Cross Lake Connection: FLW Tour Championship, day one - Major League Fishing

Cross Lake Connection: FLW Tour Championship, day one

Image for Cross Lake Connection: FLW Tour Championship, day one
Weigh-in announcer Charlie Evans has a good-natured laugh about Joel Richardson of Kernersville, N.C., zeroing on day one at Cross Lake during the FLW Tour Championship. Team Fuji angler Richardson, in the middle, is competing against his own teammate, Wes Thomas of Hanover, Ind., in the bracket-style tournament. Photo by Patrick Baker. Angler: Wes Thomas.
September 11, 2002 • Patrick Baker • Archives

Overall catch down as competition heats up

SHREVEPORT, La. – Anglers crossed paths with the so-called “slot monster” Wednesday on Cross Lake during the opening day of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship. The smallest lake on this year’s tournament trail yielded small catch weights and few five-bass limits for a vast majority of the 48 pros and 48 co-anglers fishing in the grand finale of the 2002 season.

The imposed slot limit on the lake forced many anglers to discard fish like a gambler with a bad opening deal in a five-card-draw poker game. The result made for a quick weigh-in, but likely a long day of fishing on the water for most.

Though many of the top fishermen in the nation had their sights set on big fish over the 17-inch limit (the rule allows four such fish to be kept), many had to settle for stringers of fish that measured under the 14-inch end of the slot. All of the fish between 14 and 17 inches long that were caught received automatic tickets back into the waters of Cross Lake.

Louisiana angler nabs lead

One man who successfully navigated the slot limit and the competitive field on Cross Lake was Greg Hackney of Oak Ridge, La. He was last to weigh in, but certainly not the least successful fisherman on Wednesday. His five-bass catch weighing 15 pounds, 13 ounces was enough to easily boost him into the forefront of his bracket and gave him boasting rights for the biggest bag of the day.

Apples and oranges

Though other pros like Alton Jones of Waco, Texas, and Craig Powers of Rockwood, Tenn., netted impressive limits of bass in the 12-pound range, overall catch weights were way down from those registered at the last FLW Tour stop at Lake Champlain.

Only six of the 48 pros broke the 10-pound mark at weigh-in on the first day of the Cross Lake championship. Slightly more than two-thirds of the pro field caught less than 6 pounds.

On day one at Lake Champlain in June (a record-setting day in terms of total pounds of fish caught in one day), the average catch weight per angler was just more than 13 pounds. If day one’s total weight on Cross Lake were to be divided equally among the 48 pros fishing, each angler would have weighed in almost 5 pounds of fish.

By the numbers

The 48 pros fishing in the championship weighed in a total of only 139 bass, an average of just less than three fish per angler. Defying numeric superstition and the slot monster, 13 pros, or about 27 percent of the full field, reeled in five-bass limits. An unlucky four anglers in the field came back to the weigh-in empty handed.

The total weight of bass caught on day one of the championship was 237 pounds, 4 ounces. The average weight of a weighed-in fish was about 1.7 pounds. All but one of the fish caught and weighed in were released alive.

Competition brewing

Catch weights may have taken a nosedive from those recorded during the last FLW tournament, but that has nothing to do with who will walk away from Shreveport with $260,000 for a first-place finish. Smaller and fewer fish do not mean there’s any lack of excitement on Cross Lake when it comes to gauging the competition, especially when considering the head-to-head bracket format of this championship.

For example, Jones and Powers held the top two weights until Hackney broke the mold with his massive stringer at the end of the day. Only one of these two pros will fish past Thursday, when the combined weights of days one and two will determine which angler in each bracket will advance to the semifinal bracket. Either one of these anglers could continue to fish ahead of the pack on Thursday, only to be cut from the field because they missed the mark in their own bracket.

Hot matchups to watch

The closest matchup going into day two will be that of Randy Blaukat of Lamar, Mo., and Mike Wurm of Hot Springs, Ark. These two fished the lower end of the catch-weight spectrum Wednesday with respective stringers weighing 2-7 and 2-6, a mere one-ounce difference. Due to the unique bracket-style competition, however, one of these two will advance to the semifinals after their two-day cumulative weights are compared at the end of day two.

Other notable matchups, with anglers in the same brackets having fished within one pound of each other, include Marty Stone of Linden, N.C., and Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., with a 2-ounce difference; Dale Teaney of Williamsburg, Ohio, and Gary Klein of Weathrford, Texas, separated by only 4 ounces; Alvin Shaw of State Road, N.C., and Clark Wendlandt of Cedar Park, Texas, separated by 5 ounces; and Jones and Powers, with a 12-ounce difference.

The general gives perspective

Larry “The General” Nixon of Bee Branch, Ark., summed up day one of Wal-Mart FLW Tour action on Cross Lake when he said, in essence, that the number and size of fish are relatively unimportant. What each pro angler must do, he said, is beat the man in his bracket to survive and maintain a shot at the first-place prize of $260,000.

“It all boils down to who gets bumped on Friday. … I’m just going to try to catch me a limit of fish tomorrow,” said Nixon, adding that he would reserve judgment on the new bracket-style championship format until after the final fish has been weighed Saturday.

As far as the fishing on Cross Lake, Nixon – like many of the anglers who walked across the weigh-in stage outside Wal-Mart Wednesday – said it is not too shabby. The problem is not whether an angler can catch fish, it’s whether he can find fish outside the slot – preferably on the higher end of the scale, he said.

Nixon said: “I thought the catch was really pretty good for a slot lake. I don’t know what everybody’s complaining about.

“Yeah, you throw back a lot of fish you’d really like to bring to weigh-in, but everybody’s got the same problem.”

Related links:
Hackney hauls in lead at 2002 FLW Championship
FLW Championship bracket
Results of day-one pairings
Day-two pairings
Press releases