HARTFORD, Conn. – Boater Kip Carter of Oxford, Ga., caught five bass weighing 12 pounds, 9 ounces to vault from fifth to first Friday in the historic $1 million Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League All-American on the Connecticut River. His two-day opening round total of 10 bass weighing 23 pounds, 5 ounces gives him a slim 6-ounce advantage heading into the final day of competition in one of the nation’s oldest and most respected championships.
Carter said he was fishing mainly “junk,” throwing a combination of spinnerbaits and topwater lures around anything he could see.
“I threw at brush, wood, rocks and anything these fish could hide under,” Carter said. “With the water level changing everyday, it is a challenge. I wasn’t to nervous today, but I’m sure that tomorrow my nerves will kick back up again. It would mean a lot for me to win this event. I’ve been thinking about this since I was about 8 years old, this is what I want to do for a living. One of the best fish I ever caught was my wife. Her maiden name was Fish, F-I-S-H. Without her support, I would not be where I am today.”
Rounding out the top-five boaters are Robert Walser of Lexington, N.C. (10 bass, 22-15); Mike McDonald of Randleman, N.C. (10 bass, 22-7); Chad Dorland of Dunnellon, Fla. (10 bass, 20-0); and Terry Steele of Sparta, Tenn. (10 bass, 19-2).
Dalton Bobo of Northport, Ala., Thursday’s leader slipped to seventh with a two-day total of seven bass weighing 18 pounds, 6 ounces. He held on to win the Snickers Big Bass Award and $1,000 in the Boater Division, however, with a 5-pound, 11-ounce largemouth that he caught on opening day.
Only the top-10 boaters advanced 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 of as much as $140,000. With a clearing weather trend and falling water, the bite should be good, making for a great final-round weigh-in at the Connecticut Convention Center.
William Redmond of Sciotoville, Ohio, who qualified through the Buckeye Division and the Lake Cherokee Regional, was crowned the Co-angler Division Champion by just over a pound with a five-bass limit weighing 8 pounds, 1 ounce Friday and a two-day total of nine bass weighing 14 pounds, 4 ounces.
“It’s a dream come true, and I hope to be back next year,” said Wright, who collected $60,000 for the win. “I wasn’t that nervous until the end when I realized I probably was going to win it. My family wasn’t able to make it, my wife is at home with our daughter who is about to have our second grandchild any minute. It would be great to have this win and my second grandchild to come on the same day.”
Redmond was fishing a Texas-rigged Senko over grass in the Salmon River area of the river.
Rounding out the top-five co-anglers are Keith L. Smith of Madison, Miss. (six bass, 13-3, $15,000); Michael A Wright of Covington, Ga. (eight bass, 12-14, $7,000); Robert Bland of Sheridan, Ark. (seven bass, 12-11, $6,000); and John Stottlemyre of Edmond, Okla. (six bass, 12-4, $5,000 plus $2,000 bonus).
Ashley F. Newell of Fitzgerald, Ga., caught the day’s largest bass in the Co-angler Division, a 4-pound, 11-ounce largemouth that earned him $1,000 as the Snickers Big Bass winner.
Saturday’s takeoff starts at 7 a.m. from Riverfront Plaza in downtown Hartford, and anglers will weigh-in at 4 p.m. at the Connecticut Convention Center located at 100 Columbus Blvd. in Hartford. Surrounding the weigh-in is the Family Fun Zone and outdoor show, which opens at 11 a.m. Saturday. The show features games and product displays for fishing fans of all ages to enjoy.
Admission is free and the first 300 children 12 and under accompanied by an adult who attend the outdoor show will receive a free Rod and Reel combo plus a free FujiFilm camera. One lucky spectator attending the final weigh-in will also win a new Ranger 175VS bass boat powered by a 115-horsepower Yamaha outboard. Official entry forms for the Ranger boat giveaway are available at the outdoor show at the Connecticut Convention Center, and you must be present Saturday during the 4 p.m. weigh-in to win.
The children who competed in the Oak Hill Youth Fishing Derby Friday were honored on stage and awarded trophies prior to the All-American weigh-in at the Connecticut Convention Center. In the 3-12 age category, Alex Krasniewski, 6, of Hartford took first place. In the 13-16 age category, Dan Fogerty of Heartland, Conn., took first place. In the 17-22 age category Carrie Kania won first place. Approximately 70 youths participated in the derby at Great River Park in East Hartford.
On Saturday, 10 All-American qualifiers who do not advance to the final round will be paired with 10 anglers representing the New England Paralyzed Veterans of America for a one-day memorial tournament on the Connecticut River. This tournament honoring servicemembers wounded in the line of duty will launch from Charter Oak Landing at 8:30 a.m. Weigh-in for the memorial tournament will be held at the Connecticut Convention Center at 2 p.m. The veterans and All-American anglers will be escorted to and from the launch ramp Saturday by the Nam Knights of America, a Harley Davidson motorcycle club comprised of military personnel and law enforcement officers dedicated to honoring the memory of all veterans. Representatives of the Nam Knights will also assist NEPVA anglers during the weigh-in.
This year’s championship marks the 22nd 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 22 states and 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 and four-time FLW Tour champion David Fritts.
Named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood, FLW Outdoors administers the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Series, Stren Series, Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail presented by Abu Garcia, Stratos Owners’ Tournament Trail, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye League, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Series, Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series and Wal-Mart FLW Striper Series. These circuits offer combined purses exceeding $37.9 million through 249 events in 2006.