Willie White captures first ever co-angler championship
ALEXANDER CITY, Ala. – After three years on the FLW Tour, Willie White of Powder Springs, Ga., finally got what he was looking for – a championship. Using a catch of 7-pounds, 13 ounces, White used a combination of patience and finesse to capture first place, a check for $15,000 and an automatic berth in the 2001 FLW Championship this fall.
Needless-to-say, White was more than pleased with his performance.
“My goal this year was to make the top 10, win an FLW tournament and qualify for the championship,” said White. “And I did it. I really did it.”
Despite fishing for three years on the tour without a top-10 finish, White continued to persevere, learning valuable lessons in the process.
“Before I came down here, I felt that this was my tournament to lose. But I knew that I needed to stay focused,” said White, who caught the majority of his stringer using a jig and finesse worm. “At Pascagoula (the previous stop on the FLW Tour), I didn’t catch a thing. But I didn’t get frustrated. And during this tournament, I lost some fish. But I kept my head and blocked out all of the negatives. Finally, it paid off.”
Chris Rand of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., finished in second place with a catch of 5 pounds, 3 ounces. Rand, who seemed to be having as much fun as any angler over the past three days, received a check for $6,000.
“This is great. I can’t tell you how much fun I’ve had fishing here,” he said. “I love fishing for these spotted bass. I’ve just had the best time. I can’t wait to come back.”
Oversees but not overmatched
Perhaps the biggest feel-good story of the tournament belonged to third-place finisher Seiji Kato – a native of Japan. Kato came over to fish Lake Martin as part of an FLW angler exchange program and proved his mettle at every step. A world-famous lure designer by trade, Kato made the most of his first-ever appearance on the FLW Tour.
“I’ve had a lot of fun,” said Kato, who recorded a final-day catch of 3 pounds, 5 ounces. “And I’ve had some very good partners. It’s very good to be here.”
Wesley Burnett, who captured first place in the 2000 EverStart Series Co-angler Challenge last November, finished in fourth place.
“I had a great tournament and some really great partners,” said Burnett, a native of Hot Springs, Ark. “We struggled a little bit today, but we caught some fish. And that’s all that counts.”
Burnett, who recorded a catch of 3 pounds, won $3,000 for his efforts.
Ralph Myhlhousen of Council Bluffs, Iowa, finished in fifth place (as a result of losing a tiebreaker with Burnett) with a catch of 3 pounds. Myhlhousen won a check for $2,500.
Rounding out the top 10 were: Quinten Stacy of Bassett, Va., with a catch of 2 pounds, 5 ounces; Gary Henry of Conyers, Ga., with a catch of 1 pound, 15 ounces; Quint Bourgeois of Knoxville, Tenn., with a catch of 1 pound, 11 ounces; Rodney Chmolack of Phenix City, Ala., with a catch of 1 pound, 7 ounces; and W.D. “Hoot” Gibson of Bryant, Ark., with a catch of 1 pound.
Tomorrow’s pro competition continues at 6:30 a.m. at the West Creek State Park marina. Saturday’s weigh-in begins at 3:30 p.m. at the Wal-Mart Supercenter located on Highway 280 West in Alexander City. A Family Fun Zone featuring fishing seminars, free product samples, interactive displays and children’s games will open in the Wal-Mart parking lot starting at 11 a.m. Saturday.
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