CLEWISTON, Fla. — Clear skies and warmer temperatures improved fishing Saturday, allowing local favorite, Steve Daniel of Clewiston, Fla., to catch five bass weighing 12 pounds, 2 ounces on Lake Okeechobee to win $100,000 in the first Wal-Mart FLW Tour bass event of the new millennium.
Until Saturday's finale, the $500,000 tournament presented by Eagle Electronics was marred by cold temperatures and windy conditions that made fishing difficult and left many top professionals, including local legend Roland Martin, out of contention.
Daniel caught his limit using a topwater Rapalla and Ninja Spin spinnerbait. He caught the bass on the edge of grass beds at the south end of Lake Okeechobee near South Bay.
“It was just a great day today,” Daniel says. “I had most of my fish before eight this morning, but then I started getting nervous about competing for $100,000. I'm just speechless, I don't know what to say.”
With the victory, Daniel ties the all-time FLW Tour win record of three set by David Fritts of Lexington, N.C. Daniel won the second FLW Tour event of 1996 held on Lake Okeechobee. He also won the first FLW Tour Championship, which was held on Georgia's Lake Lanier in 1996. Daniel's victory Saturday earned him the inaugural Energizer “Keeps On Going” award for the greatest comeback during the event. Daniel fought back from 24 th place after day one to make it into the final round.
By winning the lucrative tournament, Daniel, fishing Saturday from the Kellogg's boat, automatically qualifies for the Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship presented by CITGO Sept. 13-16, 2000, in Shreveport, La. There, he will fish against 49 of the world's top bass anglers for $250,000.
Second place and $35,000 went to Jeff Simes of Punta Gorda, Fla., for an 8-14 catch from the Coleman boat. Stephen Browning of Hot Springs, Ark., placed third and collected $20,000 for a 3-01 catch from the Timex boat. Craig Powers of Rockwood, Tenn., finished fourth and earned $16,000 for a 3-0 stringer, followed by Marty Stone of Fayetteville, N.C., who weighed in a 2-07 catch to win $14,000. Powers and Stone fished from the EverStart and Land O'Lakes boats respectively.
Robert Vogelsang of Jessup, Mo., won the Co-Angler Division title Friday and collected $15,000 plus a year's supply of CITGO gasoline for his catch weighing 10-04. For complete co-angler and pro results, visit www.flwtour.com.
Run by Operation Bass Inc., the world's largest bass tournament organization, the Wal-Mart FLW Tour historically maintains a 98 percent live release rate. If the FLW Tour continues the rate through 2000, BFGoodrich Tires will donate $25,000 to the Children's Miracle Network.