Anglers always smile when they see Lake Champlain on the schedule. As Kellogg’s pro Clark Wendlandt of Cedar Park, Texas, once said, “Once you fish Champlain, you’ll never want to fish a southern lake again.” As the weights from Wednesday proved, the famous lake is truly remarkable in terms of quality and quantity of smallmouths and largemouths. The only factor anglers fear on the expansive lake is the wind, and a powerful wind blew straight out of the south all day Thursday, kicking up huge swells and persuading many anglers to stay closer to the takeoff site. Day two weights, although very good by any standard, were down slightly from day one.
Several pros, including Kilby, decided to make a long run south despite the rough water.
“On days like this,” Kilby said, “the hard part is just staying focused and not letting the weather bother you. I ran a good ways, and I think I have enough fish to win the tournament.”
Kilby’s primary pattern consists of pulling a willow-leaf spinnerbait over offshore humps in about 15 feet of water. He is targeting smallmouths.
Rounding out the top five pros are Evinrude pro David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn. (10 bass, 35 pounds, 5 ounces); Aaron Martens of Castaic, Calif. (10 bass, 34 pounds, 13 ounces); Stratos pro Dan Morehead of Paducah, Ky. (10 bass, 34 pounds, 12 ounces); and BFGoodrich Tires pro Scott Martin of Clewiston, Fla. (10 bass, 34 pounds, 11 ounces).
The Land O’Lakes Angler of the Year title for the FLW Tour was also determined at the end of competition on Thursday. Reigning Japan Bass Angler of the Year, Shinichi Fukae of Osaka, Japan – a rookie on the FLW Tour and points leader coming into the event – finished the Forrest Wood Open in 24th place to seal the title. Fukae made three top 10s and earned $75,300 during the six qualifying events. As Angler of the Year, he also earns $25,000 cash and a Ranger 519VS bass boat powered by Yamaha. He will also appear on special-edition boxes of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and will enter the $1.5 million FLW Tour Championship on Alabama’s Logan Martin Lake as the No. 1 seed. There he will compete in head-to-head competition Aug. 11-14 for the sport’s biggest prize – $500,000 cash.
Only the top 48 anglers following the Forrest Wood Open advance to the FLW Tour Championship, which also features a world-class boat and outdoor show with free admission.
Tee Watkins of East Point, Ky., leads the Co-angler Division with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 30 pounds, 2 ounces.
“I struggled this tournament,” Watkins said, “but I caught enough to make the cut. On Wednesday my pro partner, Takahiro Omori, had me switch over to 12-pound fluorocarbon line, and that made a big difference. We were fishing tubes, and with tubes, it’s all about feel. With the strong wind today, I just switched to a heavier weight to get a good feel of the bottom. All the fish I’ve weighed in have been smallmouths caught offshore.
Stacey Smith of Stephens City, Va. (10 bass, 28 pounds, 7 ounces); Greg Gulledge of Monticello, Ark. (10 bass, 28 pounds, 1 ounce); Brantley Peoples of Raleigh, N.C. (10 bass, 27 pounds, 3 ounces); and Rick Parnell of Casselberry, Fla. (10 bass, 27 pounds) round out the top five co-anglers.
Ozark Trail pro Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tenn., won the pro Snickers Big Bass award with a 6-pound, 3-ounce bass worth $750. John Grise of Hot Springs, Ark., won the co-angler Snickers Big Bass award with 5-pound, 10-ounce bass worth $500.
Anglers brought 1,646 bass weighing 3,758 pounds, 8 ounces to the scale Thursday. The catch included 272 limits.
Coverage of the Lake Champlain tournament will be broadcast to 65 million subscribers of the Outdoor Life Network on the “FLW Outdoors” television program. A tournament preview show featuring bass-fishing legend Hank Parker will air June 27 at 1 p.m. Eastern time and July 29 at 5 p.m. Eastern time, and fishing fans can watch the tournament weigh-in with hosts Carlton Wing, Taylor Carr and Charlie Evans Aug. 1 at 1 p.m. and Aug. 5 at 5 p.m. Eastern time. Tournament veteran Larry Nixon will host a tournament wrap-up show Aug. 8 at 1 p.m. Eastern time, and that show will re-air Aug. 12 at 5 p.m. Eastern time.
Anglers will take off from Mooney Bay Marina in Plattsburgh at 8 a.m. Friday and 6:30 a.m. Saturday. Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 25 Consumer Square in Plattsburgh beginning at 5 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.
The community is invited to attend the Family Fun Zone Friday and Saturday outside the weigh-in tent in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The Family Fun Zone features interactive displays, product samples and games for the entire family to enjoy. The Fun Zone will open Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 11 a.m.
In FLW Tour competition, pros and co-anglers are randomly paired each day, with pros supplying the boat, controlling boat movement and competing against other pros. Co-anglers fish from the back deck against other co-anglers.
Named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood, the Wal-Mart FLW Tour is administered by FLW Outdoors, the world’s leading marketer of competitive fishing. Other FLW Outdoors-sanctioned tournament trails are the EverStart Series, the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Tour, the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye League and the Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail.
Wal-Mart and many of America’s most respected companies support FLW Outdoors and its six tournament trails. Wal-Mart has been the title sponsor of FLW Outdoors since 1997.