While starting the tour season on Lake Okeechobee is nothing new, the Okeechobee that awaits FLW Tour anglers this year is. Weather in previous years had altered the lake and confined anglers to relatively few areas. This year, however, there are vast amounts of fishable and productive water. There is a lot more clear water than there was in last year's event, where many of the top-finishing anglers fished an area known as the "Monkey Box." Kelly Jordon won the event with an impressive final-day catch of four bass weighing 23 pounds that he caught punching heavy flipping baits through matted vegetation.
"There are plenty of fish, but there's so much new water that weights may be down somewhat this year," said BFGoodrich Tires pro Scott Martin of Clewiston. "Moonshine Bay for example has 30,000 acres of fishable water. The canal systems will play a big role this year and take pressure off the main lake. Those canals will be good for sight-fishing as well. Since the mat bite isn't real good right now, pitching baits to isolated targets and throwing lipless crankbaits and spinnerbaits could play a key role."
Big limits of bass are still there for the taking, but anglers will have to be a lot more creative this year. "I've been shiner fishing out here for two weeks," Martin said. "I catch 30 to 50 bass a day, so there's no shortage of fish. My best five on a good day will weigh 25 to 35 pounds. But anglers will have to plan their strategies ahead of time. Locking into those canal systems can eat up time and make it hard to change your game plan midday."
Anglers will take off each morning from Roland and Mary Ann Martin's Marina and Resort at 7 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday's weigh-ins will also be held at the marina beginning at 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday's weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 1005 W. Sugarland Highway in Clewiston beginning at 4 p.m.
The community is invited to attend the free Family Fun Zone Friday and Saturday outside the weigh-in tent in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The Family Fun Zone, which opens at 2 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday, features interactive displays, product samples and games for the entire family to enjoy.
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 top 10 pros continue competition Saturday, with the winner determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from days three and four.
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.
This is the most lucrative FLW Tour season to date with a $7.6 million purse, including four $900,000 events and two $1.25 million open events during the regular season. Each event leads up to the $1.5 million Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship and Outdoor Show presented by Castrol, which will be held Aug. 2-5 on Logan Martin Lake in Birmingham, Ala. The prestigious championship hosted by Birmingham, Pell City and St. Clair County 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 more than 140 exhibits.
Coverage of the Lake Okeechobee tournament will be broadcast to 78 million FSN (Fox Sports Net) subscribers in the United States as part of the "FLW Outdoors" television program. "FLW Outdoors" airs Sunday mornings at 11 a.m. Eastern time. "FLW Outdoors" is also broadcast internationally to more than 300 million households in such countries as Germany, China, South Africa, Australia, Malaysia, Russia, Hungary and the United Kingdom, making it the most widely viewed weekly outdoor-sports television show in the world. Additionally, FLW Outdoors is proud to provide tournament coverage to more than 800,000 servicemembers stationed around the world in 177 countries and aboard naval ships through broadcasts on the American Forces Network.
The second regular-season FLW Tour stop will be the Chevy Open held Feb. 8-11 on Lake Murray in Columbia, S.C., followed by a stop presented by A&W Root Beer March 1-4 on Pickwick Lake in Florence, Ala., and the Wal-Mart Open powered by Tyson on Beaver Lake in Rogers, Ark., April 5-8. Kentucky Lake in Benton, Ky., will host the fifth tour stop, presented by Pedigree, May 10-13 followed by a stop presented by Kellogg's on Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh, N.Y., June 21-24.
Named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood, FLW Outdoors administers the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Series, Stren 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, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Series and Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series. These circuits offer combined purses exceeding $36.5 million through 235 events in 2006.
For more information about FLW Outdoors and its tournament programs, visit FLWOutdoors.com or call (270) 252-1000.
Wal-Mart and many of America's largest and most respected companies support FLW Outdoors and its tournament trails. Wal-Mart signed on as an FLW Outdoors sponsor in 1997 and today is the world's leading supporter of tournament fishing. For more information about Wal-Mart, visit Wal-Mart.com.