CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Team Chevy pro Larry Nixon of Bee Branch, Ark., caught a five-bass limit weighing 12 pounds, 9 ounces Saturday to capture the lead in a top-10 field that includes some of the greatest anglers in the world. Nixon now holds a slight 1-pound, 5-ounce edge over his closest competitor, Folgers pro Scott Suggs of Bryant, Ark., heading into the final day of competition in the FLW Tour’s $1.5 million National Guard Open on Lake Norman. If he holds on for the win, Nixon will pocket $200,000.
“It’s going to be a shoot-out tomorrow,” said Nixon, who has been fishing the FLW Tour for 10 years and has amassed more than $700,000 in tour earnings. “I am around the fish that could definitely win this. I have lost a few key fish everyday, and that has held my weight down. I’m not going back to the spots I fished today. I have a few more places that I found in practice that seem to be holding quality fish. I just have to slow down, be patient and catch them.”
Nixon was keying on cuts in gravel banks and laydowns, throwing an array of Texas-rigged soft plastics and finesse gear.
Suggs, who is fishing in his second FLW Tour top-10, caught five fish weighing 11 pounds, 4 ounces to advance to the final round as the No. 2 seed.
“The bite seemed to be a little bit down today,” said Suggs, who has been throwing finesse gear around docks and stumps all week. “With the tremendous catches in the opening round it has made it harder to find five keepers. My kicker all week has come down to finding a few large schools of bigger spotted bass and then going back to them everyday and picking up a few. I’m trying not to even think about the leaderboard and just go fishing.”
Rounding out the top 10 pros are Duracell pro Michael Bennett of Roseville, Calif. (five bass, 11-0); Gain pro Vic Vatalaro of Kent, Ohio (five bass, 10-13); Tylenol pro Gabe Bolivar of Ramona, Calif. (five bass, 10-2); BP pro Jim Moynagh of Carver, Minn. (five bass, 9-13); Pedigree pro Greg Pugh of Cullman, Ala. (five bass, 9-4); Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C. (five bass, 8-5); Yamaha pro Jay Yelas of Tyler, Texas (four bass, 7-1) and Hank Cherry of Maiden, N.C. (four bass, 6-12).
“I was blessed yesterday,” said Cherry, who led the tournament Friday. “Instead of catching them today, I put on a bloopers video. I just couldn’t connect. It seemed like they were biting it with their mouths closed. It just feels wonderful to make the cut and even be competing against this caliber of fishermen.”
Overall there were 48 bass weighing 96 pounds, 15 ounces caught in the Pro Division Saturday. The catch included eight five-bass limits.
Wal-Mart angler Trevor Jancasz of White Pigeon, Mich., won the Co-angler Division and $40,000 Saturday with a five bass limit weighing 8 pounds, 9 ounces followed by Alessandro Debbi of Italy, in second place with four bass weighing 6-6 worth $10,000.
Jancasz opened the tournament in 13th place Thursday with five bass weighing 9-12 while fishing with pro Chad Cook of Summerville, S.C. On Friday he jumped into first place on the strength of a five-bass catch weighing 10-3 while fishing with Suggs. He wrapped up his win while fishing with Cherry.
“It was a tough week,” said Jancasz, who is a former Wal-Mart FLW Tour Champion on the co-angler side. “I never caught a single fish until late in the day, everyday. I did fish clean and only had maybe three or four short fish this entire tournament. I usually struggle on the second or third days, but this time I figured it out and everything went great. Hank Cherry was a great partner, and he gave me all the opportunity I needed to catch these fish. I really needed this win to boost my confidence and help me mentally.”
Jancasz was throwing finesse gear around stumps and docks to catch his fish all week.
Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers are Toby Stanphill of High Point, N.C. (four bass, 5-9, $9,000); Nathan Webber of Kernersville, N.C. (two bass, 4-1, $8,000); Gain angler Jess Caraballo of Danbury, Conn. (two bass, 3-11, $7,000); Dino Caporuscio of Coto De Caza, Calif. (two bass, 3-11, $6,000); Pete Bridges of Tallapoosa, Ga. (two bass, 3-00, $5,000); Donnie Hannah of New Lexington, Ohio (one bass, 2-15, $4,000); Jeff Taylor of Olmstead, Ky. (one bass, 1-8, $3,000) and Mark Rouse of La Porte, Texas (zero bass, $2,000).
Overall there were 23 bass weighing 39 pounds, 6 ounces caught in the Co-angler Division Saturday. The catch included one five-bass limit.
Anglers will take off at 7 Sunday morning from Blythe Landing followed by a 4 p.m. weigh-in at the Cabarrus Arena and Events Center located at 4751 Highway 49 North in Concord, N.C.
Prior to the final day weigh-in, FLW Outdoors will host a free Family Fun Zone and outdoor show at the Cabarrus Arena and Events Center from noon to 4 p.m. The Family Fun Zone is a chance for fishing fans to meet their favorite anglers and review the latest products from Berkley, Lowrance, Ranger, Evinrude, Yamaha and other manufacturers while children are treated to fishing themed games and rides like the Ranger Boat simulator. The first 300 children 14 and under visiting the Family Fun Zone Saturday will receive a free rod and reel combo. One lucky person attending the final weigh-in Sunday will even win a trip for two to the Forrest Wood Cup in Hot Springs, where they could ultimately win a $53,000 Ranger Z20 powered by Yamaha. The drawing for a free vacation getaway to Hot Springs will be held immediately following Sunday’s 4 p.m. weigh-in. Participants must be present to win.
Sunday’s festivities will also include the FOX Charlotte Big Bass Challenge tournament featuring area residents fishing with FLW Tour pros to benefit Lake Norman conservation efforts. The winner of the FOX Charlotte Big Bass Challenge will receive $500 and have $5,000 donated in his or her name to the FishAmerica Foundation. Takeoff for the Big Bass Challenge is at 9 a.m. at Blythe Landing with the weigh-in taking place on the main stage at the Cabarrus Arena and Events Center at 3 p.m.
In FLW Tour competition, pros and co-anglers are randomly paired each day, with pros supplying the boat, controlling boat movement and competing against other pros. Co-anglers fish from the back deck against other co-anglers. The full field competes Thursday and Friday for 10 slots in Saturday’s competition based on their two-day accumulated weight. Weights are cleared Saturday, and co-angler competition concludes following Saturday’s weigh-in with the winner determined by the day’s heaviest catch. The top 10 pros continue competition Sunday, with the winner determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from Saturday and Sunday.
Coverage of the tournament will be broadcast to 81 million FSN (Fox Sports Net) subscribers in the United States on June 3 and June 10 as part of the “FLW Outdoors” television program. “FLW Outdoors” airs Sunday mornings at 11 Eastern time. “FLW Outdoors” is also broadcast internationally to 429 million households in such countries as Germany, China, South Africa, Australia, Malaysia, Russia, Hungary and the United Kingdom, making it the most widely distributed fishing program 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, Ranger Owners Tournament Championship Series, 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 of nearly $43 million through 241 events in 2007.
Wal-Mart and many of America’s largest and most respected companies support FLW Outdoors and its tournament trails. Wal-Mart signed on as an FLW Outdoors sponsor in 1997 and today is the world’s leading supporter of tournament fishing. For more information about Wal-Mart, visit Walmart.com.