The Walmart FLW Tour presented by Evinrude will visit Lake Okeechobee in Clewiston, Fla., Feb. 3-6 for the first stop of the season. Hosted by Roland & Mary Ann Martin’s Marina & Resort, the tournament will feature as many as 300 top bass anglers casting for top awards up to $125,000 cash in the Pro Division and up to $25,000 cash in the Co-angler Division.
“The fishing is awesome on Lake Okeechobee right now,” said EverStart pro Randall Tharp of Gardendale, Ala., who finished in fifth place two weeks ago at the EverStart Series event on Lake Okeechobee. “The weights brought in at the last tournament were some of the biggest weights I have ever seen come out of Lake Okeechobee. We would have set every FLW record if that cold front wouldn’t have come through. If the sun keeps shining you will see a couple of FLW records broken at this tournament. The fishing is going to be phenomenal.
“The water is nice and clear and there is grass everywhere,” Tharp went on to say. “In years past anglers have tended to bunch up in one area, but now with all the eel grass and hydrilla everywhere you won’t see the crowding that you did before. Lake levels are a little lower than normal, but that shouldn’t have too much of an impact on fishing.
“Primarily you will see a lot of sight-fishing going on during this tournament; a lot of reaction-type baits, swimbaits, topwater frogs, stuff like that will be the choice baits. I think the key to victory for this tournament is going to be anglers’ ability to adjust. I did something different each day during the last tournament, and I think that really made the difference for me.”
According to Tharp, the biggest challenge for this tournament is going to be the level of competition that will be participating in the event. Heavy hitters include 2010 Angler of the Year Chevy pro Bryan Thrift, of Shelby, N.C., former AOY, Forrest Wood Cup Champion and National Guard pro Brent Ehrler, of Redlands, Calif., three-time AOY winner Clark Wendlandt, of Leander, Texas, and local favorites such as National Guard pro Scott Martin, of Clewiston, Fla., and Straight Talk pro JT Kenney, of Palm Bay, Fla.
While Tharp is excited about the potential record-breaking weights, Kenney, who finished ninth at the EverStart Series event on Lake Okeechobee and has won two previous events on Lake Okeechobee, is a little more conservative in his estimates. According to Kenney, the lake has stabilized in temperature and depth, however, the fish will be mostly postspawn so the heavier bass are not going to be as prolific as they were a couple of weeks ago.
“Sight-fishing will definitely play a role in this tournament, but there was such a menagerie of ways that they were caught last time it is hard to predict what will happen this time,” said Kenney. “There is a lot of stuff going on including a new moon that arrives the day before the tournament starts.
“The challenge is going to be finding an area that will replenish and being able to adapt to that area. The fish are going to be moving and anglers are going to have to find areas they are moving into, not out of like last time,” said Kenney.
Anglers will take off from Roland & Mary Ann Martin’s Marina & Resort located at 920 E. Del Monte Ave. in Clewiston at 7 each morning. Thursday’s and Friday’s weigh-ins will also be held at the marina beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday, and Sunday’s final weigh-in will be held at Walmart located at 1005 W. Sugarland Hwy. in Clewiston beginning at 4 p.m.
Fans will be treated to the FLW Outdoors Expo at Walmart on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. prior to the final weigh-ins. The Expo includes Ranger boat simulators, the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by sponsors, and learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. All activities are free and open to the public
In FLW Tour competition, anglers are also vying for valuable points in hopes of qualifying for the 2011 Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of bass fishing. This year’s Cup will be in Hot Springs, Ark., Aug. 11-14 on Lake Ouachita.
Coverage of the Lake Okeechobee tournament will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on VERSUS. “FLW Outdoors,” will air March 20 from 1 to 2 p.m. ET. “FLW Outdoors,” hosted by Jason Harper and Laura Schara, is broadcast to approximately 500 million households worldwide. ABOUT FLW OUTDOORS
FLW Outdoors is the largest fishing tournament organization in the world offering anglers worldwide the opportunity to compete for millions over the course of 191 tournaments in 2011. FLW Outdoors has taken fishing mainstream with the world’s richest fantasy sports game, FLW Fantasy Fishing presented by Straight Talk, where competitors can play for free as well as sign up for Player’s Advantage to gain an edge. For more information about FLW Outdoors and FLW Fantasy Fishing, visit FLWOutdoors.com or FantasyFishing.com.