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Soggy start

Soggy start
Pro Aaron Martens (right) of Castaic, Calif., gets ready for the start of the day's action.

FLW anglers kick off final regular season event of the year on Wheeler Lake amidst light drizzle

FLORENCE, Ala. - It's going to be a wet one. As the 350 FLW Tour competitors made their way past Joe Wheeler State Park Marina to begin the sixth and final event of the 2003 season, most anglers were bracing for a long day of thunderstorms and heavy rain. However, in all likelihood, the dark skies and wet conditions shouldn't put too much of a damper on the competition. After all, with a total purse of $1 million on the line at this week's Forrest Wood Open, it's easy to forget about the elements.

The four-day event on Wheeler Lake should also provide plenty of news and excitement for bass-fishing fans and anglers alike. For starters, pro anglers will be competing for a top prize of $200,000, while co-anglers will duke it out for a first-place award of $40,000. However, the battle for the tournament's top purse could take a back seat to this year's hotly contested angler-of-the-year race.

Heading into the Wheeler Lake event, current angler-of-the-year standings' leader Dan Morehead of Paducah, Ky., holds a narrow 26-point advantage over David Dudley (second place) of Manteo, N.C., as well as a 55-point lead over Clark Wendlandt (third) of Cedar Park, Texas. If Morehead - one of the hottest anglers on the tour all year - finishes the tournament in 25th place or higher, he will automatically win the award no matter what the other competitors do. However, if Morehead slips and Dudley or Wendlandt capture a top-10 finish, things could get interesting very quickly.

The contest for the 2003 Co-angler-of-the-year title is even closer. Currently, Quint Bourgeois of Knoxville, Tenn., is in the lead with 874 points. However, Tommy Szwankowski of Hope, Ark., (865 points), Jason Abram of Bluff City, Tenn., (836 points) and Greg Lineberry of Galax, Va., (834 points) are all in position to claim the prestigious award if Bourgeois has a couple of off days on the water.

Anglers will also use the Wheeler Lake event to try and solidify a berth in the 2003 FLW Championship. The top 48 pros and co-anglers in the final regular-season standings - which will be set after Saturday's final weigh-in - will receive an automatic invite to the $1.5 million championship. Currently, Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., (48th place in the tour standings) is holding onto the last and final championship berth heading into the Wheeler Lake tournament, while Chuck Lawless of Park Hill, Okla., holds a similar spot in the Co-angler Division.

FLW action continues at today's weigh-in, scheduled to take place at 3 p.m. at Joe Wheeler State Park, located at 4401 McLean Drive in Rogersville, Ala.

Vital statistics:

Sunrise: 5:37 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 70 degrees
Expected high temperature: 81 degrees
Water temperature: 77-84 degrees
Wind: From the northeast at 2 mph
Relative humidity: 77 percent
Day's outlook: Thunderstorms likely throughout the day

Related links:
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Day-one pairings

Tags: gary-mortenson  morning-story  2003-06-18-wheeler-lake 

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