CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Team Chevy pro Larry Nixon of Bee Branch, Ark., caught a final-round total of 10 bass weighing 27 pounds to win $150,000 in the $1.5 million Wal-Mart FLW Tour National Guard Open on Lake Norman. Nixon topped his closest rival, Yamaha pro Jay Yelas of Tyler, Texas, by more than three pounds to earn the win and 200 points toward qualifying for the $2 million Forrest Wood Cup in Hot Springs, Ark., where the winner will earn as much as $1 million – the biggest award in bass fishing – Aug. 5.
“When you get older, all the wins just get sweeter,” said Nixon, who earned his third FLW Tour victory Sunday. “It’s been a while since the last time I was in the final round and this is just great. You never get too old for a bass tournament, and every now and then an old fox will outsmart some of these younger guys on tour.
“The fish were really spooky this week. I had to stay way off the bank and make long casts over cover and other debris to even get to where the fish were. I lost a number of fish earlier in the week that I thought would have cost me, but thankfully it didn’t. I fished really clean today and didn’t loose a single fish, everything just seemed to click. I guess when it’s your time, it’s your time.
“I hardly fished docks all week. I think that’s why my areas were mostly overlooked by the rest of the field that was just keying in on docks. Most of my fish came off of sunny banks with pieces of isolated cover. Once I figured out what the fish were wanting, I had my limit by noon. I threw only finesse gear all week with really light line.
“I was really impressed with Lake Norman. I used to fish this lake a lot back in the late 80s and early 90s, and it has totally changed. Back then, 9 pounds would be an impressive stringer and now guys are brining in 15- and 16-pound sacks. The lake fishes really big and is full of bass, that’s what I like.”
Nixon opened the tournament Thursday in 32nd place with five bass weighing 12-6. He then jumped into 10th place Friday with a five-bass catch weighing 12 pounds, 7 ounces to barley squeak into the final round of 10 pros with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 24-13. On Saturday weights were cleared, and Nixon caught five bass weighing 12-9 to advance to the final day of competition in first place. Nixon added another five bass weighing 14-7 to his final-round total Sunday.
Yelas caught a final-round total of nine bass weighing 23-7 to claim second place and $75,000.
“I am tickled to death with second place,” said Yelas, who was keying in on spawning bass by throwing a 6-inch swimbait targeting big fish. “I went from eighth place this morning to second after it was all said and done, that’s pretty impressive. I just happened to get the right bites. I went out with the mindset to catch big fish and it worked. I’m really happy for Larry, he really deserves this win. He caught fish consistently all week.”
Yelas’ final day catch of five bass weighing 16-6 was the heaviest catch of the entire tournament.
Rounding out the top 10 pros are Gain pro Vic Vatalaro of Kent, Ohio (10 bass, 23-00, $50,000); Hank Cherry of Maiden, N.C. (nine bass, 22-7, $40,000); Folgers pro Scott Suggs of Bryant, Ark. (10 bass, 20-4, $30,000); BP pro Jim Moynagh of Carver, Minn. (10 bass, 20-00, $29,000); Duracell pro and new Land O’Lakes Angler of the Year points leader Michael Bennett of Roseville, Calif. (10 bass, 19-14, $28,000); Pedigree pro Greg Pugh of Cullman, Ala. (10 bass, 19-6, $27,000); Tylenol pro Gabe Bolivar of Ramona, Calif. (10 bass, 17-8, $26,000) and Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C. (six bass, 9-8, $25,000).
Overall there were 46 bass weighing 105 pounds, 7 ounces caught in the Pro Division Sunday. The catch included nine five-bass limits.
Sunday’s festivities also included the FOX Charlotte Big Bass Challenge tournament featuring Charlotte area residents fishing with FLW Tour pros. The team of Folgers pro Rich Lowitzki and Toby Garmon won the Big Bass Challenge with a two-bass catch weighing 3-8. In honor of the team’s win, FOX Charlotte donated $5,000 to the FishAmerica Foundation to benefit Lake Norman conservation projects. Garmon also received $500 for winning the tournament.
On Saturday, Wal-Mart angler Trevor Jancasz of White Pigeon, Mich., won the Co-angler Division and $40,000 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 were 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).
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.
The next FLW Tour stop, the Wal-Mart Open presented by Folgers, will be held on Beaver Lake in Rogers, Ark., May 17-20.
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.