February 10, 2010 by Rob Newell
SHREVEPORT, La. - FLW Outdoors officially canceled the first FLW Tour event for 2010 on the Red River due to unsafe river conditions. The announcement came late Tuesday afternoon at the pre-tournament meeting.
The cancellation stemmed from a growing concern among pros who felt that the Red River was becoming more dangerous by the day with rising water levels, which were forecasted to continuing rising through Saturday.
The river was already high and rolling when anglers arrived for the event before the weekend. In fact, several of the popular ramps along the river were closed due to high water. And as the three-day practice period progressed, it continued to rise.
Increasingly, pros began to notice that structures and objects such as wing dams and buoy markers were slowly disappearing from view, hiding dangerously just under the water's turbulent surface. Several pros reported actually hitting marker buoys that were totally submerged.
When more rain dumped on the Red River Basin on day three of practice, river levels continued to increase and current velocity reached the point where boats idling forward under power were actually drifting backwards.
Folgers pro Scott Suggs voiced concern that a boat having any kind of motor trouble within the vicinity of a lock and dam was doomed due to the sheer velocity of water going over the spillway.
"If you had an engine problem either coming to a lock or leaving one, it was going to be major trouble," Suggs said. "A trolling motor is useless in that current. And even if an engine would just idle, it was not enough to escape the massive pull of that current towards those spillways.
"I left BASS because I respect FLW as an organization," Suggs continued. "After the decision yesterday, my respect for FLW shot out the roof. And it wasn't because I wasn't on fish. I was on fish. But it was a safety issue. The right call was made for everyone involved and I can't say enough good things right now about this organization."
Compounding the problem was that water temperatures were in the low 40s. Given the Red River's remoteness, especially way south where many anglers were planning to run during the event, an inadvertent man overboard situation would become instantly life-threatening due to both the current, water temperature and the threat of hypothermia.
The upcoming forecast did not bode well for the event either. Increasing water levels would have submerged more dangerous objects and forecasted rain would have limited navigation visibility even more.
"Things were only going to get worse during the tournament," said pro Chad Morgenthaler. "There were just too many dangerous factors coming together - it was a potential recipe for disaster."
At the pre-tournament meeting Tuesday afternoon, pros verbalized their dire concern to Charlie Evans, FLW Outdoors President and CEO. Evans then conferred with other FLW officials for two hours before rendering a decision to cancel the event.
"This was a tough, tough decision," said Evans. "After consulting with local authorities and FLW Outdoors staff members, we feel this was the best decision for the safety of the anglers. Unfortunately there is not a winning formula and we apologize for any hardships resulting from this decision. The weather in Shreveport has been a little cold, but the hospitality shown to our staff, partners and anglers has been very warm."
The decision was received with a round of applause and general sense of relief among anglers.
Evans also made it clear that the Red River FLW Tour event would not be rescheduled or made up for in the 2010 schedule. Now the 2010 FLW Tour schedule will consist of the five remaining tournaments and the Forrest Wood Cup in Atlanta.
Also of note is that this is only the second time in the history of FLW Outdoors that a FLW Tour event has been cancelled. The first was the cancellation of the 2001 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Champlain due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The next FLW Tour event will be held on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Mo., March 3-6.
To see video and pros' reactions to the cancellation,click the "Tour Updates" tab in the FLW On Demand page.