BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — They’ve driven thousands of miles, spent weeks studying lake maps and water conditions, and made countless casts in preparation for this moment. Now 48 of the world’s top professional anglers are headed to Birmingham where they will square off in head-to-head competition on Logan Martin Lake Aug. 2-5 for a shot at winning $500,000 in their sport’s crowning event – the $1.5 million Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship and Outdoor Show presented by Castrol.
Anglers from 28 states and Japan qualified for the championship after competing in six qualifying events stretching from Lake Okeechobee in Florida to Lake Champlain in New York. These qualifiers are seeded according to their Land O’Lakes Angler of the Year rankings and No. 1 will compete against No. 48, No. 2 against No. 47, No. 3 against No. 46, etc. This bracket-style competition has produced some exciting matches that will likely lead to some nail-biting finishes as Arkansas legends Larry Nixon (No. 8) and George Cochran (No. 41) face off in the opening round alongside Gain Rookie of the Year Gabe Bolivar (No. 7) and veteran Gary Yamamoto (No. 42) among others. The complete championship field and head-to-head pairings are posted at FLWOutdoors.com as well as a full details and a schedule of events.
Championship contenders will take off from Pell City Lakeside Park, located at 2801 Stemley Bridge Road in Pell City at 7 a.m. each day, and daily weigh-ins will be held at 5 p.m. in the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex Arena. The outdoor show features more than 140 exhibits; fishing seminars by Hank Parker, Forrest L. Wood and other bass-fishing legends; and free daily giveaways running from 2 to 8 p.m. Aug. 2 and 3, noon to 9 p.m. Aug. 4 and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 5. August 2 is free FLW Outdoors hat day. August 3 is free Stren fishing line day. August 4 is free Berkley tackle day, and Aug. 5 is free rod and reel and free Fujifilm camera day. Daily giveaways are for children 12 and under accompanied by an adult.
One lucky fan attending the final weigh-in Aug. 5 will also win a new Ranger Z20 Comanche bass boat powered by Yamaha. Three qualifiers will be drawn for the boat giveaway during each day’s 5 p.m. weigh-in, with the final three qualifiers and the eventual winner drawn Aug. 5. Fans must be present to qualify and win. Admission is free, and entry forms will be available at the outdoor show.
The week’s festivities also include a taping of “The Best Dam Sports Show Period” in the BJCC Arena Friday at 1 p.m. and a free concert presented by Chevy featuring country artist Craig Morgan at 4 p.m. Saturday in the BJCC Arena.
Following the two-day opening round, 24 pros advance to the semifinal round based on their two-day accumulated weight. Head-to-head competition continues in the one-day semifinal round, after which 12 pros advance to the final round. The 12 finalists start from zero and compete for one day to determine the winner of the sport’s biggest award – $500,000 cash. Even the pro who finishes 48th earns $15,000 just for qualifying.
Forty-eight co-anglers, who are paired with the pros and fish from the back deck, will compete for two days, after which the top 24 co-anglers based on accumulated weight advance to the third and final day of co-angler competition. Weights are cleared for the co-angler final round, and the winner takes home $25,000.
In addition to the tournament festivities, professional anglers will visit approximately 200 patients ranging in age from 5 to 18 years old at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham on Aug. 4 at 10 a.m. Aside from signing autographs and providing a needed break for the children, the anglers hope to cultivate an appreciation of the environment by teaching about the conservation of fish habitat and being respectful of nature. The anglers will also take this opportunity to explain why more than 50 million people pick up their rods and wet a line each year – because fishing is a fun, wholesome activity the entire family can enjoy.
Another event coinciding with the 2006 FLW Tour Championship is the National Guard Junior World Championship – a one-day, youth-oriented fishing championship held July 31. The event, in which youths qualify through TBF (The Bass Federation) state programs, is designed to highlight some of the best up-and-coming angling talent in the nation. Each participating TBF state is sending two junior anglers (one in the 11-14 age bracket and another in the 15-18 age bracket). These anglers will fish with the FLW Tour Championship pros on Lake Neely Henry in Gadsden, Ala. The takeoff and weigh-in will be held at the Gadsden City Launch located at 200 Lake St. in Gadsden at 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.
Fishing fans will have the chance to swap fish tales with Team Chevy anglers Larry Nixon, Luke Clausen, Kim Stricker, Dion Hibdon and David Fritts during Chevy Pro Night from 6 to 8 p.m. at Edwards Chevrolet located at 1400 3rd Ave. N. in Birmingham July 31. FLW Tour anglers will also be hosting fishing seminars at more than a dozen Birmingham-area Wal-Mart stores from 6 to 8 p.m. July 31.
Named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood, FLW Outdoors administers the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Series, Stren Series, Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail presented by Abu Garcia, Stratos Owners’ Tournament Trail, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye League, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Series, Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series and Wal-Mart FLW Striper Series. These circuits offer combined purses exceeding $37.9 million through 249 events in 2006.
For more information about FLW Outdoors and its tournament programs, browse FLWOutdoors.com or call (270) 252-1000.
Wal-Mart and many of America’s largest and most respected companies support FLW Outdoors and its tournament trails. Wal-Mart signed on as an FLW Outdoors sponsor in 1997 and today is the world’s leading supporter of tournament fishing. For more information about Wal-Mart, visit Wal-Mart.com.