Rookie Benton Wins Walmart FLW Tour Season Opener on Lake Okeechobee Presented
North Carolina's Jones Wins Co-Angler Title, $25,250
CLEWISTON, Fla., Feb. 10, 2013
CLEWISTON, Fla., Feb. 10, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --Twenty-four year-old rookie
Drew Benton of Panama City, Fla., was fishing in his first event as a
professional this week and caught a 7-pound kicker bass with only seven
minutes to spare to win the Walmart FLW Tour on Lake Okeechobee presented by
Mercury on Sunday. That fish pushed Benton's day 4 weight to 13 pounds, 4
ounces and his total four-day weight to 75 pounds, 7 ounces and was enough to
best 174 of the top bass anglers in the world to earn him a $100,000 paycheck.
Finishing in second place was Keystone Light pro Brent Ehrler of Redlands,
Calif., who weighed in 20 bass totaling 70 pounds, 8 ounces.
Link to photo of pro winner Drew Benton
"Fishing in my first ever Tour event, I never expected this," said Benton,
whose previous high finish was a 14th-place effort in EverStart competition on
Lake Seminole. "I have to pay my entry fees all on my own, so this is such a
big step for me. Now I can actually relax and fish for the rest of the year
and not have to worry about just making a check."
Like Saturday, Sunday's fishing conditions were windy and tough. Benton made
several runs back and forth to areas in South Bay and Turners Cove and burned
through ¾ of a tank of gas by scrambling to try and catch enough weight.
"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. So, I ran back to Turners and was able to finish out a small
limit. I didn't catch my limit of fish until 1:45 p.m. I told the camera man
that I had to run and try and catch a big one. So I made the run back down to
South Bay, and that's when I got the kicker."
Benton said the kicker – a 7-pound Okeechobee behemoth – came while throwing
an entirely different bait than he had used all week.
"I had thrown a PGM Lures bladed swimjig all day and not had one bite on it,"
Benton said. "I decided to try a Hildebrandt white and gold-bladed
spinnerbait, and it bit."
Benton credited the bladed swimjig trailered with a Bass Assassin Die Dapper
as catching more than half of the fish that he weighed in. The others came on
a mixed assortment of Houdini-colored Bass Assassin baits, including the Die
Dapper, a Vapor Shad and the Pure Craw. He also mixed in a Gambler Big EZ
swimbait when conditions got tough.
"When it was real windy and I needed to stir up the top a little more I would
throw the Big EZ," Benton continued. "It's a bigger bait with a bigger
profile, and it seemed to attract them more.
"It was really all about the timing in South Bay," Benton continued. "The bass
needed the sun to move in from offshore and 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
What could be most ironic about Benton's victory is the fact that it almost
didn't happen. When the call came from FLW that he had been accepted, Benton
originally declined his spot in the field.
"When I got the call from (FLW Tour Tournament Director) Bill Taylor to come
fish with FLW, I couldn't afford it," Benton said. "Lee Barker from Angler's
Tackle in Panama City wouldn't accept that answer. He told me that I needed to
be there, and loaned me the money to go fish. To come down here and get the
win is unbelievable."
The top 10 pros finished the tournament in:
1^st: Drew Benton, Panama City, Fla., 20 bass, 75-7, $100,000
2^nd: Keystone Light pro Brent Ehrler, Redlands, Calif., 20
bass, 70-8, $35,000
3^rd: Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., 20 bass, 67-12, $30,000
4^th: Wade Hendricks, Thompsons Station, Tenn., 20 bass,
5^th: Rick Cotten, Guntersville, Ala., 16 bass, 66-11, $20,000
6^th: Casey Martin, New Market, Ala., 20 bass, 61-14, $17,000
7^th: Chevy pro Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., 20 bass, 60-14,
8^th: Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., 20 bass, 58-13, $15,000
9^th: Keystone Light pro Chad Grigsby, Maple Grove, Minn., 20
bass, 55-10, $14,000
10^th: Castrol pro Philip Jarabeck, Lynchburg, Va., 20 bass,
A complete list of results can be found at FLWOutdoors.com.
Overall there were 48 bass weighing 102 pounds, 11 ounces caught by pros
Sunday. The catch included nine five-bass limits.
Justin Jones of Apex, N.C., won the co-angler division and $25,250 Saturday
with a three-day total of 11 bass weighing 39 pounds, 4 ounces, followed by
Richard Peek of Centre, Ala., in second place with 13 bass weighing 35-8 worth
Pros are competed 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
The Tour stop on Lake Okeechobee presented by Mercury Marine was hosted by
Roland & Mary Ann Martin's Marina & Resort and the Hendry County Tourism
Development Council and was the first of six events on the Walmart FLW Tour in
the 2013 season. The next Walmart FLW Tour event will be held at Smith
Mountain Lake presented by Evinrude and will be held March 7-10 in Jasper,
Ala. The event will be hosted by the Walker County Chamber of Commerce and
boats will launch from Smith Lake Dam Access in Jasper. For a complete
schedule, visit FLWOutdoors.com.
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.
For complete details and updated information visit FLWOutdoors.com. For
regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow us on Facebook at
Facebook.com/FLWFishing and on Twitter at Twitter.com/FLWFishing.
FLW is the industry's premier tournament-fishing organization, providing
anglers of all skill levels the opportunity to compete for millions in prize
money nationwide in 2013 over the course of 220 tournaments across five
tournament circuits, four of which provide an avenue to the sport's richest
payday and most coveted championship trophy – the Forrest Wood Cup. FLW
tournament fishing can be seen on the Emmy-nominated "FLW" television show and
is broadcast to more than 559 million households worldwide, making it the most
widely distributed weekly outdoors-sports television show in the world. FLW is
committed to providing a lifestyle experience that is the "Best in Fishing, On
and Off the Water." For more information about FLW visit FLWOutdoors.com and
look for FLW on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube.
Contact: Joe Opager, Communications Specialist, +1-218-434-0748 cell,
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