"I feel great about my chances," said Pace, who turned pro last season after earning three FLW Tour top-10s as a co-angler in 2004. "If we have a little bit of wind, I think my weight will go up. There are a ton of fish in the area."
While most anglers are flipping matted vegetation or throwing spinnerbaits between mats, Pace is swimming a black and blue Berkley Power Jig with a Netbait Paca Chunk trailer in a foot of water along a north facing bank in Moonshine Bay. Swimming a jig, while unconventional for Lake Okeechobee, is a favorite technique among Arkansas River anglers like Pace.
En route to the final round, Pace caught five bass weighing 8 pounds, 4 ounces on opening day to finish in 97th place and five bass weighing 15 pounds, 14 ounces Thursday to qualify for the finals as the No. 10 seed.
Jordon is using the same bait that produced his win last season. He caught five bass weighing 17 pounds, 12 ounces on opening day to finish fourth and five bass weighing 13 pounds, 9 ounces Thursday to qualify for the finals in the No. 2 spot. His bait of choice: a Blue Bruiser Lake Fork Craw Tube mated with a 3/4-ounce Lake Fork Mega weight. He is flipping the Craw Tube in Moonshine Bay.
Rounding out the top five pros are Shinichi Fukae of Mineola, Texas (five bass, 14 pounds, 8 ounces); Team Chevy pro David Fritts of Lexington, N.C. (five bass, 12 pounds, 12 ounces); and Mark Hardin of Jasper, Ga. (three bass, 9 pounds, 1 ounce).
Tim Johnson of Dallas, Ga., earned a $20,000 victory in the Co-angler Division Friday with five bass weighing 8 pounds, 9 ounces. He caught the bass casting a Rat-L-Trap to an open-water ditch while fishing with Team Chevy pro David Fritts of Lexington, N.C. The ditch dropped from 1 to 5 feet and, according to Johnson, appeared to be a spawning area.
"This feels great," said Johnson, who has earned two top-10s in Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League competition since 2003. "This is the first tournament that I've ever fished as a co-angler. I normally fish as a boater, and I thought that it would be hard fishing in the back of the boat, but I had three terrific partners this week."
Johnson fished with Land O'Lakes pro Karen Savik of St. Louis Park, Minn., on opening day and Toby Hartsell of Livingston, Texas, on day two. Interestingly, Darrell Stevens of Roseland, Va., who finished in 10th place and earned $2,000, also fished with Hartsell and Savik en route to the final round. Stevens has earned more than $119,000 competing as a co-angler on the FLW Tour thanks to 13 top-10 finishes.
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Fred Martin of North Little Rock, Ark. (four bass, 6 pounds, 9 ounces, $10,000); Ron Chapman of Lake Quivira, Kan. (three bass, 6 pounds, 8 ounces, $9,000); Randy Clark of Mobile, Ala. (five bass, 5 pounds, 13 ounces, $8,000) and James Fredieu of Saint Martinville, La. (three bass, 5 pounds, 3 ounces, $7,000)
Overall, 71 bass weighing 145 pounds, 12 ounces, including eight five-bass limits, were caught Friday by the 10 pro and 10 co-angler finalists.
The 10 remaining pros competing in the $900,000 tournament will take off from Roland and Mary Ann Martin's Marina in Clewiston at 7 a.m. Saturday. Saturday's weigh-in will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 1005 W. Sugarland Highway in Clewiston beginning at 4 p.m.
The community is invited to attend the free Family Fun Zone outside the weigh-in tent in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The Family Fun Zone, which opens at 11 a.m., features interactive displays, product samples and games for the entire family to enjoy.
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.
Coverage of the Lake Okeechobee tournament will be broadcast to 78 million FSN (Fox Sports Net) subscribers in the United States as part of the "FLW Outdoors" television programs airing Feb. 19 and Feb. 26. "FLW Outdoors" airs Sunday mornings at 11 Eastern time. "FLW Outdoors" is also broadcast internationally to more than 300 million households in such countries as Germany, China, South Africa, Australia, Malaysia, Russia, Hungary and the United Kingdom, making it the most widely distributed weekly outdoor-sports television show in the world. Additionally, FLW Outdoors is proud to provide tournament coverage to more than 800,000 servicemembers stationed around the world in 177 countries and aboard naval ships through broadcasts on the American Forces Network.
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, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye League, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Series and Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series. These circuits offer combined purses exceeding $36.5 million through 235 events in 2006.
For more information about FLW Outdoors and its tournament programs, visit FLWOutdoors.com or call (270) 252-1000.
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.