August 18, 2003 by Bob Gunn
Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship, Sept. 10-13
One Wal-Mart FLW Tour pro is going to walk away from the 2003 FLW Tour Championship $500,000 richer than just four days earlier. The most lucrative tournament in bass fishing will pay out a record $1.5 million during a heavily attended weigh-in and outdoor show.
Kevin Best of Hopewell, Va., an outdoor writer for the Hopewell News and Chester Villager, warns that September has always been a huge transition month for the James. If surface temperatures are still in the upper 80s, the tournament could be tough. An early cool down, however, could trigger an excellent bite.
Best predicts the overall winner will concentrate on one of three areas: the Appomattox River, the Dutch Gap area or Chippokes Creek. Some anglers will run the tide, making as many as 30 stops or more, while some may fish a particular area all day.
The Appomattox can be a dangerous river to fish. Best has seen anglers run aground in this tributary many times due to its myriad mud flats. The river does, however, offer excellent areas of cover - mainly wood and rock - and will produce some nice stringers. Best said a watermelon jig is the best choice for fishing the river. He also recommends crankbaits in chartreuse/brown, fire-tiger and shad patterns.
Dutch Gap contains many gravel pits that provide a break in the current. These pits are warmer than the river and draw huge amounts of shad during the colder fall and winter months. Whether the pits will produce is going to depend upon the weather in the days preceding the championship, as a cool period could lead to shad congregating in these pits. If this should be the case, spinner baits and deep-diving crankbaits, both in shad colors, are excellent choices.
Chippokes Creek, one of the larger creeks feeding the James, feeds into an area that is mostly channel and mud flat. Anglers have had much success over the years going up the creek and fishing its good depth and variety of cover. Best prefers chartreuse crankbaits as well as jigs in black and black/blue. In clearer water areas, a watermelon jig can produce quality bass.
Co-angler field (top 48)
Tournament schedule, addresses, exhibitors, pairings and purse
`Bracket of doom' analysis
Pre-tournament press release