UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Pickwick Lake

Quick Bites: FLW Tour, Beaver Lake Day 3

Quick Bites: FLW Tour, Beaver Lake Day 3
Brent Bridgeman of Elkmont, Ala., shows off part of his winning catch. Bridgeman took home the co-angler tournament title on Beaver Lake in just the fourth FLW Tour event of his career.

Walmart FLW Tour
Walmart Open
Beaver Lake, Rogers, Ark.
Final round, Saturday

From fantasy to reality ... Perhaps nobody in the entire Walmart Open, pro or co-angler, has exhibited quite the level of enthusiasm that Brent Bridgeman of Elkmont, Ala., has demonstrated for the sport over the past two years. While residing in his previous hometown of Redding, Calif., last year, Bridgeman became enamored with the latest fantasy sport, FLW Fantasy Fishing. In fact, he became so hooked on its potential that he actually flew down to the FLW Tour Chevy Open event at the Detroit River last year just to check on his fantasy fishing lineup in person. While in Detroit he began chatting with the FLW Outdoors tournament staff. After noting Bridgeman's enthusiasm for all things bass fishing, the staff encouraged him to sign up for an FLW Tour event as a co-angler. As luck would have it for Bridgeman, he took the staff up on their recommendation, signing up for this year's FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake. So what happened? In just the fourth FLW Tour event of his career, he walked away with a tournament title and a check for $40,000. How's that for a Hollywood ending? "I moved from California to Alabama just to fish the FLW Tour," said Bridgeman, still amazed by the recent turn of events. "I left my friends and family behind. I hope they now understand. I finally did it." Making the story even more remarkable is that he beat out three of the greatest co-anglers in history - David Hudson, Todd Lee and T.R. Fuller - to win the title.

The next generation is here ... FLW Tour co-angler Brent Bridgeman wasn't the only "young gun" to make some noise at this year's Beaver Lake event. Shane Lehew of Charlotte, N.C., and Zac Cassill of Fairfax, Iowa, also turned in some rather amazing performances of their own this week. Lehew, who is only 20 years old, won the TBF Junior National Championship in 2007 and managed to parlay that experience into an exciting, and very promising, career on the FLW Tour. Thanks to today's eighth-place finish at Beaver Lake, Lehew has now entered three FLW Tour events in his entire career and, amazingly, recorded top-10 finishes in each one of them. (Lake Norman in 2008 and 2009 as well as this year's Beaver Lake tourney). Meanwhile, fellow competitor Cassill isn't too far behind, registering two FLW Tour top-10 finishes in only four events this season - his very first season on the FLW Tour. "Oh man, I'm fired up," said the 21-year-old Cassill about his recent run of success. "I qualified for the FLW Tour after finishing in eighth place overall in the Stren Series Texas Division last year. It's just a dream come true." Cassill, who is currently attending Winona State college in Minnesota, says he plans to keep fishing the Co-angler Division for the remainder of his college career. "Then, hopefully, I can switch to the pro side. I'm having so much fun right now and learning so much. This is just unreal." Cassill ultimately finished the Beaver Lake event in second place overall.

Although David Hudson of Jasper, Ala., finished the 2009 Walmart Open in 10th place, he will undoubtedly go down as one of the best co-anglers in the history of FLW Outdoors when his career is over.All-time heavy hitters grace co-angler finals ... While the "young guns" dominated the top two spots on the leaderboard after the final weigh-in had concluded on Beaver Lake, anybody who has been following the FLW Tour over the past decade or so would have noticed that three of the all-time co-angler greats were once again in the running for a title. While none of the three pulled it off - the title was ultimately awarded to Brent Bridgeman - the trio continues to build upon a legacy that's going to be hard to top. For starters, there was David Hudson, who has fished nearly every single FLW Tour event in history from 1996 through 2009 (78 total tournaments). Over that span, Hudson has racked up an amazing 18 top-10 finishes (three at Beaver Lake alone), a 2000 FLW Tour Co-angler of the Year title as well as a Forrest Wood Cup Championship in 2008. Right behind Hudson is fellow Jasper, Ala., native Todd Lee. Lee has also been with the FLW Tour since 1996, fishing in 75 total FLW Tour events over his lifetime. Throughout his FLW Tour career, Lee has recorded a stunning 15 top-10 finishes (three at Beaver Lake) as well as two Forrest Wood Cup championship crowns in both 1996 and 1998. Finally onstage stood the ageless wonder T.R. Fuller. Fuller has fished the FLW Tour since 1997, logging 70 total FLW Tour events and 11 top-10 finishes, including two on Beaver Lake. But while none of the Big Three walked away with the title this time, their careers will be remembered fondly by bass-fishing fans for the foreseeable future.

Five bites equals first place ... Although Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., only managed five bites in today's competition, the pro vaulted to the top of the leaderboard nonetheless with an impressive 12-pound, 15-ounce catch (the fourth-heaviest stringer of the tournament) to grab an impressive 2-pound lead over his closest rival. "It's really stressful the way I'm fishing right now," said Christie, who is battling some dangerous pros of the likes of Clark Wendlandt, Jay Yelas, Brent Ehrler, Rob Kilby and Mark Rose. "I only caught five bites today, and I only have one pattern. So I guess I won't have anything else (like second-guessing other patterns) going on in my mind tomorrow." However, Christie also knows the tournament is far from over. "Beaver Lake can produce a 15- or 16-pound sack any day as Clark Wendlandt has already shown. So it's definitely not over." For the record, Christie is hoping for sunshine to jump-start his pattern again tomorrow. And it appears that that is exactly what he's going to get, as the National Weather Service is calling for sunny conditions all day Saturday.

After a rough day on the water, Clark Wendlandt heads into the finals on Beaver Lake in 10th place.Mr. Beaver Lake stumbles ... It now appears that Clark Wendlandt is going to have to have another magical day on the water if he is to have a shot at winning his third title on Beaver Lake. After rallying from 100th place on day one to grab a highly improbable top-10 qualifying spot heading into today's final round of competition (one of the all-time greatest comebacks in FLW Tour history), it's all but certain that Wendlandt will now have to duplicate his amazing day-two effort if he's to have any hope of hoisting the trophy in 2009. Recording a total catch of 5 pounds, Wendlandt now finds himself in 10th place with only one day left of fishing on Beaver Lake. However, despite the long odds, Wendlandt isn't throwing in the towel yet. "Anybody can catch up here. The big fish are out there." If anybody can do it, it's Mr. Beaver Lake. Stay tuned.

Yelas zigs while others zag ... Jay Yelas is employing a very interesting strategy in the finals - he's fishing for largemouth bass and largemouth bass only. While most pros in the top 10 are turning in mixed bags of largemouth, smallmouth and Kentucky spotted bass, Yelas said he's sticking to his strategy no matter what. "The pattern I'm fishing is working out really well," said Yelas. "I'm fishing way upriver, but it's hard to catch five keeper largemouths a day. I've been catching some good ones, but I just didn't get the bites today." Although Yelas only managed three fish today, they weighed in at 8 pounds, 3 ounces - good enough for a fifth-place finish. If Yelas does manage to land five keeper largemouths in Saturday's final day of competition, watch out.

Quick numbers

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

1-15: Total weight, in pounds and ounces, of Jason Christie's lead over his next-closest competitor, Mark Rose.

7-15: Total weight, in pounds and ounces, separating the 10th- and first-place pro competitors heading into tomorrow's finals.

9: Number of places Clark Wendlandt is going to have to jump up in the standings to net his third Beaver Lake title.

44: Number of combined top-10 FLW Tour finishes by co-anglers David Hudson, Todd Lee and T.R. Fuller since 1996.

Sound bites

"Can I say thanks to my parents for putting up with me all of these years?" - Brent Bridgeman, shortly after winning the FLW Tour co-angler title on Beaver Lake in just the fourth FLW Tour event of his career.

"When things are going right, things go right." - FLW Tour pro Brent Ehrler, on his recent hot streak, which has him leading the 2009 Angler of the Year competitions on both the FLW Tour and FLW Series Western Division circuits.

"Pretty much nothing went right today." - FLW Tour pro Clark Wendlandt, remarking on his disappointing 10th-place finish in today's competition.

"I had a big one on the very last cast, but he was better than I was." - FLW Tour co-angler T.R. Fuller, on losing out on his bid to bring in a five-fish stringer during the finals.

"David Hudson is a great bass fisherman. I just like to go fishing. There's a big difference." - FLW Tour co-angler Todd Lee, gracefully acknowledging the tremendous fishing career of fellow co-angler David Hudson.

"Todd (Lee) got me mixed up in this mess back in 1996." - FLW Tour co-angler David Hudson, joking that he owes his entire FLW Outdoors career start to Todd Lee.

"Oh man, I'm having the time of my life." - FLW Tour co-angler Zac Cassill, still relishing in his second top-10 FLW Tour appearance in just four events in 2009.

"That's what it always takes here, catching one ol' big fish." - FLW Tour pro Mark Rose, on finally landing the big one after years of falling short.

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

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