Clausen kicked off day one with a limit of five bass weighing 14 pounds, 4 ounces to lead the pro field. Martin caught day two’s heaviest stringer, but Clausen remained the cumulative weight leader with a two-day total of 26 pounds, 3 ounces that knocked off his opening-round opponent, 7UP pro Shad Schenck of Waynetown, Ind., in the head-to-head, bracket-style competition.
Clausen faced No. 2 seed Greg Hackney, a Yamaha pro from Gonzales, La., during Friday’s semifinal round and eliminated him with a five-bass limit that weighed 14 pounds, 3 ounces to advance to the final round. Clausen, an FLW Tour rookie, entered the tournament as the No. 26 seed on the strength of three regular-season finishes inside the top 30. Clausen competed in one EverStart Series Western Division event last season – on California’s Clear Lake – and won it. He entered the season-opening FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee via the waiting list, and the rest is history.
“This week things just came together for me,” said Clausen, who caught many of his bass this week on a prototype finesse worm. “I had an awesome week; everything was just phenomenal. Coming down here I never thought I’d win. I was scared today – I was so stressed out this morning that I couldn’t even cast. I was a mess; I couldn’t fish.”
Clausen, who had never before fished Logan Martin Lake, was introduced to the sport of bass fishing by his father and no doubt never dreamed that someday he’d be standing on a weigh-in stage collecting a $500,000 check. “I’ve fished all my life and worked really hard at it, and it’s great to fish against company like this,” Clausen said. “This is incredible; I can’t believe it. I don’t even know what I’ll do with the money. I’ll probably put it in the bank and look at the balance every day – every hour! It was a hard road, and I really had to catch them.”
Martin came just shy of winning two straight FLW Tour events, as he was the $200,000 champion of the season-ending Forrest Wood Open on New York’s Lake Champlain. “I’ve been getting up really early and staying up late, and it’s paid off,” said Martin, a two-time FLW Tour winner. “My fishing abilities are about average, but the Lord’s blessed me really well. I knew it was going to be close, and I saved the biggest fish for last. I finished right where I was supposed to. Luke deserves to win, and I’m proud of him.”
Finishing third and earning $40,000 was 2004 Kentucky Lake champion Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity, S.C., with a five-bass limit weighing 13 pounds, 7 ounces. Canton, Ga., pro Jimmy Millsaps caught a five-bass limit weighing 12 pounds, 4 ounces to finish fourth and earn $35,000. Fifth place went to Mickey Bruce of Buford, Ga. Bruce caught five bass weighing 11 pounds, 12 ounces to claim $30,000. Behind him in sixth was Banana Boat pro Kevin Vida of Clare, Mich., who earned $24,000 for a five-bass catch that weighed 11 pounds, 8 ounces. Kellogg’s pro Dave Lefebre of Erie, Pa., finished seventh with five bass weighing 6 pounds, 15 ounces worth $23,000. Eighth place belonged to Charlie Ingram of Santa Fe, Tenn., who earned $22,000 for five bass that weighed 6 pounds, 10 ounces. Kellogg’s pro Clark Wendlandt of Cedar Park, Texas, took home $21,000 for a ninth-place finish. He caught five bass that weighed 6 pounds, 3 ounces. Finishing 10th was Ocala, Fla., pro Glenn Browne, who earned $20,000 for a five-bass limit that weighed 5 pounds. In eleventh was Skippy pro Jason Kilpatrick of Satsuma with a two-bass catch weighing 4 pounds, 6 ounces worth $19,000. Rounding out the top 12 pro finalists was Tyson pro John Crews, who earned $18,000 with a three-bass catch weighing 3 pounds, 15 ounces.
Clausen’s win capped off a victorious week for Western anglers, as Waterford, Calif., co-angler Stephen Tosh Jr. claimed $25,000 Friday as winner of the Co-angler Division. Tosh caught five bass that weighed 13 pounds, 1 ounce to claim his second FLW Tour victory of the year. He also claimed the co-angler crown at the Kentucky Lake event in May.
The tournament, which was presented by Castrol, began Wednesday from Pell City Lakeside Park with the top 48 pros and 48 co-anglers based on year-end points standings competing for two days for one of 24 semifinal-round slots. Pros were seeded according to their year-end ranking and competed bracket-style, with the No. 1 pro fishing against the No. 48 pro, the No. 2 pro fishing against the No. 47 pro, and so on. Co-anglers competed against their entire field. Following the two-day opening round, the winner of each seed advanced to the semifinal round, and those 24 anglers again competed head-to-head for one of 12 slots in Saturday’s final round. Weights were cleared for both the semifinal and final rounds, and the final 12 anglers competed against the entire field.
Coverage of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship 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 Aug. 15 at noon CDT and Aug. 19 at 4 p.m. CDT, and fishing fans can watch the tournament weigh-in with hosts Carlton Wing, Taylor Carr and Charlie Evans Aug. 22 at noon and Aug. 26 at 4 p.m. Tournament veteran Larry Nixon will host a tournament wrap-up show Aug. 29 at noon, and that show will re-air Sept. 2 at 4 p.m.
Named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood, 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. Notes Day 4:
* Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship pro winner Luke Clausen of Spokane, Wash., and FLW Tour Championship co-angler winner Stephen Tosh Jr. of Waterford, Calif., both hail from the West. Only two pros and two co-anglers qualified for the championship from the West – pro Aaron Martens of Castaic, Calif., and co-angler Derek Yamamoto of Mesa, Ariz., being the other Western qualifiers.
* Clausen’s total weight of 55 pounds – although not the determining factor in the bracket-style format – was easily the heaviest four-day weight of the tournament.
* Of the 12 pro finalists, seven qualified for the FLW Tour Championship last year. Two others were tour rookies in 2004.
* Had second-place finisher Scott Martin, a BFGoodrich Tires pro from Clewiston, Fla., won the event, he would have surpassed $1 million in career FLW Tour earnings. He is currently approaching $600,000 in earnings after six seasons. Martin’s father, Roland Martin, earned $1 million in career BASS earnings after more than 30 years.
* The 12 pro finalists earned a total of $802,000 from this one event.
* After the weigh-in, Ranger Boats and The Birmingham News gave away another Comanche Z-Series bass boat – the new, revolutionary bass boat unveiled Friday at the FLW Tour Championship. Sherry Byers of Anniston, Ala., won the boat, which is powered by an Evinrude E-Tec 225 and a Minn Kota trolling motor. She entered the drawing one time.