Schultz grabs lead; Elias flames out

Bernie Schultz of Gainesville, Fla. was in the first place in the Pro Division of the FLW Championship in Shreveport, La. after the completion of Thursday's competition. Only the top 10 anglers survived the cutdown for Friday's competition.

FLW Championship race tightens up as top-10 finalists prepare for Friday's battle

SHREVEPORT, La. - And then there were 10.

In one of the closest top-10 finishes in recent memory, Bernie Schultz of Gainesville, Fla., grabbed the overall lead in the Pro Division on the pivotal second day of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship with a two-day total catch of 25 pounds, 13 ounces. Pro Larry Nixon of Bee Branch, Ark., finished in second place with a catch of 24 pounds, 14 ounces. Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Okla. leapfrogged from 22nd place to third overall in the pro standings with a two-day catch of 24 pounds, 13 ounces.

Forty of the top 50 pros and 40 of the top 50 co-anglers were eliminated after today's competition.

Although there was nearly a 7-pound difference between the top 10 pro anglers after day one, only 2 pounds, 14 ounces separated the top-10 finalists after Thursday's competition - making it one of the tightest championship groupings in years.

Schultz, who moved up from second to first place on Thursday, agreed that the $250,000 championship prize is up for grabs due to the competitive nature of the remaining field.

"It feels great to be in this position, but the fact of the matter is that we all start over tomorrow," said Schultz, referring to round two, where everyone starts over at zero. "I've got myself in position to win, but there are a lot of great anglers and this is a really tough field. Tomorrow is going to be an anxious day."

However, the big story of the tournament thus far might very well be the angler who didn't make the top 10 at all. Despite catching 18 pounds, 4 ounces on the first day of competition, opening-day leader Paul Elias of Pachuta, Miss., only managed 4 pounds, 9 ounces on day two - a result which dropped him out of the top 10 in the Pro Division by a mere two 2 ounces. Elias finished in 11th place.

"I really feel bad for Paul," said Carl Svebek, who finished eighth overall in the Pro Division with a two-day catch of 23 pounds, 3 ounces to advance to Friday's round of 10. "It's tough. But it just goes to show you that anything can happen. This is a very tough sport."

Co-Angler Division leaders hold on to top positions

In the Co-Angler Division, opening-day leader Tom Hunley of Stamping Ground, Ky., maintained his grip on first place with a two-day catch of 18 pounds, 3 ounces - easily outdistancing his competition for a second consecutive day.

"It feels good to be here, but anything can happen tomorrow," said Hunley. "I need this tournament bad. I need it so bad I can taste it. But there are a lot of other guys just as hungry as I am. I'm just going to get some rest and do a lot of praying."

Marc Levesque of Waterbury, Conn., maintained his hold on second place in the overall standings in the Co-Angler Division with a two-day catch of 15 pounds, 9 ounces.

"It's great to be here. It's a national tournament and there's lots of great competition," said Levesque, who qualified for the championship during the very last FLW tournament of the year in Florence, Ala. "But I'm a low-key guy and I know that I have my work cut out for me. I've been practicing hard, I've braved the heat and I just need to keep on going. This is truly and endurance sport. And hopefully I'll be there in the end."

Unlike the Pro Division which will be decided on Saturday, the Co-Angler champion will be crowned tomorrow. First prize in the Co-Angler Division is $25,000 and an automatic berth in the FLW Pro Division.

Rounding out the top-10 in the Co-Angler field were Pat Fisher of Stone Mountain, Ga., (third place) with a two-day catch of 14 pounds, 14 ounces; Rodney Chmolack of Phenix, Ala., (fourth) with a catch of 13 pounds, 11 ounces; Mike Cooper (fifth) of Branson, Mo., with a catch of 13 pounds, 4 ounces; Curtis Thompson of Baytown, Texas, (sixth) with a catch of 12 pounds, 10 ounces; Tommy Szwankowski of Hope, Ark. (seventh) with a catch of 12 pounds, 4 ounces; Homer Stephens of Noblesville, Ind., (eighth) with a catch of 12 pounds, 3 ounces; Ken Golub of Pittsford, N.Y. (ninth) with a catch of 12 pounds, 3 ounces and Andy Heinkelein of Cincinnati, Ohio, (tenth) with a catch of 12 pounds, 1 ounce.

Co-angler Quinten Stacy of Bassett, VA., took home $5,000 for winning the Coca Cola Big Bass award which recognizes the angler who caught the biggest bass of the year. Stacy landed a bass weighing 8 pounds, 10 ounces last March on Lake Murray, S.C., to win the prize.

Pros gear up for crunch time

Although the remaining anglers believe the competition is tough, all have their eyes on one thing - the $250,000 first-place prize.

"My goal is make the top five tomorrow," said Nixon. "I know where the fish are and they are big enough for me to win. They just have to bite. If they do, I think I can win this thing."

Svebek, who placed fifth overall in the ESPN Great Outdoor Games bass fishing competition last July, says he plans on running a good 70 to 80 miles tomorrow in the hopes of taking the next big step to Saturday's final.

"I was sweating it out today but I'm tickled to death to be in my first top-10 FLW Championship," Svebek said. "I have a spot a long ways away that I'm planning to use. I had success there about 8 years ago and I hope it comes through for me again."

In addition to Schultz, Nixon, Biffle and Svebek, the remaining top-10 standings in the Pro Division broke down as follows: Darrel Robertson of Jay, Okla. (fourth place) with a two-day catch of 24 pounds, 6 ounces; Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo., (fifth) with a catch of 23 pounds, 14 ounces; Dion Hibdon of Stover, Mo. (sixth) with a catch of 23 pounds, 14 ounces; David Fritts of Lexington, N.C. (seventh) with a catch of 23 pounds, 12 ounces; Rick Gasaway of Kennesaw, Georgia, (ninth) with a catch of 23 pounds and Craig Powers of Rockwood, Tenn., (tenth) with a catch of 22 pounds, 15 ounces.

Friday's weigh-in is scheduled to take place at 5 p.m. under the FLW tent in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Saturday's 3:30 p.m. championship weigh-in will be broadcast live in Wal-Mart stores throughout the country.

Click for results, tournament news and Quick Bites: Day 2.

Tags: headline-story  gary-mortenson 


Lewis Smith Lake Day 4 Coverage

Day 4 reports from the Walmart FLW Tour on Lewis Smith Lake READ MORE »


Birge Buzzes Ahead

Today started off with a slightly miserable 31-degree air temperature, but it didn’t take long for the top 20 pros to really heat up on Lewis Smith Lake at the second stop of the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour presented by Evinrude. Reports poured in throughout the day of big bass – especially big largemouths – being caught off beds. It looked at first as if one of the “largemouth lookers” might piece together a big enough bag to snatch the lead away from Oklahoma rookie Zack Birge, who struggled early to make his shallow topwater pattern work. Unfortunately for the rest of the field, the young gun Birge has the coolness and patience of a veteran, and he stuck with his game plan of throwing a buzzbait and soft jerkbait rig until the sun had time to warm the shallows and spur the fish to become more active. Birge tallied 17 pounds, 11 ounces today, raising his three-day total to 54-8 and giving him a lead of 3-11 over Texas veteran Clark Wendlandt in second place. READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 3

After three days, it looks as if tournament leader Zack Birge has the quality largemouth bite in the bushes wired. But behind him on the leaderboard are nine pros doing everything from sight-fishing to catching schooling bass and everything in between. Even with all the patterns in play, few have fizzled. The sight-fishers have reported finding new bedders, the schoolers are still schooling and a couple of guys have even started tapping floating docks. READ MORE »


Lewis Smith Lake Day 3 Coverage

Day 3 reports from the Walmart FLW Tour on Lewis Smith Lake READ MORE »


Topwater Takes Birge to the Top

On a day when chilly, windy post-front conditions challenged many Walmart FLW Tour anglers who were relying on sight-fishing for spawning bass, Zack Birge bucked the trend and pulled out a pair of topwaters to haul in 17 pounds, 14 ounces. Birge jumped from third place past day-one leader Drew Benton to take over the top spot on Lewis Smith Lake in the event, which is presented by Evinrude. Birge’s two-day total of 36-13 has him positioned 1 pound ahead of Benton. READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 2

While air and water temperatures plummeted on day two of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lewis Smith Lake presented by Evinrude, the big surprise came in the stability of the fishing patterns amidst such change. Zack Birge found plenty of production on his primary pattern to send him to the top of the leaderboard, and those under him held true to their patterns as well to secure a ticket to day three’s top 20. Among the biggest surprises was the number of pros who were still able to pluck fish off beds. Most pros that were sight-fishing say the bass are committed to beds and that the cold snap will not run them off at this point in time. Despite the cold, some even found new fish on beds that were not there yesterday. READ MORE »


Lewis Smith Lake Day 2 Coverage

Day 2 reports from the Walmart FLW Tour on Lewis Smith Lake READ MORE »


Benton Blasts 20-12 on Lewis Smith

Panama City, Fla., pro Drew Benton jumped into the early lead at the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lewis Smith Lake presented by Evinrude with a five-bass limit weighing 20 pounds, 12 ounces. Benton caught a mix of largemouths and spotted bass, and revealed that both black bass species are spawning. He leads a tight top 20 that includes 18 pros that caught more than 15 pounds each. The first day was an absolute fish-fest. Of the 154 pros fishing this tournament, 138 weighed limits. Brad Roberts of Faubush, Ky., has a 2-ounce lead in the co-angler division with a 13-pound, 4-ounce limit. Tomorrow he’ll try to defend his lead on the final day of co-angler competition. READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 1

While Drew Benton was busy bugging bedding fish for his day-one tournament lead, several others behind him were scoring big with other fishing options on Lewis Smith Lake. Sight-fishing also played a role in the top limits produce by Tracy Adams, Scott Martin and Ish Monroe, but Clayton Batts and Zack Birge both brought in big bags with other patterns. Click here to read about Benton’s day-one performance at the second Walmart FLW Tour event of 2015, which is presented by Evinrude. Here’s how the rest of the top five got it done. READ MORE »


Lewis Smith Lake Day 1 Coverage

Day 1 reports from the Walmart FLW Tour on Lewis Smith Lake READ MORE »


Arkansas Anglers Win College Open

Consistency was the key for the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville here in the FLW College Fishing Kentucky Lake Open as Zachary Pickle and Drew Porto won the event with a two-day total of 43 pounds, 12 ounces. READ MORE »


Kendrick King On Guntersville

Kendrick, who is fishing the Rayovac FLW Series in hopes of qualifying for the FLW Tour, caught more than 25 pounds each day of the event and finihsid in fine fasion when it counted. Kendick was catching nearly all of his bass around big schools of bait with a Houdini pearl-colored Scottsboro Tackle swimbait from 15- to 25-feet of water. READ MORE »


Epting's 30 Pounds Tops on Santee Cooper

SUMMERTON, S.C. – Chris Epting of Chapin, South Carolina, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 30 pounds, 2 ounces Saturday to win the second Walmart Bass Fishing League South Carolina Division tournament of 2015 on Santee Cooper. For his victory, Epting earned $3,679. READ MORE »


Wood, Rock Key for Middleton's Victory

HUDDLESTON, Va. – Dennis Middleton of Madison Heights, Virginia, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 19 pounds, 11 ounces Saturday to win the first Walmart Bass Fishing League Shenandoah Division tournament of 2015 on Smith Mountain Lake. For his victory, Middleton earned $7,199. READ MORE »


Johnson Wins on Dale Hollow

BYRDSTOWN, Tenn. – Robby Johnson of Byrdstown, Tennessee, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 22 pounds, 7 ounces Saturday to win the first Walmart Bass Fishing League Mountain Division tournament of 2015 on Dale Hollow Lake. For his victory, Johnson earned $5,689. READ MORE »


Griffin Gets Win on Ross Barnett

BRANDON, Miss. – Jason Griffin of Benton, Mississippi, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 23 pounds, 2 ounces Saturday to win the first Walmart Bass Fishing League Mississippi Division tournament of 2015 on Ross Barnett Reservoir. For his victory, Griffin earned $5,349. READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from Guntersville Day 2

The second day of the Rayovac FLW Series Southeast Division tournament on Lake Guntersville proved as remarkable as the first – or perhaps better, considering today’s parade of big fish included a 12-pound, 10-ounce behemoth caught by fourth-place pro Trevor Fitzgerald for the day’s Big Bass prize. READ MORE »


Hall Holds Steady For Lead

Joe Hall of Lake City, Minn. wasn’t confident about his chances going onto the second day of competition of the Rayovac FLW Series Southeast Division event on Lake Guntersville. Nonetheless, he held steady with a 27-pound, 5-ounce catch that only barely fell short of the 28-1 he weighed on the first day. With a two-day total of 55 pounds, 6 ounces, Hall holds a 1-pound, 12-ounce lead over Cameron Gautney going into the final day of the Mercury presented tournament. READ MORE »


Missouri Anglers Lead College Open

Andrew Nordbye and Adam Almohtadi of Northwest Missouri State University of Maryville, Mo., took the lead in the opening round of the FLW College Fishing Open on Kentucky Lake with 25 pounds, 2 ounces. Heading into Saturday’s second and final round, the University of Kentucky’s Ryan Collins and Hunter Fulcher sit in second place with 22-14, while Ethan Flack and Konnor Kennedy of the University of Alabama are currently third with 22-9. Details to follow. READ MORE »


Day 1 Patterns from the College Open

The Northwest Missouri State University team of Andrew Nordbye and Adam Almontadi took the day-one lead in the FLW College Fishing Open on Kentucky Lake. While their pattern seems to be effectively refined – they were using only one lure and had no others out on the deck – Nordbye and Almontadi don’t have this one sewed up yet. The rest of the top five is just a few pounds behind the leaders. Here’s how they made it into contention going into the final day. READ MORE »