April 4, 2004 by Jeff Schroeder
ROGERS, Ark. - Tim Klinger came a long way to compete in the Wal-Mart Open at Beaver Lake, but, out on the water, he didn't have to travel far to win the Pro Division and its $200,000 top prize. The FLW Tour rookie from Boulder City, Nev., caught 10 bass in the final round weighing 24 pounds, 1 ounce and edged out Craig Powers of Rockwood, Tenn., by 13 ounces to claim his first major tour victory. "I feel ecstatic," Klinger said Saturday. "I can't wait to get home. I'm going to go buy a Corvette." While a fast ride like that will serve the 30-year-old former electrician well at home on the outskirts of Las Vegas, Klinger didn't need nearly that much horsepower to win this tournament. For much of the week, his winning strategy was simple: Don't spend too much time running around and keep the bait in the water. In fact, the bulk of his bass came from a bay right outside of Prairie Creek Marina where the anglers took off every day. "In four days, I probably didn't burn more than 6 gallons of gas," he said. "That was one of the keys for me, fishing really close like I did." This was Klinger's first visit to Beaver Lake. He qualified for this year's FLW Tour via the EverStart Series Western Division, and he found similarities between the Wal-Mart Open's home lake and several venerable western bass fisheries. "This lake's kind of like a mixture of lakes Mead, Shasta and Oroville," he said, referring to the clear water and rocky bottom of this scenic Ozark impoundment. So, feeling right at home, Klinger proceeded to key on the jig bite that put many of the top anglers in contention this week. He practiced using mainly top-waters and jerkbaits, but on the first day of competition his co-angler partner, Katsutoshi Furusawa, showed him what would be his primary weapon in competition: a brown, 3/8-ounce Arkie flipping jig with a brown pork trailer. "In practice, they never bit on a jig," Klinger said. "But on the first day, my co-angler got bit on a jig, so I switched. ... I caught a big fish every day of the tournament." With the jig, he focused on brush piles in shallow water, 3 to 5 feet deep, targeting bigger prespawn bass. His biggest bass Saturday - about a 4-pounder - came off just such a brush pile in front of a dock. His limit on the final day weighed 14 pounds even. "They were in those brush piles. It was awesome," he said. "It was ideal for largemouths moving up to spawn." Powers rises to second, claims $100,000 For a while at Saturday's weigh-in, it looked like the opening-round leader, Powers, would be the man of the hour. He heaved the heaviest sack of the day to the scale - a limit weighing 14 pounds, 6 ounces - but ultimately fell short due to a 1-pound, 3-ounce deficit he faced from the day before. Powers' final-round total was 10 bass weighing 23 pounds, 4 ounces. He collected $100,000 for second place. "I'm just so happy to be here," said Powers, a former FLW champion at the Red River (2001). "This man right here (Klinger) deserves everything that he can get. The man's a road warrior; he lives in Las Vegas." Powers said that he caught the bulk of his stringer using top-water baits early in the morning. Schools of baitfish would come to the surface, and the bass followed them. "Early in the morning, they just came up to the food," he said. Monsoor third again Friday's leader Tom Monsoor of La Crosse, Wis., dropped two places after swimming his jig to a 10-pound, 11-ounce limit Saturday. He caught 23-3 total in the final round, finished in third place and collected $50,000. This was Monsoor's second third-place finish on tour in the last two years. "That was fun. I can't wait for the next tournament (at Kentucky Lake, where he earned his first third-place finish)," he said. "What can you say? This was only my second time on Beaver Lake, so, next year, you better look out." Mr. Beaver Lake finishes fourth While it wasn't his record third win, Clark Wendlandt's fourth-place performance gave him his fifth top-10 finish at Beaver Lake in six years, which nobody else can claim. The pro from Cedar Park, Texas - a two-time Wal-Mart Open champion - caught 10 bass weighing 19 pounds, 5 ounces in the finals this week and earned $40,000. Wendlandt has now earned a total of $467,500 in his career at the Wal-Mart Open alone. "I had a great day. I didn't lose any fish and I fished well," said Wendlandt, who was working a crankbait bite that seemed to pick up in the afternoon. His limit Saturday weighed 7 pounds, 13 ounces. "If I would have had two hours more to fish, I could have caught a big stringer of fish." For Wendlandt, timing seemed to be the biggest obstacle to claiming his third victory. It wasn't just running out of time on the water, it was the timing of the tournament, as well. He savors sight-fishing at Beaver Lake, but this year's tournament was held a little too early for the spawn. "I wish the tournament was held about April 15th every year," he said. Hardin fifth Mark Hardin of Canton, Ga., finished in fifth place with a final-round total of 10 bass weighing 18 pounds, 6 ounces. He earned $30,000. "I caught a lot of fish today, but I never could get those bigger ones to bite," he said. Rest of the best Rounding out the top 10 pro finishers at the Wal-Mart Open are day-one leader Shinichi Fukae of Osaka, Japan, with a final-round total weight of 17 pounds, 12 ounces (6th place, $28,000); Jason Kilpatrick of Satsuma, Ala., with 13-15 (7th, $26,000); Mike Surman of Boca Raton, Fla., with 12-13 (8th, $24,000); Dion Hibdon of Stover, Mo., with 5-8 (9th, $22,000); and Jason Abram of Chuckey, Tenn., with 3-14 (10th, $7,000). Standings update With this tournament, Tracy Adams of Wilkesboro, N.C., took the lead in the FLW standings with 715 points thanks to his 13th-place finish here. Close behind him in second is Fukae with 712 points. Surman moved up to third with 679 points. Wendlandt (650 points) and Kilpatrick (645 points) also moved into the top 10, in sixth and seventh place, respectively. The leader before this week, Dean Rojas of Grand Saline, Texas, fell to 13th place in the standings (622 points) due to his 139th-place finish at Beaver Lake. The fifth FLW Tour stop of the season is scheduled for Kentucky Lake near Gilbertsville, Ky., May 12-15.