“This feels pretty good considering it’s my first (FLW Tour) tournament,” Lane said. “I was a little shaky going out there this morning, but I put a big one in the boat, then another, and I figured I could play with these boys.”
Lane earned the day’s Snickers Big Bass award of $750 in the Pro Division with an 8-pound, 15-ounce largemouth. He also caught an 8-pound, 9-ounce bass Wednesday while flipping a Gambler BB Cricket to matted vegetation and casting Senkos and worms between the floating mats. One particular 10-foot by 10-foot area produced his big bass and a 3-pounder in a matter of minutes.
“I was culling 12- and 13-inch bass all day,” he said. “Then I caught the two big ones and sat down and smiled for about 30 minutes.”
Despite less than ideal conditions that left 48 of the 400 anglers representing the United States, Japan, Spain and Australia without a single fish, 102 pros and 29 co-anglers managed to reel in five-bass limits, including nine that topped 15 pounds. Overall, however, the lake was relatively stingy, producing 1,170 bass weighing 1,964 pounds, 10 ounces compared to last year’s opening-day haul of 1,589 bass weighing 3,170 pounds, 5 ounces.
Last year’s hurricanes had a significant impact on the lake, as high winds and water swept away large areas of vegetation and stirred up fine sediment that is reluctant to settle out of the water. A strong cold front that passed through the region Tuesday also contributed to the difficult fishing, as water temperatures dropped into the mid 50s to low 60s. Considering these environmental factors, anglers are limited to a few small areas of the massive lake where clear water – and keeper largemouths – can be found.
“The lake is fishing the smallest it has ever fished,” said Clewiston native and BFGoodrich Tires pro Scott Martin, who is 1 ounce out of the top 10 with five bass weighing 14 pounds 8 ounces. “One area we’ve fished all week has been clear, but the wind calmed down today and the lake backed up into it mudding the water, so conditions are changing daily. The person who can best predict those changes is going to win.”
Green (five bass, 22 pounds, 12 ounces); Pedigree pro Greg Pugh of Cullman, Ala. (five bass, 19 pounds, 13 ounces); Brent Chapman of Lake Quivira, Kan. (five bass, 19 pounds, 12 ounces); and Kelly Jordon of Mineola, Texas, (five bass, 17 pounds, 9 ounces) rounded out the top five pros.
Jim Short of Ocean Pines, Md., leads the Co-angler Division thanks to his catch of five bass that weighed 12 pounds, 14 ounces. He fished with pro Mark Pack of Mineola, Texas, who is had five bass weighing 12 pounds, 15 ounces and is currently 14th on the pro side.
“It always feels good to be leading these things,” said Short, who caught his bass on 7-inch and 10 1/2-inch Zoom worms and Lake Fork tubes and craws. “It means that you don’t have to work so hard to catch up. You still have to work, but being in first and leading by 2 pounds is a heck of a lot better than being 2 pounds out of the cut and trying to make cup ground.”
Rounding out the top-five co-anglers are Roy Altman Jr. of Augusta, Ga. (five bass, 10 pounds, 12 ounces); Tim Peek of Sharpsburg, Ga. (five bass, 10 pounds); Tyrone Phillips of Little Rock, Ark. (five bass, 9 pounds, 11 ounces); and Frank Meyer of Marianna, Fla. (five bass, 9 pounds, 10 ounces).
Larry Dix of Bella Vista, Ark., claimed the Snickers Big Bass award and $375 in the Co-angler Division Wednesday with a 7-pound, 5-ounce bass that he caught on a Senko.
Anglers competing in the $900,000 tournament presented by EverStart Batteries will take off from Roland and Mary Ann Martin’s Marina in Clewiston each morning at 7. Thursday’s weigh-in will also be held at the marina beginning at 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 1005 W. Sugarland Highway in Clewiston beginning at 5 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.
The community is invited to attend the free Family Fun Zone Friday and Saturday outside the weigh-in tent in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The Family Fun Zone, which opens at 3 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday, features interactive displays, product samples and games for the entire family to enjoy.
Following Thursday’s competition, the field will be narrowed from 200 competitors per division to 10, and weights will be cleared for Friday’s competition. Co-angler competition concludes Friday based on the heaviest one-day weight, and pros continue competition Saturday with the winner determined by the heaviest two-day weight. The winning co-angler earns $20,000 while the winning pro earns $100,000.
Anglers are also competing this week for valuable points that determine Land O’ Lakes Angler of the Year standings and the field for the 2005 Forrest L. Wood Championship, set for July 13-16 in Hot Springs, Ark., on Lake Hamilton. The $1.5 million championship presented by Castrol awards the winning pro $500,000 cash, the sport’s largest award, and features a world-class outdoor show.
Complete coverage of the FLW Tour’s stop on Lake Okeechobee will be broadcast on Fox Sports Net (FSN) Feb. 6 and Feb. 13 as part of the “FLW Outdoors” television program. Following the Feb. 6 debut, “FLW Outdoors” will air every Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern time on FSN.
Named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood, FLW Outdoors administers the Wal-Mart FLW Tour and seven other national tournament circuits offering a combined $30 million in awards through 214 events in 2005. The 27-year-old organization is the purveyor of America’s largest and most prestigious fishing tournaments, including the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, EverStart 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 and Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series.
Wal-Mart and many of America’s largest and most respected companies support FLW Outdoors and its tournament trails. Wal-Mart signed on as title sponsor of the FLW Tour in 1997 and today is the title sponsor of all FLW Outdoors events.
For more information on Wal-Mart, visit Wal-Mart.com. For more information on FLW Outdoors and its tournament programs, visit FLWOutdoors.com or call (270) 252-1000. For more information on FSN, visit FoxSports.com.