HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Veteran angler Kim Carver of Milledgeville, Ga., caught five bass weighing 11 pounds, 6 ounces Thursday to grab the opening-day lead in the $1 million Wal-Mart BFL All-American presented by Chevy on Lake Hamilton. Carver is one of two boaters competing that have qualified for the prestigious championship eight times. He is the only angler in the field of 108, however, that has previously won an All-American title.
His first All-American win, on the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wis., came almost exactly 10 years ago – May 27, 1998 – three days before his 43rd birthday. Carver hopes to celebrate his 53rd birthday Friday with a top-10 finish and a trip to the final round for a shot at winning his second All-American title.
“I gave myself a nice birthday present in ’98, but can I do it again? Who knows?” said Carver, who has earned a record 31 top-10 finishes and nearly half a million dollars in BFL competition since 1995. “I hope so. I’d like to give myself another one hundred thousand dollar birthday.”
Carver caught most of his fish on a Zara Spook under overcast skies. “I’m just going down the bank,” he said. “You’ll catch one off a piece of wood. You’ll catch one off a dock. You’ll catch one out of a patch of grass. There is really no rhyme or reason where the next one is coming from.”
While a veteran sits atop the leader board, second-place challenger Kevin Snider of Elizabethtown, Ky., squeaked into the All-American in a Wild Card slot after loosing track of time in the final qualifier of 2007 and slipping to 77th place – a disastrous turn of events that knocked him out of regional contention. Undeterred, Snider fished the Chevy Wild Card on Wheeler Lake and finished fourth out of a field of 325 boaters to advance to his first All-American. He now trails Carver by just 1 pound, 7 ounces after catching five bass weighing 9-15 Thursday.
Snider caught most of his bass on a homemade 5/8-ounce, watermelon-color jig fished on points in approximately 17 feet of water.
Rounding out the top-five boaters are Terry McWilliams of Greenfield, Ind. (five bass, 9-14); Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla. (five bass, 8-14) and Shayne Berlo of Vienna, Va. (five bass, 8-10).
Berlo also caught the day’s heaviest bass in the Boater Division, a 4-pound, 1-ounce largemouth, to win the Snickers Big Bass Award of $500.
Overall, 225 bass weighing a total of 292 pounds, 10 ounces were caught by 53 boaters Thursday. The catch included 32 five-bass limits.
Robert Crosnoe of Inverness, Fla., leads the Co-angler Division with five bass weighing 8 pounds, 14 ounces. He was fishing with boater Scott Hamrick of Denver, N.C., who is currently 45th with four bass weighing 3-7.
Rounding out the top-five co-anglers are Billy Cain of Jackson, Ga. (four bass, 8-4); Blake Wilson of Prattsville, Ark. (five bass, 8-3); Kenneth Hunnicutt of Jacksonville, Fla. (five bass, 6-8) and Tim Austin of Williston, Vt. (five bass, 6-6).
Cain caught the day’s largest bass in the Co-angler Division, a 5-pound, 2-ounce largemouth, to win the Snickers Big Bass Award of $500.
Overall, 143 bass weighing a total of 170 pounds, 10 ounces were caught by 48 co-anglers Thursday. The catch included 10 five-bass limits.
Anglers from 26 states are competing in the 25th annual All-American 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 37,000 competitors who strive to make it to the lucrative championship each year.
Only the top-10 boaters and top 10 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 the Fish Hatchery Ramp located at 350 Fish Hatchery Road in Hot Springs. Weigh-ins each day start at 4 p.m. at Summit Arena located at 134 Convention Blvd in Hot Springs.
Surrounding the weigh-ins is the All-American Family Fun Zone and Outdoor Show featuring exhibits from Ranger Boats, Chevy, Berkley, Lowrance, Evinrude, Yamaha and other sponsors. 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 from Today’s THV 11. One lucky spectator attending the final weigh-in Saturday will win a new Ranger 177 TR bass boat powered by Yamaha from the Sentinel Record and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Participants in the boat drawing must be present during the final 4 p.m. weigh-in to win. Watch the papers for entry forms.
Coverage of the All-American will be broadcast to 81 million FSN (Fox Sports Net) subscribers in the United States as part of the “FLW Outdoors” television program airing Oct. 26. “FLW Outdoors” is also broadcast in Canada on WFN (World Fishing Network) and to more than 429 million households in the United Kingdom, Europe, Russia, Australia, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East through a distribution agreement with Matchroom Sport, making it the most widely distributed fishing program in the world. The program airs Sunday mornings at 11 Eastern time in most markets. Check local listings for times in your area.
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. Combined, these pros have earned more than $2.25 million in FLW Outdoors competition.
Tournament pros aren’t the only ones winning big this season, however. With the introduction of FLW Fantasy Fishing, FLW Outdoors offers anyone the opportunity to enter for their chance to land the catch of a lifetime with the opportunity to win $7.3 million in cash and prizes. Players can become a virtual pro angler by signing up for Player’s Advantage, providing them with exclusive insider information that could guide them to a $100,000 victory at every FLW Tour stop and the Forrest Wood Cup. Player’s Advantage will give them an edge over the competition and increase their shot for a $1 million cash grand prize that will be awarded to the FLW Fantasy Fishing cumulative points winner. Those who visit FantasyFishing.com today can sign up for Player’s Advantage and FLW Outdoors will include a $15 Wal-Mart gift card.
FLW Outdoors, named after Forrest L. Wood, the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, is the largest fishing tournament organization in the world. In 2008 alone the organization is offering more than 90,000 anglers the chance to win over $40 million through 230 tournaments in 10 circuits targeting bass, walleye, redfish, kingfish and striped bass. FLW Outdoors is also taking fishing mainstream with the largest cash awards in the history of fantasy sports, $7.3 million.
For more information about FLW Outdoors and its tournaments, browse FLWOutdoors.com or call (270) 252-1000. For more information about FLW Fantasy Fishing and Player’s Advantage, visit FantasyFishing.com.