In the days leading up to the Walmart FLW Tour on Lake Okeechobee presented by Mercury, many pros lamented the tougher fishing conditions and most predicted that no one would break the 100-pound mark this year. Rick Cotten of Guntersville, Ala., ignored the dock talk and now leads a full field of 174 of the world’s best bass-fishing pros in the four-day event that has competitors casting for a top cash award of up to $125,000.
Cotten weighed in the first 30 pound stringer of the tournament Friday – a five-bass limit weighing 30 pounds, 3 ounces – to vault to the top of the leaderboard after finishing day one in second place. After two days of competition Cotten has weighed in 10 bass totaling 54 pounds, 3 ounces and is well on pace to break the 100-pound mark. Cotten now holds a 7 pound, 3 ounce lead over Drew Benton of Panama City, Fla., who caught five bass today weighing 23 pounds, 9 ounces. Benton has weighed in 10 bass totaling 47 pounds even after his first two days on the water.
“There’s a lot of work left to do,” said Cotten, who has one previous top-20 finish on the FLW Tour – a 12th-place finish on Kentucky Lake in 2012 . “If I had a 20-pound lead I’d be tickled. But, I don’t. I placed third in an EverStart event on Guntersville last year and finished 12th at Kentucky (Lake). I’ve never led a tournament this big before.
“I actually caught more fish yesterday,” Cotten continued. “I only caught eight or nine keepers total today. I was just lucky and stuck the right five bites. I went to the area that I was fishing yesterday and I couldn’t catch them. I was only able to catch one 2-pounder. Then I went to a spot where I didn’t catch them at all yesterday and I caught all of my big ones right there.”
Cotten was hesitant to give the details of his new area, but did mention that it was large and multiple boats were flipping the same mats as he was.
“Two of my biggest ones today came between 9:30 and 10 a.m. pretty much on back-to-back casts,” Cotton said. “Then it was a few hours until I caught another big one. When I boated my last kicker at 1 p.m. I quit fishing for the day.
“I’m committed to one technique,” Cotten continued. “I’m just switching between a few different trailers. When they quit hitting one, I’ll pick up the other.”
As with his spot, Cotten did not want to divulge any details about his baits. He promised to speak more in-depth about his baits and techniques later this week.
“I wasn’t even sure that I was going to catch them today,” he said. “I’m hoping that they will stay there and I can catch them again tomorrow. The key is going to be making the right move at the right time, like I did today. I believe it is possible to break 100 pounds here, and I hope I do.”
The top 20 pros that will fish Saturday on Lake Okeechobee are:
1st: Rick Cotten, Guntersville, Ala., 10 bass, 54-3
2nd: Drew Benton, Panama City, Fla., 10 bass, 47-0
3rd: Casey Martin, New Market, Ala., 10 bass, 45-5
4th: Keystone Light pro Chad Grigsby, Maple Grove, Minn., 10 bass, 38-5
5th: Wade Hendricks, Thompsons Station, Tenn., 10 bass, 38-4
6th: Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., 10 bass, 38-3
7th: Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., 10 bass, 37-11
8th: Chevy pro Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., 10 bass, 37-3
9th: Castrol pro Philip Jarabeck, Lynchburg, Va., 10 bass, 36-9
10th: Keystone Light pro Brent Ehrler, Redlands, Calif., 10 bass, 36-1
11th: Brandon Coulter, Knoxville, Tenn., 10 bass, 35-8
12th: Chevy pro Dion Hibdon, Sunrise Beach, Mo., 10 bass, 34-13
13th: EverStart pro Randall Tharp, Gardendale, Ala., 10 bass, 34-0
14th: John Cox, Debary, Fla., 10 bass, 33-11
15th: Shad Schenck, Waynetown, Ind., 10 bass, 33-9
16th: Snickers pro Chris Baumgardner, Gastonia, N.C., 10 bass, 32-6
17th: Andy Morgan, Dayton, Tenn., 10 bass, 31-14
18th: Tom Monsoor, La Crosse, Wis., 10 bass, 31-12
19th: Rich Dalbey, Greenville, Texas, 10 bass, 31-3
20th: Straight Talk pro Scott Canterbury, Springville, Ala., 10 bass, 31-0
For a full list of results visit FLWOutdoors.com.
Terry Segraves of Kissimmee, Fla., won Friday’s 3M ScotchBlue Big Bass Award on the pro side with a fish weighing 9-4 to win the $500 prize.
Overall there were 849 bass weighing 2,047 pounds even caught by 172 pros Friday. The catch included 165 five-bass limits.
Pros are competing for a top award of up to $125,000 this week plus valuable points in the hope of qualifying for the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart, the world championship of bass fishing. The top 35 anglers in the point standings from the six events on the 2013 Walmart FLW Tour will qualify. The 2013 Forrest Wood Cup will be in Shreveport, La., Aug. 15-18 on the Red River.
Justin Jones of Apex, N.C., continues to lead the co-angler division with 10 bass weighing 32-15 followed by Anthony Goggins of Auburn, Ala., in second place with 10 bass weighing 27-15.
The top 20 co-anglers fishing Saturday are:
1st: Justin Jones, Apex, N.C., 10 bass, 32-15
2nd: Anthony Goggins, Auburn, Ala., 10 bass, 27-15
3rd: Greg Scott, Dearborn, Mich., 10 bass, 27-4
4th: Wataru Iwahori, Palestine, Texas, 10 bass, 27-1
5th: Brook Pauley, Morgantown, W. Va., 10 bass, 26-10
6th: Ronnie Green, Tampa, Fla., 10 bass, 25-9
7th: Bill Cowart, Kissimmee, Fla., 10 bass, 25-2
8th: Mike Comeau, Winooski, Vt., 10 bass, 24-10
9th: Jeff Sprague, Point, Texas, 10 bass, 23-14
10th: Greg Knick, Ansonia, Ohio, 10 bass, 23-9
11th: Jim Short, Ocean Pines, Md., 10 bass, 23-7
12th: Clayton Batts, Macon, Ga., 10 bass, 23-5
13th: Ryan Eckman, Clewiston, Fla., 10 bass, 23-5
14th: Tony Bennett, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 10 bass, 22-3
15th: Richard Peek, Centre, Ala., 10 bass, 21-15
16th: Jack Minnig, Levittown, Pa., 10 bass, 21-13
17th: Mike Boyles, Kimberling City, Mo., 10 bass, 21-12
18th: Rick Harkness, Saint Mary’s, W. Va., 10 bass, 21-11
19th: Neal Meadors, Vero Beach, Fla., 10 bass, 21-6
20th: Jonathan Henry, Grant, Ala., 10 bass, 21-2
For a full list of results visit FLWOutdoors.com.
Johnny Manning of Arkadelphia, Ark. caught Friday’s 3M Peltor Big Bass weighing 8-9 in the co-angler division to win $250.
Overall there were 678 bass weighing 1,273 pounds, 6 ounces caught by co-anglers Friday. The catch included 90 five-bass limits.
Co-anglers are fishing for a top award of $25,000 this week plus valuable points that could help them qualify for the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart. The top 35 co-anglers in the point standings from the six events on the 2013 Walmart FLW Tour will qualify.
Anglers will take off from the Clewiston Boat Basin located at 709 Hoover Dike Rd. at 7:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Saturday and Sunday’s final weigh-ins will be held at the Walmart located at 1005 W. Sugarland Highway in Clewiston beginning at 4 p.m.
Fans will also be treated to the FLW Outdoors Expo at the Walmart on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. prior to the final weigh-ins. The Expo includes Ranger boat simulators, the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by sponsors, and fans can learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. All activities are free and open to the public.
Coverage of the Lake Okeechobee tournament will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on NBC Sports Network when “FLW” airs April 7 from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. ET. The Emmy-nominated “FLW” is hosted by Jason Harper and is broadcast to more than 559 million households worldwide, making it the most widely distributed weekly outdoors-sports television show in the world.
Image courtesy FLW Outdoors