The addition also solidifies a long-standing commitment to professional bass anglers that has resulted in a $2.8 million increase to payouts in the last four years. Anglers fishing the FLW Tour now have the opportunity to amass substantial winnings simply by finishing in the top 50 at each tour stop.
“One of the requests we’ve heard from anglers in recent years is to increase awards deeper in the field,” said Charlie Hoover, president and CEO of FLW Outdoors. “We were the first organization to make $100,000 and $200,000 victories standard. Now anglers can win $500,000 at the FLW Tour Championship, plus earn at least $10,000 cash at every qualifier for finishing in the top 50. This is an exciting development for the sport and is only possible because of the tremendous support of our sponsors.”
In 2005, the FLW Tour will feature four $900,000 qualifiers that pay $100,000 to the winning pro and a minimum of $10,000 through 50th place and two $1.25 million opens that pay $200,000 to the winning pro and a minimum of $10,000 through 50th place. Cash awards are paid through 75th place in each tournament, and pros who qualify for the $1.5 million FLW Tour Championship will earn a minimum of $15,000 and have the opportunity to win the sport’s largest cash award – $500,000. The top 48 pros in the Land O’Lakes points standings advance to the championship.
Co-anglers also benefit from the larger purse, as the top award in four qualifying events is now $20,000, with $40,000 going to the winning co-angler at each open. The top 48 co-anglers in the Land O’Lakes points standings advance to the championship, where they will fish for a top award of $25,000.
Competition kicks off Jan. 19-22 on Lake Okeechobee in Clewiston, Fla., then continues on Lake Toho in Kissimmee-St. Cloud, Fla., Feb. 9-12 and the Ouachita River in Monroe, La., March 9-12. Beaver Lake in Rogers, Ark., will host the Wal-Mart Open April 13-16 followed by a stop on Wheeler Lake in Decatur, Ala., May 11-14 and the Forrest Wood Open on the Potomac River in Charles County, Md., June 22-25. The FLW Tour Championship, complete with a world-class boat and outdoor show, will be held on Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Ark., July 13-16.
“In football there is the Super Bowl; in baseball, the World Series; and in bass fishing, the Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship Boat and Outdoor Show,” said Steve Arrison, executive director for the Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau. “People will literally travel from around the world to partake in the festivities and watch one pro win the biggest prize in bass fishing. It is exactly the type of event we envisioned when the Hot Springs Civic and Convention Center was expanded to become the largest facility of its type in Arkansas. It is also the perfect event to showcase the entire Hot Springs region.”
The 2003 FLW Tour Championship in Richmond, Va., was dubbed “the Super Bowl of fishing” by Virginia Business magazine after attracting 30,000-plus visitors to the newly opened Greater Richmond Convention Center. The championship produced articles in magazines and newspapers with a combined circulation of 47.5 million worldwide. This exposure helped elevate the city’s reputation among anglers and propelled championship winner David Dudley of Lynchburg, Va., into the sport’s upper echelon. This year’s championship at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex in Birmingham, Ala., Aug. 11-14 and the 2005 championship in Hot Springs are expected to deliver even better results.
“Arkansas is the home of Forrest and Nina Wood and the birthplace of professional bass fishing,” Hoover said. “It’s also the home of three of the sport’s biggest sponsors, Wal-Mart, Ranger Boats and Tyson Foods, so there is no other place where we would rather celebrate the 10th anniversary of the FLW Tour than in The Natural State.”
FLW Tour fields remain at 200 boats for 2004, and entry fees for pros are $2,750 for each qualifier and $3,000 for each open. Co-angler entry fees are $600 for each qualifier and $700 for each open.
In 2004 every Wal-Mart FLW Tour stop, as well as highlights from the EverStart Series, Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League and Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Tour, is broadcast on the Outdoor Life Network as part of “FLW Outdoors,” which features the latest tournament news and in-depth looks at winning tactics used by the world’s top tournament anglers. “FLW Outdoors” airs at 1 p.m. EST Sundays and 5 p.m. EST Thursdays.
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 more information on FLW Outdoors and its tournament circuits, visit FLWOutdoors.com. To plan your trip to Hot Springs for the $1.5 million FLW Tour Championship Boat and Outdoor show July 13-16, visit Hotsprings.org.
$7.6 Million Wal-Mart FLW Tour
Date Lake City, State Jan. 19-22 Lake Okeechobee Clewiston, Fla. Feb. 9-12 Lake Toho Kissimmee-St. Cloud, Fla. March 9-12 Ouachita River Monroe, La. April 13-16 Beaver Lake Rogers, Ark. May 11-14 Wheeler Lake Decatur, Ala. June 22-25 Potomac River Charles County, Md. July 13-16 Lake Hamilton Hot Springs, Ark.