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    Walmart Bass Fishing League - Gator

    LAKE OKEECHOBEE (Feb. 2, 2002)


    Bitter wins Wal-Mart BFL Gator Division season opener on Lake Okeechobee

    John Bitter of Maitland, Fla., won the Boater Division at the Wal-Mart BFL tour event on Lake Okeechobee. Bitter, who landed a total catch of 26 pounds, 6 ounces, received a check for $5,000.

    CLEWISTON, Fla. — John Bitter, Maitland, Fla., topped 200 Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League competitors Saturday on Lake Okeechobee with a five-bass limit weighing 26 pounds, 6 ounces. The impressive catch landed him $5,000 and 200 points in the Boater Division.

    Bitter caught his limit, which topped second place boater Tom Burk, Melbourne, Fla., by 7 pounds, 2 ounces, pitching a Gambler lizard to clumps of grass along the lake's north shore. Burk finished the one-day tournament with a five-bass catch weighing 19 pounds, 4 ounces worth $2,500.

    Curtis Lewis, West Palm Beach, Fla., took third and $1,500 with five bass weighing 18 pounds, 14 ounces. He also earned a $500 bonus from Ranger Boats as the highest finishing participant in the Ranger Cup incentive program. Danny Simpkins, Dunnellon, Fla. (five bass, 17 pounds, 15 ounces, $1,200) and John Huls, Lakeland, Fla. (five bass, 16 pounds, 10 ounces, $1,100) rounded out the top-five boaters.

    Jay Givens, Orlando, Fla., earned boater big bass honors and $1,000 with an 8-pound, 13-ounce largemouth that he caught on a smoking gold flapping shad while fishing sparse grass in South Bay.

    Billy Cason, Melrose, Fla., and Jerry Simes, Port Charlotte, Fla., each claimed a share of first place in the 200-competitor Co-angler Division with identical five-bass limits weighing 13 pounds, 12 ounces. Cason and Simes each received $1,875.

    Co-angler Tom Hamilton, Sarasota, Fla., took third and $750 with four bass weighing 13 pounds, 9 ounces. He also earned big bass honors and $500 with an 8-pound largemouth that he caught on a fluke while fishing heavy grass. Joshua Vest, Okeechobee, Fla., (five bass, 13 pounds, 4 ounces, $600) and Todd Casidy, Kissimmee, Fla., (five bass, 11 pounds, 10 ounces, $550) rounded out the top-five co-anglers.

    Overall, 146 five-bass limits were caught during the tournament, which set out from Roland Martin's Marina.

    The Wal-Mart BFL will visit Lake Toho near Kissimmee, Fla., Feb. 23 for the second of five Gator Division events. The boater with the most points after the division's season finale, a two-day Super Tournament Oct. 5-6 on Lake Okeechobee, will be declared the Yamaha “Be the Best” Points Leader and awarded $1,000. The co-angler amassing the most points by the end of the season will receive $500.

    The top-30 Gator Division boaters and co-anglers will advance to regional competition Oct. 22-26 on Lake Seminole near Bainbridge, Ga., where they will go up against top competitors from the Carolina, Choo Choo and Piedmont divisions for a shot at qualifying for the Wal-Mart BFL All-American — one of the most lucrative post-season tournaments in competitive angling.

    2002 BFL awards could reach $7 million based on full fields.

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