HENDERSON, Nev. (Feb. 22, 2007) – Pro Jeff Michels of Lakehead, Calif., caught four bass weighing 9 pounds, 8 ounces Thursday to capture the lead in the $275,225 Stren Series Western Division tournament presented by Evinrude on Lake Mead. With a two-day catch of nine bass weighing 21-11, he now holds a 1-pound, 7-ounce lead over second place pro Tom Phillips of Corona, Calif., who managed to haul in a total of 10 bass weighing 20-6 during the first two days of competition.

“I’m ecstatic that I am leading, but who knows, I could blank tomorrow,” said Michels, who is a fulltime fireman when he is not fishing. “We have a weather front that is approaching the area and I hope that it improves the bite some. It’s been really slow so far this week. I didn’t even have a fish in the boat until noon today.”

“If the bite picks up, I think I am around enough fish to make a run at the win. If I could just get a limit the next two days, I would be a whole lot more confident.”

Michels is throwing a drop-shot rig on really light line around bottom contours and breaklines in 10 to 20 feet of water to catch his bass.

Rounding out the top five pros are Tom Matsunaga of Gardena, Calif. (eight bass, 20 pounds); Jimmy Reese of Witter Springs, Calif. (nine bass, 17 pounds); and Fred Ward of Phoenix, Ariz. (six bass, 16 pounds).

Jamie Cyphers of Las Vegas, Nev., earned $211 for the Snickers Big Bass award in the Pro Division thanks to a 6-pound, 4-ounce bass.

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.

Scott Christenson of Hollister, Calif., 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 three bass weighing 7-10 while fishing with pro Michael Tuck of Antelope, Calif., Wednesday and one bass weighing 3-14 while fishing with pro Brian Kowalski of Escondido, Calif., Thursday for a total of four bass weighing 11-8.

Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Russell Schmidt of Martinez, Calif. (five bass, 10-11); Tom Pryor of Kingman, Ariz. (five bass, 9-12); Richard Garlock of Alexandria Bay, N.Y. (three bass, 9-11); and Ronald Schneider of Sandy, Ore. (five bass, 9-3).

John Bitting of Westminster, Calif., earned $113 for the Snickers Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division thanks to a 4-pound, 12-ounce bass.

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 6:30 each morning from Callville Bay – Forever Resorts located at HCR-30 in Las Vegas, Nev. 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 300 East Lake Mead Drive in Henderson, Nev., 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.