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    Walmart Bass Fishing League - Gator

    OKEECHOBEE (Feb. 3, 2001)


    Kersey wins Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League opener on Lake Okeechobee


    OKEECHOBEE, Fla. — Todd Kersey, 36, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., out-paced 180 competitors Saturday with five bass weighing 20 pounds, 13 ounces to win $5,587 and 200 points on the boater side of the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League (BFL) Gator Division opener on Lake Okeechobee.

    Kersey, who caught his bass near South Bay using a lipless crankbait around shallow grass, edged out Chuck Crow of Winter Garden, Fla., by 8 ounces in the one-day event hosted by the city of Okeechobee. Crow finished with a five-bass catch weighing 20 pounds, 5 ounces to win $2,784.

    Bill Weston of Plantation, Fla., took third place and collected $1,392 with five bass weighing 18 pounds, 8 ounces. Mike Childers of Winter Haven, Fla., placed fourth and earned $1,206 with five bass weighing 18 pounds, 3 ounces, while Mark Rogers of Naples, Fla., placed fifth and earned $1,114 with five bass weighing 17 pounds, 12 ounces.

    Gary Simpson, 45, of Gainesville, Fla., won the boater Big Bass Award and collected $1,000 with a 7-pound, 9-ounce largemouth. This is the third year in a row that Simpson, a six-time All-American qualifier, has won Big Bass honors at the season opener.

    First place in the Co-Angler Division and $2,784 went to Jeff DeFranco, 35, of Penfield, N.Y., who topped 180 competitors with five bass weighing 15-12. DeFranco, who normally competes in the BFL's Northeast Division as a boater, was vacationing on Lake Okeechobee for the weekend and decided to enter the tournament as a co-angler. He caught his limit using a topwater bait, shallow-running crankbbait and ¼-ounce spinnerbait.

    Second place in the Co-Angler Division and $1,397 went to Dan Jackson of Youngsville, N.C., with five bass weighing 14-15, while Gary Rucks of Okeechobee, Fla., took third place and $696 with five bass weighing 14-10.

    Don Peavy of Ocala, Fla., and Gregory Gooden of Miami, Fla., tied for the co-angler Big Bass Award. Each man received $225 thanks to a 7-pound, 6-ounce bass.

    Boater Glenn Browne of Orlando, Fla., won $500 for his participation in the Ranger cup incentive program. Browne's catch weighed 14 pounds, 4 ounces.

    On Feb. 24 the BFL will visit Lake Toho near Kissimmee, Fla., for the second of five events in the Gator Division. The boater with the most points after the division's season finale, a two-day Super Tournament Oct. 6-7 on Lake Okeechobee, will be declared the Divisional Points Champion and awarded $1,000. The co-angler amassing the most points by the end of the season will receive $500.

    The top 30 boaters and top 30 co-anglers in the Gator Division will advance to regional competition Oct. 23-27 on Wateree Lake near Camden, S.C., where they will go up against top competitors from the Bulldog, Mountain and Bama divisions for a shot at qualifying for the $250,000 All-American.

    Awards for the 2001 BFL season could reach $5.7 million based on full fields at each tournament.