"I'm going to go for win number three on Kentucky Lake," said Fukae, who was visibly moved and a bit stunned by his historic accomplishment. "I like Lake Champlain, too. So maybe I can add another."
Fukae, who originally hails from Osaka, Japan, entered the final day of competition with a scant 1-pound, 7-ounce lead thanks to a solid finesse pattern. He caught five bass weighing 10-10 on opening day and five bass weighing 12 pounds Thursday to advance to the final round as the No. 8 seed. He then caught five bass weighing 9-9 Friday to claim his spot atop the leaderboard. His catch Saturday of five bass weighing 9-13 secured the win. Fukae caught his bass using a Shaky Head jig and a Yamamoto finesse worm combo. He separated himself from other finesse anglers by using an ultra-light 3/32-ounce jig head for a super slow presentation. He targeted fish around timber in 10 feet of water.
In January, Fukae won the FLW Tour season opener on Lake Okeechobee and pocketed $100,000. The last time an angler won two FLW Tour events in a single season was in 2000 when Clunn won the Wal-Mart Open on Beaver Lake and the Forrest Wood Open on Pickwick Lake. Fritts still holds the single season record with three wins in 1997, one on Lake Ferguson, one on Kentucky Lake and one on Lake Eufaula.
Fukae earned three top-10s in 2004 then suffered a sophomore season slump, finishing no higher than 19th in 2005.
Mark Rose of Marion, Ark., climbed from third into second place Saturday, earning $100,000 with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 18-2. He caught five bass weighing 9-9 Friday then added five bass weighing 8-9 Saturday using a watermelon and green pumpkin finesse worm.
"This feels great," said Rose, who was making his fifth top-10 appearance in FLW Tour competition. "I hope the momentum carries over to Kentucky Lake."
Bounty pro Craig Powers of Rockwood, Tenn., finished third and collected $50,000 with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 17-3.
Rounding out the top five pros were Pedigree pro Jeffrey Thomas of Broadway, N.C. (six bass, 14-15, $40,000) and Castrol pro Darrel Robertson of Jay, Okla. (eight bass, 12-3, $30,000).
Richard Strother, 62, of Tyler, Texas, captured the co-angler title and $40,000 Friday with three bass weighing 8 pounds, 11 ounces. He caught two of his fish on a Spot Remover jig and a Zoom finesse worm, but it was his third fish that propelled him to the top of the leaderboard. He caught the bass on a Rat-L-Trap after it ripped free of a snag.
Rounding out the top five co-anglers were Derek Moyer of Alexandria, Va. (five bass, 5-2, $20,000); Team Tyson angler Pamela Wood of Bono, Ark. (two bass, 4-2, $10,000); Chad Parks of Memphis (one bass, 3-3, $9,000) and Paul Addi of Las Vegas (one bass, 2-9, $8,000).
Overall, 46 bass weighing 77 pounds, 9 ounces, including eight five-bass limits, were caught Saturday by the 10 pro finalists.
The next FLW Tour stop will be a $900,000 tournament presented by Pedigree on Kentucky Lake in Benton, Ky., May 10-13. The final regular-season stop, a $900,000 tournament presented by Kellogg's, runs June 21-24 on Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Each tournament takes the world's best anglers a step closer to the $1.5 million Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship and Outdoor Show presented by Castrol, which will be held Aug. 2-5 on Logan Martin Lake in Birmingham, Ala. The prestigious championship hosted by Birmingham, Pell City and St. Clair County features 48 pros, 48 co-anglers and bass fishing's largest guaranteed cash award - a $500,000 first-place prize for the winning pro. Held in conjunction with the tournament is a world-class outdoor show featuring more than 140 exhibits.
Coverage of the Wal-Mart Open hosted by the Rogers Convention and Visitors Bureau will be broadcast to 78 million FSN (Fox Sports Net) subscribers in the United States on May 7 and May 14 as part of the "FLW Outdoors" television program. "FLW Outdoors" airs Sunday mornings at 11 Eastern time. "FLW Outdoors" is also broadcast internationally to more than 350 million households in such countries as Germany, China, South Africa, Australia, Malaysia, Russia, Hungary and the United Kingdom, making it the most widely distributed weekly outdoor-sports television show 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, 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. FLW Outdoors also recently announced the addition of a striped bass circuit, which will debut in May.
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.