August 4, 2007 by Gary Mortenson
Bass-fishing enthusiasts in attendance Saturday at the Hot Springs Convention Center were able to get a firsthand look at a live taping of the "Best Damn Sports Show Period" with a studio audience - featuring popular television hosts John Salley and Charissa Thompson. Guests included FLW Tour anglers Larry Nixon, David Walker, Ray Scheide and Luke Clausen as well as bass-fishing icon and Ranger Boats founder Forrest L. Wood.
"People walk on more common ground with fishing than anything else they do, I believe," said Forrest L. Wood during his appearance onstage. "Fishing has come a long way. When I was a kid, we kind of frowned on fishermen because they never worked. But now, we'll have somebody who is going to win $1 million. It's amazing."
Local fans were also treated to a guest appearance by Billy Ray Smith Jr., a former linebacker for both the San Diego Chargers and Arkansas Razorbacks. Smith was eventually elected into the Arkansas State Hall of Fame.
Throughout the afternoon session, Salley - a former member of the Detroit Pistons - showed off his trademark wit, repeatedly joking around with FLW Tour anglers as well as audience members.
"Does fishing have groupies like other sports?" Salley joked at one point. "Yeah, fishermen - sorry, anglers - have it real tough. Sitting around all day in a Ranger boat fishing. Yeah, that's real tough."
But there were some serious moments as well. Nixon spoke at length about the changes in the sport that he's seen over his career - which now spans more than three decades.
"It took me almost 31 years to win more than $1 million and now somebody is going to (win) that amount in just four days of fishing," said Nixon. "I love my job more than you can imagine, but it's hard work. And I don't think a lot of people realize how hard our job is."
Sweepstakes winner goes home with dream package
However, arguably the highlight of the afternoon came during the taping of the show's finale when the "Look for the Hook" Sweepstakes winner was finally announced.
After participating in the 107-day contest, five first-place prize winners were awarded all-expense-paid trips for two to the Forrest Wood Cup in Hot Springs, Ark., for a chance to win the grand-prize package.
First place winners included the following: Mark Abeloff of Reading, Pa.; Kathleen Cochran of Acworth, Ga.; Jim Grover of Conyers, Ga.; Allan Leeman of Point Pleasant, N.J.; and Evelyn (Evie) Lucarelli of Eau Claire, Wis.
In the end, it was Lucarelli who walked away with the grand prize - a brand new Chevy Silverado pickup truck, a $1,200 BP gasoline gift card and a Ranger Comanche boat-and-tow package outfitted with Berkley fishing gear valued at approximately $85,000. After Lucarelli climbed into the truck and found that her key was the only one to successfully start the vehicle, the Wisconsin native was quickly overcome with joy.
"I just can't believe it," said Lucarelli, who was in attendance with Len, her husband of 47 years. "I've never really won anything in my life before. It's funny. My son called me to tell me that he had a dream that I picked the No. 3 key. And then when I wound up drawing the No. 3 key, I thought this might be it. I'm so happy right now. I love FLW Outdoors. I'm going to be a member for the rest of my life."
"Nobody is going to believe this back home," said husband Len Lucarelli. "This is just fantastic."
According to the show's producers, today's segment will air in approximately two weeks on the Fox Sports Network. Check local listings for exact dates and times.