Team Berkley pro Stetson Blaylock of Benton, Ark., caught a final-round total of 10 bass weighing 23 pounds, 15 ounces to win $200,000 in the $1.1 million Walmart
Team Berkley pro Stetson Blaylock of Benton, Ark., caught a final-round total of 10 bass weighing 23 pounds, 15 ounces to win $200,000 in the $1.1 million Walmart FLW Tour National Guard Open on Lake Norman. Blaylock topped his closest rival, Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tenn., by one pound to earn the win and 200 points toward qualifying for the $2 million Forrest Wood Cup presented by Castrol and BP, which will be held July 30-Aug. 2 on the Three Rivers in Pittsburgh, Pa., where they could win as much as $1 million the sports biggest award.
This feels really good, said Blaylock, who became the youngest angler to win a FLW Tour event. But I really dont know how it feels yet. When I stop and look at the list of guys who fished this tournament, then Ill realize how big it really was.
This year I expected to have a mediocre year and cash a couple of top-50 checks, Blaylock added. And top-50 checks are good. But this is unbelievable. Its I dont know I dont know how to explain it.
Blaylock said he fished mid-lake below the Hwy. 150 bridge in the Mountain Creek area and caught eight or nine keepers during the final day of competition, including seven on Blaylocks homemade 5/16-ounce jig with a Texas Craw skirt that Blaylock describes as similar to a perch. The jig was tipped with a 3-inch green pumpkin soft plastic craw trailer. The other fish he caught came on a green pumpkin Berkley Slim Shaky worm.
I got nervous when I lost my big fish, Blaylock said. They got that on camera and I thought they were going to play that on stage, but they didnt.
Blaylocks big fish was accompanied by a smaller male that fell for the bait. Blaylock then turned his attention to the female who took position on the bed. He tried, but was unsuccessful and decided to leave the fish for later in the day. Blaylock returned at 11:30, but the fish still was slow to respond to his presentations. Finally the fish bit, Blaylock set the hook and the fish jumped twice and came loose five feet from the net.
I thought right then, That fish is the $200,000 fish, Blaylock said. I knew that. So I went on down the bank and got to thinking, That fish is worth spending my remaining hour and a half on. So I went back to her and she was swimming around, and I pitched my bait back in the bed and she came right over and sat on the bed. I could not believe it. It took me about 30 more minutes to catch her.
Blaylock opened the tournament Thursday in 21st place with five bass weighing 10-15. He moved to fourth place Friday on the strength of a five-bass catch weighing 13 pounds, 8 ounces to advance into the final round of 10 pros with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 24 pounds, 7 ounces. On Saturday, weights were cleared, and Blaylock caught five bass weighing 11-2 to advance to the final day of competition in second place. Blaylock added another five bass weighing 12-13 to his final-round total Sunday.
Morgan caught a final-round total of 10 bass weighing 22-15 to claim second place and $55,000.
I started off pretty good, said Morgan, who surpassed the $1 million mark at $1,043,976 in FLW Outdoors events and holds the record of most top-10 finishes in FLW Outdoors events with 42. I caught a couple of pretty good keepers this morning, you know, 16-inch fish. I caught a 3 ½-pounder a few minutes later and then it slowed down a little bit. And that was 9:30.
Morgan said he was fishing down weed edges but relocated to a place he had been saving and caught a quick 2-pounder and another after that. Morgan said at 10:30 he had his limit.
I buckled down in that area and fished another 20 minutes, Morgan said. There was a little bottleneck in the area with current coming through it. I pitched up there and caught a 3-pounder. I knew I needed one good bite and I told myself I was staying in the river. Id be done with 13 or 14 pounds and I thought that would do it, which it turns out, would have.
Morgan said he lost a 4-pounder at the boat, but focused his efforts on the remaining four bushes on the point he was fishing. A 3 ½-pounder bit and got hung in a bush, and Morgan moved the boat toward the fish.
Its in the bush, and its twisting a flopping just like a catfish in a trotline, Morgan said. It just fell off and that was at 11:36. I threw down my rod and stepped on my hat a few times. And that was it. I never caught anything of any substance.
Morgan targeted the upper end of the lake and said key baits for him during the course of the week were a Zoom Super Hog, Zoom Trick Worm, Sumo Frog, Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper and Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver.
Rounding out the top 10 pros were Team Iams pro Koby Kreiger of Okeechobee, Fla. (10 bass, 21-11, $45,000); Team Snickers/M&Ms pro Greg Pugh of Cullman, Ala. (10 bass, 19-4, $35,000); Sean Hoernke of The Woodlands, Texas (10 bass, 17-14, $30,000); Team BP pro Jim Moynagh of Carver, Minn. (nine bass, 16-12, $28,000); Jacob Powroznik of Prince George, Va. (10 bass, 16-3, $26,000); Eric Ambort of Mabelvale, Ark. (nine bass, 13-10, $24,000); Dale Evans of Summerville, S.C. (nine bass, 12-6, $22,000) and Keith Williams of Conway, Ark. (six bass, 10-9, $20,000).
Overall there were 44 bass weighing 82 pounds, 2 ounces caught in the Pro Division Sunday. The catch included seven five-bass limits.
Jason Ober of Johnstown, Pa., won the Co-angler Division and $40,000 Saturday with a five-bass limit weighing 7 pounds, 11 ounces followed by Jeff Freeman of Max Meadows, Va., in second place with three bass weighing 6-2 worth $15,000.
Ober opened the tournament in third place Thursday with five bass weighing 9-5 while fishing with Danny Pierce of Greenbrier, Ark. On Friday he slipped to fourth place with a five-bass catch weighing 6-9 while fishing with Kim Stricker of Howell, Mich. He wrapped up his win while fishing with Blaylock.
It doesnt matter what youre fishing, whether its a club tournament, a team tournament or fishing the Tour, its awesome to win, said Ober, who has won more than $150,000 in FLW Outdoors events. Im overwhelmed with emotion and I thank the Lord for the opportunity to be here today.
Ober, who fishes Stren Series events as a pro, said he plans to spend three seasons fishing the FLW Tour as a co-angler before attempting to move to the front of the boat. Ober said his experience as a pro in the Stren Series helps him as a co-angler, but said the co-angler competition is more challenging because co-anglers fish behind the best pros in the world and must be able to successfully adapt to any situation.
Ober said he caught his fish Saturday on a 4-inch green pumpkin soft-plastic stickbait around docks. Ober said he targeted the front posts and last few feet of the docks, spots his pro anglers avoided all week. Ober said he caught 14 fish throughout the course of the day, including six keepers. Ober fished 10-pound PowerPro braid with a 10-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Flourocarbon leader so he could make long casts.
When youre fishing as a co-angler, one of the most important things you can do is be very cognizant of your surroundings, Ober said. Im always looking around to find a stump as far away as I can find it. I throw to the other side of the pocket, because if you fish the same way as your partner, youre wasting your time. Cmon, these guys are vacuum cleaners.
Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers are Team PTSI co-angler Spencer Shuffield of Bismarck, Ark. (four bass, 5-12, $7,500); David Hudson of Jasper, Ala. (three bass, 5-9, $5,000); Dearal Rodgers of Camden, S.C. (three bass, 5-6, $4,000); Shane Lehew of Charlotte, N.C. (three bass, 4-6, $3,500); David Lauer of South Bend, Ind. (three bass, 4-5, $3,000); Bob Bjorkland of Centennial, Colo. (two bass, 3-7, $2,500); Fred Martin of North Little Rock, Ark. (two bass, 2-10, $2,000) and Grant McPeters of Marion, N.C. (two bass, 2-8, $1,750).
The total purse for the National Guard Open event at Lake Norman was more than $1.1 million, including $10,000 through 50th place in the Pro Division.
Coverage of the tournament, hosted by the Charlotte Sports Commission, Visit Lake Norman, Visit Charlotte and Cabarrus County Convention & Visitors Bureau, will be broadcast on Versus, the network which brings anglers the best fishing programming on television featuring the most-trusted authorities on the water. The Emmy-nominated FLW Outdoors, will air May 31 from 12:30 to 1:30 ET. FLW Outdoors, hosted by Jason Harper, is also broadcast internationally through agreements with WFN (World Fishing Network) and Matchroom Sport to more than 429 million households in such countries as Canada, Germany, China, South Africa, Australia, Malaysia, Russia, Hungary and the United Kingdom, making it the most widely distributed weekly outdoor-sports television show in the world.
The FLW Tour will award more than $8 million cash to the worlds top bass anglers in 2009. Regular season competition includes three qualifiers and three opens. Each event takes anglers a step closer to the $2 million Forrest Wood Cup presented by Castrol, which will be held July 30-Aug. 2 on the Three Rivers in Pittsburgh, Pa. The prestigious championship and outdoor show hosted by Visit Pittsburgh will feature 77 pros, 77 co-anglers and bass fishings largest cash award a potential $1 million first-place prize for the winning pro.
FLW Outdoors, named after Forrest L. Wood, the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, is the largest fishing tournament organization in the world. FLW Outdoors also is taking fishing mainstream with FLW Fantasy Fishing, offering the largest awards possible in the history of fantasy sports, $10 million in cash and prizes. Sign up for Players Advantage for only $10 to get your edge and win.
For more information about FLW Outdoors and its tournaments, visit FLWOutdoors.com or call (270) 252-1000. For more information about FLW Fantasy Fishing and Players Advantage, visit FantasyFishing.com.