HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Tums Dual Action pro David Fritts of Lexington, N.C., caught a final-round total of eight bass weighing 38 pounds, 1 ounce to win $200,000 in the $1.1 million Walmart FLW Tour Chevy Open on Lake Guntersville. Fritts topped his closest rival, Berkley pro Sam Newby of Pocola, Okla., by 1 pound, 1 ounce to earn the win and 200 points toward qualifying for the $2 million Forrest Wood Cup presented by Castrol and BP, which will be held July 30-Aug. 2 on the Three Rivers in Pittsburgh, Pa., where they could win as much as $1 million – the sport’s biggest award.
“I just got in a zone today,” said Fritts, who notched his fifth FLW Tour victory on Lake Guntersville. “I was fishing and feeling good and I just caught a ton of fish. It was one of those things where I knew what I was going to have to do and I really kept my concentration and nothing interfered with me.”
Fritts said he caught every fish he weighed in on Sunday on Rapala DT-10 crankbaits in Hot Mustard and Shad colors with VMC Sure Set hooks.
“Those hooks saved my butt,” Fritts said. “Those things are wonderful.”
Fritts said he fished the North Sauty Creek area and caught about 20 keepers Sunday. Fritts said he fished the area every day during the tournament and was glad to see it hold up long enough for him to claim the $200,000 first-place cash prize.
“I’m going to buy me a new Chevy truck on the way home and give my wife a little of the money left over,” Fritts said.
Fritts opened the tournament Thursday in second place with five bass weighing 25-11. He slipped to third place Friday with a five-bass catch weighing 19 pounds, 7 ounces to advance into the final round of 10 pros with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 45 pounds, 2 ounces. On Saturday, weights were cleared, and Fritts caught three bass weighing 14-4 to advance to the final day of competition in sixth place. Fritts added another five bass weighing 23-13 to his final-round total Sunday.
Newby caught a final-round total of eight bass weighing 37-0 to claim second place and $55,000.
“It started out slow today,” said Newby, who has won more than $723,000 in FLW Outdoors events. “I lost a 4-pounder 20 minutes into the morning and then went a long spell without a fish. I had a few slap at it, but no good bites.
“Then the sun popped out and I caught the four I weighed in about 35 or 40 minutes and then lost a really big one,” Newby added.
Newby said he fished around the Seibold campground area the last day of competition, an area he fished throughout the tournament, and relied on a consistent afternoon bite. Newby said he caught the majority of his fish on a ¾-ounce red lipless crankbait on 30-pound braid and a 17-pound-test fluorocarbon leader.
“The sun was part of that bite, and I didn’t get the sun yesterday, so I was really fortunate to catch what I caught out of it yesterday,” Newby said. “I had a place I could go catch a keeper real quick, but I knew if I caught one more at my primary spot, it was a done deal. The way (Scott) Canterbury had been catching them, I figured I needed 23 or 24 pounds because I was about 2 1/2 pounds behind him. I did what I thought I needed to do to win and it just didn’t work out.”
Rounding out the top 10 pros were Team Castrol High Mileage pro David Dudley of Lynchburg, Va. (seven bass, 34-11, $45,000); Team National Guard pro Ramie Colson Jr. of Cadiz, Ky. (10 bass, 34-3, $35,000); Tom Mann Jr. of Buford, Ga. (nine bass, 29-13, $30,000); Team BP pro David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn. (10 bass, 28-12, $28,000); John Tanner of Quitman, Texas. (nine bass, 27-12, $26,000); Scott Canterbury of Springville, Ala. (seven bass, 24-14, $24,000); Team Castrol pro Mike Surman of Boca Raton, Fla. (eight bass, 22-8, $22,000) and Craig Dowling of Grant, Ala. (six bass, 19-8, $20,000).
Overall there were 42 bass weighing 164 pounds, 7 ounces caught in the Pro Division Sunday. The catch included five five-bass limits.
Team BP co-angler Judy Israel of Wimauma, Fla., the only woman to ever win a Tour-level event, notched her second co-angler title Saturday in the Chevy Open. Israel won the Co-angler Division and $40,000 with a five-bass limit weighing 17 pounds, 11 ounces followed by Team National Guard co-angler Justin Lucas of Folsom, Calif., in second place with five bass weighing 16-4 worth $15,000
“Three out of my four practice days I didn’t catch a fish,” Israel said. “I caught a total of three fish. I went into this tournament not knowing what I was going to do.”
Israel, 63, said she relied on two baits, a square-bill crankbait and a Berkley Frenzy Rattl’r during the tournament. Israel got a confidence boost from the baits Friday after a slow start.
“On Friday, at about 1 p.m. I had four fish,” said Israel, who became the first woman to win a Tour event at the 2004 Atchafalaya event. “I caught my big one on a lipless crankbait. When I caught it, I told Carl (Svebek) `It’s got to be eight pounds. It’s so big. It’s so big.’
“Afterward, I started thinking it was smaller than that,” Israel continued. “I thought it was only a 7-pounder. And then I put my fish on the scales and was shocked to know that I had over 26 pounds and the big one was over nine pounds. That turns out to be my largest sack and my largest fish I’ve ever weighed in an event. I’m ecstatic.”
Israel said Saturday she missed her first fish of the day, caught two fish and then didn’t get another bite for a “long time.”
“Then my pro (Tom Mann Jr.) went shallower and there was no grass there,” Israel said. “I kept feeling little tree stumps or something there. I caught three fish in six casts on a red lipless crankbait.”
Israel said her first victory on the FLW Tour was sweet, but Saturday’s win was more special.
“I have such a passion for this sport,” said Israel, who taught school in the Bronx in New York City before she retired. “I love it. My love for the sport goes back to my father who took me flounder fishing in Long Island Sound when I was 2 years old.”
Israel opened the tournament in 30th place Thursday with four bass weighing 11-1 while fishing with Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C. On Friday she jumped into first place on the strength of a five-bass catch weighing 26-8 while fishing with Team Castrol pro Carl Svebek of Siloam Springs, Ark. She wrapped up her win while fishing with Mann.
Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers are Bill Bade of Omaha, Neb. (three bass, 9-4, $7,500); Kevin Koone of Greenbrier, Ark. (two bass, 8-3, $5,000); Thomas Helton of Charleston, Tenn. (three bass, 7-9, $4,000); Greg Schultz of Wayzata, Minn. (two bass, 6-12, $3,500); Terry Chapman of Stanley, N.C. (two bass, 6-3, $3,000); Fred Martin of North Little Rock, Ark. (two bass, 5-12, $2,500); Scott Gibson of Wiggins, Miss. (one bass, 5-9, $2,000) and Sam Mitchiner of Garner, N.C. (one bass, 2-2, $1,750).
Overall there were 26 bass weighing 5 pounds, 5 ounces caught in the Co-angler Division Saturday. The catch included two five-bass limits.
The total purse for the Chevy Open event at Lake Guntersville was more than $1.1 million, including $10,000 through 50th place in the Pro Division.
Coverage of the tournament, hosted by the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, will be broadcast on Versus, the network which brings anglers the best fishing programming on television featuring the most-trusted authorities on the water. The Emmy-nominated “FLW Outdoors,” will air April 5 from 12:30 to 1:30 ET. “FLW Outdoors,” hosted by Jason Harper, is also broadcast internationally through agreements with WFN (World Fishing Network) and Matchroom Sport to more than 429 million households in such countries as Canada, Germany, China, South Africa, Australia, Malaysia, Russia, Hungary and the United Kingdom, making it the most widely distributed weekly outdoor-sports television show in the world.
The FLW Tour will award more than $8 million cash to the world’s top bass anglers in 2009. Regular season competition includes three qualifiers and three opens. Each event takes anglers a step closer to the $2 million Forrest Wood Cup presented by Castrol, which will be held July 30-Aug. 2 on the Three Rivers in Pittsburgh, Pa. The prestigious championship and outdoor show hosted by Visit Pittsburgh will feature 77 pros, 77 co-anglers and bass fishing’s largest cash award – a potential $1 million first-place prize for the winning pro.
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, browse FLWOutdoors.com or call (270) 252-1000. For more information about FLW Fantasy Fishing and Player’s Advantage, visit FantasyFishing.com.