MEMPHIS, Tenn., Gary Klein of Weatherford, Texas, pocketed $100,000 by winning the fifth event of the 1999 Wal-Mart FLW Tour bass fishing series on the Mississippi River at Memphis. The tournament, which features the world's top professional bass anglers competing for a share of a $471,500 purse, is stop number five of seven in the $4 million series, the most lucrative in fishing history.
Klein , fishing from the Wrangler boat in the final round, survived two earlier rounds of competition and 165 other anglers en route to the Wal-Mart FLW Tour victory. The professional angler landed 5 bass, weighing 22 pounds, 3 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.
"It was just one of those days where everything worked out. I was on a streak where I could do no wrong," Klein said.
Klein caught his winning limit flipping a 1/2 ounce Rattleback jig in 12-14 feet of water 60 miles up river near Tunica, Mississippi.
Fishing from the Timex boat, Chuck Economou of Palm Bay, Florida, took second place with a championship round 5-bass catch weighing 19 pounds, 2 ounces, good for $35,000.
Rounding out the top five in the Wal-Mart FLW Tour's professional division were: (3) Mark Rose of Marion, Arkansas,(Coleman Boat), four bass, 15 pounds, 15 ounces (4) Ken Cook of Meers, Oklahoma, (Uniroyal Boat), four bass, 10 pounds, and (5) Craig Powers of Rockwood, Tennessee, (Fujifilm Boat) , four bass, 5 pounds, 15 ounces.
The win gives Klein 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.
David Walker of Cannon, Kentucky, is leading the Land O'Lakes Angler of the Year points race with 245 points. Points are awarded to anglers after the first two days of competition based on ranking at that time. Craig Powers of Rockwood, TN is following in second place with 244 points. Alton Jones of Waco, TX, is in third with 233 points, followed by Roland Martin of Clewiston, FL, with 232 points, and Ben Lee of Columbia, S.C., 219 points. The Land O'Lakes Angler of the Year will be featured on a special edition box of Wheaties later in the year.
The highest-finishing Ranger boat owner in the tournament will qualify to enter the $3.5 million Ranger M1 Millennium tournament, the richest bass event in history, with a $1 million first-place cash prize at stake. The Ranger owner who catches the largest bass in each division over the course of the season will also qualify for the Ranger Millennium tournament scheduled for November of this year.
Robert Vogelsang of Jessup, Maryland, won the co-angler division competition which concluded Friday with a five bass catch totaling 16 pounds, 13 ounces. He collected $15,000 for the win. Danny Correia of Marlboro, Massachusetts, landed a 7 pound, 2 ounce bass to earn big bass honors for the event. He 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 event pays the winner $200,000.
The Wal-Mart FLW Tour is televised on ESPN and ESPN 2. The Memphis Wal-Mart FLW Tour tournament is scheduled to air on ESPN, Saturday, June 5, 1999, at 1:30 p.m. EDT. All tournaments operated by Operation Bass are catch and release events. Uniroyal will donate $25,000 to the Children's Miracle Network at the end of the season if the Wal-Mart FLW Tour maintains a 98 percent live release rate. After two events, the Wal-Mart FLW Tour's live release rate is over 99 percent.
Sponsors of the 1999 Wal-Mart FLW Tour include: Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Land O'Lakes, CITGO Petroleum Products, Chevy Trucks, Uniroyal Tires, Fujifilm, EverStart Batteries, Eveready Flashlights, Black and Decker, Coleman Company, Ranger Boats, Mitchell Rods and Reels, Spiderwire, Evinrude Outboard Motors, Evinrude Electric Trolling Motors, Eagle Electronics, Timex Expedition, Wrangler, Chex Mix, Hamburger Helper, Us Bank-VISA, and Wheaties. The Memphis stop of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour is presented by Evinrude Outboards.