First successful pro title defense in FLW Tour history
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Gary Klein of Weatherford, Texas, successfully defended last year's Wal-Mart FLW Tour win on the Mississippi River with a $100,000 victory Saturday in Memphis. His final-round catch of five bass weighing 21 pounds, 5 ounces was enough to top Wal-Mart Open champion Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo., by 1 pound, 8 ounces.
While many anglers opted to make brutal runs of more than 120 miles downstream to highly productive but narrowly accessible oxbows, Klein stuck to the game plan that earned him last year's victory and fished Tunica Lake, which is located approximately 70 miles south of Memphis.
“Any time you stand onstage at a world-class event like this and shake Rick Clunn's hand for finishing second is unbelievable,” said Klein, who caught all of his fish on a ½-ounce rattle-back jig. “I think maybe they are going to start calling me Mr. Tunica. I consider this one of the finest fisheries in the world.”
Klein's win capped his third top-five appearance in as many Wal-Mart FLW Tour starts this season and marked the first time an FLW Tour angler returned to a fishery to successfully defend a win from the previous season.
By winning the lucrative tournament, Klein automatically qualifies for the Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship presented by CITGO Sept. 13-16 in Shreveport, La. There, he will fish against 49 of the world's top bass anglers for $250,000 – the richest championship prize in bass fishing series history.
Second place and $35,000 at the Memphis tournament presented by Coca-Cola went to Clunn for a five-bass catch weighing 20-7 from the Coleman boat. Ken Cook of Meers, Okla., placed third and collected $20,000 with five bass weighing 19-14 from the Timex boat. Davy Hite of Prosperity, S.C., finished fourth and earned $16,000 for a five-bass, 18-6 stringer from the Wrangler boat followed by Larry Frasier of Madisonville, Ky., who weighed in five bass that tipped the scales at 15-13 to win $14,000. Frasier fished from the EverStart boat.
Hite earned the Energizer “Keeps On Going” award for the greatest comeback during the event. He fought back from 15th place after a five-bass catch weighing 16-5 on day one to make the final round.
Boasting a $4.4 million purse, the 2000 Wal-Mart FLW Tour is the most lucrative bass fishing series in history. The sixth stop on the seven-event tour is June 21-24 on Pickwick Lake near Florence, Ala. Kellogg's will present the Pickwick tournament.
The Memphis tourney will air June 3 on ESPN at noon EST.