Namiki and Hackney continue Angler of the Year battle

LAPLATA, Md. (June 24, 2005) - Mike Iaconelli of Runnemede, N.J., caught a five-bass limit weighing 21 pounds Friday to lead the $1.25 million Chevy Open presented by Kellogg's on the Potomac River. At stake are a $200,000 top award, qualification for the Forrest L. Wood Championship and the coveted Land O'Lakes Angler of the Year title, which will go to either Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La., or Toshinari Namiki of Hachioji-City, Japan.

Hackney held a seven-point lead over Namiki coming into the tournament, so if he finishes at least six places ahead of Namiki on Saturday he will win the title. Hackney is currently in 10th place with five bass weighing 10 pounds, 10 ounces and Namiki is ninth with five bass weighing 12 pounds.

"I'm going to pull my pants up and fish a little harder tomorrow," said Hackney, who finished second in both the FLW and Bassmaster tour points last season.

Iaconelli, a former Bassmaster Classic champion who could surpass $1 million in career winnings with a victory here, caught the majority of his bass using a Berkley Sinking Minnow in watermelon color with black flakes.

"It was one of those days when everything went perfect," Iaconelli said. "I love this place. Some of my first tournaments were here in the early 1990s in the BFL. To come back here 10 years later as a pro on the FLW Tour is awesome. If you're fishing the FLW Tour, you're fishing against the best anglers in the world. It's a great organization, and I love these events.

"The fishing will be tougher tomorrow. There will be more boats on the water and other tournaments. But you have to forget about today and fish like you're starting from zero."

Kellogg's pro Clark Wendlandt of Cedar Park, Texas, caught five bass weighing 17 pounds, 4 to secure the No. 2 spot heading into the final day of competition, while fellow Kellogg's pro Sam Newby of Pocola, Okla., caught five bass weighing 14 pounds, 14 ounces to grab the No. 3 spot.

Pro Gary Yamamoto of Mineola, Texas (five bass, 14 pounds, 13 ounces) and Land O'Lakes pro Jerry Williams of Conway, Ark. (five bass, 14 pounds, 12 ounces) round out the top five pros.

Namiki, Williams and Wendlandt have all earned four top-10 finishes in a single season - Namiki this year, Williams in 1998 and Wendlandt in 1999 and 2000. Only Denny Brauer of Camdenton, Mo., has earned more top 10s in a single season (five in 1998).

Pat Wilson of Penngrove, Calif., took top honors and $40,000 in the Co-angler Division with five bass weighing 14 pounds, 6 ounces. He caught the fish on drop-shot rigged 4- and 6-inch Robo Worms while fishing with pro Gary

Yamamoto of Mineola, Texas.

"At about 1:30 p.m., I only had two keepers," said Wilson, who has earned 12 top-10s in Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League and EverStart Series competition. "Then I caught a 5-pounder, and Gary said I needed to get a limit because I had a chance to win. So he pulled up on a spot, put his rod down on the deck and quit fishing. I was able to finish my limit. I only caught six keepers, but they were quality fish."

Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Jason Cordiale of Orinda, Calif. (five bass, 12 pounds, $20,000); Kent McPhail of Lubbock, Texas (five bass, 11 pounds, 12 ounces, $10,000); Roger Hester of Walnut Cove, N.C. (five bass, 10 pounds, 9 ounces, $9,000); and Fred Martin of North Little Rock, Ark. (five bass, 9 pounds, 13 ounces, $8,000).

Anglers will take off Saturday from Smallwood State Park in Marbury at 6:30 a.m. followed by the final weigh-in at the Wal-Mart store located at 40 Drury Drive in LaPlata beginning at 3 p.m.

The community is invited to join the world's top bass anglers as they celebrate the FLW Tour's 10th anniversary in the Family Fun Zone Saturday outside the weigh-in tent in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The Family Fun Zone opens at 11 a.m. Saturday and features interactive displays, product samples and games for the entire family to enjoy.

Tom Arnold and Chris Rose made a special appearance in the Family Fun Zone from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday for a special taping of the FSN hit "Best Damn Sports Show Period," which will air tonight at 10:30 p.m. Arnold and Rose interviewed FLW Tour anglers Jimmy Houston, J.T. Kenney, Chad Grigsby and Kim Bain.

Monte Burke, author of "Sowbelly, the Obsessive Quest for the World Record Largemouth Bass," was also in the Fun Zone Friday autographing copies of his new hit book.

The pros will continue competition Saturday, with the winner determined by the heaviest two-day weight. Pros finishing as low as 50th place earn $10,000.

Only the top 48 pros and top 48 co-anglers in the Land O'Lakes Angler of the Year points race following this event will advance to the Forrest L. Wood Championship 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 payout, and features a world-class outdoor show. Pros earn a minimum of $15,000 just for qualifying.

Complete coverage of the Chevy Open presented by Kellogg's will be broadcast to 82 million FSN subscribers as part of the "Wal-Mart FLW Outdoors" television program July 24 and 31. "Wal-Mart FLW Outdoors" airs Sundays at 11 a.m. Eastern time. Additionally, "Wal-Mart FLW Outdoors" is broadcast by the American Forces Network to 800,000 service men and women stationed around the world in 177 countries and aboard naval ships. Saturday's final weigh-in will also be broadcast live to Wal-Mart stores nationwide by the Wal-Mart Television Network.

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.

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.