Walmart FLW Tour
Table Rock Lake, Branson, Mo.
Opening round, Thursday
Yelas feels the love … When Chevy pro Jay Yelas fished with BASS, the circuit made frequent stops to Table Rock Lake and Lake of the Ozarks. Over the years, Yelas struck a friendship with a married couple from Clinton, Mo. When Yelas won the BASS invitational on Table Rock in 2001, he gave Jamie and Erin Camden a victory ride in his boat. Today, the Camden’s once again showed up to support their bass-fishing hero and he needed it as he sits in 100th place – catching only 11-7. They also brought with them the coolest sign of the day – a letter “J” with the word Yelas written on it. Naturally, the Camden’s both picked Yelas first on their FLW Fantasy Fishing teams. For that move to pay off, Yelas will need to catch a 20-pound stringer on day two.
Rock bottom … Over the years, the FLW Tour has been notorious for bringing bad weather with it wherever it goes. Most folks affiliated with the tour were hoping that pattern had come to an end after a near-perfect opener on Lake Guntersville. When the tour headed north and west to Table Rock Lake the nice weather followed. During practice, the high temperatures were in the upper 60s and low 70s. But during Wednesday’s off day, a nasty cold front blew in. Anglers launched this morning in 28-degree weather and the highs only reached the upper 30s. Although it was bad, it could have been worse. Several forecasts called for wind and measurable snow – neither of which really materialized (flurries persisted most of the afternoon). According to longtime FLW Tour Tournament Director Bill Taylor, today will go down as the coldest day in the history of the circuit. “One morning a few years ago we had 4 inches of snow at boat check at Lake Murray,” he said. “But that all melted as it got warmer during the day. From top to bottom, this one is the coldest. But the thing about the Ozarks is that the cold weather affects the fishing very minimally, whereas in Florida the bite would completely shut off.” The FLW staff was prepared with de-icing measures this morning if necessary, but the lake’s water temps combined with frequent trailering activity, were enough to keep the ramps from icing up.
Favorites fizzle … According to the Fantasy Trend, the two most popular picks coming into the Table Rock event were David Dudley and David Fritts. Both anglers struggled mightily on day one – Fritts catching one 3-pounder and Dudley managing only two for 6-3. But the Davids weren’t the only heavyweights to take a tumble. Pretournament favorite and local guide Stacey King is in 116th place with 9-9 and Larry Nixon is 83rd with just 12-11. Sleeper pick Robbie Dodson caught 15 pounds but was baffled by his inability to reconnect with the bass he discovered during prefishing. “I didn’t get a bite off the fish I found in practice,” he said. “I had been getting a big bite everyday. I’m talking about a kicker between 6 and 6 1/2 pounds. If I catch what I was averaging in practice I should still be able to make the cut. Plus, this is Table Rock and that means there will be a lot of flip-flopping tomorrow.”
Busy week in Branson … The weather may be cold, but the action this week in Branson is hot. And not of all of it has to do with tournament fishing or live shows. In addition to the FLW Tour event on Table Rock and the TBF National Championship on Bull Shoals, the Division II NAIA Men’s Basketball Championship is being held in Branson this week at the College of the Ozarks. The single elimination tournament, which runs March 11-17, features 32 NAIA Division II teams that have either won conference championships or been granted an at-large berth because of their quality of play. Today is the final day of the opening round and all 16 winners will play in the second round tomorrow. The surviving eight teams will compete in the quarterfinals on Saturday with the final four teams competing on Monday. The NAIA Division II Championship will be played at 8:50 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17. Tickets can be purchased through the College of the Ozarks by calling 417-335-NAIA (6242).
Morgan making steady progress … When he first arrived in the Branson area, pro Andy Morgan was battling the flu. Then during practice he was diagnosed with a sinus infection. He started feeling better towards the end of practice and today he caught a nice limit weighing 18 pounds, 1 ounce. “Things are getting better – slowly but surely.”
2: Consecutive opening days that were led by BP pro David Walker. Walker led the Chevy Open on day one with 29-3 and today caught 26-6.
7-7: Weight, in pounds and ounces, of the Folgers Big Bass caught by Walker.
14-10: Current $10,000-check weight, in pounds and ounces.
“Shut up a minute. You can’t play cause you work for FLW. And if you picked me, you’re dumber than a box of rocks,” – Guido Hibdon, who enjoyed a friendly exchange of words with weighmaster Chris Jones.
“I had to borrow my roommate’s long johns. The only problem is that they come up to my knees because he’s 5’2″,” – Mike Surman, taking a shot at Clark Wendlandt.
“I don’t know what it is about snow making bass bite. But when its snowing, you better be fishing,” – Clausen.
“That’s a full day’s work right there,” – BP pro Jim Moynagh, who caught only one keeper and sits in 151st place.
“The last one I culled was a 4-pounder. Can you imagine culling a 4-pound largemouth in the Ozarks?” – Walker.
Tomorrow’s takeoff is scheduled to take place at 7 a.m. Central time from the Table Rock State Park Marina located just off Highway 165 at 380 State Park Marina Road in Branson.