FLW Tour anglers should find Old Hickory bass prime for the catching when the tournament rolls around in mid-March. The lake is expected to be full to the brim, with plenty of solid largemouth bass relating to creek-channel breaks in 4 to 6 feet of water. Old Hickory’s expanse of milfoil and scattered patches of hydrilla may well produce 15- to 18-pound limits as well. Rat-L-Traps, spinnerbaits and shallow-running crankbaits will likely be the lures of choice for top finishers.
With two tournaments complete, Yamaha pro Dean Rojas from Grand Saline, Texas, leads the tour’s Land O’Lakes Angler of the Year race with 389 points thanks to a seventh-place finish at the season opener on Lake Okeechobee in January and a sixth-place finish on the Atchafalaya Basin in February. Rojas is followed closely, however, by Shinichi Fukae from Osaka, Japan, who finished fourth on Lake Okeechobee and 11th on the Atchafalaya Basin. A former angler of the year in Japan, Fukae has earned 387 points. This is his first year on the FLW Tour.
Another newcomer of note to the FLW Tour is Kim Bain from Queensland, Australia. Bain hosts her own fishing show on Australian television and is fishing the tour as a co-angler. She is one of several women competing on the tour, the most prominent of which is Land O’Lakes co-angler Judy Israel, a 58-year-old former teacher and Bronx native who on Feb. 13 at the Atchafalaya Basin tournament became the first woman in history to win an FLW Tour title. Israel is the leading female money winner in tour history with $58,700 in winnings. Interestingly, she had never fished with artificial bait prior to joining the FLW Tour in 1997.
Anglers from 30 states, Japan and Australia will take off each morning at 7 from the Bull Creek Ramp in Gallatin except for Friday, when takeoff is at 8. Wednesday and Thursday’s weigh-ins will also be held at Bull Creek beginning at 3 p.m., and Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 1112 Nashville Pike in Gallatin beginning at 5 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.
The community is encouraged to attend the Family Fun Zone Friday and Saturday outside the weigh-in tent in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The Family Fun Zone features interactive displays, product samples and games for the entire family to enjoy. The Fun Zone will open Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 11 a.m.
The full field competes in the two-day opening round for one of 10 slots in Friday’s competition based on their two-day accumulated weight. Weights are cleared for day three, and co-angler competition concludes following Friday’s weigh-in. The 10 pros continue competition Saturday, with the winner determined by the heaviest two-day weight.
In FLW Tour competition, pros and co-anglers are randomly paired each day, with pros supplying the boat, controlling boat movement and competing against other pros. Co-anglers fish from the back deck against other co-anglers.
The Old Hickory event is the third stop of the most lucrative FLW Tour season to date, as the popular tournament series features a $6.8 million purse in 2004, including two $500,000 events, two $900,000 events and two $1.25 million Open events during the regular season. Each tournament leads up to the historic $1.5 million Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship, which will be held Aug. 11-14 on Logan Martin near Birmingham, Ala. The prestigious championship features 48 pros, 48 co-anglers and bass fishing’s largest guaranteed cash award – a $500,000 first-place prize for the winning pro. Held in conjunction with the tournament is a world-class outdoor show, featuring booths and displays for everything from crankbaits to bass boats.
Coverage of the Old Hickory Lake tournament will be broadcast to 65 million subscribers of the Outdoor Life Network on the “FLW Outdoors” television program. A tournament preview show featuring bass-fishing legend Hank Parker will air March 28 at 1 p.m. Eastern time and April 1 at 5 p.m. Eastern time. Fishing fans can watch the tournament weigh-in with hosts Carlton Wing, Taylor Carr and Charlie Evans April 4 at 1 p.m. and April 8 at 5 p.m. Eastern time. Tournament veteran Larry Nixon will host a tournament wrap-up show April 11 at 1 p.m. Eastern time, and that show will re-air April 15 at 5 p.m. Eastern time.
Following the Old Hickory tournament, the $1.25 million Wal-Mart Open will be held on Beaver Lake near Rogers, Ark., March 31-April 3. Kentucky Lake near Benton, Ky., will host the fifth tour stop May 12-15 followed by the $1.25 million Forrest Wood Open on Lake Champlain near Plattsburgh, N.Y., June 23-26.
Named after Forrest L. Wood, the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, the Wal-Mart FLW Tour is administered by FLW Outdoors, the world’s leading marketer of competitive fishing. Other FLW Outdoors-sanctioned tournament trails are the EverStart Series, the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Tour, the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye League and the Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail.
Wal-Mart and many of America’s most respected companies support FLW Outdoors and its six tournament trails. Wal-Mart has been the title sponsor of FLW Outdoors since 1997.