HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (July 22, 2005) ­ It’s not called the Super Bowl of fishing for nothing. Just hours after Hot Springs native George Cochran won the Wal-Mart FLW Tour’s 10th anniversary $1.5 million Forrest L. Wood Championship presented by Castrol and collected the sport’s richest purse, $500,000, the final attendance data was tallied. The result: A record 40,671 people attended the championship’s four-day outdoor show and daily weigh-ins at Summit Arena.

“This was by far the largest and most successful event we’ve ever held in the Hot Springs Convention Center since the construction of Summit Arena in 2003,” said Steve Arrison, executive director for the Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau. “This is exactly the type of event we envisioned when planning the arena, and we hope to host many more FLW Outdoors championship tournaments in the future.”

A record final-day weigh-in crowd crammed into Summit Arena on July 16 to watch Cochran nail down the most lucrative win of his storied career. “I’ve never had so many reporters calling for interviews,” Cochran said. “The phone has been ringing from the time I get up in the morning and turn it on until I turn it off again at 9 o’clock at night. It has been absolutely fantastic.”

Cochran’s Forrest L. Wood Championship win boosted his career tournament earnings of $1.24 million by more than 40 percent to $1.74 million. But Cochran wasn’t the only one raking in the money last week. Many of the event’s 140 exhibitors reported record sales thanks to the outdoors show’s free admission, daily giveaways and family-friendly environment, which helped draw visitors from 39 states, Japan and Australia to Hot Springs.

“We work a lot of outdoor shows, and the Forrest L. Wood Championship show is by far the most fun and most profitable,” said Jason Seaton of Seaton’s Tackle Solutions. “Everyone is treated excellent by the FLW Outdoors staff, attendance is spectacular and the return on investment is unbeatable. I highly recommend it to anyone selling products of interest to fishing enthusiasts. There in no better value in a trade show of this caliber.”

The 2003 Forrest L. Wood Championship in Richmond, Va., was the first FLW Outdoors event to feature an outdoor show in addition to the organization’s traditional Family Fun Zone. After attracting 30,000-plus visitors to the newly opened Greater Richmond Convention Center, the event was dubbed “the Super Bowl of fishing” by Virginia Business magazine. In 2004, the Forrest L. Wood Championship and outdoors show held in Birmingham, Ala., moved the bar even higher, drawing more than 35,000 people to the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. Based on the success of that event, the Forrest L. Wood Championship will return to Birmingham in 2006.

“We are thrilled to once again hold the Forrest L. Wood Championship in Birmingham,” said Charlie Evans, president and CEO of FLW Outdoors. “The region’s fan support and hospitality are incredible, and we look forward to an even bigger event than the record-setting championship in Hot Springs. Every year we take the Forrest L. Wood Championship and outdoor show a notch higher, so fishing fans can be assured the 2006 championship in Birmingham will be the biggest and most exciting the sport has ever seen.”

Complete coverage of the Forrest L. Wood Championship presented by Castrol in Hot Springs will be broadcast on FSN (Fox Sports Net) as part of “Wal-Mart FLW Outdoors” at 11 a.m. Eastern time Aug. 7 and Aug. 14. The show reaches more than 78 million homes through FSN’s network of 20 regional sports channels. Championship coverage is also provided on the American Forces Network, which reaches more than 800,000 service men and women stationed around the world in 177 countries and aboard naval ships. The final weigh-in July 16 was also broadcast live to Wal-Mart stores nationwide on the Wal-Mart Television Network, which reaches 138 million shoppers every week. Fishing fans also turned to FLWOutdoors.com for live streaming audio and video from the final weigh-in.

Named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood, Wal-Mart FLW Outdoors administers eight national tournament circuits offering combined purses in excess of $30 million through 214 events in 2005. The 27-year-old organization is the purveyor of America’s largest and most prestigious fishing tournaments, including the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, EverStart Series, Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye League, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour and Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series.

FLW Outdoors recently announced plans to hold the richest bass tournament in history ­ the $2.5 million Ranger Owners Championship (ROC) ­ sometime following the 2006 Forrest L. Wood Championship in Birmingham, Ala., Aug. 2-5. The ROC will pay the winning pro $1 million and the winning co-angler $250,000. Additional details on the ROC will be released later this year. For more information, visit FLWOutdoors.com.