In addition to the lucrative cash awards, the Forrest Wood Open also presents the final chance for anglers to rack up crucial points that determine Land O'Lakes Angler of the Year standings and the playing field for the $1.5 million Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship, which awards the winning pro $500,000 cash - the sport's largest championship award. The top 48 pros and 48 co-anglers based on points standings following the Lake Champlain event will advance to the championship Aug. 11-14 on Logan Martin Lake in Birmingham, Ala.
Currently leading the points race is reigning Japan Bass Angler of the Year Shinichi Fukae of Osaka, Japan, on the strength of three top-10 finishes in five attempts. A rookie on the FLW Tour, Fukae is trailed by Yamaha pro and tournament veteran Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La., who has a 33-point deficit heading into the Forrest Wood Open. Hackney has scored two top-10 finishes during the 2004 season - his first top-10 finishes on the FLW Tour in his fourth full season of competition. If Fukae holds on to win Angler of the Year, it would be the first time in bass-fishing history that an angler held the prestigious title in two countries. Since the Land O'Lakes Angler of the Year is annually featured on the Kellogg's Corn Flakes box, it would also mark the first such appearance for a Japanese bass pro.
One pro looking to make a move up the leaderboard and into the championship at the Forrest Wood Open is Tom Monsoor of La Crosse, Wis., who is currently the No. 63 seed despite two top-five finishes this season. Monsoor expects the tournament to be anybody's game due to the sheer quality of the Lake Champlain fishery. "Everybody is going to catch them," Monsoor said. "I think this one will go right down to the wire. It will really surprise me if somebody runs away with it." Monsoor also expects Champlain's plump smallmouths to comprise as much as 75 to 80 percent of the top weights. He predicts that Norman crankbaits will be productive baits around the underwater rock piles up north, but says a Yamamoto Senko or Kinami Flash and a 1-ounce jig will likely be the lures of choice around the lake's lush beds of milfoil.
Anglers will take off from Mooney Bay Marina in Plattsburgh at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday and at 8 a.m. Friday. Wednesday and Thursday's weigh-ins will also be held at Mooney Bay Marina beginning at 3 p.m. 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 encouraged 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.
The full field competes in the two-day opening round for one of 10 slots in Friday's competition based on their two-day accumulated weight. Weights are cleared for day three, and co-angler competition concludes following Friday's weigh-in. The 10 pros continue competition Saturday, with the winner determined by the heaviest two-day weight.
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.
2004 marks the most lucrative FLW Tour season to date, as the popular tournament series features a $6.8 million purse, including two $500,000 events, two $900,000 events and two $1.25 million Open events that lead to the FLW Tour Championship in Birmingham. Held in conjunction with the championship is a world-class outdoor show featuring more than 140 exhibits for everything from crankbaits to bass boats. The show, which features free daily giveaways, runs 2 to 8 p.m. Aug. 11 and 12, noon to 9 p.m. Aug. 13, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 14. One lucky fan attending the final weigh-in Aug. 14 at 5 p.m. will win a NASCAR Limited Series Ranger 521 DVX bass boat powered by a 225-horsepower Evinrude courtesy of The Birmingham News and Birmingham Post-Herald. Only registered participants present at the final weigh-in Aug. 14 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex are eligible to win. Visit FLWOutdoors.com for additional information on the FLW Tour Championship and Outdoor Show.
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.
Named after Forrest L. Wood, the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, 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.