“It really takes a lot of confidence when you’ve been catching them one way to abandon what you’ve been doing that’s worked,” Dudley added. “I knew that it was going to take something different today, and I changed what I was doing. And that really just comes from tournament experience and knowing that sometimes you have to be flexible in the way you approach it.”
Dudley ended the first day of competition in 20th place with five bass weighing 13-9, stood sixth after the second day with a five-bass sack weighing 11-15 and worked his way into the lead Friday.
“I’d rather lead a tournament wire-to-wire,” Dudley said. “When you’re a winner, you want to win from day one to day two to day three to day four. Anybody who says otherwise is full of baloney.”
Auten caught a three-day total of 15 bass weighing 41-0 to advance to the final round as the No. 2 seed.
Rounding out the top five pros are Team Fuji pro Wesley Strader of Spring City, Tenn. (15 bass, 36-6); Tim Farley of Lula, Ga. (14 bass, 35-1) and Team Duracell pro Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tenn. (14 bass, 33-14).
Also clearing the top 10 cut weight of 32 pounds, 4 ounces in the Pro Division are Team Pepcid pro Jason Knapp of Uniontown, Penn.; Jim Dillard of West Monroe, La.; Joe Thomas of Milford, Ohio; Team Snickers pro Pat Fisher of Buckhead, Ga.; and Team National Guard pro Scott Martin of Clewiston, Fla.
Team Fuji pro Strader and Jim Short of Ocean Pines, Md., split the day’s $500 Snickers Big Bass award in the Pro Division with matching 8-pound, 6-ounce largemouths.
Overall there were 347 bass weighing 680 pounds, 13 ounces caught Friday in the pro division, including 29 five-bass limits.
Pros are competing this week for a top award of $125,000 plus valuable points in the hope of qualifying for the BP East-National Guard West Fishoff and a shot at advancing to the $2 million, 2008 Forrest Wood Cup, where the winning pro will earn as much as $1 million – the sport’s biggest award. The top 30 pros from both FLW Series divisions after four qualifying events are complete will advance to the East-West Fishoff, which will be held Jan. 17-19, 2008. The location for the fishoff has not yet been announced. Thirty winners from the fishoff will advance to the 2008 Forrest Wood Cup.
Ron Fabiszak of South Bend, Ind., won the Co-angler Division and $25,000 Friday with a three-day total of 13 bass weighing 31 pounds, 8 ounces followed by Stetson Blaylock of Benton, Ark.,, in second place with 14 bass weighing 27-12 worth $10,000.
Fabiszak opened the tournament in 24th place Wednesday with five bass weighing 10-2 while fishing with pro Richard Patterson of Windermere, Fla. On Thursday he jumped to second place with a five-bass catch weighing 12-4 while fishing with pro David Mansue of Robbinsville, N.J. He wrapped up the win Friday with a three-bass catch weighing 9-2 while fishing with Team Pepcid pro Knapp.
“All of my fish yesterday came on a Gambler Ace rigged wacky style,” said the 37-year-old ceramic tile installer, who has won three previous FLW Outdoors events, including two Stren Series events as a co-angler. “We made a long run this morning and then stopped at a spot on the way back and I caught my two better fish today on a Gambler Cane Toad.”
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Jess Caraballo of Danbury, Conn. (eight bass, 22-13, $9,000); Danny Bishop of Buchanan, Ga. (nine bass, 22-4, $8,000) and Mark Phillips of Fayetteville, Ark. (nine bass, 21-13, $7,000). Tony Haymon of Penney Farms, Fla., earned $300 for the Snickers Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division thanks to a 9-pound, 9-ounce bass he caught while fishing with pro Nick Gainey of Charleston, S.C.
Overall there were 151 bass weighing 292 pounds, 15 ounces caught by 151 co-anglers Friday. The catch included four five-bass limits.
The 10 remaining pros will take off at 7 a.m. Saturday from Roland and Mary Ann Martin’s Marina and Resort located at 920 E. Del Monte Ave. in Clewiston, Fla. Saturday’s final weigh-in will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 1005 W. Sugarland Highway in Clewiston, Fla., beginning at 4 p.m. Children will also be treated to a Family Fun Zone prior to Saturday’s weigh-in from noon to 4 p.m. at Wal-Mart. Activities in the Family Fun Zone include the Fujifilm trout pond, a Ranger boat simulator and assorted fishing-themed games. All activities are free and open to the public. FLW Outdoors historically maintains a 98 percent live release rate in all of its bass tournaments.
Coverage of the Lake Okeechobee FLW Series tournament will be broadcast to 81 million FSN (Fox Sports Net) subscribers in the United States as part of the “FLW Outdoors” television program airing March 4. “FLW Outdoors” airs Sunday mornings at 11 Eastern time. “FLW Outdoors” is also broadcast internationally to approximately 350 million households in Europe, Africa and Asia, making it the most widely distributed weekly fishing program 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 Navy ships through broadcasts on the American Forces Network.
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, Ranger Owners Tournament Championship Series, 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 of nearly $43 million through 238 events in 2007.
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.
For more information about FLW Outdoors and its tournaments, visit FLWOutdoors.com or call (270) 252-1000.