JASPER, Texas (Feb. 8, 2007) – Pro Stephen Johnston of Hemphill, Texas, caught a five-bass limit weighing 19 pounds, 9 ounces Thursday to capture the lead in the $275,225 Stren Series Texas Division tournament presented by Evinrude on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. With a two-day catch of 10 bass weighing 38-11, he now holds a 2-pound, 11-ounce lead over second place pro Randy Millender of Teague, Texas, who managed to haul in a total of 10 bass weighing 35-7 during the first two days of competition.
“I’m fishing in some popular areas with a lot of boat traffic,” said Johnston, who caught the majority of his bass on a Sebile Flat Shad, a lipless crankbait from France that recently has been introduced to the United States. “I’m just keeping that bait right above the grass in 4 to 9 feet of water.
“The first fish I caught today was a 6-pounder and it settled me down to where I could relax and just fish,” Johnston added.
Johnston’s lipless crankbait bite died about 10 a.m., and he slowed down his approach and fished a Texas rig and a worm rigged wacky-style to fill his limit.
“My goal right now is to catch everything I can to make the top 10 and just go for broke Saturday,” Johnston said.
Rounding out the top five pros are Charles Haralson of Laredo, Texas (10 bass, 34-6); Frank Lebaron of Lake Charles, La. (10 bass, 32-1); and Dicky Newberry of Houston, Texas (10 bass, 31-3).
Ronnie Hopkins, Jr. of Mounds, Okla., earned $300 for the Snickers Big Bass award in the Pro Division thanks to a 10-pound, 14-ounce bass.
Overall there were 686 bass weighing 1,637 pounds, 13 ounces caught by pros Thursday. The catch included 87 five-bass limits.
Pros are competing for as much as $65,000, including a 519VX Ranger powered by Evinrude or Yamaha if contingency guidelines are met, and valuable points toward qualifying for the $1 million Stren Series Championship in Mobile, Ala., Nov. 8-11 for a shot at $140,000. After four qualifying events are complete in each of the circuit’s five divisions, the top 40 pros from each division will advance to the championship. 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.
Kerry Barnett of Waldron, Ark., leads the Co-angler Division in the chase for a top award of $35,000, including a 519VX Ranger if contingency guidelines are met. He caught five bass weighing 13-5 while fishing with pro Wayne Brown of Ardmore, Okla., Wednesday and five bass weighing 19-1 while fishing with pro Steve Palmer of Lorena, Texas, Thursday for a total of 10 bass weighing 32-6.
“Fishing was great today,” Barnett said. “My pro, Steve Palmer, took me to an area where I caught a couple of 3-pounders and then an 8-pounder. I had a good day and the good Lord blessed me.
“Since the format changed in the Stren Series, I just need a couple of fish to make the top 10, but I’m going to go out and catch as much as possible, because in the end it’s the cumulative weight over all four days that matters,” Barnett added.
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Danny Cherry of Kountze, Texas (seven bass, 28-0); Joey Teer of Texarkana, Ark. (seven bass, 27-8); Bill Rogers of Jasper, Texas (nine bass, 24-7); and Phillip Hudnall of Newkirk, Okla. (10 bass, 24-7).
Steve Evans of Lufkin, Texas, earned $150 for the Snickers Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division thanks to an 8-pound, 15-ounce bass.
Overall there were 445 bass weighing 1,046 pounds, 11 ounces caught by co-anglers Thursday. The catch included 32 five-bass limits.
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.
Anglers will take off at morning from Umphrey Family Pavilion located at 5438 RR 225 West in Sam Rayburn, Texas. Friday’s weigh-in will be held at the marina beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday’s weigh-in will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 800 W. Gibson St. in Jasper, Texas, beginning at 4 p.m. Takeoffs and weigh-ins are free and open to the public.
Stren Series tournaments are four-day events consisting of two rounds. The entire field competes Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. At the conclusion of Friday’s weigh-in, the field is cut to the top 10 pros and co-anglers based on the heaviest three-day accumulated weights. These anglers continue competition Saturday, with the winners determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from all four days.
FLW Outdoors historically maintains a 98 percent live release rate in all of its bass tournaments.
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 of 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.