The scattered thunderstorms predicted for the area never materialized before weigh-in time, but Fritts believes the strong winds that foreshadowed the upcoming storms proved challenging to most anglers. Nevertheless, the man known as the “Crankbait King” used just that at a variety of depths to claim his tournament-leading bass.
“The bigger fish haven’t moved deep yet,” said Fritts, who won one of his league-leading four FLW Tour victories on Kentucky Lake in 1997. “I caught 10 keepers and had a limit of 2-pounders and wound up culling them all except for one. All my fish were largemouths.”
Fritts is making a relatively long run to his areas – he estimates he burned two tanks of gas Wednesday – but doesn’t think he is on to a pattern that no one else has figured out. “There’s a lot of people fishing (my pattern), but the thing is, I don’t know that they know what’s there,” he said. “They’re just fishing. I think this wind has hurt everybody. You couldn’t fish like you wanted to – you couldn’t position your boat right, and you couldn’t cast like you wanted.”
Fritts says he is fishing two primary patterns and doesn’t believe in staking out a hole and staying there, at least on this lake. “I’m fishing a lot of areas, and that’s what’s good,” he said. “You aren’t going to have enough to win if you sit in one spot.”
Rounding out the top five pros are Terry Seagraves of Kissimmee, Fla. (five bass, 18 pounds, 14 ounces); Yamaha pro Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La. (five bass, 18 pounds, 8 ounces); Lee Bailey Jr. of Amston, Conn. (five bass, 17 pounds, 14 ounces); and Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity, S.C. (five bass, 16 pounds, 9 ounces).
Stephen Tosh Jr. of Waterford, Calif., leads the 200-angler co-angler field with an opening-day catch of five bass that weighed 13 pounds, 14 ounces. Co-angler competition concludes Friday with the winner taking home $20,000 cash.
Tosh used a decidedly West Coast method – drop-shotting – to catch his limit of bass Wednesday. “The guys are fishing shallow in dead-end creeks,” said Tosh, an FLW Tour rookie. “Some of the fish are still staging, so I’m concentrating on the end of the yellow flowers in 5 to 7 feet of water. This lake is loaded with those yellow flowers. It’s scary because I’m using 6-pound-test, but I’m throwing into open water. I pre-fished with Sam Newby; he was flipping, so I concentrated on finding another pattern, and it’s working.”
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are David Hudson of Jasper, Ala. (five bass, 13 pounds, 9 ounces); Kevin Langill of Gastonia, N.C. (five bass, 13 pounds); Johnny Taylor of Kodak, Tenn. (five bass, 12 pounds, 15 ounces); and Todd Lee of Jasper, Ala. (five bass, 12 pounds, 5 ounces).
Rick Marsh of High Point, N.C., caught the Snickers Big Bass in the Pro Division Wednesday, earning $750 for his 5-pound, 15-ounce bass. Alessandro Debbi, who hails from Italy, claimed co-angler Snickers Big Bass honors and $500 with a 5-pound, 5-ounce bass.
Anglers will take off from Kentucky Dam Marina in Gilbertsville at 6:30 a.m. Thursday, 8 a.m. Friday and 6:30 a.m. Saturday. Thursday’s weigh-in will also be held at the marina at 3 p.m., and Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 310 W. Fifth St. in Benton at 5 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.
The community is encouraged to attend the Family Fun Zone Friday and Saturday outside the weigh-in tent in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The Family Fun Zone features interactive displays, product samples and games for the entire family to enjoy. The Fun Zone will open Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 11 a.m.
Following Thursday’s competition, the field will be narrowed from 200 competitors per division to 10, and weights will be cleared for Friday’s competition. Co-angler competition concludes Friday based on the heaviest one-day weight, and pros continue competition Saturday with the winner determined by the heaviest two-day weight.
Anglers are also competing this week for valuable points that determine Land O’ Lakes Angler of the Year standings and the field for the 2004 FLW Tour Championship, set for Aug. 11-14 in Birmingham, Ala., on Logan Martin Lake. The $1.5 million championship presented by Castrol awards the winning pro $500,000 cash, the sport’s largest prize.
In FLW Tour competition, pros and co-anglers are randomly paired each day, with pros supplying the boat, controlling boat movement and competing against other pros. Co-anglers fish from the back deck against other co-anglers. Two hundred points are awarded to tournament winners, with 199 for second, 198 for third, and so on. Every angler who receives weight credit in a tournament earns points.
Coverage of the Kentucky Lake tournament 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 May 30 at 1 p.m. Eastern time and June 3 at 5 p.m. Eastern time, and fishing fans can watch the tournament weigh-in with hosts Carlton Wing, Taylor Carr and Charlie Evans June 6 at 1 p.m. and June 10 at 5 p.m. Eastern time. Tournament veteran Larry Nixon will host a tournament wrap-up show June 13 at 1 p.m. Eastern time, and that show will re-air June 17 at 5 p.m. Eastern time.
The winner of the FLW Tour stop on Beaver Lake will also be featured on “FLW Outdoors Presented by Wal-Mart” on Sunday from 9-11 a.m. Eastern time. The cutting-edge radio program hosted by Keith Lebowitz and Tony Casillas is broadcast live on the World Wide Web at FLWOutdoors.com. The show is also broadcast throughout Texas and parts of Oklahoma on Fox Sports 1190 AM KFXR in Dallas. Listeners who would like to ask a question of any show guest can e-mail the question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.