Wal-Mart FLW Tour
Lake Ouachita, Hot Springs, Ark.
Opening round, Thursday
Zeroes to Tar Heel State heroes … It was bound to happen after Wednesday’s short day of fishing. Three pros made the top-20 cut after posting zeroes on day one – and, for some odd reason, they’re all from North Carolina. Kenneth Strickland of Oak Ridge, N.C., came back with five bass weighing 12 pounds, 12 ounces to land himself in 19th place. Former FLW winner Chris Daniels of Clayton, N.C., landed the second-largest stringer of the day with five bass weighing 14-6 to launch himself into 11th place. But it was the Manteo Machine, David “Chainsaw” Dudley, who mounted the biggest comeback after laying a goose egg Wednesday. He caught Thursday’s biggest stringer, five bass weighing 15-2, and rocketed up to a 10th-place semifinal-round qualifying spot. Let’s not forget that Dudley is fresh off his record-setting $700,000 victory at the Ranger M1 tournament two weeks ago – an event where he also made a huge comeback on day two with the biggest stringer. He explained his rebound and his division-leading catch weight today like this: “I took the one bite we had yesterday and I expanded on that one bite. I’ve always said that one bite can tell a whole story. Today I took that story and I made a novel out of it.”
When is a quarter worth $14,200? … When it decides whether a co-angler makes the cut, that’s when. Two co-anglers made FLW history Thursday when they tied for 20th place and had to decide who made the cut by way of a one-hour fish-off tiebreaker – the tour’s version of overtime. The last time a fish-off was used to determine a tiebreaker in FLW Outdoors competition was in 2000 at the EverStart Series tournament at Lake Martin, Ala. But this was the first time the FLW Tour has ever had to go to the fish-off. After today’s weigh-in, co-anglers Greg Lineberry of Galax, Va., and Arch Cornett of Huntsville, Ala., gathered their gear and hit the waters of Lake Ouachita in the late afternoon sun. The fish-off rules are simple: Go out and fish for an hour, the man with the heaviest bass wins. Unfortunately for the two of them, they both failed to hook any keepers. So, according to the rules, the qualifying angler is decided by a coin toss – of all things. After they came in empty-handed, FLW Tournament Director Bill Taylor flipped his coin and Lineberry – who has already won this year, at FLW Lake Okeechobee – walked away the winner. Cornett finished the tournament in 21st place and collected $800 while Lineberry continues fishing tomorrow for a potential $15,000 top prize. For the record, Cornett called the toss heads. It landed tails.
The return of Clunn … You knew he’d be back sooner rather than later. After missing the cut in the first two FLW events of 2002, pro Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo., is back in the semifinals. He placed fourth for the opening round with a two-day weight of 20 pounds, 2 ounces. A dominant angler who once placed first-second-first in consecutive tournaments (2000, Beaver Lake-Mississippi River-Pickwick Lake) and who is the tour’s all-time leading money winner with $734,850, Clunn has not seen FLW action past the opening round since March of last year – which, for him, is a long time. Clunn, who is a pioneer among anglers who subscribe to competitive fishing’s school of mental influence, says he feels focused this week and that his competitive lull was perhaps partly due to his enormous success in 2000. “Ninety percent of the time, you just have to adjust your attitude and then you fish harder,” he said Thursday. “One problem with success is that it makes you relax a little bit. I’ve had to go back through the checklist and do a lot of thinking about the good days that I’ve had.”
Hot angler watch … Pro Wesley Strader of Spring City, Tenn., has made the cut for the second FLW tournament in a row. He finished ninth at Lake Wheeler, Ala., last month. He also notched a sixth-place finish at EverStart Lake Okeechobee in January. … This is the second time in as many FLW tournaments that co-angler Armil Morgan of Mineral Springs, Ark., has led the opening round. He also led after two days at Wheeler, where he eventually finished in seventh place. … Pro Mark Rose of Marion, Ark., is also in his second semifinal round in consecutive tournaments. Don’t forget that he just placed fourth at the Ranger M1. … Reigning Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., is also on his usual tear. This is his second cut made in consecutive tournaments.
That’s reason enough … Pro Dwayne Horton of Knoxville, Tenn., only caught one fish today and finished in 153rd place, but he has a good excuse. While he was fishing, he came upon a houseboat near shore and saw a woman sunning herself on a nearby rock. Politely, he called out and asked her if she was cold. She replied that she wasn’t, then she proceeded to remove all her clothes, dive off the rock and swim out to the houseboat. “And that’s the reason I didn’t catch anything,” Horton said.
9: Total number of five-bass limits caught by all 350 anglers in the two-day opening round at Lake Ouachita – a record low.
5: Of the pro semifinalists, number who have already won FLW tournaments. They are Craig Powers (1 victory), Clunn (3), Daniels (1), Mike Surman (1) and Gary Klein (2).
4: Of the 20 pro semifinalists this week, number of semifinalists who have never competed in an FLW final round. They are Greg Hackney, Shad Schenck, Kevin Vida and Kenneth Strickland. The other 16 have already been to the big dance at least once before.
“On behalf of everybody in Arkansas, I’d like to thank FLW Outdoors for showing up and bringing spring with you.”
– Pro Kevin Short, a native of Mayflower, Ark., on the much-anticipated arrival of today’s warm weather.
Quick Links, Day 2: