Walker leads $1.1 million Chevy Open

Blast off at GuntersvilleHUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Team BP pro David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn., crossed the stage Thursday with the largest opening-day weight in FLW Tour history…

Blast off at GuntersvilleHUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Team BP pro David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn., crossed the stage Thursday with the largest opening-day weight in FLW Tour history, a five-bass limit weighing 29 pounds, 3 ounces to lead day one of the Walmart FLW Tour’s Chevy Open on Lake Guntersville. Walker now holds a 3-pound, 8-ounce lead in the $1.1 million tournament featuring anglers from all across the United States, Mexico, Canada and Japan.

“There’s no way those two (big) fish that I weighed were 8-pounders,” said Walker, who has won more than $636,000 in FLW Outdoors competition. “They were 6-pounders. I’m floored with that weight.

“I thought I had a legitimate shot at 20 pounds,” Walker said. “The big ones are bad about getting in that grass and coming off. The smaller ones want to come up and try to jump, but the big ones like to bury up and tear loose. I’m just floored at that weight.”

Walker estimated he caught 10 to 15 fish in a number of areas Thursday. He said most of his fish came on a lipless crankbait, although he did throw a jig a few times.

“I have a lot of places I want to fish,” Walker said. “It’s not like there’s just a few good spots on this lake. There’s a lot of good territory here that has what you’re looking for — that green grass around points where the bass are spawning. And there’s literally miles of that here.”

Walker said he hopes to boat 20 pounds Friday and then spend the rest of his time looking for fish to help him during the final two days of competition.

“Today I just got in a groove,” Walker said. “I felt like I was throwing it in the right spot and the bait was feeling good. And when that happens, you’re going to get bites. And it just started to click for me after about 10 a.m. I just felt like I knew where I could catch them.”

Rounding out the top five places are Team Tums pro David Fritts of Lexington, N.C. (five bass, 25-11); Tom Mann Jr. of Buford, Ga. (five bass, 25-5); Team National Guard pro Brent Erhler of Redlands, Calif. (five bass, 24-9); and Mike Surman of Boca Raton, Fla. (five bass, 24-9).

Mann Jr., earned the day’s $1,000 Folgers Big Bass award in the Pro Division thanks to a 9-pound, 3-ounce bass.

Overall there were 558 bass weighing 1,976 pounds, 13 ounces caught by 149 pros Thursday. The catch included 72 five-bass limits.

Pros are competing for a top award of $200,000 this week plus valuable points in the hope of qualifying for $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 sport’s biggest award.

Jason Ober of Johnstown, Pa., leads the Co-angler Division with five bass weighing 25-9 followed by Fred Martin of North Little Rock, Ark., in second place with five bass weighing 25-1.

“Believe it or not, this was a bite that had nothing to do with grass,” said Ober. “There was some scattered grass around, but that was about it. We caught some fish in the grass today, but nothing that helped me.”

Ober took the early lead in the tournament while fishing with Tom Redington of Royse City, Texas, who is currently in 81st place with four bass weighing 12-13. Ober said he and Redington were targeting laydowns in about 12 feet of water and slow-hopping baits on them.

“I caught four of my five fish on a jig and culled once on a crankbait,” Ober said. “I caught all of my fish in the first hour. In fact, I had my two 8-pounders by 7:30.”

Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Terry Chapman of Stanley, N.C. (five bass, 24-11); Greg Schultz of Wayzata, Minn. (five bass, 22-0) and Jeff Shelton of Cullman, Ala. (five bass, 21-5).

Ober earned the day’s $500 Folgers Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division thanks to an 8-pound, 11-ounce bass.

Overall there were 311 bass weighing 1,031 pounds, 14 ounces caught by 123 co-anglers Thursday. The catch included 23 five-bass limits.

Co-anglers are fishing for a top award of $40,000 this week.

Anglers will take off at 7 a.m. each day from Lake Guntersville Resort State Park Resort in Guntersville, Ala., located at 1155 Lodge Drive in Guntersville. Friday’s weigh-ins will also be held at the Lake Guntersville Resort State Park Resort beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday’s weigh-ins will be held at the Von Braun Center located at700 Monroe St. in Huntsville, Ala., beginning at 4 p.m.

In conjunction with the weigh-ins Saturday and Sunday, FLW Outdoors will host a free Family Fun Zone and outdoor show at the Von Braun Center from noon to 4 p.m. each day. The Family Fun Zone offers fans a chance to meet their Fantasy Fishing team anglers face-to-face and review the latest products from Berkley, Lowrance, Ranger, Evinrude, Yamaha and other sponsors while children are treated to giveaways, fishing themed games and rides like the Ranger Boat simulator. Children 14 and under visiting the Family Fun Zone on Sunday will receive a free rod and reel combo while supplies last. One lucky member of the audience will even win a new Ranger boat during the final 4 p.m. weigh-in Sunday, Feb. 15. Admission is free, and you 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 in the two-day opening round for one of 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.

The total purse for the Chevy Open event at Lake Guntersville is more than $1.1 million, including $11,000 through 50th place in the Pro Division.

Coverage of the tournament, hosted by the Huntsville/Madison 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 April 5 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 world’s 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 fishing’s 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 Player’s Advantage for only $10 to get your edge and win.

For more information about FLW Outdoors and its tournaments, browse FLWOutdoors.com or call (270) 252-1000. For more information about FLW Fantasy Fishing and Player’s Advantage, visit FantasyFishing.com.

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