DETROIT – Steve Clapper of Lima, Ohio, caught a five-bass limit weighing 20 pounds, 14 ounces Friday to retain his lead in the Wal-Mart FLW Tour’s $1.5 million Chevy Open on the Detroit River with a two-day catch of 10 bass weighing 42-14. He now holds a 1-pound, 11-ounce lead in the tournament featuring 200 pros and 200 co-anglers representing 35 states, Canada, Australia, Italy and Japan.
“I went to back to where I caught my stringer yesterday,” 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 got lucky. I had about 18 pounds at 9 a.m.”
Clapper returned to Lake Erie on the second day of competition and fished new areas after he caught his limit to make a plan for the final two days of the tournament.
“I found an area I had marked and hadn’t fished, and it was loaded with 3-pounders,” Clapper said. “It was incredible. I hadn’t seen that many fish in one spot. I didn’t catch any big ones there, but it kind of seemed like a safety spot, and it was deeper water, and I don’t think it gets touched very much.”
Clapper caught most of his fish 25 feet deep on the first day of competition using a drop-shot rig and dragging a tube. He mirrored the presentation on day two, however, he said the more productive water was around 32 feet deep. Clapper said he managed to land 20 keepers throughout the course of the day.
The Ohio angler said his chances of winning the tournament depend solely on the wind and how it affects fishing on Lake Erie during the final two days of competition.
“I’ve had only six hours of fishing practice on St. Clair,” Clapper said. “And that’s not fishing the way I like to fish. But I may have to go do it.
“I don’t want to hear predictions of wind up to 20 to 30 miles per hour,” Clapper added. “I have areas on St. Clair, but I’m sure not a guru there.”
Team A&W pro Shad Schenck of Waynetown, Ind., advanced to the final round of 10 pros in the No. 2 spot with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 41-3.
Rounding out the top five pros who will continue competition Saturday and Sunday are Thomas Moleski of Elkhart, Ind. (10 bass, 40-11); Terry Baksay of Easton, Conn. (10 bass, 39-7); and Team National Guard pro Clifford Pirch of Payson, Ariz. (10 bass, 38-5).
Also clearing the top-10 cut weight of 36 pounds, 12 ounces are Trevor Jancasz of White Pigeon, Mich.; Christopher King of South Amherst, Ohio; Josh Myers of Chatham, Ontario; Kevin Long of Berkley, Mich.; and Team Kellogg’s pro Clark Wendlandt of Leander, Texas.
Team Banana Boat pro Kevin Vida of Clare, Mich., earned the day’s $1,000 Snickers Big Bass award in the Pro Division thanks to a 5-pound, 13-ounce bass. He also won an extra $1,000 for having the biggest bass of the tournament.
Overall there were 888 bass weighing 2,756 pounds caught by 192 pros Friday. The catch included 155 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 three $1 million qualifiers and three $1.5 million opens will advance to the Forrest Wood Cup.
Jay Yelas of Tyler, Texas, captured his second Land O’Lakes Angler of the Year title Friday, edging out Team BP pro Shinichi Fukae of Mineola, Texas, and Mark Davis of Mount Ida, Ark.
“It’s quite an honor,” Yelas said. “These guys are the best fishermen in the world. When you do the math, I have to realize I won by just a small margin. If one of the fish I’d caught during the year would have weighed half a pound less, Mark or Shin would have won.”
James Richardson of Harrison, Ohio, leads the Co-angler Division with an opening-round total of 10 bass weighing 37 pounds, 8 ounces, followed by Bill Gift of Alix, Ark., in second place with 10 bass weighing 35-10.
“We headed to St. Clair this morning,” said Richardson, who was paired with Team Totinos pro Tim Johnson of Dallas, Ga. “As a matter of fact, I could see the same area I fished the day before. The closer we got, the happier I was. I thought, ‘I’m not believing that this is where this guy is going.’”
Richardson started fishing a green pumpkin tube, but as the day progressed, Johnson moved into deeper water and Richardson switched to a drop-shot rig and finished his limit.
“I love it up here,” Richardson said.
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Mike Simpson of Dayton, Ohio (10 bass, 34-14); Ken Murphy of Meridian, Miss. (10 bass, 33-15) and James Dixon of Southfield, Mich. (10 bass, 33-7).
Also clearing the top-10 cut weight of 32 pounds, 13 ounces in the Co-angler Division are Drew Montgomery of Concord, N.C.; Truman White of Myersville, Md.; Ben Felton of Marshall, Mich.; Scott Leo of Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Jason Sherwood of Damascus, Md.
Mike Oberski of Ann Arbor, Mich., earned $500 for the day’s Snickers Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division thanks to a 5-pound, 1-ounce bass he caught while fishing with pro Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C.
Overall there were 699 bass weighing 2,056 pounds, 5 ounces caught by 181 co-anglers Friday. The catch included 95 five-bass limits.
Co-anglers are fishing for a top award of $40,000 this week.
Anglers will take off at 6:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday from Elizabeth Park Marina located at 202 Grosse Isle Pkwy. in Trenton, Mich. 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, 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 also 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.
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. The full field competes Thursday and Friday for 10 slots in Saturday’s competition based on their two-day accumulated weight. Weights are cleared Saturday, and co-angler competition concludes following Saturday’s weigh-in, with the winner determined by the day’s heaviest catch. The top 10 pros continue competition Sunday, with the winner determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from Saturday and Sunday.
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.