Rookie Birge Takes Lead At Walmart FLW Tour Event On Lewis Smith Lake Presented By Evinrude

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Fishing in just his second event as a professional, FLW Tour rookie Zack Birge of Blanchard, Oklahoma, nabbed the lead at the Walmart FLW Tour at Lewis Smith Lake presented by Evinrude. The event features 154 of the best bass-fishing anglers in the world competing for a top cash award of up to $125,000.

Rookie pro Zack Birge of Blanchard, Oklahoma took the lead on day two of the Walmart FLW Tour at Lewis Smith Lake presented by Evinrude.

Fishing in just his second event as a professional, FLW Tour rookie Zack Birge of Blanchard, Oklahoma, brought a five-bass limit to the scale Friday weighing 17 pounds, 14 ounces to take the lead at the Walmart FLW Tour at Lewis Smith Lake presented by Evinrude. With less than six pounds separating first place from 10th place, the tournament is still very much up for grabs as we enter day three of the four-day event, hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County, that features 154 of the best bass-fishing anglers in the world competing for a top cash award of up to $125,000.

Birge’s two-day total of 10 bass weighing 36 pounds, 13 ounces gives him a scant 1-pound lead over day one leader Drew Benton of Panama City, Florida, who brought five bass to the scale Friday totaling 15-1, for a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 35-13.

“I didn’t get my first good bite until around 11 a.m. today,” said Birge, who is the reigning Rayovac FLW Series champion. “The sun came out around noon and the water temperature rose about three degrees. Then the fishing gradually got better.

“I caught my first fish in about a foot of water on a frog, way back in the bushes,” Birge continued. “That’s Oklahoma fishing, and that’s what I’m comfortable doing. I’m fishing shallow, flat pockets and flooded bushes.

“I’m throwing a Santone Lures buzzbait and a frog and bouncing back and forth between them. Yesterday they were tearing up the frog, but today they wouldn’t really touch it. I stopped at a creek today where I had caught some fish yesterday on the frog, but I didn’t get bit. Something didn’t feel right, so I went back through with a buzzbait and ended up catching eight keepers.”

Birge said that he caught around 10 keepers Friday, and his five-bass limit that he brought to the scale consisted entirely of largemouth.

“Tomorrow I’m going to go and try to catch five spotted bass in the morning and try to take some of the pressure off,” Birge went on to say. “Then, hopefully the sun will come back up and warm the water up a little bit. I’m going to have three rods on my deck tomorrow – a buzzbait, a frog and a drop-shot rig. I hope I can get a few largemouth bites later in the day.”

The top 20 pros that made the Buck Knives Cut and will fish Saturday on Lewis Smith Lake are:

    1st:    Zack Birge, Blanchard, Okla., 10 bass, 36-13
    2nd:    Drew Benton, Panama City, Fla., 10 bass, 35-13
    3rd:    Clark Wendlandt, Leander, Texas, 10 bass, 33-8
    4th:    Tracy Adams, Wilkesboro, N.C., 10 bass, 31-12
    5th:    Scott Wiley, Bay Minette, Ala., 10 bass, 31-10
    6th:    Ishama Monroe, Hughson, Calif., 10 bass, 31-7
    7th:    Clayton Batts, Macon, Ga., 10 bass, 31-6
    8th:    Jason Reyes, Huffman, Texas, 10 bass, 31-6
    9th:    Scott Martin, Clewiston, Fla., 10 bass, 30-15
    10th:    Livingston Lures pro Andy Morgan, Dayton, Tenn., 10 bass, 30-14
    11th:    Jayme Rampey, Liberty, S.C., 10 bass, 30-6
    12th:    Dave Lefebre, Erie, Pa., 10 bass, 30-6
    13th:    Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., 10 bass, 29-12
    14th:    Luke Clausen, Spokane, Wash., 10 bass, 29-11
    15th:    Quaker State pro Matt Arey, Shelby, N.C., 10 bass, 29-10
    16th:    Walmart pro David Dudley, Lynchburg, Va., 10 bass, 29-9
    17th:    Shinichi Fukae, Palestine, Texas, 10 bass, 29-9
    18th:    Wesley Strader, Spring City, Tenn., 10 bass, 29-5
    19th”    Anthony Gagliardi, Prosperity, S.C., 10 bass, 29-5
    20th:    John Cox, Debary, Fla., 10 bass, 29-4

For a full list of results visit FLWFishing.com.

Dalton Cooksey of New Concord, Kentucky, won the Bridgford Big Bass Award on the pro side Friday with a bass weighing 7 pounds, 15 ounces to win the $500 prize.

Overall there were 742 bass weighing 1,715 pounds, 15 ounces caught by 153 pros Friday. The catch included 141 five-bass limits.

Brad Roberts of Faubush, Kentucky, won the co-angler division and $20,000 Friday with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 32 pounds, 1 ounce, followed by hometown angler Todd Lee of Jasper, Alabama, in second place with 10 bass weighing 26 pounds, 12 ounces worth $7,500.

“Fishing this tournament was a really great experience,” said Roberts. “To come down to Alabama and get a win here against these great anglers really means a lot to me. This feels awesome.”

The top 10 co-anglers finished:

    1st:    Brad Roberts, Faubush, Ky., 10 bass, 32-1, $20,000
    2nd:    Todd Lee, Jasper, Ala., 10 bass, 26-12, $7,500
    3rd:    Cody Hammontree, Flat Rock, Ala., 10 bass, 23-13, $5,000
    4th:    Lee Black, Danville, Ala., 10 bass, 23-5, $4,000
    5th:    Nick Thliveros, St. Augustine, Fla., 10 bass, 22-11, $3,000
    6th:    John Hunter, Shelbyville, Ky., 10 bass, 21-14, $2,500
    7th:    Mike Devere, Berea, Ky., 20-15, nine bass, 20-15, $2,000
    8th:    Casey Laughlin, Rowlett, Texas, 10 bass, 20-9, $1,800
    9th:    Jimmy Kowalski, Lake Placid, Fla., 10 bass, 20-5, $1,700
    10th:    Joey Cifuentes, Clinton, Ark., 10 bass, 19-11, $1,600

For a full list of results visit FLWFishing.com.

Roberts also caught Friday’s Bridgford Big Bass in the co-angler division weighing 4 pounds, 15 ounces to win the $250 prize.

Overall there were 541 bass weighing 958 pounds, 10 ounces caught by co-anglers Friday. The catch included 69 five-bass limits.

In addition to casting for top awards of up to $125,000 cash in the pro division and up to $25,000 cash in the co-angler division, anglers are also competing for valuable points in hopes of qualifying for the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of bass fishing. The 2015 Forrest Wood Cup will be in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Aug. 20-23 on Lake Ouachita and is hosted by Visit Hot Springs. The Forrest Wood Cup Champion could win as much as $500,000 – professional bass-fishing’s richest prize.

Anglers will take off from Smith Lake Dam Access located at 7482 Smith Lake Dam Road in Jasper at 7 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday and Sunday’s final weigh-ins will be held at the Smith Lake Dam Access beginning at 4 p.m.

Fans will also be treated to the FLW Expo on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. at the Smith Lake Dam Access prior to the final weigh-ins. The Expo includes a Ranger boat simulator, the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by sponsors, and learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. All activities are free and open to the public.

In conjunction with the FLW Expo, the FLW “Get Outdoors. Go Fish!” Youth Fishing Derby will also be held at Smith Lake Dam Access on Saturday from noon – 3 p.m. The derby is free and open to area youth 15 years of age and younger. FLW Tour pros who are not one of the top 20 anglers that make the Buck Knives Cut will be on hand to assist the youth. Pros Rich Dalbey and Todd Hollowell’s “Hooked on Helping” foundation will also be hosting a food drive to benefit the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama and Feed My Sheep Ministries. FLW fans who donate five or more cans of food will be entered to win a $50 Walmart gift card.

Coverage of the Lewis Smith Lake tournament will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) October 5 from 7 p.m.-8 p.m. EST when Season 20 of “FLW” returns this fall. The Emmy-nominated "FLW" television show airs on NBCSN, the Pursuit Channel and the World Fishing Network and is broadcast to more than 564 million households worldwide, making it the most widely distributed weekly outdoors-sports television show in the world.

For complete details and updated information visit FLWFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/FLWFishing and on Twitter at Twitter.com/FLWFishing.

ABOUT FLW
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 2015 over the course of 240 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 564 million households worldwide, making it the most widely distributed weekly outdoors-sports television show in the world. For more information about FLW visit FLWFishing.com and look for FLW on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

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Joe Opager
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