Jordon keyed on bream beds Wednesday using a Lake Fork Baby Creature to put a limit weighing 22 pounds, 15 ounces in the boat and finish the day in third place. He then added five bass weighing 14 pounds, 2 ounces to his total Thursday using a War Eagle spinnerbait, a Lake Fork Baby Craw and a Lake Fork Baby Creature to enter the final round as the No. 1 seed. On Friday Jordon keyed on bream beds again, catching two bass on the Baby Creature, two bass on the Baby Craw and one bass on a Senko.
“One of my bigger fish came out of 8-inches of water,” said Jordon, who won the 2005 season opener and $100,000 on Lake Okeechobee in January. “I could see her chasing bream and had to make a really long cast. It was so shallow I never thought a fish would be there, but if you see bream, there are bass around.”
FLW Tour rookie Michael Bennett, 21, of Roseville, Calif., caught five bass weighing 15 pounds, 3 ounces to secure the No. 2 spot heading into the final day of competition, while Chad Grigsby of Colon, Mich., caught five bass weighing 13 pounds, 13 ounces to grab the No. 3 spot.
Shaw of State Road, N.C. (five bass, 13 pounds, 3 ounces) and Namiki of Hachioji City, Japan (three bass, 12 pounds, 14 ounces) rounded out the top five pros.
The Pro Division was not the only side of the tournament loaded with repeat top-10 performers. In the Co-angler Division, four anglers earned previous top-10 finishes in 2005, including Bill Rogers of Jasper, Texas, who has made three final round appearances. Derek Jones of Chicago and Tee Watkins of East Point, Ky., finished ninth and 10th, respectively, at the Wal-Mart Open last month on Beaver Lake. And Dwight Ameling of Fremont, Ind., won the Co-angler Division title on Lake Okeechobee in January.
Mark Hicks of Millfield, Ohio, took top honors and $20,000 in the Co-angler Division with four bass weighing 15 pounds, 3 ounces. He caught the fish on 3/8-ounce tungsten jigs tipped with black and red flake and black and blue flake chunk trailers while fishing Browns Creek in Guntersville Lake with Namiki.
Hicks, a regular contributor to Field and Stream and FLW Outdoors Magazine, opened a commanding 5-pound, 10-ounce lead on opening day with five bass weighing 20 pounds, 6 ounces while fishing with Kellogg’s pro Sam Newby of Pocola, Okla. He then slipped to fifth place on day two after coming in empty handed. After starting from zero on day three, Hicks again took command of the field thanks in part to a 7- to 8-pound kicker fish.
“That big fish was the hardest fighting largemouth that I have ever hooked,” said Hicks, who was competing in his first-ever FLW Tour event. “It really wasn’t an easy day. I didn’t have a fish at 11 a.m., then I changed to the jig and caught the big one right off.”
Hicks said short casts to grass humps in 7 feet of water where key to his win. “I’d let the jig sink straight to the bottom then snap it through the weeds,” he said. “If I made long casts, the jig wouldn’t sink through the grass.”
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Jones (three bass, 10 pounds, 3 ounces, $10,000); Greg Fleming of Holly Lake Ranch, Texas (three bass, 9 pounds, 10 ounces, $9,000); Kelly Greer of Green Forest, Ark. (two bass, 7 pounds, 2 ounces, $8,000); and Mark Phillips of Fayetteville, Ark. (two bass, 4 pounds, 4 ounces, $7,000).
Anglers will take off from Riverwalk Marina at 6:30 a.m. Saturday. Saturday’s weigh-in will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 2800 Spring Avenue SW in Decatur beginning at 3 p.m.
The community is invited to join the worlds’ top bass anglers as they celebrate the FLW Tour’s 10th anniversary in the Family Fun Zone outside the weigh-in tent in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The free Family Fun Zone, which opens at 11 a.m., features interactive displays, product samples and games for the entire family to enjoy.
Weights were cleared for Friday’s competition, and pros will continue competition Saturday with the winner determined by the heaviest two-day weight.
In addition to a top award of $100,000 and cash awards of at least $10,000 through 50th place in the Pro Division, anglers are also competing 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 payout, and features a world-class outdoor show.
Complete coverage of the FLW Tour stop on Wheeler Lake will be broadcast on FSN June 5 and June 12 as part of the “Wal-Mart FLW Outdoors” television program. “Wal-Mart FLW Outdoors” airs every Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern time on FSN.
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.
For more information on Wal-Mart, visit Wal-Mart.com. For more information on FLW Outdoors and its tournament programs, visit FLWOutdoors.com or call (270) 252-1000. For more information on FSN, visit FoxSports.com.