First back-to-back All-American champion in history
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Jeff Coble of Henderson, N.C., successfully defended his All-American title in the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League and won $100,000 Saturday on Lake Hamilton with five bass weighing 10 pounds, 1 ounce. It was the first time in All-American history that a reining champion successfully defended his crown.
Coble's accomplishment ranks him as one of the best bass angler's in the country. To qualify for the All-American he placed second at the Chevy Trucks Wild Card Regional on Grand Lake of the Cherokees in Oklahoma. As the All-American champion Coble ranks as the best of thousands of competitors in 22 Wal-Mart BFL divisions nationwide.
Coble caught five bass weighing 9 pounds, 5 ounces Thursday to finish opening day of the three-day All-American in 12th place. He then landed five bass weighing 9 pounds Friday to advance to the final round in the fourth qualifying spot. On Saturday he topped his closest competitor, David Truax of Beaumont, Texas, by 1 pound, 8 ounces to claim victory over 50 All-American qualifiers in the Boater Division.
“I thought that if I could make it into the final day with my competitors fishing shallow I would have the advantage,” said Coble, who caught the majority of his bass using the same crankbait that he used to win the 2000 All-American. “That seems to be the way it worked out.”
While Coble relied on his trusty crankbait for most of the championship, he said two key fish during the final round came on a 3/8-ounce green jig.
Truax finished with five bass weighing 8 pounds, 9 ounces to claim second place and $20,000. Roger Fitzpatrick of Eldon, Mo. (five bass, 8-8, $10,000); Rodney Hardwick of Connersville, Ind. (four bass, 6-4, $8,000); and Paul Redwine of Crab Orchard, Tenn., (three bass, 2-14, $7,000) rounded out the top-five finalists in the Boater Division.
On Friday, Randy Kelly of Inola, Okla., pocketed $50,000 for his victory in the Co-Angler Division with a two-day total of eight bass weighing 20 pounds, 4 ounces. Kelly also received a $5,000 bonus from CITGO as the highest finishing divisional points leader in the Co-Angler Division. Redwine won a $10,000 bonus as the CITGO National Points Championship in the Boater Division.
Ranger Boats awarded a new Ranger 518VX Comanche bass boat to Hardwick, who was the highest placing participant in the Ranger Cup incentive program. Ranger Cup participants are also eligible to win a $500 to $1,000 bonus in each regular season Wal-Mart BFL tournament.
Wal-Mart announced its title sponsorship of the popular Red Man Tournament Trail at last year's All-American in Hot Springs. The new program, which was renamed the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, will award up to $5.7 million based on full fields at each of a 119 tournaments in 2001.