EUFAULA, Ala. – Team Berkley pro Glenn Browne of Ocala, Fla., caught a five-bass limit weighing 23 pounds, 14 ounces Friday to capture the lead in the Walmart FLW Series BP Eastern Division tournament on Lake Eufaula. With a three-day catch of 15 bass weighing 64-1, he holds a 4-pound, 9-ounce lead over his closest competitor, Team BP pro Guido Hibdon of Sunrise Beach, Mo., heading into the final day of competition.
“I was struggling,” said Browne, who has won more than $425,000 in FLW Outdoors events. “It was a lot tougher for me today.
“I caught my limit on a spinnerbait, then moved to another spot and caught another decent one on a spinnerbait, probably a 4-pounder,” Browne added. “I pulled into a pocket at the end of the day and culled one and I said `Man, I’m going to catch one on a Chigger Craw flippin’.’ And I picked it up and caught one of my big ones and said `I know where another pocket is.’ We ran up there, I pulled in there and after probably 20 flips I caught another big one. That was the last two hours of the day.”
Browne said the move to the Berkley PowerBait Chigger Craw and fishing spots he is familiar with from previous tournaments were the keys to his success Friday. Browne also said luck might be on his side in this tournament. He had a fish break a spinnerbait and fall into the net at the boat Thursday and another strange occurrence Friday.
“The first big one I caught, I had just put the reel on the rod and didn’t tighten it,” Browne said. “I set the hook and the reel popped off in my hand. So I’m stretched out and running to the back of the boat and it’s flopping in the back and my co-angler runs back there and scoops it up.
“It was a phenomenal day of fishing,” Browne added. “Everything I did was right.”
Hibdon caught a three-day total of 15 bass weighing 59-8 to advance to the final round as the No. 2 seed.
“The fish changed on me again,” said Hibdon, who has won more than $479,000 in FLW Outdoors events. “It’s the craziest thing. Two hours (without a fish) is a long time. I let it go another hour and I thought `Something’s completely wrong.'”
Hibdon discovered the post-spawn fish had moved just a little deeper than he caught them the day before and said he was fishing over their heads. Hibdon adjusted and caught seven keepers in one hour.
Rounding out the top five pros are Tom Mann Jr. of Buford, Ga. (15 bass, 58-1); Team Land O’Lakes pro Ott Defoe of Knoxville, Tenn. (15 bass, 57-5) and Randall Tharp of Gardendale, Ala. (15 bass, 55-1).
Also clearing the top 10 cut weight of 46 pounds, 4 ounces in the Pro Division are Team BP pro J.T. Kenney of Palm Bay, Fla.; Matthew Wilbanks of Gainesville, Ga.; Team Kellogg’s pro Dave Lefebre of Union City, Pa.; Team National Guard pro Scott Martin of Clewiston, Fla.; and Team Chevy pro Dion Hibdon of Stover, Mo.
Woo Daves of Spring Grove, Va., earned the day’s $500 Big Bass award in the Pro Division thanks to a 7-pound, 4-ounce bass.
Overall there were 414 bass weighing 1,179 pounds, 10 ounces caught by 129 pros Friday. The catch included 42 five-bass limits.
Pros are competing this week for a top award of $125,000 plus valuable points in the hope of qualifying for the 2010 Forrest Wood Cup, where the winning pro will earn as much as $1 million – the sport’s biggest award.
Chris Hults of Vancleave, Miss., won the Co-angler Division and $20,000 Friday with a three-day total of 15 bass weighing 44 pounds, 2 ounces followed by Tim Peek of Sharpsburg, Ga., in second place with 11 bass weighing 40-2 worth $10,000.
Hults opened the tournament in 12th place Wednesday with five bass weighing 11-15 while fishing with pro Matthew Wilbanks. On Thursday he jumped to fifth place on the strength of a five-bass catch weighing 14-5 while fishing with Team National Guard pro Jonathan Newton of Rogersville, Ala. He wrapped up the win Friday with a five-bass catch weighing 17-14 while fishing with pro Tim McDonald of Lexington, Ky.
“I’ve won several BFLs in the past and have never quite been able to finish it in these bigger tournaments,” said Hults, who finished third in the 2008 Forrest Wood Cup at Lake Murray in Columbia, S.C. “I think Eufaula fishes a lot like my home water does. I think that helped me.”
Hults said he fished shallow during his three days of competition and relied on an arsenal of baits, including a Berkley PowerBait Chigger Craw, a swimming jig, a soft-plastic creature bait and a spinnerbait.
Hults’ brother, Alan, also fished the tournament and Hults cited family knowledge of Lake Eufaula as being key to his victory.
“Normally we practice before the tournaments, but this time we didn’t get to,” Hults said. “We just relied on past history with Alan doing so well the past couple of years. Basically we just came into it and did the same thing he’s done the past two years.”
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Chuck Thurlow of Auburn, Ala. (10 bass, 38-8, $7,500); Derrick Snavely of Rogersville, Tenn. (nine bass, 35-15, $5,000) and Charles Stevenson of Albany, Ga. (13 bass, 35-11, $4,000).
Peek earned $333 for the Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division thanks to a 6-pound, 2-ounce bass he caught while fishing with pro Sparky Peterson of Monrovia, Md.
Overall there were 204 bass weighing 555 pounds, 7 ounces caught by 97 co-anglers Friday. The catch included 11 five-bass limits.
The 10 remaining pros will take off at 7 Saturday morning from White Oak Creek Recreation Area in Eufaula, Ala. Saturday’s final weigh-in will be held at the Walmart store located at 1252 S. Eufaula Ave. in Eufaula beginning at 4 p.m. Children will also be treated to a Family Fun Zone prior to Saturday’s weigh-in from noon to 4 p.m. at Walmart. All activities are free and open to the public.
Coverage of the Lake Eufaula tournament, hosted by the Eufaula Barbour County Chamber of Commerce, will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) 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 May 10 from 11 a.m. to noon ET. “FLW Outdoors,” hosted by Jason Harper, is broadcast to approximately 500 million households worldwide, including internationally through agreements with WFN (World Fishing Network) and Matchroom Sport to 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.
Total awards are based on a full field of 150 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.