DECATUR, Ala. – Ricky Scott of Van Buren, Ark., caught a five-bass limit weighing 16 pounds, 2 ounces Friday – the third heaviest limit of the tournament – to lead 10 finalists in the $1 million Stren Series Championship on Wheeler Lake. He now holds a solid 6-pound, 2-ounce lead over A & W pro JT Kenney of Daytona Beach, Fla., who caught a five-bass limit weighing 10 pounds. If he can maintain his lead Saturday, Scott will earn $115,000.
“I would rather have a 6-pound lead than have to try to overtake a 6-pound lead as tough as it has been,” said Scott, who qualified for the championship as the No. 15 seed from the Central Division. “I’ve not caught fish in the same place any two days of this tournament, though, so I expect I’ll have to find new water tomorrow, too.”
Scott opened the tournament Wednesday in fourth place with five bass weighing 14-5 that he caught in an area where runoff from the day’s rain was entering the lake. After a cold front swept through the region Wednesday night, Scott changed locations and added another five bass weighing 8-14 to his total Thursday by fishing shallow wood under bluebird skies. The catch was enough, however, to advance Scott to the final round as the No. 3 seed. On Friday, he caught his fish along the edge of stained water. He was throwing a homemade white spinnerbait on all three days.
Kellogg’s pro Dave Lefebre of Union City, Pa., claimed the No. 3 spot heading into the final day of competition with five bass weighing 7-14 while Thanh Le of Las Vegas, Nev. (five bass, 7-13) and Ott Defoe of Knoxville, Tenn. (five bass, 6-11) rounded out the top five pros.
Monte Knight of Quitman, Miss., took top honors and $62,500 in the Co-angler Division Friday with three bass weighing 5-3. He caught two of his fish on a Bill Norman Fat Boy crankbait in chartreuse and black and one bass on a drop-shot rigged Zoom finesse worm in grasshopper color while fishing with veteran pro Stacy King of Reeds Spring, Mo.
“I knew it was going to be tough when I just had two fish,” said Knight, who won a Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League tournament in the Mississippi Division earlier this season. “That’s why I tied on a drop shot and with 15 minutes left, I caught my last fish. This feels great.”
Knight’s award included a fully rigged Ranger 519VX plus $15,000 cash and an additional $7,500 cash bonus from Ranger Boats.
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Alan Hench of Lititz, Pa. (three bass, 4-12, $5,500); Thomas Rizzo of Rochester, Pa. (four bass, 4-11, $4,500); Kerry Barnett of Waldron, Ark. (two bass, 2-11, $6,000); and Alan Hults of Gautier, Miss. (two bass, 2-3, $5,500).
On Thursday, Daniel Shuga of Botkins, Ohio, representing the Midwest Division, and Jason Billmaier of Las Vegas, Nev., representing the Western Division, earned a place in the history books as the first co-angler qualifiers for the 2007 $2 million Forrest Wood Cup. On Friday, Knight, representing the Central Division, Hench, representing the Northeast Division, and Hults, representing the Southeast Division, joined them as Forrest Wood Cup qualifiers by virtue of being the highest finishing co-anglers from their respective Stren Series divisions.
Overall, 48 bass weighing 84 pounds, 7 ounces were caught by the 10 pro and 10 co-angler finalists Friday. There were five five-bass limits caught and more than 99 percent of the bass were released alive.
Anglers will take off from Ingalls Harbor located on Highway 20 W. in Decatur at 7 Saturday morning. Saturday’s final weigh-in will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 2800 Spring Ave. S.W. in Decatur beginning at 4 p.m. The community is invited to attend the Family Fun Zone Saturday outside the weigh-in tent in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The Family Fun Zone, which opens at noon, features interactive displays, product samples and games for the entire family to enjoy. Admission to all activities is free.
Weights were cleared for the start of Friday’s competition, and the winning pro will be determined Saturday based on the heaviest cumulative weight from both Friday and Saturday.
The winning pro will earn an Evinrude- or Yamaha-powered Ranger 519VX equipped with Lowrance electronics, a Minn Kota trolling motor and EverStart batteries plus $50,000 cash. If the winner is the original owner of a qualifying Ranger boat powered by an Evinrude or Yamaha outboard that is used during the tournament, he will also receive a $25,000 bonus from Ranger and an additional $25,000 Evinrude/Yamaha bonus for a total award of $140,000.
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.