Anglers who qualify for the prestigious championship following the Forrest Wood Open on New York's Lake Champlain June 23-26 will be seeded according to their year-end rankings and will compete in head-to-head matches on Logan Martin Lake for a top award of $500,000 cash.
Championship contenders will take off from Pell City Lakeside Park, located at 2801 Stemley Bridge Road, at 7 a.m. each day, and daily weigh-ins will be held at 5 p.m. at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. The outdoor show featuring more than 140 exhibits and free daily giveaways runs 2 to 8 p.m. Aug. 11 and 12, noon to 9 p.m. Aug. 13, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 14. One lucky fan attending the final weigh-in Aug. 14 at 5 p.m. will win a NASCAR Limited Series Ranger 521 DVX bass boat powered by a 225-horsepower Evinrude courtesy of The Birmingham News and Birmingham Post-Herald. Watch the papers for details starting June 13. Only registered participants present at the final weigh-in Aug. 14 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex are eligible to win.
"Alabama has a rich history of supporting professional bass fishing through the Alabama Bass Trail," said Barnett Lawley, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. "The 2004 FLW Tour Championship and accompanying outdoor show will have a tremendous economic impact on the state as thousands of fans from around the world visit Birmingham for the event."
Thanks to growing sponsor support and incredible payouts that now rival other professional sports like golf, tennis and NASCAR, competitive bass fishing is more popular than ever before. This popularity among the nation's 53 million fishing enthusiasts is expected to produce an economic impact of $50 million for Birmingham as thousands of fans, hundreds of sponsor representatives and support personnel, and hundreds of vendors visit the city for this one-of-a-kind event.
"The 2004 FLW Tour illustrates just how far professional bass fishing has come thanks to the involvement of world-class sponsors like Wal-Mart and others who recognized, early on, the meaningful impact the sport can have on consumers," said Irwin L. Jacobs, chairman, FLW Outdoors. "Professional fishing has come into its own in recent years, and everyone involved in the sport is reaping rewards, including sponsors, anglers, fans and hosts."
Last year's FLW Tour Championship in Richmond, Va., was dubbed "the Super Bowl of fishing" by Virginia Business magazine after attracting 30,000-plus visitors to the newly opened Greater Richmond Convention Center during the four-day event. The championship produced 394 articles in magazines and newspapers with a combined circulation of 47.5 million worldwide. This exposure, valued at $1.4 million by Burrelle's/Luce Media Analysis, helped elevate the city's reputation among anglers and propelled championship winner David Dudley of Lynchburg, Va., into the sport's upper echelon.
Notable pros who are virtually assured a spot in the 2004 Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship based on their performance through five of the tour's six qualifying events are current No. 1 seed and Japan Bass Angler of the Year Shinichi Fukae of Osaka, Japan; Yamaha pro and No. 2 seed Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La., who has assembled what is arguably the sport's most impressive record in 2004 with multiple top-10 finishes on both the FLW Tour and Bassmaster Tour; Castrol pro and Gambler-Bang co-founder Mike Surman of Boca Raton, Fla., who is currently the No. 3 seed and on track for the best season of his career; tour veteran and No. 4 seed Tracy Adams of Wilkesboro, N.C.; Kellogg's pro and No. 5 seed Clark Wendlandt of Cedar Park, Texas, the tour's only two-time Angler of the Year; and Dudley, the FLW Outdoors' all-time leading money winner and Team Castrol pro who is currently the No. 14 seed with one qualifier remaining.
Notable pros still on the bubble heading into the tour's final qualifier are No. 48 seed and Banana Boat pro Kevin Vida of Clare, Mich.; former FLW Tour Champion Dion Hibdon of Stover, Mo., who is currently the No. 51 seed; angling legend Larry Nixon of Bee Branch, Ark., who occupies the No. 52 spot; veteran pro Mike Wurm of Hot Springs, Ark., who ranks as the No. 54 seed; and BFGoodrich Tires pro Scott Martin of Clewiston, Fla., who is currently the No. 55 seed.
Birmingham's hometown favorite, Team Tyson pro Todd Ary, is currently the No. 61 seed. The complete championship field listing the tour's top 48 anglers will be posted on FLWOutdoors.com June 27.
Following the two-day opening round, 24 anglers advance to the semifinal round based on their two-day accumulated weight. Head-to-head competition continues in the one-day semifinal round, after which 12 anglers advance to the final round. The 12 finalists start from zero and compete for one day to determine the winner of the sport's top award - $500,000. Even the pro who finishes 48th earns $15,000 just for qualifying for the championship.
Forty-eight co-anglers, who are paired with the pros and fish from the back deck, will compete for two days, after which the top 24 anglers based on accumulated weight advance to the third and final day of co-angler competition. Weights are cleared for the co-angler final round, and the winner takes home $25,000.
Named after Forrest L. Wood, the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, 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.
Sixteen FLW Outdoors tournaments will be held in Alabama this season.
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.
For more information on FLW Outdoors and its tournament circuits, visit FLWOutdoors.com. To plan your trip to Birmingham for the $1.5 million Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship and outdoor show Aug. 11-14, visit Birminghamal.org.