MONROE, La. (March 9, 2005) – Yamaha pro Matt Herren of Trussville, Ala., caught a five-bass limit weighing 24 pounds, 14 ounces to take the lead on opening day of the $900,000 Wal-Mart FLW Tour stop on the Ouachita River. The event, which is presented by 7 UP, features 200 pros in the hunt for a top award of $100,000 cash. Two hundred co-anglers are also competing for a top award of $20,000 cash.

Clouds loomed ominously in the horizon on the morning of day one, and anglers experienced everything from rain to hail and cool temperatures before the day was over. While some anglers reported having a slow morning until the clouds broke, a few anglers said they had their best luck in the worst of the weather.

Several boats raced more than 50 miles of sprawling river and locked through to the Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge in southern Arkansas with hopes of finding a big limit of bass away from the rest of the field. Ninety-eight boats locked through to begin the morning, however, so plans to escape the crowd quickly evaporated.

Herren made the long run to Felsenthal and found the fish willing to cooperate early and often. “It took over an hour to get up there, but it only took me an hour to catch my limit,” Herren said. “I could call my shots today. I literally knew on which pitch and flip I was going to catch a bass.” He culled several times after his initial limit.

Herren reported catching bigger bass in practice but remains concerned with how the current will lessen Thursday. “They’re supposed to stop pulling water Wednesday night and that could really affect me on Thursday,” he said. “This place fishes just like the Mobile Delta, so I feel like I know where the fish will position themselves in the current.”

Rounding out the top-five pros are BFGoodrich Tires pro David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn. (five bass, 20 pounds, 1 ounce); reigning Bassmaster Classic champion Takahiro Omori of Emory, Texas (five bass, 19 pounds, 13 ounces); Todd Ary of Birmingham, Ala. (five bass, 18 pounds, 7 ounces); and Keith Pace of Monticello, Ark. (five bass, 17 pounds, 12 ounces).

Omori caught a 6-pound, 12-ounce bass Wednesday to earn Snickers Big Bass honors in the Pro Division. He earned $750 for his big bass.

Roy Altman Jr. of Augusta, Ga., leads the Co-angler Division thanks to his catch Wednesday of four bass that weighed 12 pounds, 2 ounces. He fished with Gary Yamamoto of Mineola, Texas, who is currently 60th on the pro side.

“Man we had a great day out there today,” Altman said. “All my success is due to my partner and his area.”

Yamamoto and Altman, both successful lure manufacturers in their own rights, made the run to Felsenthal, and Altman said it didn’t take long to start feeling good about the day.

“I zeroed both days at the last tournament, so I just prayed to catch a keeper in this tournament,” Altman said. “I threw my Buckeye spinnerbait by one of those cypress trees, and I saw this huge fish come out of the tree after it. I wrestled her into the boat and got her in the livewell when I noticed the boat had spun around back to that same tree. I threw in there again and caught a 2-1/2 pounder off the same tree. At that point Gary laughed and said, ‘Don’t throw in there again,’”

Rounding out the top-five co-anglers are Todd Lee of Jasper, Ala. (five bass, 12 pounds); Merle Wells Jr. of Hammond, N.Y. (five bass, 11 pounds, 13 ounces); Sondra Rankin of Paducah, Ky. (five bass, 11 pounds, 1 ounce); and the co-angler champion from the last tournament, Ken Chapman of Woodlawn, Tenn. (five bass, 10 pounds, 13 ounces).

Altman claimed the Snickers Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division Wednesday thanks to that huge bass that hit his spinnerbait -- a 6-pound, 9-ounce largemouth worth $375.

Anglers will take off from Forsythe Park in Monroe each morning at 7. Thursday’s weigh-in will also be held at the marina beginning at 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 2701 Louisville Avenue in Monroe beginning at 5 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.

The community is invited to attend the free Family Fun Zone Friday and Saturday outside the weigh-in tent in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The Family Fun Zone, which opens at 3 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday, features interactive displays, product samples and games for the entire family to enjoy.

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 2005 Forrest L. Wood Championship, set for July 13-16 in Hot Springs, Ark., on Lake Hamilton. The $1.5 million championship presented by Castrol awards the winning pro $500,000 cash, the sport’s largest award, and features a world-class outdoor show with more than 140 booths and displays for everything from crankbaits to bass boats.

Complete coverage of the FLW Tour is broadcast to 82 million Fox Sports Net (FSN) subscribers as part of the “FLW Outdoors” television program. “FLW Outdoors” airs Sundays at 11 a.m. Eastern time.

Named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood, FLW Outdoors administers the Wal-Mart FLW Tour and seven other national tournament circuits offering a combined $30 million in awards through 214 events in 2005. The 27-year-old organization is the purveyor of America’s largest and most prestigious fishing tournaments, including the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, EverStart Series, Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye League, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour and Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series.

For more information on 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 title sponsor of the FLW Tour in 1997 and today is the title sponsor of all FLW Outdoors events. For more information on Wal-Mart, visit Wal-Mart.com

Editor’s Note: For complete results and high-resolution photos, visit the Media Center located at the top of FLWOutdoors.com.