Walmart FLW Tour

Season Opener on the Big O

Courtesy FLW Outdoors June 13, 2013

Competing on the FLW Tour is no easy task, just ask the field of 174 pros who set out for four days of competition on Lake Okeechobee in hopes of taking home top honors and upwards of $125,000. Amongst these seasoned competitors, Lake Okeechobee is recognized as a prized fishery for producing trophy largemouth bass. However, as good as it is they all agree the Big O can be a very challenging arena.

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Photo: Brett Carlson

Catching a 6-pounder on his first cast of day one, rookie pro Casey Martin set the stage early for what was going to be a hard fought battle, with changing conditions making for inconsistent fishing. Martin searched far and wide, burning almost two full tanks of fuel in the process. However, at the end of the day his efforts proved enough, with his three biggest fish weighing over 6 pounds each!

Visit flwoutdoors.com for complete results and updated leaderboards as the world’s best bass fishermen hit the road in hopes of landing lunker largemouth.

“On my first cast I caught a 6 pound, 8 ounce bass. The net wasn’t even out yet,” said Martin. “The momentum just went from there. I had a 12 pound limit early, which I knew would keep me in the running and then I just went all over the place. At noon I had about 20 pounds!”

The action Martin encountered was similar to what others experienced, with 157 limits amongst the field, including seven over 20 pounds. On day two the good fishing continued, with Rick Cotten posting an impressive 30 pound limit only a day after recording a 24 pound limit. Also finding the right bites on the second day, Chad Grigsby weighed 25 pounds 11 ounces for a two-day total of nine bass weighing 38 pounds, 5 ounces. With his efforts on day two, Grigsby climbed the ranks from 52nd to 4th.

With a frontal boundary blanketing the area with 20 mph north winds on day three, tournament competitors knew it would be a tough day for topwater and sight fishing endeavors. Leading the field going into day two, Rick Cotten knew the wind would make for difficult fishing and his expertise proved right, only catching three keepers for a total of 7 pounds. “I haven’t been fishing these tournaments for all that long, but that was my first time not weighing in a limit,” said Cotten.

Even after slow fishing on day three, Cotten was only a single pound behind rookie Drew Benton going into the final day. Tournament anglers were again greeted with blustery winds on the final day of this season opening event, held at Roland & Mary Ann Martin’s Marina & Resort.

On the final day of competition Benton made several runs back and forth to areas in South Bay and Turners Cove as he tried to fend off competitors and keep his lead. “It was such a grind,” Benton said. “I started the day in South Bay, then went to Turners. Nothing was happening there, so I went back to South Bay and checked it again. I fished there for three hours and was only able to catch two keepers. I ran back to Turners and was able to finish out a small limit. I made the run back down to South Bay, and that’s when I got the kicker.”

With only seven minutes remaining, Benton landed a 7-pounder that brought his four-day total weight to 75 pounds, 7 ounces. “It was really all about the timing in South Bay,” Benton continued. “The bass needed the sun to move in from offshore before they would set up on the reeds. When they first moved up, you could catch them really fast. With the wind blowing so hard yesterday and today, I never could get on them real good. I was able to catch a few keepers, but the majority of my fish came from Turners Cove.”

Taking home 2nd Place was Brent Ehrler of Redlands, CA, who weighed 20 bass totaling 70 pounds, 8 ounces. In six years of tournament fishing in Florida, Ehrler had never cashed a single check, but that was all about to change. “For about 30 minutes straight I caught them nonstop,” said Ehrler. “If I didn’t catch one on every cast it was every other cast.”

After starting the day a pound off the lead, Rick Cotten only managed three keepers weighing 5 pounds, 8 ounces and fell three spots to 5th Place overall. While anglers competed for cold hard cash on the first of six stops of the Walmart FLW Tour, pros were also vying for points to qualify for Angler of the Year, with the top 35 anglers in the point standings from the six events competing at the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup in Shreveport, LA, August 15-18, 2013. Visit flwoutdoors.com for complete results and updated leaderboards as the world’s best bass fishermen hit the road in hopes of landing lunker largemouth.

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