2007 Wal-Mart FLW Tour
Opening round, Friday
Beaver Lake bafflement part II … If anglers thought that fishing conditions on Beaver Lake couldn’t get any tougher than Thursday’s boondoggle, they were severely mistaken. When all was said and done after Friday’s weigh-in, the entire field of 402 pros and co-anglers had turned in a grand total of two stringers greater than 10 pounds, 7 ounces. Yes, you read that correctly, two. Yesterday, anglers at least managed 20 stringers greater than 10 pounds. Today, they mustered a whopping total of six. To underscore just how difficult the fishing has been over the last two days, all an angler needed was to average 9 pounds, 7 ounces each day to make the top-10 cut on the pro side (and that would have been good enough for eighth place). The number of limits also dropped. Yesterday, anglers boasted 111 while today they could only claim 91. FLW Tour pro Jason Reyes somehow even managed to weigh-in a five-fish stringer that weighed 4 pounds, 6 ounces (a 14-ounce average per fish).
The cream rises … When fishing conditions are this difficult, there is a tendency for the elite pros to shine. And today was no exception. While the majority of the field was scrambling for answers, fishing icon Jay Yelas was putting together a textbook display of angling prowess. Using a two-day catch of 23 pounds, 10 ounces, Yelas managed to grab the overall lead in the Pro Division heading into tomorrow’s semifinals, out-distancing his next closest competitor by 2 1/2 pounds. “I was fishing the same water as (day-one leader) Andy Montgomery and the fish just went crazy this morning,” said Yelas. “I had all of those fish after about 40 minutes. I didn’t catch anything after 7 a.m. the rest of the day. So, right now, I’m lobbying for a 6 a.m. start time tomorrow.” All joking aside, Yelas is clearly in a zone of mammoth proportions right now. In addition to a sixth-place finish at the FLW Series Western Division event at Lake Havasu this March, Yelas has now turned in three consecutive top-10 finishes on the FLW Tour in 2007 alone (including a 6th-place finish at Fort Loudoun in March and a second-place finish at Lake Norman in April). And not counting his top-10 performance on Beaver Lake this year, Yelas has already amassed a staggering $94,100 in earnings on the FLW Tour just this season. Yelas, who took home the angler-of-the-year award on the FLW Tour in 2002, is also in the running for the same prestigious award in 2007. Heading into the Beaver Lake event, Yelas was ranked eighth overall in AOY points and he will surely shoot up the leaderboard by the conclusion of Sunday’s events.
Herren just misses cut … Of all of the anglers in the field, the biggest-heartbreak award has to go to Matt Herren of Trussville, Ala. When all was said and done, Herren missed the top-10 cut by exactly one ounce. Although he wound up taking home $15,000 for his 11th-place finish, perhaps no other angler (with the exception of Yelas) was on a bigger hot streak. Two weeks ago, Herren took home $100,000 after beating out Larry Nixon to claim the FLW Series Eastern Division title at Lake Dardanelle. However, in the end, two consecutive top-10 finishes were not to be.
Keeping things in perspective … While the biggest news this week focused on the struggles of anglers during the first two days of competition on Beaver Lake, it was a young woman from Ben Lomond, Ark., who ultimately offered the most compelling story line of the entire tournament. Just three weeks removed from a 10-month deployment in Iraq as a member of the National Guard, Melinda Mize was as happy as anyone to be fishing the Wal-Mart Open. “It was definitely an eye-opening experience. It was an incredible job.” said Mize, who worked in airfield operations in an area of Iraq largely dominated by desert landscapes. “We were in charge of ensuring that everything on the airfield was working correctly and that troops had everything they needed.” Not surprisingly, Mize said it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. “I grew up so much over there. It was just incredible to drive down the roads and see camels instead of cows. It was a different climate, a different culture and something I’ll never forget.” One of the many amazing things Mize encountered was the concept of an actual sandstorm. “I’d never really seen one before but they are unbelievable,” she said. “They’d last anywhere from one to seven days. The only thing you could do was cover yourself and try not to go outside.” Now that Mize is finally back in her home state fishing in the Wal-Mart Open, how has her perspective changed? “I never realized how much I took fishing for granted.”
1: Total number of limits caught over 13 pounds by full field of 402 anglers in today’s competition.
1: Total number of limits caught in the 11- to 12-pound range by full field.
6: Total number of limits caught greater than 10 pounds by field.
1,053-12: Total weight in pounds and ounces caught by pros during second day of competition.
91: Total number of limits caught by the pros in today’s competition.
20: The (negative) difference in the number of limits caught by the pros today compared to yesterday.
2: Total number of limits caught by co-anglers today greater than 7 pounds, 15 ounces.
9 – 7: Total daily average weight in pounds and ounces necessary to qualify for today’s top-10 cut in the Pro Division.
“When I came here, I knew nothing about Beaver Lake. And after four days of practice and two days of competition, I still don’t know anything about it.” – FLW Tour pro Joe Thomas talking about the difficult fishing conditions as well as his 175th-place finish at the Wal-Mart Open.
“When you have conditions like this you can really learn a lot from your pro partners.” – FLW Tour co-angler Janet Parker talking about the opportunity to learn as much as possible from the pros during fickle fishing conditions.
“Some days you get the chicken and other days you get the feathers. Today, I got the feathers.” – FLW Tour pro Rob Kilby echoing the difficulties that most of the field had for a second consecutive day on Beaver Lake.
“I thought that I made some bad decisions yesterday. But I clearly made some worse ones today.” – FLW Tour pro and 2005 FLW Tour Champions Luke Clausen poking fun at himself for his less-than-stellar performance this week at Beaver Lake.
“I only caught two fish today, one at one end of the lake and one at the other end.” – FLW Tour pro Curt Lytle on traveling the greatest distance of any angler for such little return on investment.
“When you swing for the fences, a lot of times you strike out. There are just not a lot of big bites around here these days.” – FLW Tour pro and television fishing icon Jimmy Houston joking about his 1-pound, 13-ounce catch in today’s competition.
“I have a new superstition. Don’t ever let a Canadian goose into your boat. Because if you do, you won’t ever catch a fish again.” – FLW Tour pro Jim Moynagh joking about his one-fish stringer that he attributed to a fowl superstition.
The televised version of this week’s FLW tournament at Beaver Lake can be seen on July 1 (part one) and July 8 (part two) at 11 a.m. Eastern Time on Fox Sports Net.