“I’m still in shock, this has to be the greatest day of my fishing career thus far,” said Gray, who caught the tournaments heaviest five-bass stringer weighing 13 pounds, 11 ounces. “I thought I had little chance at winning this thing until Wednesday when I was leading. After that, my weights began to slip and I doubted myself again. At 2 p.m. today my whole mindset changed after I hooked into my 5-10 kicker that put me over the top. We were working our way back in when I decided to hit this spot, I culled a smaller one real quick and not to long after that is when I stuck the big one. I couldn’t have done it without getting those big bites.”
Gray opened the tournament in first place Wednesday with five bass weighing 13-11 that he caught on a Senko. On Thursday he added another five bass weighing 10-12 using a Senko fished around deep, rocky points where he fell back a spot into second place. He then caught five bass weighing 9-4 on Friday to make the crucial top 10 cut in third place.
Rounding out the top five pros are Cody Meyer of Grass Valley, Calif. (20 bass, 44-8, $8,301); Michael Tuck of Antelope, Calif. (20 bass, 44-6, $7,471 plus $5,000 Ranger bonus); Mike Menne of Redding, Calif. (20 bass, 42-3, $6,641); and Phil Strader of Glide, Ore. (20 bass, 42 pounds, $5,810).
Gene Gray caught the biggest bass of the tournament in the Pro Division Wednesday – a 5-pound, 15-ounce bass – that earned him the day’s Snickers Big Bass award of $250.
Meyer also earned Ranger Cup and Powered by Yamaha bonuses of $1,500 as the highest finishing participant in the Ranger Cup incentive program.
Overall there were 50 bass weighing 98 pounds, 8 ounces caught by 10 pros Saturday. Each Pro on the final day caught a five-fish limit.
Jason Milligan of Anderson, Calif., won the Co-angler Division and $5,000, with a four-day total of 20 bass weighing 39-2.
“This is great,” said Milligan, who was fishing in his very first Stren Series event. “It was really close, I only won by 3 ounces. I drew a lot of great guys who kept me around fish all week. I just fished slow, ground it out and got the right bites. Hopefully, this will not be my last win. I would just like to stay consistent.”
Milligan caught five bass weighing 10-4 Wednesday while fishing with pro Mike Menne, to open the tournament in fifth place. He then caught five bass weighing 10-8 Thursday while fishing with pro Jimmy Zanotelli of Redding, Calif. On Friday he added five more bass weighing 9-14 to make the top 10 cut in first place while fishing with pro Robert Lee of Angels Camp, Calif. Finally, on Saturday, he sealed the win with a five-bass catch weighing 8-8 while fishing with pro Michael Tuck.
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Scott Burke of Oakdale, Calif. (20 bass, 38-14, $3,461); Roy Desmangles Jr. of Lincoln, Calif. (20 bass, 38-3, $2,813); Stacy Gee of Sacramento, Calif. (20 bass, 38 pounds, $2,164); and Charles Keller of Redding, Calif. (20 bass, 37-5, $1,731).
Willie Cummings of Tucson, Ariz., and Don Shimatsu of Forestville, Calif., tied for the biggest bass of the tournament in the Co-angler Division Thursday – a 4-pound, 4-ounce bass – that earned them the day’s Snickers Big Bass award of $131.
The next Stren Series Western Division event, hosted by the Henderson Convention Center and Visitors Bureau, will be held Feb.21-24 on Lake Mead in Henderson, Nev. Boats will launch from Callville Bay-Forever Resorts in Henderson and the final weigh-in will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 300 East Lake Mead Drive in Henderson.
After four qualifying events are complete in each of the Stren Series’ five divisions, the top 40 pros from each division will advance to the $1 million Stren Series Championship in Mobile, Ala., Nov. 8-11 for a shot at $140,000. The highest-finishing pro from each division at the championship will also earn a spot in the $2 million 2008 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, Ranger Owners Tournament Championship Series and TBF (The Bass Federation) for bass fishing’s biggest prize – $1 million.
The top 40 co-anglers from each Stren Series division will also advance to the championship, where they will fish for as much as $70,000. The highest-finishing co-angler from each division at the championship will then advance to the 2008 Forrest Wood Cup.
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 on 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.