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.
Anticipation has been high for this event. In the 2005 Stren Series event on Clear Lake, Sieg Taylor of Clearlake, Calif., broke the four-day FLW Outdoors weight record with just 16 bass that weighed 94 pounds, 11 ounces, as the daily limit of bass on Clear Lake in 2005 was only four per day. That record was again broken at the first 2006 Central Division Stren Series event on Lake Amistad near Del Rio, Texas, last week, with an amazing four-day catch of 105 pounds, 8 ounces caught by David Mauldin of Tomball, Texas.
This year, the California Department of Fish and Game has upped the limit on Clear Lake to five bass daily for Stren Series anglers, though cold, rainy weather conditions forecasted for this week and water temperatures in the high 40s to low 50s are likely to make breaking more records difficult.
"I've just been fishing real slow with spinnerbaits, Berkley lures and some Robo Worms," Folkestad said. "The lake is real crowded because the north end is so muddy from runoff from the rains, so we're having to fish close together."
Considering that the water temperature is so low, Folkestad said the fishing has actually been pretty good, though it is slowing down somewhat with the rain and cold weather. "I'm hoping for 10 or 12 pounds tomorrow so I can make the cut," Folkestad said. "After that, there'll just be 20 guys out there and we can spread out some."
Rounding out the top five pros are Jimmy Lyon of Reno, Nev. (five bass, 24 pounds, 10 ounces); Dean McDaniel of Sacramento, Calif. (five bass, 24 pounds, 10 ounces); Gary Dobyns of Yuba City, Calif. (five bass, 22 pounds, 10 ounces); and Richard Smith of Santa Clarita, Calif. (five bass, 20 pounds, 8 ounces).
McDaniel earned $750 for the Snicker's Big Bass award in the Pro Division thanks to a 9-pound, 8-ounce bass.
Shane Morgan of Palmdale, Calif., 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 16 pounds, 9 ounces.
Morgan was also fishing deeper water, in the 8- to 15-foot range, though his bass came on a drop-shot rig.
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Kyle Clement of Anderson, Calif. (five bass, 16 pounds, 1 ounce); Brett Baldwin of Horseshoe Bend, Idaho (five bass, 15 pounds, 13 ounces); Charlie Crawford of Peoria, Ariz. (five bass, 15 pounds, 12 ounces); and Douglas Davis of New Castle, Colo. (five bass, 14 pounds, 13 ounces).
Tim Demecs of Peoria, Ariz., earned $250 for the Snicker's Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division thanks to a 6-pound, 10-ounce bass.
Anglers caught an impressive total of 1,662 bass weighing 3,929 pounds, 14 ounces on the first day of the event, which ranks among the top 10 one-day catches in FLW Outdoors history.
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.
The next Stren Series Western Division event will be held March 29-April 1 on Lake Shasta in Redding, Calif. Boats will launch from Bridge Bay Marina in Redding. Shasta Lake Chamber of Commerce will be hosting the event. Friday and Saturday's weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart located at 1515 Dana Drive in Redding.
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.
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.