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Quick Bites: FLW Tour Wal-Mart Open, Beaver Lake, Day 4

Quick Bites: FLW Tour Wal-Mart Open, Beaver Lake, Day 4
Pro Shinichi Fukae took first place at the 2006 Wal-Mart Open - his second FLW Tour title of the year. Nobody has won two FLW Tour titles in the same year since Rick Clunn's two tournament wins during the 2000 season.

Wal-Mart FLW Tour
2006 Wal-Mart Open
Beaver Lake, Rogers, Ala.
Finals, Saturday

Fukae nearly unstoppable in 2006 ... In 2004, Japanese native Shinichi Fukae had what could only be characterized as one of the greatest rookie FLW Tour seasons in history. During that magical season, he finished four FLW Tour events in the top 11, three in the top 10, and walked away with the coveted 2004 FLW Tour Angler of the Year title. However, the 2005 FLW Tour season was a completely different story for the current resident of Mineola, Texas. Fighting the "sophomore slump" jinx, Fukae only managed one top-20 finish all year, causing some in the bass-fishing community to label Fukae as nothing more than a one-year fluke. But what a difference a year makes. To kickoff the 2006 FLW Tour season, Fukae came out of the chutes with guns blazing - capturing the tournament title on Lake Okeechobee and, in the process, winning $100,000 and the very first FLW Tour event of his career. Then, in March, Fukae followed that up with a $40,000 check and a third-place performance at the inaugural FLW Series Lake Lanier event. Clearly, Fukae was back in top form. But Fukae was far from finished making waves. At today's hotly competitive final weigh-in at the Wal-Mart Open, Fukae fended off four former FLW Tour title holders and an impressive field to walk away with the second Shinichi Fukae and his wife, Miyuki, collect another winner's check.FLW Tour title of his career as well as a check for $200,000.

Fukae into the record books ... Not since the 2000 season has an angler won two FLW Tour events in one year. Well, all that changed today. With his second victory of the season, Fukae all but equaled the impressive run posted by legendary angler Rick Clunn in 2000. That year, Clunn took first place at Beaver Lake, second place on the Mississippi River and first place at Pickwick Lake in three consecutive FLW Tour events. Those two records are only overshadowed by David Fritts, who had three tour wins during the 1997 FLW Tour season. That year, Fritts won titles at Lake Eufaula, Kentucky Lake and Lake Ferguson. However, it is also safe to say that the competition wasn't nearly as good nine years ago, or the fields as large, as it is today.

Rose nearly pulls it off ... Heading into the final day of Wal-Mart Open competition, Mark Rose of Marion, Ark., had taken four previous trips to an FLW Tour finals without a victory. Rose had held out hope that the fifth time would be a charm. But, alas, in the end it was not to be. Rose's two-day total of 18 pounds, 2 ounces came up short against Fukae's 21-pound weight. "I knew I was a couple of pounds short today. Shin is just a great angler, so I knew that he was going to be hard to beat." However, on a positive note, Rose accomplished many things in the process. For starters, today's second-place finish bested his previous high finish (third-place at a 1999 FLW Tour event on the Mississippi/Memphis River). He also walked away with a $100,000 check, his largest in FLW Tour events. But almost as important, he got to fish in front of his hometown crowd as well as his 97-year-old grandfather who rooted him on the entire week. "That was really special to me," Rose said.

D-Rob quietly sends a message ... Although it wasn't his goal coming into the tournament on Beaver Lake, Darrel Robertson of Jay, Okla., suddenly found himself atop the leaderboard in this year's prestigious FLW Tour Angler of the Year competition by virtue of his fifth-place finish in today's competition. "I guess I have to start focusing on (the AOY race) now," Robertson said with a smile. "But you have to be careful. You can't focus on it too much, because you can get sidetracked real easily. My main concerns right now are qualifying for the (2006 FLW Tour) Championship and making the top-10 on Kentucky Lake next month." While Robertson's fishing this year has been remarkable, his climb up the leaderboard today was just as impressive. Heading into the finals on Beaver Lake, Robertson was languishing in ninth place with a paltry semifinal catch of 2 pounds, 14 ounces. But thanks to his 9-pound, 5-ounce stringer in the finals, Robertson vaulted all the way to fifth place - netting an extra $8,000 in the process and gaining valuable points for the year-end standing's race. "I was hoping for an eighth-place finish at the very best," said Robertson. "So I'm pretty happy right now."

Quick numbers:

2: Number of FLW Tour victories Shinichi Fukae has this year alone with two regular-season events left.

2-14: Total weight, in pounds and ounces, that winner Fukae had over second-place competitor and local favorite Mark Rose of Marion, Ark.

6: Number of years since an angler has won two events in the same season on the FLW Tour.

6: Number of top-10 finishes for Fukae at elite-level FLW Outdoors events (FLW Tour and FLW Series) since 2004 - his rookie season.

343: Prize money, in thousands, won by Fukae at FLW Outdoors events in just the first half of the 2006 season.

5: Number of pro finalists at 2006 Wal-Mart Open with at least one FLW Tour title under their belt.

77-9: Total weight, in pounds and ounces, of fish caught by pros during finals.

200,000: Total prize money, in dollars, won by Fukae at today's final weigh-in.

Sound bites:

"You're going to have a whole flock of these if you keep on winning like this." - Poulan chainsaw artist Tim Kuenning, joking with Shinichi Fukae after awarding the pro his second 135-pound wood carving of a bald eagle this year. The eagle routinely goes to the first-place pro competitor at each FLW Tour event.

"I've come in first place at an FLW tournament before, but this is the most fun I've ever had fishing." - FLW Tour pro Craig Powers, who ultimately finished the 2006 Wal-Mart Open in third place.

"It doesn't really matter for me if I get 10th or third. I'm just happy to be here." - FLW Tour pro Toby Hartsell, on his excitement in qualifying for the top-10 at Beaver Lake and fishing against some of the nation's best. Hartsell ultimately ended up in ninth place.

"I didn't go back into that pond this year. I looked at it and drove on by." - FLW Tour pro Darrel Robertson, not wanting to relive the bad memories he had at the 2005 Wal-Mart Open on Beaver Lake, where he lost the tournament title because of a freak occurrence where one of his keeper fish bounced off his console and jumped back into the water.

"If you want to win, sometimes you have to take chances." - FLW Tour pro Takahiro Omori, on his unsuccessful strategy of trying to fish for first place or nothing in today's competition.

Clifford Pirch also won the Energizer Keeps On Going award for coming back from 105th place to make the finals."The fish were moving up the last hour and a half. If the weigh-in was a little later, I might have been able to do a little better." - FLW Tour pro Clifford Pirch, bemoaning the late hour of his most aggressive bite.

"I probably shouldn't have even been (in the top 10). I got here on Monday and only had a half-day of practice." - FLW Tour pro and local Arkansas favorite Mike Wurm, on his good fortune just to make the cut.

"It was kind of a validation for me - all of the expenses, effort and travel; it really paid off." - FLW Tour co-angler Richard Strother, speaking onstage once again about how special it was to win the first FLW Tour tournament title of his career on Friday.

Wal-Mart FLW Tour action resumes May 10-13 on Kentucky Lake in Benton, Ky.

Tags: gary-mortenson  quick-bites  2006-04-05-beaver-lake 

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