September 6, 2002
Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship, Sept. 11-14
All eyes will be on Cross Lake Sept. 11-14, and rightfully so.
The nation's top anglers will be there casting for $800,000 cash, and they'll be competing in a unique bracket format, reminiscent of the NCAA basketball tournament, on an impoundment where most 2- to 3-pounders won't be eligible for weigh-in.
Cross Lake, an 8,600-acre, bowl-shaped impoundment located just outside Shreveport, La., is a "slot" lake where bass measuring 14 to 17 inches must be released immediately. The winner could conceivably have a whale of a sack or a meager 5-pound, 13-ounce bag like the one Eddie Waits of Pine Bluff, Ark., collected to win $100,000 in the Wal-Mart BFL All-American last June.
Either way, the angler who comes out on top will leave with a huge pile of money. First place is $260,000.
"The slot limit is going to make things very interesting, to say the least," said Greg Hackney of nearby Oak Ridge, La.
Hackney finished 10th overall in the FLW points standings and will be among the 48 pros who will be trying to crack the summertime code at Cross Lake.
While anglers will have the option of targeting grass beds, boat docks, man-made brush piles, duck blinds and cypress trees, Hackney said they won't have much of a choice when it comes to water depth. The lake is only 15 feet deep at its deepest point, and the average depth is 6 to 7 feet.
Any number of lures and techniques could produce some keepers.
The bass will see lots of soft plastics flipped or pitched around milfoil and coontail grass beds, brush, boat docks and cypress roots. Weedless top-waters like rats or floating-style lizards snaked around matted vegetation and cypress trees could also be productive.
Waits, who caught a number of fish weighing up to 4 1/2 pounds during the All-American utilizing a pair of antique lures called the Creek King and Big O, recommends doing something different.
"The fish over there have seen just about everything, and they will have been pounded by the time the tournament starts," Waits said. "My advice is to get away from the crowds and try to figure out a way to make them bite that nobody else has tried."
- Matt Williams
Tournament details and payouts
Complete 2002 FLW Championship brackets
FLW Championship presents some compelling matchups
A new challenge: the revamped FLW Championship format
2002 FLW Championship pairings an exercise in bracketology
FLW Tour anglers prepped for Super Bowl of bass fishing