 1 pro fishing head-to-head against the No. 48 seed, the No. 2 seed fishing against the No. 47 seed, and so on.
No. 12 seed, and one of six pros from Arkansas who were fishing the event, was Scott Suggs of Bryant. Suggs out-fished his opponent, No. 37 seed Todd Ary of Moody, Ala., by 1 ounce to advance to the semifinal round. Suggs caught a two-day total weight of 13 pounds, 3 ounces, while Ary landed 13 pounds, 2 ounces.
“I feel so good, it’s unbelievable,” Suggs said. “I’ve been fishing for suspended fish with a crankbait along ditch and channel swings. Following schools of shad has been the key.”
Suggs will go on to face No. 13 seed Chip Harrison of Bremen, Ind. “Chip and I are fishing pretty close together,” Suggs said. “I watched him catch a limit this morning. Who knows what will happen now.”
Another Arkansas native and local favorite, No. 16 seed George Cochran of Hot Springs, beat No. 33 seed Sandy Melvin of Boca Grande, Fla. Cochran caught a round-one total weighing 10 pounds, 1 ounce to easily overcome Melvin’s catch of 4 pounds, 3 ounces.
“I’m a little disappointed,” Melvin said of the defeat. “But George’s picture is in the book beside professional angler, and this is a difficult lake.”
Cochran has been fishing a shallow-water pattern during most of the event. “That’s my strong point,” Cochran said of shallow-water fishing. “I’ve been covering lots of water, so I’ll stick what I’m comfortable with.”
No. 31 seed John Murray of Phoenix, Ariz., brought in one of the largest catches during Wednesday’s competition, with a 12-pound, 10-ounce limit. While he only brought two bass to the scale on Thursday weighing 1 pound, 11 ounces, it was enough to displace No. 33 seed Ken Wick of Star, Idaho, and make it to the semifinal round.
“Today was a tough day,” Murray said. “I started out practicing because I thought I had a solid lead, but the conditions are changing every day. I actually got stuck on the deep water today, and it hurt me.
“I hit brush piles, and at least eliminated lots of water. I’ll be fishing a shallow pattern tomorrow.”
On the co-angler side, Matt Arey of Shelby, N.C., led the field with a two-day catch of six bass weighing 8 pounds, 11 ounces. “My pattern is no big secret,” Arey said. “I’m finesse fishing deep brush with a 4-inch worm rigged on a jighead.” The co-anglers compete against an entire field of 48 other co-anglers during the first round of competition, and the field was cut down to the top 24 co-anglers for Friday’s final co-angler round.
In conjunction with the championship is a world-class outdoor show at the Hot Springs Convention Center and Summit Arena featuring more than 140 exhibits and free daily giveaways, including 500 hats and T-shirts, 500 tackle kits, 500 tackle boxes and 1,500 rods and reels courtesy of KATV in Little Rock. The outdoor show also features daily fishing seminars by Hank Parker, Chevy pro Jimmy Houston, Chevy pro Dion Hibdon, Guido Hibdon, Forrest L. Wood and other bass-fishing legends.
Admission is absolutely free and show hours run 2 to 8 p.m. July 14, noon to 9 p.m. July 15, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. July 16. One lucky fan attending the final weigh-in Saturday will win a new Ranger Z-20 Comanche bass boat powered by Yamaha courtesy of Allen Tillery Chevrolet. Qualifiers for the boat giveaway will be drawn daily, and you must be present to qualify and win.
Championship contenders will take off from Fish Hatchery Ramp, located at 350 Fish Hatchery Road in Hot Springs at 7 a.m. each day, and daily weigh-ins will be held at 5 p.m. in Summit Arena adjacent to the Hot Springs Convention Center.
Todd Ary of Moody, Ala., can’t catch a break in the Forrest L. Wood Championship. Pro Scott Suggs of Bryant, Ark., weighed in a two-day total of 13 pounds, 3 ounces, which was an ounce more than Ary’s catch – his competitor in round one. At last year’s Forrest L. Wood Championship, Ary tied his round-one competitor – Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La. – but lost the tiebreaker because Hackney was the higher seed.
In the 24 round-one match-ups, the higher seed advanced in 14 of those brackets, including the top four seeds – Greg Hackney, Toshinari Namiki, Anthony Gagliardi and Matt Herren.
Veteran pro Zell Rowland of Montgomery, Texas, only weighed in a round-one total of 5 pounds, 9 ounces. That weight, however, was enough to advance to the second round, as his round-one competitor – Dwayne Horton of Knoxville, Tenn. – only weighed 2 pounds, 7 ounces. Rowland’s weight was the lowest to advance.
Co-angler Kim Bain of Australia caught a round-one total of 7 pounds, 3 ounces, which puts her in third place going into the final co-angler round. No female angler has ever won a Forrest L. Wood Championship.