LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Boater Dicky Newberry of Houston caught five bass weighing 6 pounds, 11 ounces Thursday to grab the opening-day lead in the $1 million Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League All-American presented by Chevy on the Ohio River. One hundred and eight weekend anglers representing 27 states are competing in the All-American, one of the longest running and most respected championships in competitive bass fishing, for a top boater award of $140,000 and a top co-angler award of $70,000.
These anglers represent the best of more than 30,000 competitors who strive to make it to the lucrative championship each year. They have one more obstacle to overcome, however, in a stretch of the Ohio River that is not known for producing heavy limits of largemouth bass. Post-spawn fish that are reluctant to bite under the hot Kentucky sun made the river even more challenging as anglers raced as far as 120 miles downstream in search of a winning combination of fish.
Unlike many anglers who made a long run south, Newberry made a 70-mile run north to the Markland Lock only to find out that he wouldn’t be able to get through to his intended fishing spot.
“I got to the lock, and they said it would be three hours before I could get through,” said Newberry, a three-time All-American qualifier. “I had to turn around and come back. It’s not something that you can bellyache too long about. You just have to switch gears and adjust.”
Fortunately, Newberry had a contingency plan after shaking off a few keepers in Wednesday’s practice round. The fish, located along a 100-yard stretch of the Ohio just 15 miles north of the launch site at Carrie Gaulbert Cox Park, ended up saving Newberry’s day, and possibly his tournament.
“I caught a 3-pounder on a crankbait and the rest of my limit on spinnerbaits and worms,” Newberry said.
Newberry qualified for the All-American through the BFL Cowboy Division, where he finished second in the points standings and fourth at the Wright Patman Regional Championship. He now holds a slim 8-ounce lead in the biggest tournament of his life. The biggest tournament so far that is. If he can hold on for the win, Newberry will be headed to the $2 million Forrest Wood Cup in Hot Springs, Ark., where he’ll fish against the world’s best professional anglers on Lake Ouachita for the sport’s first $1 million award. Is he looking forward to the prospect? You bet.
“I’ve fished two regionals on Ouachita,” Newberry said. “I won one of them and finished second in the other.”
Newberry estimates that he will need at least 3 more pounds Friday to make the top-10 cut – something he fell just 1 ounce short of in last year’s All-American on the Connecticut River in Hartford, Conn.
Rounding out the top-five boaters are Dick Shaffer of Rockford, Ohio (five bass, 6-3); David Wright of Lexington, N.C. (five bass, 6-2); Thomas Southern of Sylacauga, Ala. (three bass, 6-1); and Calvin Davidson of Plainfield, Ind. (four bass, 5-9).
Ray Griffin of Henderson, N.C., caught the day’s heaviest bass in the Boater Division, a 3-pound, 6-ounce largemouth, to win the Snickers Big Bass Award of $500.
Overall, 87 bass weighing a total of 125 pounds, 4 ounces were caught by 41 boaters Thursday. The catch included three five-bass limits.
Chad Hartzog of Bush, La., who qualified through the Louisiana Division (finishing 22nd) and the Wright Patman Regional (finishing fourth), leads the Co-angler Division with three bass weighing 4 pounds, 8 ounces.
He was fishing with boater Ray Armes of Forest, Va., who is currently 29th with one bass weighing 1-13.
Rounding out the top-five co-anglers are Kevin Wells of South Shore, Ky. (four bass, 4-0); Stacy Metz of Staley, N.C. (two bass, 3-1); Glen Mire of Jackson, Miss. (one bass, 3-0); and Jeffery O’Connor of Charlotte, N.C. (two bass, 3-0).
Mire caught the day’s largest bass in the Co-angler Division to earn the $500 Snickers Big Bass Award.
Overall, 33 bass weighing a total of 44 pounds, 9 ounces were caught by 23 co-anglers Thursday. No five-bass limits were caught in the Co-angler Division.
Only the top-10 boaters and co-anglers following Friday’s weigh-in will advance to Saturday’s final round, where the heaviest three-day total weight will determine the winners.
Boaters control boat movement and fish from the front deck against other boaters while co-anglers compete from the back deck against other co-anglers. Boaters and co-anglers are randomly paired each day.
Takeoffs start at 7 a.m. each day from Carrie Gaulbert Cox Park located at 3730 River Road in Louisville. Weigh-ins each day start at 4 p.m. at the Kentucky Exposition Center located at 937 Phillips Lane in Louisville.
Surrounding the weigh-ins is the FLW Outdoors Family Fun Zone and Outdoor Show featuring dozens of exhibits from Ranger Boats, Chevy, Berkley, Lowrance, Evinrude, Yamaha and many more premier companies. The doors open at 2 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday. Admission is free and the first 200 children 14 and under accompanied by an adult who attend the Family Fun Zone and Outdoor Show on Saturday will receive a free rod and reel combo. One lucky spectator attending the final weigh-in Saturday will even win a $30,000 Ranger 178VS bass boat powered by Yamaha.
Official entry forms for the Ranger boat giveaway are available at the Family Zone and Outdoor Show at the Kentucky Exposition Center, and you must be present during the 4 p.m. weigh-in to win.
Coverage of the All-American will be broadcast to 81 million FSN (Fox Sports Net) subscribers in the United States on Oct. 21 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 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, who fishes for Team Chevy.
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.