Walmart FLW Tour
OKEECHOBEE (Jan. 27-30, 1999)
Joel Richardson of Kernersville, North Carolina, pocketed $100,000 by winning the first event of the 1999 Wal-Mart FLW Tour bass fishing series on Lake Okeechobee. The tournament, which features the world's top professional bass anglers competing for a share of a $471,500 purse, is the first stop of seven in the $4 million series, the most lucrative in fishing history.
Richardson survived two earlier rounds of competition and165 other anglers en route to the Wal-Mart FLW Tour victory. The professional angler landed 5 bass, weighing 17 pounds, 12 ounces in the final round of competition to outdistance the four other anglers competing in the final round of the professional division and clinch the title.
"I can not believe it," Richardson said. “I lost a fish early in the day. I was haunted by it all day long. I didn't think I could win without it. Winning the $100,000 is great, but I'm most excited about qualifying for the Ranger Millenium Tournament and getting a shot at the $1 million.”
He caught the majority of his fish on a black grape-colored Gambler worm with an eighth ounce Gambler screw-in weight in Fisheating Bay on the north end of Okeechobee.
Curt Lytle of Suffolk, Virginia, took second place with a championship round catch weighing 17 pounds, 3 ounces, good for $35,000.
Rounding out the top five in the Wal-Mart FLW Tour's professional division were: (3) Jim Tutt, Longview, Texas, 15 pounds, 3 ounces, $20,000; (4) Clark Wendlandt, Cedar Park, Texas, 13 pounds, 15 ounces, $16,000; (5) Ken Cook, Meers, Oklahoma, 12 pounds, 13 ounces, $14,000.
The win gives Richardson an automatic berth in the year-end Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship, presented by CITGO, September 22-25, 1999, in Wagoner, Oklahoma, where the winner will receive $250,000, the largest first place cash prize in sport fishing.
Clark Wendlant of Cedar Park, Texas, is leading the Land O'Lakes Angler of the Year points race with 75 points. Points are awarded to anglers after the first two days of competition based on ranking at that time. Ken Cook of Meers, Oklahoma, is following in second place with 74 points, Curt Lytle of Suffolk, Virginia, is in third with 73 points, followed by Jim Tutt of Longview, Texas, with 72 points, and Rick Lillegard of Atkinson, New Hampshire, with 71 points. The Land O'Lakes Angler of the Year will be featured on a special edition box of Wheaties later in the year.
Rob Newell of Tallahassee, Florida, won the co-angler division competition which concluded Friday with a 5 bass catch totaling 8 pounds, 14 ounces. Newell collected $15,000 for the win.
Jim Bitter of Fruitland Park, Florida, had big bass honors for the event. He landed a bass weighing 9 pounds, 13 ounces. Bitter received $1,000 from Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola will award $5,000 to the angler landing the biggest bass during the 1999 tour.
The fourth year Wal-Mart FLW Tour is the most lucrative bass fishing series in the history of the sport. Highlights of the 1999 tour include: four $471,500 qualifying tournaments, each with a $100,000 first prize; the $641,000 Wal-Mart Open featuring a $150,000 first place prize; and competitive angling's richest tournament, the $1 million Forrest Wood Open, June 23-26, in Detroit, Michigan.
The Wal-Mart FLW Tour is televised on ESPN and ESPN 2. The Okeechobee tournament is scheduled to air on ESPN, Sunday, February 14, 1999, at 12:30 p.m. EST.
A complete listing of standings for the pro and co-angler divisions can be found at www.flwtour.com.
Sponsors of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour include: Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Land O'Lakes, CITGO Petroleum, Chevy Trucks, Uniroyal, Fujifilm, EverStart Batteries, Black and Decker, Coleman Company, Ranger Boats, Mitchell Rods and Reels, Spiderwire, Evinrude Outboard Motors, Evinrude Electric Trolling Motors, Eagle Electronics, and Wheaties.