In one of the season’s closest finishes, Klinger emerged from the West to top a final-round field that included such tournament heavyweights as two-time Beaver Lake champion Clark Wendlandt and tournament veterans Mike Surman, Dion Hibdon and Tom Monsoor. Klinger got his start in the Colorado River Division of the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League and advanced to the FLW Tour via the Western Division of the EverStart Series, where he ranked 13th in the division’s inaugural season in 2003. His previous best FLW Tour finish was a 65th-place effort on Lake Okeechobee in January.
“This looks like water back home,” said Klinger, who has 14 FLW Outdoors top-10 finishes, including the win. “It’s kind of a mixture between Lake Shasta, Lake Mead and Lake Oroville. This is my first year on the tour and I’ve had a couple of bad tournaments, but it’s starting to warm up. I think I’ll have a couple more good tournaments.”
Klinger made a key change to his pattern thanks to a tip from one of his co-angler partners, and that change handed him the most lucrative win of his career. “I had a couple of really bad practice days, and I fished with a guy who told me a jerkbait was pretty good,” he said. “We caught a few, and then I got on a top-water pattern that was kind of the deal for me until the tournament began. My partner caught them on a jig and that kind of opened my eyes, and that was the winning pattern. I still threw a top-water all four days, and I still threw the jerkbait, but the jig was the key to catching the big fish.”
Klinger caught the vast majority of his bass over the course of the tournament out of a small bay rich in brush piles and rock piles not far from the launch site. He estimates he burned less than six gallons of gas in four days traveling to and from his hot spot.
Rounding out the top five pros are Powers (10 bass, 23 pounds, 4 ounces, $100,000); Monsoor, La Crosse, Wis. (10 bass, 23 pounds, 3 ounces, $50,000); Wendlandt, Cedar Park, Texas (10 bass, 19 pounds, 5 ounces, $40,000); and Mark Hardin of Canton, Ga. (10 bass, 18 pounds, 6 ounces, $30,000).
Rick Turner of Tyler, Texas, earned $40,000 cash Friday as winner of the Co-angler Division. He claimed the win with a one-day total of five bass weighing 7 pounds, 13 ounces.
Yamaha pro Dean Rojas of Grand Saline, Texas, entered the tournament with a one-point lead in Land O’Lakes Angler of the Year points standings but fell to 13th after a disappointing 139-place finish at Beaver. Tracy Adams of Wilkesboro, N.C., is now king of the hill with 715 points, followed closely by Shinichi Fukae of Osaka, Japan, with 712 points. Fukae finished sixth at the Beaver Lake tournament.
The tournament began Wednesday from Prairie Creek Marina in Rogers with 200 pros and 200 co-anglers competing for two days for one of 10 slots in both divisions in Friday’s competition. Co-angler competition concluded Friday, and the 10 pros continued competition Saturday with the winner determined by the heaviest two-day weight.
In 2000, FLW Outdoors announced its partnership with the FishAmerica Foundation, and since then, FLW Outdoors has directly donated approximately $200,000 and helped to generate more than $1 million for local conservation projects. Each FLW Tour host site benefits from a $5,000 donation from FLW Outdoors and the FishAmerica Foundation, and this year’s beneficiary is the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, which will use the money to construct and place PVC fish shelters near the lower end of Beaver Lake. The PVC fish shelters will provide habitat and cover to act as fish attractors.
The four-day tournament is the fourth of seven events that comprise the $6.8 million Wal-Mart FLW Tour, which culminates with the record-setting $1.5 million Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship and Outdoor Show in Birmingham, Ala., Aug. 11-14. At the championship, the winning pro earns the sport’s largest cash award, $500,000, and fishing fans are treated to hundreds of displays featuring special offers on everything from crankbaits to bass boats. Featuring two $500,000 events, two $900,000 events and two $1.25 million Open events during the regular season, the FLW Tour is the nation’s top tournament circuit.
Kentucky Lake near Benton, Ky., will host the fifth regular-season FLW Tour stop May 12-15 followed by the Forrest Wood Open on Lake Champlain near Plattsburgh, N.Y., June 23-26.
Coverage of the Wal-Mart Open will be broadcast to 65 million Outdoor Life Network subscribers on the “FLW Outdoors” television program. A tournament preview featuring bass-fishing legend Hank Parker will air April 18 at 1 p.m. Eastern time and April 22 at 5 p.m. Eastern time. Fishing fans can watch the tournament weigh-in with hosts Carlton Wing, Taylor Carr and Charlie Evans April 25 at 1 p.m. and April 29 at 5 p.m. Eastern time. Tournament veteran Larry Nixon will host a tournament wrap-up May 2 at 1 p.m. Eastern time and May 6 at 5 p.m. Eastern time.
The winner of the FLW Tour stop on Beaver Lake will also be featured on “FLW Outdoors Presented by Wal-Mart” on Sunday from 9-11 a.m. Eastern time. The cutting-edge radio program hosted by Keith Lebowitz and Tony Casillas is broadcast live on the World Wide Web at FLWOutdoors.com. The show is also broadcast throughout Texas and parts of Oklahoma on Fox Sports 1190 AM KFXR in Dallas. Listeners who would like to ask a question of any show guest can e-mail the question to email@example.com. The show will broadcast live Sunday from the Wal-Mart Supercenter at 3919 N. Mall Ave. in Fayetteville.
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.