LAKE WALES, Fla. – Boater Jeremy Smith of Plant City, Fla., won the Walmart Bass Fishing League Gator Division tournament on the Kissimmee River Saturday with a five-bass catch weighing 28 pounds, 12 ounces. The victory earned Smith $4,271 and placed him one step closer to qualifying for the Clarks Hill Lake Regional Championship in Martinez, Ga., Oct. 15-17, where he could ultimately win a new Ranger boat and a Chevy truck.
“Watching the Weather Channel, I knew it had been cold all week. I just had a thought in my mind that the fish would pull out in deeper water,” said Smith. “When I practiced, I stuck with that idea that fish were going to be deeper and discovered that Friday before the tournament.”
Smith caught a total of eight fish between takeoff hours and lunchtime and kept the best five, culling only once. Smith said he knew that Saturday was forecast to be a nice day, and by midmorning the weather had improved.
“I didn’t have to fish anymore, so I put my pole down and tried to help my co-angler catch his limit,” Smith said. “I normally don’t catch that much weight the day of takeoff. But I ran up to Lake Toho and fished in a new place. An angler before me caught a 9-pound, 2-ounce bass, and I thought he had caught the big one. But I fished it for a while longer and caught a bigger one.”
Smith took home the Boater Division Big Bass award, earning $595 for a 9-pound, 11-ounce bass he caught. The winning fish were caught on a Rat-L-Trap and a Yo-Zuri lipless crankbait.
Rounding out the top five boaters are Kyle Walters of Palm Bay, Fla. (five bass, 26-13, $2,136); John Stahl of Wesley Chapel, Fla. (four bass, 20-8, $1,424); Micah Silverman of Orlando, Fla. (five bass, 14-9, $997); and Miles Burghoff of Saint Cloud, Fla. (five bass, 14-6, $854).
Scott Kerslake of Henderson, N.C., earned $2,136 as the co-angler winner Saturday thanks to five bass weighing 15 pounds, 12 ounces.
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Johnny Dease of Orlando, Fla. (five bass, 12-4, $1,068); Chris Youngblood of Dunedin, Fla. (five bass, 10-13, $712); Douglas Conklin of Harmony, Fla. (five bass, 8-13, $498); and David Lepsic of Haines City, Fla. (five bass, 8-7, $427).
Kerslake earned $2,136 as the co-angler Big Bass winner after catching a 15-pound, 12-ounce bass.
The next Gator Division event will be held on the Harris Chain of Lakes in Tavarez, Fla., Feb. 14.
The top 40 boaters and 40 co-anglers in each of the BFL’s 28 divisions at the end of the season advance to a no-entry-fee Regional Championship where boaters fish for a new Ranger boat and a Chevy truck and co-anglers fish for a new Ranger boat. Seven regional championships will each send six boaters and six co-anglers to the no-entry-fee Walmart BFL All-American presented by Chevy, which features a $1 million purse and a top award of $140,000 in the Boater Division and $70,000 in the Co-angler Division. Anglers who compete in all five regular-season events within a division but do not advance to a Regional Championship are eligible to compete in the Chevy Wild Card, which will also send six boaters and six co-anglers to the All-American for a total of 48 boaters and 48 co-anglers advancing through BFL competition.
The winning boater and winning co-angler at the All-American will advance to the no-entry-fee 2010 Forrest Wood Cup in Atlanta in 2010. This event, featuring a top award of $1 million, is the most lucrative tournament in all of competitive bass fishing. In all, the BFL offers weekend anglers the opportunity to qualify for three no-entry-fee championships with total cash awards exceeding $3.5 million. Plus, the top 40 boaters and 40 co-anglers from each BFL division may move up to the Stren Series for 2010 while All-American champions have the option to advance directly to the Walmart FLW Tour.
In BFL competition, boaters supply the boat and compete from the front deck against other boaters. Co-anglers compete from the back deck against other co-anglers.
As the nation’s leading provider of affordable, close-to-home weekend tournaments, the BFL is widely credited with opening competitive bass fishing to the masses. It also serves as a steppingstone for anglers who wish to advance to the Stren Series and ultimately the FLW Tour – bass fishing’s most lucrative tournament circuit.
Total awards are based on a full field of 200 boats in every tournament.
FLW Outdoors, named after Forrest L. Wood, the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, is the largest fishing tournament organization in the world. FLW Outdoors also is taking fishing mainstream with FLW Fantasy Fishing, offering the largest awards possible in the history of fantasy sports, $10 million in cash and prizes. Sign up for Player’s Advantage for only $10 to get your edge and win.
For more information about FLW Outdoors and its tournaments, visit FLWOutdoors.com or call (270) 252-1000. For more information about FLW Fantasy Fishing and Player’s Advantage, visit FantasyFishing.com.