Pros are competing for as much as $64,500 and valuable points that could qualify them for a trip to the $1 million Stren Series Championship for a shot at $140,000. The highest-finishing pro from each division at the Stren Series Championship will also earn a spot in the new $2 million 2007 Forrest Wood Cup where they will compete against top pros from the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Series, Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League and Ranger owners' tournaments for bass fishing's first $1 million top award.
"I had a real good day. It was a lot better than I expected," said Coates, who won this event last year by averaging more than 19 pounds a day. "Practice was pretty tough and I didn't catch anything for the first hour this morning."
The bite changed for Coates after he moved to a new location. He fished an ISG watermelon tube rigged on a jighead and a white BAM Baits goby on a drop-shot to catch his tournament-leading limit.
"There were a lot of boats around me, but for some reason or another they weren't catching them," he said. "I waited for my co-angler to get his limit and then I started moving around and trying new things."
Coates said he has a few spots lined out for tomorrow's competition and hopes that both he and his co-angler boat a limit.
"I asked my co-angler (David Williams) what his biggest tournament limit was," Coates said. "He said '13 pounds.' I told him that was all about to change. He ended up with 19 pounds and I plan to do the same for my co-angler tomorrow. I want them to have a good time and enjoy the day."
Rounding out the top five pros are Roy Dameron of Daniels, W.Va. (five bass, 23 pounds, 12 ounces); Steve Lucarelli of Meredith, N.H. (five bass, 22 pounds, 1 ounces); Christopher King of South Amherst, Ohio (five bass, 21 pounds, 15 ounces); and Tommy Williams of Lexington, N.C. (five bass, 21 pounds, 15 ounces).
Dameron earned $525 for the Snicker's Big Bass award in the Pro Division thanks to a 5-pound, 11-ounce bass.
Gary Guilliams of Troutville, Va., leads the Co-angler Division in the chase for a top award worth as much as $35,000, including a 519VX Ranger if contingency guidelines are met. He caught five bass weighing 21 pounds while fishing with pro Tony Black of Manassas, Va., who is currently in 13th place.
This is an awesome fishery," Gulliams said. "A three pound smallie here is as common as 12-inch bass elsewhere."
Guilliams used a tube and goby fished over main lake humps to catch his hefty limit by 10 a.m.
"I didn't catch a smallmouth smaller than three pounds today," he said. "Tomorrow, I'm just going fishing."
Guilliams also earned $205 for the Snicker's Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division thanks to a 6-pound, 13-ounce smallmouth bass.
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are David Williams of Fredericksburg, Va. (five bass, 19 pounds); Rob Webber of Elyria, Ohio (five bass, 18 pounds, 9 ounces); Blaine Bucy of Weirton, W.Va. (five bass, 18 pounds, 2 ounces); and Gilbert Brown of Fredericksburg, Va. (five bass, 17 pounds, 6 ounces).
Anglers will take off from Voinovich Park Marina at 6 each morning. Thursday's weigh-in will be held at the marina, which is located at 9th Street in Cleveland beginning at 2:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday's weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 3606 Mayfield Road in Cleveland Heights beginning at 4 p.m. Takeoffs and weigh-ins are free and open to the public.
Stren Series tournaments are four-day events consisting of three rounds. The entire field competes Wednesday and Thursday, and the top 20 pros and co-anglers - based on two-day accumulated weights - advance to day three. Anglers start at zero Thursday and compete for 10 spots in each division in the final round. Winners are determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from days three and four.
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 presented by Abu Garcia, Stratos Owners' Tournament Trail, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye League, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Series, Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series and Wal-Mart FLW Striper Series. These circuits offer combined purses exceeding $37.9 million through 249 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.