Shaw landed the win and a $100,000 check with a two-day, final-round total of 10 bass weighing 24 pounds, 8 ounces. He was the only pro to catch a five-bass limit Saturday as weather conditions changed drastically when thunder storms rolled through the area early in the afternoon.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Shaw, who has qualified for all but one Forrest L. Wood Championship since the tour’s inception in 1996. “I had five bites today, and I caught five fish, but I never thought in a million years it would be enough to win. I’ve been in this position too many times and come up short.”
Shaw opened the tournament with a five-bass limit weighing 17 pounds, 8 ounces to place 10th. He then added five bass weighing 14 pounds, 11 ounces to his total Thursday to enter the final round as the No. 4 seed.
On Friday Shaw maintained his place as the No. 4 seed with a five-bass limit weighing 13 pounds, 3 ounces – 4 pounds, 8 ounces behind No. 1 seed Kelly Jordon of Mineola, Texas, who was looking to score his second win of 2005.
Saturday was Shaw’s day, as he rose to the top of the leaderboard with a limit weighing 11 pounds, 5 ounces. When the weigh-in concluded, his margin of victory was just 4 ounces over 21-year-old rookie Michael Bennett of Roseville, Calif., who was hoping to become the youngest pro to ever win an FLW Tour event.
“This was bitter sweet,” said Bennett, who in 2001 became the youngest angler to ever qualify for the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League All-American. “I’m happy to finish second, but a win would have been incredible.”
Bennett, who has earned six top-10 finishes in Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League and EverStart Series competition since 2000, earned $36,000 for finishing second. He caught all but one of his bass this week while sight fishing in several different areas of Guntersville Lake with a drop-shot-rigged 6-inch Pro Worms straight-tail worm.
Shaw also caught spawning bass all week, although he could not actually see the bass. Instead he keyed on holes in shallow grass where bass had prepared spawning beds in Goose Pond. He knew the holes were beds if he worked his bait through and it came back without silt. He marked them with his GPS during practice and returned during competition. He used a green pumpkin Zoom Brush Hog rigged with a 5/16-ounce weight on 16-pound-test Gamma fluorocarbon line.
Jordon (six bass, 23 pounds, 3 ounces, $25,000); Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La. (seven bass, 22 pounds, 8 ounces, $20,000); and Toshinari Namiki of Hachioji City, Japan (five bass, 18 pounds, 9 ounces, $18,000) rounded out the top five pros.
Mark Hicks of Millfield, Ohio, took top honors and $20,000 in the Co-angler Division Friday with four bass weighing 15 pounds, 3 ounces. He caught the fish on 3/8-ounce tungsten jigs tipped with black and red flake and black and blue flake chunk trailers while fishing Browns Creek with Namiki.
Hicks, a regular contributor to Field and Stream and FLW Outdoors Magazine, opened a commanding 5-pound, 10-ounce lead on opening day with five bass weighing 20 pounds, 6 ounces while fishing with Kellogg’s pro Sam Newby of Pocola, Okla. He then slipped to fifth place on day two after zeroing. On day three, with weights cleared, Hicks again took command of the field, earning a victory in his very first FLW Tour event.
Hicks said short casts to grass humps in 7 feet of water were key to his win. “I’d let the jig sink straight to the bottom then snap it through the weeds,” he said. “If I made long casts, the jig wouldn’t sink through the grass.”
Derek Jones of Chicago (three bass, 10 pounds, 3 ounces, $10,000); Greg Fleming of Holly Lake Ranch, Texas (three bass, 9 pounds, 10 ounces, $9,000); Kelly Greer of Green Forest, Ark. (two bass, 7 pounds, 2 ounces, $8,000); and Mark Phillips of Fayetteville, Ark. (two bass, 4 pounds, 4 ounces, $7,000) rounded out the top five co-anglers.
In addition to a top award of $100,000 and cash awards of $10,000 through 50th place in the Pro Division, anglers were 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 payout, and features a world-class outdoor show.
Complete coverage of the FLW Tour stop on Wheeler Lake will be broadcast on FSN June 5 and June 12 as part of the “Wal-Mart FLW Outdoors” television program. “Wal-Mart FLW Outdoors” airs every Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern time on FSN.
With five tournaments now complete, FLW Outdoors has maintained a live release rate in excess of 98 percent on the FLW Tour. If the average release rate stays above 98 percent throughout the entire season, Energizer will donate $25,000 to the Children’s Miracle Network.
The next and last qualifying event on the $7.6 million Wal-Mart FLW Tour will be a $1.25 Million Chevy Open on the Potomac River in Charles County, Md., June 22-25. The tournament is hosted by the Charles County Office of Tourism.
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.