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Quick Bites: FLW Lake Wheeler, Day 4

Quick Bites: FLW Lake Wheeler, Day 4
Nixon hoists his fifth - and biggest - fish high into the air for victory.

Wal-Mart FLW Tour
Lake Wheeler, Florence, Ala.
Saturday: Pro finals

Hail to the smallmouth chief ... It didn't take long for the General, Larry Nixon, to repeat as FLW champion. His last FLW victory - also his first - came just last June at the Forrest Wood Open at Lake St. Clair, Mich. Today he took his second first-place trophy home with a nice 16-pound, 9-ounce, five-bass catch. Like St. Clair, the Wheeler-Wilson-Pickwick chain of lakes is celebrated for its smallmouth bass population - and the General had a field day with them Saturday. "It took me a little while to get started," Nixon said. "But once I caught that first fish, it really set the pace for the day. ... This chain of lakes is probably the best in the country." ... With his $110,000 victory today, Nixon has crept up into the FLW Tour's leading money winners list. His FLW career earnings now total $448,900 and rank him fourth in all-time earnings behind David Fritts, Clark Wendlandt and Rick Clunn. ... Since he started fishing the FLW in 1998, Nixon has never finished below 25th place in the season rankings. His highest ranking came in 1999 when he finished third. After two events this season, he's ranked fifth.

Say it ain't so ... This week, Aaron Martens had his best FLW performance yet with his second-place finish. In just over a season on the FLW Tour, the California kid has notched two top-five finishes, his last one coming at Alabama's Lake Martin in 2001 where he placed third. A solid angler wherever he competes, Martens would be a serious contender for the Angler of the Year title except for one thing: He's not fishing the next FLW tournament at Lake Ouachita, Ark. He's booked for another fishing event that same week, March 13-17, and he can't get out of it. And it's killing him because he would love to take his patented drop-shot technique to the cold, deep waters of Ouachita. "I can't believe I can't make it," Martens said. "On a lake like that, if it's clear water, you can't beat the drop shot." It's unfortunate, too, because skipping just one FLW event will effectively take him out of the Angler-of-the-Year race, and it will deny bass fans everywhere the pleasure of seeing him attack the Ozarks with that deadly drop shot.

Speaking of Angler of the Year ... Guess who's atop the FLW standings after the first two tournaments this year. If you said Clark Wendlandt, you would be right. And it was an easy guess. The Texas Tornado is steadily making a case to become the first pro elected to the FLW hall of fame - if such a thing existed. He has already set the record with two Angler-of-the-Year trophies, in 1997 and 2000, and is well on his way to a possible third. "I really enjoyed (winning the award), and I look forward to making a run at it again," he said. "But we've got a long way to go." Long way, sure, but Wendlandt's route is already shorter than everybody else's. The next two FLW stops are at Lake Ouachita and nearby Beaver Lake in Arkansas, where Wendlandt has already sight-fished his way to two Wal-Mart Open victories.

So close ... Third place Alton Jones' attempt at making FLW history by winning all four days of the tournament fell just a little short today, but his three bass weighing 8 pounds, 9 ounces represented another solid performance by the leader of the first three days. The pros had a shorter day of fishing due to TV time requirements Saturday, and that made it tougher on some of the guys who had to make longer runs to their fishing holes. Jones didn't catch a keeper bass until 11 o'clock this morning, and by then he was already running low on time. But he said he's ecstatic with his fishing this week and the final outcome today. If not for the 16-pound Nixon train that arrived today, Jones would have placed second and been only 6 ounces away from a historic victory.

The legacy is back ... Welcome back to the final round, Scott Martin. After winning the FLW tournament at Mississippi's Pascagoula River in 2000, the young Floridian had people expounding on the similarities between him and his father, bass-fishing legend Roland Martin. But in 2001 Scott had a dismal year and did not return to the TV tent for later-round action at all. This week he got back on track with a revitalizing fourth-place performance. "I enjoyed this," he said. "It's my third year on tour and, you know, I kind of grew up in a fishing family."

Sound Bites

"I've been there before, but my stomach is turning now more than any time I've been up there."
- Jerry Williams, father of fifth-place pro Keith Williams, watching his son's first appearance in an FLW final-round weigh-in. Jerry, a longtime touring pro out of Arkansas, is a five-time FLW top-10 finisher himself.

"It makes me feel a little better that Larry caught so much."
- Aaron Martens, who was understandably frustrated that he lost six fish Saturday. He said, though, that losing to Nixon was anything but painful. "I've been watching Larry all my life," he said. "Now I can say I got beat by Larry Nixon. Hopefully next time he can say he got beat by me."

Quick Links, Day 4

Nixon nails down victory
Photos
Results
Press release

Tags: jeff-schroeder  quick-bites  2002-02-13-lake-wheeler 

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