DETROIT – Steve Clapper of Lima, Ohio, crossed the stage with a five-bass limit weighing 22 pounds even to lead day one of the $1.5 million Wal-Mart FLW Tour Chevy Open on the Detroit River. Clapper now holds a 12-ounce lead in the tournament featuring 200 pros and 200 co-anglers from 35 states, Canada, Italy, Australia and Japan.
“I didn’t really have a great practice,” said Clapper, who has scored 24 top-10 finishes in Stren Series and Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League competition on the Detroit River and Lake Erie since 1997. “I had a couple of areas that had fish on them, but I thought that there would be a lot of people on them.
“I kept trying to find something off the wall a ways away,” Clapper added. “Last week I did more driving than I did fishing. I know there’s something out there I haven’t found yet, but they’re getting tougher and tougher to find.”
Clapper is no stranger to the Detroit River. He has notched five BFL wins on the Detroit River as well as an additional BFL victory on Lake St. Clair. The Ohio angler methodically combed his “stomping grounds” with a drop-shot rig and a tube in dirty water. He focused on areas with depths in the 25-foot range that featured subtle rises. Clapper managed to boat 10 keepers throughout the course of the day.
“I know exactly where they live,” Clapper said. “And if you put it in their face, even when it’s dirty, sometimes you can get them to bite.”
Thomas Moleski of Elkhart, Ind., trails Clapper in the No. 2 spot with five bass weighing 21-4.
Rounding out the top five pros are Terry Baksay of Easton, Conn. (five bass, 19-5); Eric Struif of Lake Villa, Ill. (five bass, 19-5) and Team BP pro David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn. (five bass, 19-5).
Chad Morganthaler of Coulterville, Ill., earned the day’s $1,000 Snickers Big Bass award in the Pro Division thanks to a 5-pound, 10-ounce bass he caught on a Magic Goby-colored Berkley Gulp! Goby. If that weight holds up Friday as the heaviest of the two-day opening round, Morganthaler will earn an additional $1,000.
Overall there were 817 bass weighing 2,373 pounds, 3 ounces caught by 185 pros Thursday. The catch included 133 five-bass limits.
Pros are competing for a top award of $200,000 this week plus valuable points in the hope of qualifying for the $2 million Forrest Wood Cup presented by Castrol in Hot Springs, Ark., Aug. 2-5, where the winning pro will earn as much as $1 million – the sport’s biggest award. The top 40 pros after six qualifying events will advance to the Forrest Wood Cup.
Also at stake is the Land O’Lakes Angler of the Year title. Jay Yelas of Tyler, Texas, entered the tournament with a 26 point lead on No. 2 angler Shinichi Fukae of Mineola, Texas, but Fukae’s strong showing on opening day could place him in position to win the coveted title. Fukae landed five bass weighing 18-14 to place 10th on opening day while Yelas caught five bass weighing 15-12 to place 46th. If Fukae finishes at least 27 places ahead of Yelas Friday, he will earn his second Angler of the Year title.
Chris Langenfeld of Clinton, Ohio, leads the Co-angler Division with five bass weighing 21-2 followed by Mike Lawrence of Toledo, Ohio, in second place with five bass weighing 20-11.
“This is my first trip out to the Detroit River this year,” said Langenfeld, who has earned two top-10 finishes on the river in BFL competition. Langenfeld was paired with Clapper and caught six keepers on a drop-shot rig. “It’s a real privilege to draw somebody like Clapper. You’re at the mercy of the pro. But this time I lucked out and drew a good one.”
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are James Richardson of Harrison, Ohio (five bass, 20-7); Bill Gift of Alix, Ark. (five bass, 19-3) and Beecher Strunk of Somerset, Ky. (five bass, 19-0).
Langenfeld earned the day’s $500 Snickers Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division thanks to a 5-pound, 4-ounce bass.
Overall there were 664 bass weighing 1,818 pounds caught by 181 co-anglers Thursday. The catch included 79 five-bass limits.
Co-anglers are fishing for a top award of $40,000 this week.
Anglers will take off at 6:30 each morning from Elizabeth Park Marina located at 202 Grosse Isle Pkwy. in Trenton, Mich. Friday’s weigh-in also will be held at Elizabeth Park Marina beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday’s weigh-ins will be held at the Cobo Center located at One Washington Blvd. in Detroit beginning at 4 p.m.
Prior to the weigh-ins Saturday and Sunday, FLW Outdoors will host a free Family Fun Zone and outdoor show at the Cobo Center from noon to 4 p.m. each day. The Family Fun Zone is a chance for fishing fans to meet their favorite anglers and review the latest products from Berkley, Lowrance, Ranger, Evinrude, Yamaha and other manufacturers while children are treated to fishing themed games and rides like the Ranger Boat simulator. The first 300 children 14 and under visiting the Family Fun Zone Saturday will receive a free FLW Outdoors hat. On Sunday, the first 300 children 14 and under visiting the Family Fun Zone will receive a free rod and reel combo. One lucky person attending the final weigh-in Sunday will even win a trip for two to the Forrest Wood Cup in Hot Springs, Ark., where they could ultimately win a $53,000 Ranger Z20 powered by Yamaha. The drawing for a free vacation getaway to Hot Springs will be held immediately following Sunday’s 4 p.m. weigh-in. Participants must be present to win.
The full field competes in the two-day opening round for 10 slots in Saturday’s competition based on their two-day accumulated weight. Weights are cleared for day three, and co-angler competition concludes following Saturday’s weigh-in. The top 10 pros continue competition Sunday, with the winner determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from days three and four.
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 tournament will be broadcast to 81 million FSN (Fox Sports Net) subscribers in the United States on Aug. 26 and Sept. 2 as part of the “FLW Outdoors” television program. “FLW Outdoors” airs Sunday mornings at 11 Eastern time. “FLW Outdoors” is also broadcast internationally to 429 million households in such countries as Germany, China, South Africa, Australia, Malaysia, Russia, Hungary and the United Kingdom, making it the most widely distributed fishing program 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 Navy 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 presented by Abu Garcia, Ranger Owners Tournament Championship Series, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye League, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Series, Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series and Wal-Mart FLW Striper Series. These circuits offer combined purses of nearly $43 million through 241 events in 2007.
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 Walmart.com.