ROGERS, Ark. (April 1, 2004) – Stratos pro Craig Powers of Rockwood, Tenn., put himself in good position to claim the $1.25 million Wal-Mart Open’s top prize of $200,000 cash thanks to a five-bass catch Thursday that weighed 13 pounds. His two-day total of 10 bass weighing 27 pounds, 9 ounces leads the 10 pros – out of an original field of 200 – who will compete Friday and Saturday for one of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour’s most lucrative awards. Anglers start over at zero on day three, and the pro with the heaviest two-day weight will take home the crown after Saturday’s final round.

Ten co-anglers also advanced to Friday’s competition, after which the winning co-angler will claim $40,000 based on his one-day weight. The Wal-Mart Open, which is presented by Tyson Foods, takes place each spring on Beaver Lake and is one of three FLW Tour events in 2004 with cash purses of more than $1 million.

Competition was delayed Thursday by Mother Nature’s idea of an April Fools’ joke – a 40-minute fog delay. Fishing continued to be tough, as even fewer bass were brought in, but Powers remained steady, coming close to his day-one weight of 14 pounds, 9 ounces. Both days he hauled in four largemouths and one spotted bass.

“I’m junk fishing, pretty much,” said Powers, who is catching them on a Carolina-rigged finesse worm, a shaky-head worm, a crankbait, and a jig and spoon. “I’m fishing places they ought to be moving to this time of year. I don’t think I can win because the bites I’ve got shouldn’t have been as big as they are, but I have a one in 10 chance of legally winning $200,000, and it doesn’t get any better than that.”

Powers typically does not fare well on Beaver Lake – he finished 110th in 2003, and his best finish on Beaver since his FLW Tour career began in 1999 is 50th. This year he decided to fish it a little differently and avoid the river, and he is reaping the rewards.

“I’ve always stunk here,” he said. “This lake looks like where I’m from in east Tennessee, and every year I fish it like home and go up the river. Well, if the wind doesn’t blow, the river’s dead.”

Rounding out the top five pros are Tim Klinger of Boulder City, Nev. (10 bass, 27 pounds, 3 ounces); day-one leader Shinichi Fukae of Osaka, Japan (10 bass, 23 pounds, 1 ounce); Tom Monsoor of La Crosse, Wis. (10 bass, 22 pounds, 15 ounces); and Castrol pro Mike Surman of Boca Raton, Fla. (10 bass, 22 pounds, 7 ounces).

Keith Pace of Monticello took the lead in the Co-angler Division with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 17 pounds, 6 ounces. Pace is currently leading the co-angler points race thanks to an eighth-place showing at the season opener on Lake Okeechobee, a 20th-place finish at the next event on the Atchafalaya Basin, and a third-place finish at the previous tournament on Old Hickory Lake. Pace continued his hot streak Thursday with a five-bass catch weighing 7 pounds, 3 ounces

“I’ve fished the FLW Tour for (four) years and have learned a lot fishing with the pros,” said Pace, who caught his tournament-leading bass on a green pumpkin Zoom Finesse Worm. “It’s exciting, and I’ve had a good year so far. I’ve had partners that were around fish and that helps, but you still have to catch them. You can fall like a rock. If I can win this one I’ve picked a good one to win.” Pace previously won the 2002 FLW Tour Championship on Cross Lake.

Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Rick Turner of Tyler, Texas (eight bass, 16 pounds, 6 ounces); day-one leader Clayton Reitz of Morton, Ill. (eight bass, 15 pounds); Richard Lowitzki of St. Charles, Ill. (nine bass, 14 pounds, 4 ounces); and Mike Jones of Lebanon, Mo. (eight bass, 13 pounds, 14 ounces). Turner vaulted from 59th place on day one to rank second.

Surman earned $750 Thursday as winner of the Snickers Big Bass award in the Pro Division. His big bass weighed 5 pounds, 9 ounces. Rick Parnell of Casselberry, Fla., claimed Co-angler Division Snickers Big Bass honors and $500 thanks to a 5-pound, 13-ounce bass. Parnell also earned $1,000 from Snickers for catching the heaviest bass of the tournament. Snickers will award an additional $5,000 at the end of the year to the angler who catches the heaviest bass during the regular season. Currently that mark belongs to Yamaha pro Dean Rojas of Grand Saline, Texas, who caught a 10-pound largemouth on Lake Okeechobee in January.Prairie Creek Marina in Rogers will host Friday and Saturday’s takeoffs at 8 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., respectively. The final weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 2110 W. Walnut in Rogers at 5 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday.

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.

Country star Blake Shelton will be on hand Friday to perform a free concert presented by 7UP at Wal-Mart following the semifinal-round weigh-in. Shelton, who first made his mark in 2001 with the No. 1 smash “Austin,” will perform that and other hits including “Ol’ Red” and “The Baby.”

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. Two hundred points are awarded to tournament winners, with 199 for second, 198 for third, and so on. Every angler who receives weight credit in a tournament earns points.

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 keithandtony@flwradio.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.