Fishing for Team Chevy, the Spokane, Wash., pro is on the leading edge of a new generation of anglers who are cashing in on skyrocketing tournament purses brought about by the introduction of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour in 1996. Since that time, $100,000, $200,000 and even $500,000 first-place payouts have become standard in top-level events. In fact, in 2007, the Forrest Wood Cup in Hot Springs, Ark., features an unheard of $2 million purse with $1 million going to the winning pro if the pro runs a Ranger boat. The winner of the event will receive $500,000 regardless of boat brand.
Before the introduction of the FLW Tour, top professional anglers could fish for 10 years or more before earning $1 million in tournament winnings. Chevy pro Larry Nixon of Bee Branch, Ark., was the first to reach the milestone in 1990 after 13 years of competition. He was 40 at the time. These days, young anglers like Clausen and Castrol Pro David Dudley of Lynchburg, Va., are blowing past the $1 million milestone in a matter of months and doing it before they turn 30.
Like Clausen, Dudley earned $1 million with just two victories that were just 18 months apart. The first was a $700,000 title at the Ranger M1 in Mobile, Ala., in March 2002 followed by a $500,000 win at the FLW Tour Championship in Richmond, Va., in Sept. 2003. Dudley's M1 victory, which came just seven days before his 28th birthday, featured the largest payout in the sport's history and made him the youngest angler to reach the $1 million mark. At 28, he was also the youngest pro to ever win the FLW Tour Championship, a record he held until Clausen's win in Birmingham, Ala., on Aug. 14, 2004, at the age of 26 - just 11 days after his birthday.
Clausen was the youngest angler competing in the Classic this year, too. That didn't stop him from breaking a couple of records en route to his win, however. He caught the largest five-fish limit in Classic history - a 29-pound, 6-ounce stringer on opening day - and set a new three-day, 15-bass Classic record at 56 pounds, 2 ounces. He was also only the seventh angler in Classic history to lead the championship wire to wire.
Clausen's professional career began with Bassmaster Open Western Division tournaments in 2000. He then began competing in the Stren Series Western Division - where he won the 2003 Clear Lake event - before qualifying for the FLW Tour in 2004. He now joins Wal-Mart pro George Cochran of Hot Springs, Ark.; Evinrude pro Davy Hite of Prosperity, S.C.; and fellow Team Chevy pros David Fritts of Lexington, N.C., and Dion Hibdon of Stover, Mo., as one of only five anglers in history who have won both the FLW Tour Championship and the Classic.
Clausen will be competing this week at the $900,000 FLW Tour stop presented by A&W Root Beer on Pickwick Lake in Florence, Ala., beginning Wednesday. He is currently ninth in the FLW Tour standings and is well on his way to qualifying for the $1.5 million FLW Tour Championship presented by Castrol Aug. 2-5 on Logan Marin Lake in Birmingham. A repeat of his 2004 performance will add another $500,000 to his already swollen bank account.
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, Stratos Owners' 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 $36.9 million through 241 events in 2006. FLW Outdoors also recently announced the addition of a striped bass circuit, which will debut in May.
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.