LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Boater Shonn Goodwin of Moore, Okla., caught five bass weighing 5 pounds on the Ohio River Saturday to win the $1 million Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League All-American with a three-day total catch of 13 bass weighing 16 pounds, 1 ounce. The 34-year-old marketing manager, who has earned 11 top-10 finishes in BFL competition since 1991, started the tournament in 12th place Thursday then climbed into third Friday before winning $100,000 Saturday afternoon in front of a cheering crowd of supporters at the Kentucky Exposition Center.
“I’m still in shock,” said Goodwin, who was competing in his first All-American. “It’s like reaching the summit of Everest after working so hard for so many years for this.”
Goodwin intended on locking through upstream to the Markland pool, where he had located quality fish during practice, but due to construction on the lock, he was not able to fish the pool as planned. Instead, he opted to run south, to the Cannelton pool, where he fished Wolf Creek on Thursday and Deer Creek on Friday and Saturday. Wolf Creek and Deer Creek are located approximately 75 and 120 miles, respectively, from the tournament launch site at Carrie Gaulbert Cox Park in the McAlpine pool.
“I spent all my time up north and was kind of devastated when I found out we wouldn’t be able to lock through,” Goodwin said. “I didn’t feel very confident. I knew it was going to be close.”
Goodwin was able to separate himself from the rest of the pack by targeting stumps and laydowns along channel swings using a Gene Larew 3-inch Baby Hoo-Daddy, Storm SubWart and a RC .5 crankbait.
Goodwin qualified for the prestigious championship through the BFL Okie Division, where he finished fourth in the points standings and fifth at the Wright Patman Regional Championship.
Rounding out the top 10 boaters were seven-time All-American qualifier Curtis Samo of Rochelle, Ill. (nine bass, 14-7, $25,000); Calvin Davidson of Plainfield, Ind. (eight bass, 12-12, $14,000 plus $9,000 Ranger bonus and $9,000 Evinrude bonus); Ronald Yurko of East Point, Fla. (nine bass, 11-7, $13,000 plus $8,000 Ranger bonus and $8,000 Evinrude bonus); Dicky Newberry of Houston (eight bass, 11-0, $12,000 plus $7,000 Ranger bonus and $7,000 Yamaha bonus); Matthew Mize of Ben Lomond, Ark. (six bass, 10-8, $11,000); Thomas Southern of Sylacauga, Ala. (five bass, 10-5, $10,000 plus $5,000 Ranger bonus and $5,000 Yamaha bonus); Richard Heath Jr. of Beaverdam, Va. (six bass, 9-9, $9,000 plus $4,500 Ranger bonus); Jeff Benson of Holmen, Wis. (five bass, 8-0, $8,000); and Jamey Black of Sheridan, Ark. (five bass, 7-11, $7,000 plus $3,500 Yamaha bonus).
Overall there were 12 bass weighing 13 pounds, 13 ounce caught in the Boater Division Saturday. The catch included one five-bass limit.
In addition to his $32,000 in tournament winnings, Davidson also earned a new Ranger 518VS bass boat as the highest-finishing Ranger Cup participant in the All-American.
Brad McCulley of Batesville, Miss., earned $10,000 as the Yamaha “Be the Best” points champion in the Boater Division. He finished 26th Friday with three bass weighing 3-9 after winning the Mississippi Division points race en route to qualifying for the All-American. McCulley also earned $4,500 for his 26th-place finish Friday. The next highest finishing points champion was Brandon Rhoden of Grapevine, Ark., who finished 30th and collected $4,500 with two bass weighing 3-2. McCulley held the “Be the Best” lead Thursday, but zeroed on Friday, allowing McCulley to take the win on the strength of a single 15-ounce bass.
In the Co-angler Division, Kevin Wells of South Shore, Ky., sealed his first BFL win Saturday and collected $70,000 despite coming up empty on the final day of competition. He won, however, on the strength of his two-day opening round catch of seven bass weighing 10 pounds, 5 ounces.
“I thought 4 pounds, 8 ounces was a good lead, especially for a co-angler,” said Wells, who qualified for the All-American through The Bass Federation Northern Division after finishing fifth in the TBF National Championship on Lake Wylie in North Carolina. “But anything can happen. I caught 6-5 yesterday, so someone could have done the same thing today. With God’s blessing, everything worked out.
“This is amazing,” Wells added. “Seventy thousand dollars for me is a lot of money, plus the opportunity to go to the Forrest Wood Cup and fish with my heroes. If you would have told me that a few months ago, I would have thought you were crazy. It’s a dream to be here, and it’s all possible thanks to the TBF and FLW Outdoors.”
Wells started the tournament in second place Thursday while fishing with boater James Edwards of Greenville, SC, who finished 48th. He then took the lead Friday after fishing with boater Rickey Campbell of Waxahachie, Texas, who finished 32nd. On Saturday he fished with Davidson. His fish this week came from the back of creeks and were caught on 4-inch shad colored Senkos, 4-inch black and chartreuse Berkley Power Worms, a buzzbait, and a spinnerbait.
Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers were Mike Williams of Lancaster, Ky. (five bass, 8-0, $15,000 plus $3,250 Ranger bonus and $3,250 Yamaha bonus); Chad Hartzog of Bush, La. (four bass, 5-9, $7,000 plus $2,500 Yamaha bonus); William Feyh of Brandon, Miss. (five bass, 5-9, $6,000 plus $2,250 Ranger bonus and $2,250 Yamaha bonus); Jeremy Mull of Chatham, Ill. (three bass, 5-4, $5,000 plus $2,000 Ranger bonus); Jeffery O’Connor of Charlotte, N.C. (four bass, 4-15, $4,000); Dick Martin of Baltimore, Md. (two bass, 4-3, $3,500 plus); Stacy Metz of Staley, N.C. (two bass, 3-1, $3,000); Glen Mire of Jackson, Miss. (one bass, 3-0, $3,000 plus $1,600 Yamaha bonus); and Paul Stokes of Grand Ledge, Mich. (two bass, 2-12, $3,000).
Overall there were five bass weighing 5 pounds, 6 ounces caught in the Co-angler Division Saturday.
The tournament began Thursday with 54 boaters and 54 co-anglers representing 27 states, but only the top-10 boaters and co-anglers advanced to Saturday’s final round. These finalists represent the best of more than 30,000 competitors who annually strive to qualify for the All-American through BFL and TBF competition.
The All-American and its lucrative cash awards present a unique opportunity for qualifiers looking to launch a professional bass-fishing career, as the boater and co-angler champions advance directly to the $2 million Forrest Wood Cup in Hot Springs, Ark., Aug. 2-5, where the winning pro can win as much as $1 million – the biggest award in bass fishing.
Even the boater finishing in last place at the All-American earned $2,500 while the last place co-angler earned $1,500.
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.
Spectator Robbie Floyd of Corinth, Texas, also left the All-American weigh-in as a winner Saturday after his name was drawn from the crowd to receive a new Ranger 178VS bass boat powered by a 115-horsepower Yamaha outboard.
This year’s All-American marks the 23rd anniversary of the first $100,000 award in competitive bass fishing. That historic award was presented to 1984 All-American champion Shaw Grigsby of Gainesville, Fla., for his victory on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in Florida.
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.
In All-American competition, 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.
Following the final weigh-in Saturday, FLW Outdoors and Yamaha paid tribute to Billy Reed of Yorktown, Va., who would have earned the Yamaha “Be the Best” points title in the Co-angler Division as the only points champion to qualify for the All-American. Tragically, however, Reed passed away before he could compete in the All-American. His family will receive a shirt autographed by the 2007 All-American anglers and the $5,000 award from Yamaha that Reed would have received for his fishing accomplishments.
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.