UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Lake Chickamauga

Power start

Power start
Stratos pro Craig Powers of Rockwood, Tenn., put himself in good position to claim the $1.25 million Wal-Mart Open’s top prize of $200,000 cash thanks to a five-bass catch Thursday that weighed 13 pounds. His two-day total of 10 bass weighing 27 pounds, 9 ounces leads the 10 pros who will compete Friday and Saturday for one of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour’s most lucrative awards

ROGERS, Ark. - Craig Powers considers himself one of the luckiest anglers at Beaver Lake this week. And he should; there's always at least a little bit of luck involved when you take the lead in a 200-boat professional tournament. That's what the Rockwood, Tenn., native discovered Thursday when he led the Pro Division of the FLW Tour's Wal-Mart Open with an opening-round total weight of 27 pounds, 9 ounces.

"I've got one spot that has bites on it," Powers said at Thursday's weigh-in. "Tomorrow, there may not ever be another fish that swims across there. I caught the big one just by casting a dumb little worm. I've been lucky; I'm getting bites on a Carolina rig that shouldn't be largemouth, but they are."

Powers took the lead after posting a 14-pound 9-ounce limit Wednesday and adding another 13 pounds to it Thursday. Many pros found that putting together two consistent limits like Powers' was a tough prospect at Beaver Lake in the opening round, especially since conditions changed Thursday when the sun came out and the wind died down.

"You know what the locals call a pattern on Beaver Lake? There is no pattern - unless (the bass) are on the beds," said pro Tom Monsoor of La Crosse, Wis., who moved up to fourth place Thursday.

Despite the sun gracing the anglers with its presence Thursday, there still wasn't a whole lot of sight-fishing going on. Water temperatures are mostly still down in the 50-degree range, which is holding the big largemouths in a staging pattern.

"They won't come up until the water hits the mid-60s," Powers said. "I ought to be able to see fish swimming all over the backs of these pockets, but I only saw two today."

It didn't matter for Powers, however, who isn't sight-fishing. While he caught the bulk of his bass on day one with a crankbait, he had to switch over to a Carolina rig on day two because of the lack of wind. Fishing changeovers around bluffs, he worked his Carolina rig in about 15 feet of water and, as he put it, just happened to catch some sizable largemouths. He landed seven keepers Thursday.

"When the wind doesn't blow, they just don't bite on a crankbait and a jerkbait," he said. "I didn't make a cast with a crankbait today."

But perhaps the luckiest aspect to Powers' success over the last two days is his fishing locations. Since he was at an EverStart Series tournament last week, he didn't practice much coming into this FLW event. But his touring partner, pro Koby Kreiger of Okeechobee, Fla., arrived a day before he did and found some fish - the fish that gave Powers the opening-round lead. Veritable brothers-in-arms on tour, Powers and Kreiger - who missed the cut in 56th place - often use a tag-team approach in preparing for tournaments. This week, it was Powers who came out on the winning end - so far.

"Together, we've got about two areas with some bites in them," Powers said. "Honestly, I couldn't care less which one of us does well. All I know is that, without his help, I don't catch anything this week. Koby found the fish that I'm catching."

It's a system that works well, obviously. Kreiger has three EverStart victories under his belt, including the 2002 Championship and one earlier this season at Lake Eufaula, not to mention a slew of FLW Outdoors top-10 finishes. Powers is a former FLW champion (Red River, 2001) and has no fewer than 28 FLW Outdoors top-10s.

About his lead so far at Beaver Lake, Powers said: "I'm ecstatic. Even if I don't catch a fish tomorrow, I'd still be ecstatic. But am I satisfied? (Heck) no! But I feel pretty good because now I've got a one-in-10 chance to win $200,000."

Tim Klinger of Boulder City, Nev., moved up to second place in the Pro Division with an opening-round weight of 27 pounds, 3 ounces.Rookie Klinger in second

Tim Klinger moved up to second place in the Pro Division with an opening-round weight of 27 pounds, 3 ounces.

The FLW rookie from Boulder City, Nev., said that he found a bait change to be the trick the first two days. While many anglers are using jigs, Klinger said that his co-angler partner on day one showed him that a brown jig with a brown pork trailer seemed to elicit more bites.

"It's got a 3/8-ounce head on it, and I think that's the deal," said Klinger, who caught 13 pounds, 6 ounces Wednesday and 13-13 Thursday. "I probably would have caught a few more fish if we had a breeze (today)."

Still, he was excited by the warmer weather today. He said the water in his area rose to 58 degrees, which got the prespawn bass moving.

"That's a huge difference from what we had," Klinger said. "Those largemouths are on the move. They're wanting to come up and spawn. I'm stoked. I just wish I had more fish."

Leading pro Shinichi Fukae shows off his magic jig at Beaver Lake.Fukae slips to third

Day-one pro leader Shinichi Fukae looked strong out of the gate Wednesday, but he struggled in comparison Thursday. He only caught a smaller limit worth 6 pounds, 10 ounces today, but, buoyed by his 16-7 stringer yesterday, he held onto third place with a two-day total of 23-1.

"I caught first fish at 12:30," said the pro from Osaka, Japan. He said that the calm wind hurt him today and forced him to switch from using a jig to a drop-shot, which only yielded a lot of short spotted bass. He said he was making the same spot-to-spot milk run today that he did on day one, but it wasn't nearly as successful.

"Today, no fish, no fish, no fish, no fish," Fukae said, indicating each spot that he visited with his hands.

Monsoor fourth

Monsoor moved up to fourth place with a two-day total of 22 pounds, 15 ounces. With a nice limit weighing 12-5 Thursday, his patented swimming jig accompanied by a fluorescent Yamamoto grub appears to be a magic bullet at this lake, which seems to have no discernable fishing patterns right now.

"It's just like a crankbait. Some of them go shallow and some go deep," said Monsoor, who fished his swimming jig into a runner-up finish earlier this season at FLW Atchafalaya Basin. "It's just working out. They like my jig."

Surman fifth

Pro Mike Surman of Boca Raton, Fla., also moved up, placing fifth with an opening-round weight of 22 pounds 7 ounces. He also earned $750 Thursday as the winner of the Snickers Big Bass award in the Pro Division for a 5-pound, 9-ounce largemouth.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pros to make the cut are Dion Hibdon of Stover, Mo., with an opening-round weight of 22 pounds, 4 ounces (6th place); Jason Abram of Chuckey, Tenn., with 22-3 (7th); Mark Hardin of Canton, Ga., with 21-10 (8th); Jason Kilpatrick of Satsuma, Ala. with 21-9 (9th); and two-time Wal-Mart Open winner Clark Wendlandt of Cedar Park, Texas, with 21-8 (10th).

Keith Pace of Monticello, Ark., took the lead in the Co-angler Division with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 17 pounds, 6 ounces.Arkansas co-angler continues to set pace

Keith Pace of Monticello, Ark., led the Co-angler Division out of the opening round with a two-day weight of 17 pounds, 6 ounces. A past FLW co-angler champion (Cross Lake, 2002 Championship), Pace is also already ranked No. 1 in the 2004 standings after posting top-10 finishes in two of the first three events. His efforts at Beaver Lake certainly won't hurt his chances at the points title.

"I've learned a lot by fishing with these pros," said the three-year tour veteran, who caught his limit Thursday using a green-pumpkin Zoom finesse worm with a 1/8-ounce jig head. "It's just exciting. I've been having a good year so far. This is my third top 10, so maybe I can win this one. This would definitely be a nice one to win."

Rick Turner of Tyler, Texas, placed fourth for the co-anglers with an opening-round total of 16 pounds, 5 ounces.

Day-one co-angler leader Clayton Reitz of Morton, Ill., dropped to third place with a two-day weight of 15 pounds even.

Rounding out the top five co-anglers in the opening round are Richard Lowitzki of St. Charles, Ill., in fourth place with a two-day weight of 14 pounds, 4 ounces and Mike Jones of Lebanon, Mo., in fifth with 13-14.

Rick Parnell of Casselberry, Fla., claimed Co-angler Division Snickers Big Bass honors and $500 thanks to a 5-pound, 13-ounce bass.Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers to make the cut into Friday's finals are Ralph Myhlhousen of Grove, Okla., with an opening-round total of 13 pounds, 9 ounces (6th place); Hiroshi Uchida of Murfreesboro, Tenn., with 12-13 (7th); Jason Knapp of Uniontown, Pa., with 12-7 (8th); Michael Brown of Rocky Face Ga., with 12-3 (9th); and Mike Hawks of Woodlawn, Va., with 11-10 (10th).

Rick Parnell of Casselberry, Fla., claimed Co-angler Division Snickers Big Bass honors and $500 thanks to a 5-pound, 13-ounce bass.

Into the cut

The top 10 anglers in both divisions advanced to Friday's competition, which begins at the 8 a.m. CST takeoff from Prairie Creek Marina in Rogers. Weights are cleared for Friday's competition, and co-anglers will fish for one day with the $40,000 winner crowned at weigh-in. The 10 pros continue competition Saturday, with the $200,000 winner determined by the heaviest two-day weight.

Friday and Saturday's weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 2110 W. Walnut in Rogers beginning at 5 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.

Country star Blake Shelton will be on hand Friday to perform a free concert at Wal-Mart following the semifinal-round weigh-in. Shelton, who first made his mark in 2001 with the No. 1 smash "Austin," will perform that and other hits including "Ol' Red" and "The Baby."

Tags: jeff-schroeder  headline-story  2004-03-31-wal-mart-open-beaver-lake 

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