DECATUR, Ala. – With 11 top-10 finishes dating back to 1995, Ricky D. Scott is no stranger to FLW Outdoors competition. Most of his success, however, has come in the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League for weekend anglers. Most, that is, until Saturday. That’s when the Van Buren, Ark., angler netted a $125,000 victory in the Stren Series Championship on Wheeler Lake and earned a berth into the $2 million Forrest Wood Cup in Hot Springs, Ark., Aug 2-5, 2007, where he will fish for the sport’s first $1 million award.
Scott qualified for the Stren Series Championship as the Central Division’s No. 15 seed and proceeded to catch five bass weighing 14 pounds, 5 ounces Wednesday to finish the opening day of competition in fourth place. He focused his opening-day efforts around barge pilings, where runoff from the day’s rain was pouring soybean dust into the lake. His bait of choice was a homemade 3/8-ounce spinnerbait with white blades and a white skirt.
After a cold front swept through the region Wednesday night, bringing bluebird skies and brisk winds to Wheeler Lake, Scott’s runoff dried up, so he targeted wood cover in less than a foot of water below Flint Creek on Thursday. He stuck with his spinnerbait, though, and the spot paid off with five bass weighing 8-14 to boost his opening-round total to 23-3 – good enough to advance to the final round of 10 pros as the No. 3 seed.
On Friday, Scott arrived at his fishing hole only to find his wood cover high and dry. Overnight the lake dropped almost 2 feet, so Scott was forced to change locations once again. This time he found an area of stained water adjacent to a shallow mud flat and proceeded to catch the third heaviest limit of the tournament on his trusty homemade spinnerbait. The 16-pound, 2-ounce catch gave him what turned out to be an insurmountable 6-pound, 2-ounce lead heading into the final day of competition.
His four bass, 7-pound, 6-ounce catch Saturday – caught once again on the same homemade spinnerbait, plus one fish on a Lucky Craft Pointer – pushed his final-round total to 23-8 and sealed his victory by a comfortable 4-pound, 4-ounce margin over A&W pro JT Kenney of Daytona Beach, Fla. Kenney finished the final round with 10 bass weighing 19-4 to win $55,000.
“It was tough today,” Scott said. “I didn’t catch my first keeper until 11:30, and I covered a lot of water. I hit all my spots that produced yesterday and couldn’t get anything. I didn’t know how it was going to turn out. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and days like today make it all worthwhile.”
Rounding out the top five pros were Kellogg’s pro Dave Lefebre of Union City, Pa. (10 bass, 18-1, $38,500); Ott Defoe of Knoxville, Tenn. (10 bass, 15-14, $31,000); and Thanh Le of Las Vegas, Nev. (10 bass, 15-8, $24,000).
Kenney (Northeast Division) and Defoe (Southeast Division) joined Scott (Central Division), Jason Borofka of Salina, Calif., (Western Division), and veteran pro Stacey King of Reeds Spring, Mo., (Midwest Division) as the first five pro qualifiers for the $2 million Forrest Wood Cup.
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 bass 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.”
Rounding out the top five co-anglers were 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).
Co-angler Bill Gift of Alix, Ark., earned the Evinrude and Stren Co-angler of the Year award as the highest finishing points champion this week. Representing the Central Division, Gift finished in 16th place and received a Ranger 520VX powered by Evinrude as Co-angler of the Year.
Overall, 40 bass weighing 76 pounds, 9 ounces were caught by the 10 pro finalists Saturday. There were five five-bass limits caught and more than 99 percent of the bass were released alive.
Scott earned an Evinrude- or Yamaha-powered Ranger 519VX equipped with Lowrance electronics, a Minn Kota trolling motor and EverStart batteries plus $50,000 cash. He also received a $25,000 bonus from Ranger Boats and a $10,000 Ranger Cup bonus for a total award of $125,000.
Coverage of the Stren Series Championship will be broadcast to 81 million FSN (Fox Sports Net) subscribers in the United States as part of the “FLW Outdoors” television program airing Dec. 3. “FLW Outdoors” airs Sunday mornings at 11 Eastern time. “FLW Outdoors” is also broadcast internationally to approximately 350 million households in Germany, China, South Africa, Australia, Malaysia, Russia, Hungary, the United Kingdom, among other others, making it the most widely distributed weekly outdoor-sports television show in the world. Additionally, FLW Outdoors is proud to provide tournament coverage to more than 800,000 servicemembers stationed around the world in 177 countries and aboard Navy ships through broadcasts on the American Forces Network.
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.