Land O’Lakes Angler of the Year points leader Dan Morehead of Paducah, Ky., entered the Forrest Wood Open with a 26-point lead over his nearest challenger, Castrol pro David Dudley of Manteo, N.C. Morehead maintained his lead Wednesday despite landing in 106th place with a five-bass catch weighing 8 pounds, 14 ounces. Dudley caught exactly 1 pound less to finish Wednesday’s competition behind Morehead in 129th. Morehead and Dudley have at least one more day to compete for position and points.
Cloudy skies and sprinkles of rain greeted anglers at Joe Wheeler State Park for takeoff, but sprinkles turned into sunshine with a few clouds throughout the day despite forecasted thunderstorms. As is typical of Wheeler Lake, high numbers of fish were caught, many from the bass-rich Decatur Flats area. Biffle caught his bass on an undisclosed location fishing a pattern he says is outside his comfort zone.
“I’m fishing differently than I usually do,” said Biffle, who is currently ranked seventh on the FLW Tour. “I’m not doing something I’m accustomed to. I just want to run the current more than anything; it doesn’t matter what the weather does. I’m catching them slowly, but it’s pretty good. It’s a good lake, and this feels good because I messed up at Kentucky Lake. I had a couple of good days in practice, and I haven’t even been to some of those places yet. I’ll just see what 10th place is and I’ll take it from there.”
Rounding out the top five pros are Aaron Martens of Castaic, Calif. (five bass, 18 pounds, 11 ounces); Allen Cauthen of Lancaster, S.C. (five bass, 17 pounds, 14 ounces); Masaki Shimono of Shiga-Pref, Japan (five bass, 17 pounds, 13 ounces); and Timmy Horton of Muscle Shoals (five bass, 17 pounds).
Wheeler Lake is one of three $1 million-plus tournaments on the 2003 Wal-Mart FLW Tour and is the last stop on the road to Richmond, Va., site of the historic $1.5 million FLW Tour world championship of bass fishing and outdoor show that will be held Sept. 10-13 on the James River. The winner of the championship will earn an unprecedented $500,000 cash, the largest guaranteed award in the history of competitive bass fishing. The top 48 pros and 48 co-anglers based on year-end points standings will advance to the championship, which will also feature a free country music concert, more than 150,000 square feet of exhibits and the FLW Outdoors Celebrity Challenge to benefit prostate cancer research at City of Hope in southern California. In 2003, the road to Richmond, Va., is paved with gold.
Mike McAdoo of Murfreesboro, Tenn., leads the Co-angler Division with a five-bass catch weighing 16 pounds, 3 ounces. McAdoo caught his bass Wednesday Carolina-rigging a 6-inch Zoom lizard in the main river channel.
“We caught as many bass when the sun came out as we did when it was cloudy,” said McAdoo, whose best finish to date is a fourth-place showing on Lake Okeechobee in 2002. “It didn’t seem to make any difference. I can’t explain it. I’ll be honest, this is the first time I’ve led, and I’d like to think I can do this another couple of days. I just have to be optimistic.”
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Alex Ormand of Bessemer City, N.C. (five bass, 15 pounds, 10 ounces); Eric Ambort of Mabelvale, Ark. (five bass, 15 pounds, 3 ounces); Brantley Peoples of Raleigh, N.C. (five bass, 14 pounds, 13 ounces); and Mary Parnell of Casselberry, Fla. (five bass, 12 pounds, 15 ounces).
A total of 1,433 bass were caught Wednesday, including 216 five-bass limits.
Anglers take off each morning at 6:30 a.m. from Joe Wheeler State Park in Florence except for Friday, when takeoff is at 7 a.m. Thursday’s weigh-in will also be held at Joe Wheeler State Park beginning at 3 p.m., and Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 3100 Hough Road in Florence 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. With games, interactive displays and product giveaways, the Family Fun Zone offers enjoyment for fishing fans of all ages. The Family Fun Zone opens Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 11 a.m.
Coverage of the Wheeler Lake tournament will be featured on the “FLW Outdoors” television show, which is broadcast to 55 million subscribers on the Outdoor Life Network. The program features fishing legends Hank Parker and Larry Nixon alongside hosts Charlie Evans, Carlton Wing and Taylor Carr. Parker’s preview of the Wheeler Lake tournament will air Saturday at 6 p.m. and again Sunday at noon CST. Tournament highlights from Wheeler Lake will air June 28 and 29 followed by a tournament recap featuring Nixon July 5 and 6.
The FLW Tour features a pro/co-angler format in which the pro supplies the boat, fishes from the front deck against other pros and controls boat movement. Co-anglers fish from the back deck against other co-anglers. After two days the field is cut to the top 10 pros and 10 co-anglers who advance to day one of the final round Friday based on their two-day accumulated weight. Weights are cleared for Friday’s competition, and co-anglers compete for one day to determine the winner. Pros continue competition Saturday, with final positions determined by Friday and Saturday’s combined weight. Every angler who receives weight credit in a tournament earns points, with 200 points awarded to the winner, 199 points for second, 198 for third, and so on. These points determine angler standings.
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. For a complete list of FLW Outdoors sponsors and for more information about the premier products and services they offer, please visit FLWOutdoors.com.