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Quick Bites: FLW Tour, Beaver Lake Day 2

Quick Bites: FLW Tour, Beaver Lake Day 2
Heading into today’s competition on Beaver Lake, Clark Wendlandt was languishing in 100th place with a total catch of 7 pounds, 8 ounces. But when all was said and done, Wendlandt parlayed a staggering 15-pound, 6-ounce stringer into a dramatic top-10 finish.

Walmart FLW Tour
Walmart Open
Beaver Lake, Rogers, Ark.
Opening round, Friday

Leaderboard reshuffle ... As predicted, the top-10 leaderboard wound up looking dramatically different after the conclusion of the second day of Walmart Open competition. With the weights stacked tightly together heading into Friday's competition, it was almost a given that there would be a few different names atop the tourney leaderboard by the time today's top-10 cut was announced. However, in the end, only three pros from the top-10 list on Thursday managed to survive today's cut: day-one leader Mark Rose of Marion, Ark., Rob Kilby of Hot Springs, Ark., and Gabe Bolivar of Ramona, Calif. In short, there was a significant 70-percent turnover by the end of the day. Clearly, in the sport of bass fishing, every ounce does count - especially on Beaver Lake.

Mr. Beaver Lake redux ... From 1999 through 2004, nobody dominated FLW Tour competition on Beaver Lake quite like Clark Wendlandt. Over that five-year time span, Wendlandt netted two titles (1999 and 2001), two fourth-place finishes (2002 and 2004) and one 10th-place finish (2000). However after 2004, Wendlandt's dominance of the Walmart Open at Beaver Lake began to wane as he failed to reach the finals in each of the next four years. But guess who is back? That's right, Mr. Wendlandt has reached the final round of competition on Beaver Lake once again. While in some sense it's not too surprising that Wendlandt is finally returning to the finals on Beaver Lake, it's the way he qualified in 2009 that will have people talking. Heading into today's competition, Wendlandt was languishing in 100th place with a total catch of 7 pounds, 8 ounces. But when all was said and done, Wendlandt parlayed a staggering (and tournament leading) 15-pound, 6-ounce stringer into a dramatic top-10 finish - completing his meteoric rise to the top. Not surprisingly, Wendlandt couldn't have been happier about today's turn of events. "It feels really good," said Wendlandt. "I'm not sure I've ever (jumped) from 100th place to the finals before, so it was a little bit of a shock." However, that wasn't the only bonus. "I haven't made the top 10 in two years (fourth place at Lake Travis in 2007), so it really means a lot for me to make the finals this time around," said Wendlandt. "Now that I made it, I feel like I have a decent chance to catch some good weight. But the way I'm fishing, I could also go out and catch nothing. You just never know." But no matter what happens going forward, Wendlandt has already accomplish quite a bit - not to mention the fact that he's regained his well-deserved moniker of Mr. Beaver Lake for the foreseeable future.

Western young gun on fire ... If Wendlandt's performance in today's competition was mighty impressive, Brent Ehrler'sshowing was, in many ways, even more amazing. Already leading the 2009 FLW Tour Angler of the Year race, Ehrler really sent a message to the rest of the field during today's competition that he was serious about closing the deal - grabbing the top overall spot heading into tomorrow's final round of tournament action on Beaver Lake with a total catch of 24 pounds, 6 ounces. Throw in the fact that he's leading the FLW Series Western Division Angler of the Year race as well, and you have an angler who is about as hot as they come at this stage of the game. "You know, I've been very fortunate, but I also work really hard at this as well," said Ehrler. "During practice, I get up before dark and fish until it's dark every day. When it's cold, windy and raining and you really don't feel like going out fishing, I make myself get up and go out there." For people who have followed Ehrler's career, his tightening grip on this year's Angler of the Year title isn't surprising. During his rookie FLW Tour season in 2005, Ehrler finished the AOY race in 73rd place. The next year, he finished in 40th place. By 2007 he'd cracked the top 10 with a ninth-place finish overall. Then, last season, he finished in second place, losing out to David Dudley by the grand total of 1 ounce during the final regular-season event of the year. And so far, this year, he's No. 1. However, coming from behind and being the front runner are two different things as Ehrler is beginning to find out. "In some ways, last year was a lot more relaxing," he said. "I really didn't think I had a shot at the (AOY) title, so there was less pressure. But this year, it's been a lot more nerve-wracking."

Bolivar squeaks in ... After weighing in during the second flight of the afternoon, Gabe Bolivar of Ramona, Calif., was comfortably positioned to make the top-10 cut. However, as the weigh-in wore on, Bolivar's two-day weight of 21 pounds, 4 ounces looked less and less secure. Finally, with about 30 minutes left to go, Bolivar found himself clinging to the 10th and final position. While the wait was torturous, in the end, Bolivar eked out a berth in Saturday's final round of competition. And to be sure, it was a huge relief. "I was pretty nervous," said Bolivar. "Because I weighed in during the second flight, I had to wait it out for almost two hours. I really wasn't sure what was going to happen." Not only was it a relief to make the finals, given the amount of prize money at stake, but it also served as a much needed confidence boost to the young angler as well. "It's been kind of dry for me the last year, so to come here and make the cut makes me feel like I'm finally back to normal again. I kind of lost confidence last year. I'm not sure if I've found it yet, but I'm getting there." It probably didn't hurt that Bolivar's tournament fishing roommate is none other than Brent Ehrler. "It's funny," said Bolivar. "I actually woke up this morning and told Brent that we're both going to make the cut today. As it turned out, I was right."

Cochran misses the cut by ounces ... One of the truly feel-good stories of the entire tournament unfortunately ended with a less-than-storybook ending after Friday's weigh-in. After battling through multiple surgeries during the FLW Tour Lake Norman event last month, legendary pro George Cochran returned to tournament action on Beaver Lake with a vengeance. In his first tourney event since having his gall bladder and a series of painful kidney stones removed, Cochran turned in a truly gutsy performance - turning in a top-20 finish on Thursday and barely missing out on today's top-10 cut. But while Cochran ultimately finished in 11th place, his dedication and perseverance was not lost on the Beaver Lake fan faithful.

Quick reminder ... If you're in town, why not come down Saturday, May 16, and participate in the Ranger/Evinrude Test Ride event? Starting at 10 a.m. and lasting until 2 p.m., interested persons can head down to the Prairie Creek Marina, jump in the latest Ranger boat powered by Evinrude's innovative E-TEC motors and take it for a test ride with professional anglers on Beaver Lake. The event is free and open to the public. In addition, participants will also receive a free hat. For more information, contact Rogers Outdoor Sports at (479) 986-8227.

Quick numbers

1.1: Total purse, in millions of dollars, at stake at this week's Walmart Open at Beaver Lake.

2: Number of FLW Outdoors' tournament circuits (FLW Tour and FLW Series Western Division) where Brent Ehrler currently leads in Angler of the Year competition.

3: Number of top 10 pros from day one who survived Friday's top-10 cut.

5-1: Total weight, in pounds and ounces, of largest bass caught (Clark Wendlandt) at the 2009 Walmart Open.

21-4: Total weight, in pounds and ounces, of minimum two-day qualifying weight to advance to the final round of competition on Beaver Lake.

87: Total number of limits caught by the pro field during the second day of competition on Beaver Lake, which was 31 less than the previous day.

977-14: Weight, in pounds and ounces, of the total catch by all pros at Beaver Lake after day two, more than 250 pounds less than the total catch on day one.

Sound bites

Jay Yelas qualified for the Walmart Open finals in sixth place."It gets harder every year." - FLW Tour pro Jay Yelas, who qualified for the finals on Beaver Lake, talking about the difficulties of competing at the highest levels as you get older.

"With the conditions we have now, it's anybody's game - FLW Tour pro Clark Wendlandt, on the wide-open competition at the Walmart Open this week.

"I got some advice for the newcomers: Don't harass Clark Wendlandt after day one." - FLW Tour pro David Lefebre, on the ill-advised ribbing he gave to Wendlandt after the first day of competition only to see his rival net a 15-pound, 6-ounce stringer on the following day and qualify for the finals.

"I'm sure we can talk about something more exciting than my fishing - like a root canal or passing a kidney stone." - joked FLW Tour pro Bobby Curtis, referring to his dismal 142nd-place finish at Beaver Lake.

"I got brought back down (to Earth) this week. It's very humbling." - FLW Tour pro Stetson Blaylock, talking about the highs and lows of tournament fishing after becoming the youngest angler to ever to win an FLW Tour event (which occurred last month at Lake Norman).

"I struggled today. At about 10 a.m. I thought I'd run out of bunnies. But I somehow managed to finally pull a rabbit out of my hat." - FLW Tour pro Rob Kilby, of the benefits of sticking to his game plan and ultimately qualifying for the finals on Beaver Lake.

"That's pitiful. I didn't think you could pick up a spinning rod and not catch five fish. I know a lot of people picked me in Fantasy Fishing, and I apologize." - FLW Tour pro Dan Morehead, with a rather harsh assessment of his performance on Beaver Lake this week.

Tags: gary-mortenson  quick-bites  2009-05-14-beaver-lake 

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