In the fall of 2005, the National Guard entered into a marketing partnership with FLW Outdoors. Since then, the National Guard has demonstrated unprecedented support for the sport of professional angling. For example, beginning in 2007, the National Guard will sponsor the National Guard Open as part of the $9.5 million FLW Tour. Moreover, the National Guard answered the call from Western anglers for big-money, televised events in California, Washington and Arizona with the introduction of the National Guard Western Division of the Wal-Mart FLW Series.
In 2007, the 12-member National Guard angling team will consist of bass-fishing pros Martin, Pirch, Jonathan Newton, Ramie Colson, Tim Klinger and Derek Jones as well as co-anglers Pam Wood, Diane DeLaGarza, Pat Lay, Adam Lock, Rachel Urbie and Justin Lucas. Newton, Colson, Klinger and Jones are holdovers from the 2006 team.
Part of Martin's fame may come from his familiar last name and charming smile, but make no mistake, this Florida boy can fish with the best of them. Raised on the shores of Lake Okeechobee under the bass tutelage of his widely known father, Roland, Martin has been rooted in fishing his entire life. Martin began competing on the FLW Tour as a pro in 2000 and has quickly ascended to the sport's upper echelon. In fact, Martin has already accumulated over $670,000 in FLW Outdoors events, including two FLW Tour victories. Martin's 2006 season was especially impressive, as he finished fourth at the FLW Tour Lake Champlain event and fifth in the season-long Land O'Lakes Angler of the Year race.
"Over the past year or so I've forged a relationship with Frank and the National Guard," Martin said. "They stand for tremendous values, and I try to stand for the same ones. I can't wait to stand up and wear the colors for them."
Martin will fish the FLW Tour and the BP Eastern Division of the FLW Series in 2007.
"Angler of the Year is something I've been really honing in on. I learn more and more about my strengths and weaknesses every year I fish," Martin said.
Pirch rose from the ranks of the Stren Series Western Division when it began in 2003. There, he established himself as one of the most consistent, well-rounded anglers on the nascent Western circuit. After having competed in the Stren Series Championship in both 2003 and 2004, Pirch earned his wings and turned his sights toward the FLW Tour. He first popped up on radar at Beaver Lake during his rookie season in 2005, where he finished fourth. In 2006, he managed two more top-10 finishes, at Lake Murray and again at Beaver Lake. Proving his mettle at a young age, Pirch qualified for the 2006 FLW Tour Championship as the 41st-ranked angler. Following the recent influx of Western anglers, Pirch will travel on tour with his wife and two daughters in a National Guard-wrapped Chevy Suburban.
"When Sergeant O'Laughlin came to me at the Lake of the Ozarks event, I was real excited," said the Ranger-Yamaha pro. "To promote something honorable that I really believe in is great. It's just a great team to be a part of."
In 2007, Pirch will focus most of his efforts on the FLW Tour and National Guard Western Division of the FLW Series.
"Fishing for that kind of money in the West is a big deal. I'm excited to fish some lakes that I've had past success on," he said. "This new circuit will really showcase the West."
Sgt. 1st Class Frank O'Laughlin with the National Guard said: "Just like FLW Outdoors, the National Guard is looking to make every situation they're involved with better. With the new team and the new National Guard Western Division of the FLW Series, I believe FLW Outdoors and the National Guard are enhancing the sport as a whole. We couldn't be prouder of our new team and we're excited for the upcoming season."
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 will 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.