ANDERSONVILLE, Tenn. – After three career Walmart FLW Tour top-20 finishes, numerous wins at the AAA-level and two career championship appearances, pro James Watson of Nixa, Missouri, earned the first FLW Tour victory of his career and $95,400 Saturday at the Walmart FLW Tour Invitational at Norris Lake presented by Quaker State with a final day's catch of four largemouth and one smallmouth bass weighing 9 pounds, 12 ounces.
Watson’s three-day total of 15 bass totaling 36-10 gave him the win by a narrow 3-ounce margin over second-place angler Jason Lambert of Pickwick Dam, Tennessee (36-7). In addition, Watson became just the second angler to qualify for the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup – the world championship of pro bass-fishing.
“I thought I blew it today, so I am absolutely floored,” said Watson, who pushed his FLW career earnings to more than $276,000. “I’ve won a B.A.S.S. Open, I’ve won a P.A.A. event, but I’ve never won an FLW Tour event. I’ve been fishing these things a long time and I bleed FLW. This is such a huge win for me – by far the biggest financial win of my career. And to punch my ticket to the Forrest Wood Cup before the season even starts, this is big time.”
Watson said that he did most of his damage this week on Norris Lake in the area known as the Loyston Sea. His key baits were a River2Sea Whopper Plopper, a River2Sea Bubble Walker, a War Eagle Buzz Toad rigged with a Luck-E-Strike Frantic Frog and a ½-ounce brown finesse jig with a Luck-E-Strike Baby Guido Bug.
“Fall is just my time of the year,” Watson said. “I have more confidence from August to December than I do at any other time of the year. I really thought I was going to whack them today, but I got caught up and didn’t have any new water that I felt comfortable running.
“I caught two small ones in the last 15 minutes that gained me a couple of ounces and fortunately those fish were enough,” Watson continued. “I caught one smallmouth on a spinnerbait today as well – the only spinnerbait fish that I caught and the only smallmouth that I weighed in – and that was a key fish for me today as well.
“In the weigh-in line I saw Lambert’s bag and I saw Adams’ bag and I didn’t think that I had enough to win,” Watson said. “It’s hard to win any bass tournament, but it’s even harder when you’re fishing against the best guys in the world. Those guys are absolute hammers and to get the win today is just something else.”
The top 20 pros on Norris Lake finished:
1st: James Watson, Nixa, Mo., 15 bass, 36-10, $78,400 + $17,000 Ranger Cup Bonus
2nd: Jason Lambert, Pickwick Dam, Tenn., 15 bass, 36-7, $23,720
3rd: Tracy Adams, Wilkesboro, N.C., 15 bass, 35-10, $19,600
4th: Derrick Blake, Rockwood, Tenn., 15 bass, 33-14, $15,680
5th: Wesley Strader, Spring City, Tenn., 15 bass, 32-15, $11,760
6th: Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., 15 bass, 29-1, $10,192
7th: Quaker State pro Matt Arey, Shelby, N.C., 13 bass, 27-9, $9,900
8th: Ken Vicchio, Bluff City, Tenn., 10 bass, 26-12, $9,408
9th: William Campbell, Middlesboro, Ky., 12 bass, 24-2, $9,016
10th: Quaker State pro Scott Canterbury, Springville, Ala., 13 bass, 24-0, $8,624
11th: Bill Dunn, Maynardville, Tenn., 12 bass, 23-8, $7,840
12th: Mitch Crane, Columbus, Miss., 10 bass, 22-14, $7,840
13th: Johnny McCombs, Morris, Ala., 13 bass, 22-12, $7,840
14th: Kelley Jaye, Dadeville, Ala., 10 bass, 21-15, $7,840
15th: Eddie Whiten Jr., Pickens, S.C., 11 bass, 21-8, $7,840
16th: Nick LeBrun, Bossier City, La., eight bass, 21-5, $7,840
17th: David Williams, Maiden, N.C., eight bass, 20-13, $7,840
18th: Ray Philhower, Milford, Ohio, 10 bass, 19-11, $7,840
19th: Yamamoto Baits pro Gary Yamamoto, Palestine, Texas, nine bass, 19-6, $7,840
20th: Greg Werner, Niagara, Wis., five bass, 14-14, $7,840
Complete results can be found at FLWFishing.com.
Overall there were 74 bass weighing 154 pounds, 7 ounces caught by the 19 of the final 20 pros Saturday. The catch included nine five-bass limits.
The Walmart FLW Tour Invitational at Norris Lake presented by Quaker State was hosted by the Anderson County Tourism Council. It was the final tournament of the season for FLW Tour pros.
The Walmart FLW Tour – the most competitive Tour in professional bass-fishing – will open the 2017 season in a tournament Feb. 2-5, 2017 on Lake Guntersville in Guntersville, Alabama.
For complete details and updated information visit FLWFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/FLWFishing and on Twitter at Twitter.com/FLWFishing.
FLW is the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, providing anglers of all skill levels the opportunity to compete for millions in prize money in 2016 across five tournament circuits. Headquartered in Benton, Kentucky, with offices in Minneapolis, FLW conducts more than 235 bass-fishing tournaments annually across the United States and sanctions tournaments in Canada, China, Mexico, South Africa and South Korea. FLW tournament fishing can be seen on the Emmy-nominated “FLW" television show, broadcast to more than 564 million households worldwide, while FLW Bass Fishing magazine delivers cutting-edge tips from top pros. For more information visit FLWFishing.com and follow FLW at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat: @FLWFishing.
# # #