Vatalaro Leads $1.5 Million Chevy Open on Detroit River
Jul 10th, 2008 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Jul 10th, 2008 at 12:00 AM
DETROIT (July 10, 2008) – Team Pringles pro Vic Vatalaro of Kent, Ohio, crossed the stage Thursday with a five-bass limit weighing 21 pounds, 11 ounces to lead day one of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour's Chevy Open on the Detroit River. Vatalaro now holds a slim two-ounce lead in the $1.5 million tournament featuring 400 anglers from 35 states, Mexico, Australia and Japan.
Anglers set an FLW Tour record Thursday with a one-day total catch of 5,137 pounds, 6 ounces, which was 262 pounds, 1 ounce heavier than the previous record of 4,874-05 set in 2006 on Lake Champlain in New York. Before the event began, many anglers found that the better bite might have shifted from Lake Erie to Lake St. Clair. Vatalaro was no exception, opting to fish St. Clair on opening day despite spending most of his practice on Lake Erie.
"I decided to change up and go the other direction," said Vatalaro, who has won more than $412,000 in FLW Outdoors events. "(In practice) I couldn't get Lake Erie to do the job.
"We caught them pretty quick this morning," Vatalaro added. "Both me and my co-angler caught fish right off the bat, exactly where we stopped."
Vatalaro said he caught his keeper limit by noon in a big area he was able to roam, targeting weed openings in 18 to 20 feet of water and flipping tubes into the openings he had marked on his electronics. He also claimed a few fish on a drop-shot rig.
"The thing about St. Clair is, the tournament can definitely be won there," Vatalaro said. "Those fish are definitely growing up. There's lots of food over there and those fish are healthy. The 3-pounders that were around just a couple of years ago are now 4- and 5-pounders."
Rounding out the top five places are Bryan Coates of Amherst, Ohio (five bass, 21-09); David McCrone of Minnetonka, Minn. (five bass, 21-06); Mike Hawkes of Sabinal, Texas (five bass, 20-12); and Terry Baksay of Easton, Conn., and Greg Vinson of Wetumpka, Ala. (five bass, 20-10).
Keith Monson of Burgin, Ky., earned the day's $1,000 Snickers Big Bass award in the Pro Division thanks to a 5-pound, 10-ounce bass. If that weight holds up Friday as the heaviest of the two-day opening round, he will earn an additional $1,000.
Overall there were 945 bass weighing 2,885 pounds, 10 ounces caught by 199 pros Thursday. The catch included 174 five-bass limits.
Pros are competing for a top award of $200,000 this week plus valuable points in the hope of qualifying for the $2 million Forrest Wood Cup presented by BP and Castrol in Columbia, S.C., Aug. 14-17, where they could win as much as $1 million – the sport's biggest award.
The Land O'Lakes Angler of the Year title is still up for grabs, as Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tenn., who has 926 points, and Team Berkley pro Glenn Browne of Ocala, Florida, who has 904 points, finished the day in 175th place and 190th place, respectively.
Tournament pros aren't the only ones winning big this season. With the introduction of FLW Fantasy Fishing™, which offers $7.3 million in cash and prizes, FLW Outdoors® presents anyone with the opportunity to land the catch of a lifetime. Players in the lucrative new fantasy sports league can become virtual pros by signing up for Player's Advantage, which provides exclusive insider information that could guide them to a $100,000 victory at every Wal-Mart FLW Tour stop and the Forrest Wood Cup. Player's Advantage will give them an edge over the competition and increase their shot for a $1 million cash grand prize that will be awarded to the FLW Fantasy Fishing cumulative points winner. Those who visit FantasyFishing.com today can sign up for Player's Advantage and receive a complimentary $15 Wal-Mart gift card.
Jerry Weisinger of Wyandotte, Okla., leads the Co-angler Division with five bass weighing 20-10 followed by Brandon Hunter of Benton, Ky., in second place with five bass weighing 19-01.
"We made a pretty long run and fished offshore in 18 feet of water," said Weisinger, who is fishing in his first season of FLW Tour competition. "We fished mainly a goby on a drop-shot rig. We kept working areas and changing. We'd get one bite here and one bite there.
"I'm not even sure where we were," Weisinger added. "We were so far offshore I couldn't even see land."
Weisinger took the early lead in the tournament while fishing with Team Kellogg's pro Dave Lefebre of Union City, Penn., who is currently in 13th place with five bass weighing 19-11.
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Scott Gibson of Biloxi, Miss. (five bass, 18-14); Mike Lawrence of Toledo, Ohio (five bass, 18-13) and Kris Thornton of Osceola, Ind. (five bass, 18-10).
Michael Marshall of Dawsonville, Ga., earned the day's $500 Snickers Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division thanks to a 5-pound, 4-ounce bass.
Overall there were 771 bass weighing 2,251 pounds, 12 ounces caught by 190 co-anglers Thursday. The catch included 108 five-bass limits.
Co-anglers are fishing for a top award of $40,000 this week.
Anglers will take off at 6:30 each morning from Elizabeth Park Marina located at 202 Grosse Ile Parkway in Trenton, Mich. Friday's weigh-in will also be held at Elizabeth Park Marina beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday's weigh-ins will be held at the Cobo Center located atOne Washington Blvd. in Detroit beginning at 4 p.m.
Prior to the weigh-ins Saturday and Sunday, FLW Outdoorswill host a free Family Fun Zone and outdoor show in the Cobo Centerstarting at noon each day. The Family Fun Zone offers fans a chance to meet their Fantasy Fishing team anglers face-to-face and review the latest products from Berkley, Lowrance, Ranger, Evinrude, Yamaha and other sponsors while children are treated to giveaways, fishing themed games and rides like the Ranger Boat simulator. Children 14 and under visiting the Family Fun Zone Sunday will also receive a free rod and reel combo while supplies last, and one lucky member of the audience will win a new Ranger boat during the final 4 p.m. weigh-in on Sunday. Admission is free and you must be present to win.
Pros and co-anglers are randomly paired each day, and the full field of 400 anglers competes in the two-day opening round for one of 10 slots in Saturday's competition based on their two-day accumulated weight. Weights are cleared for Saturday, and co-angler competition concludes following Saturday's weigh-in. The top 10 pros continue competition Sunday, with the winner determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from the final two days.
Coverage of the Chevy Open will be broadcast to 81 million FSN (Fox Sports Net) subscribers in the United States as part of the "FLW Outdoors" television program airing Aug. 31 and Sept. 7. "FLW Outdoors" is also broadcast in Canada on WFN (World Fishing Network) and to more than 429 million households in the United Kingdom, Europe, Russia, Australia, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East through a distribution agreement with Matchroom Sport, making it the most widely distributed fishing program in the world. The program airs Sunday mornings at 11 Eastern time in most markets. Check local listings for times in your area.
FLW Outdoors, named after Forrest L. Wood, the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, is the largest fishing tournament organization in the world. In 2008 alone the organization is offering more than 90,000 anglers the chance to win over $40 million through 230 tournaments in 10 circuits targeting bass, walleye, redfish, kingfish and striped bass. FLW Outdoors is also taking fishing mainstream with the largest cash awards in the history of fantasy sports, $7.3 million.
For more information about FLW Outdoors and its tournaments, visit FLWOutdoors.com or call (270) 252-1000. For more information about FLW Fantasy Fishing and Player's Advantage, visit FantasyFishing.com.