Birge Leads Pros Into Final Day Of Walmart FLW Tour On Lewis Smith Lake Presented By Evinrude

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FLW Tour rookie enters final day as the No. 1 seed in the event that features 154 of the best bass-fishing anglers in the world, competing for a top cash award of up to $125,000.

FLW Tour rookie Zack Birge of Blanchard, Oklahoma, will enter the fourth and final day of competition as the No. 1 seed at the FLW Tour at Lewis Smith Lake.

I will probably not be getting much sleep tonight.

FLW Tour rookie Zack Birge of Blanchard, Oklahoma, caught a five-bass limit weighing 17 pounds, 11 ounces Saturday to extend his lead in a stacked top-20 field that included five former Angler of the Year winners and four Forrest Wood Cup champions. Birge now holds a 3-pound, 11-ounce edge over his closest competitor, legendary pro Clark Wendlandt of Leander, Texas, at the Walmart FLW Tour at Lewis Smith Lake presented by Evinrude. The field is now cut to the final 10 anglers as they enter the fourth and final day of competition in the event that featured 154 of the best bass-fishing anglers in the world competing for a top cash award of up to $125,000.

“I will probably not be getting much sleep tonight,” said Birge, who finished in 13th place at the FLW Tour season opener at Lake Toho just three weeks ago. “I had no expectations coming in to this event, and I had no idea that this tournament would turn out the way it has so far. It’s been an awesome week. I’m fishing just like I do back home – shallow-water bushes – and just having fun.”

Birge stuck to his largemouth pattern that he has had dialed in all week, even when many of his competitors chose to target the abundant Lewis Smith Lake spotted bass in the morning. He caught two largemouth very early in the day, then another eight to 10 keepers in the afternoon as the temperatures warmed.

“The spotted bass that I have been catching have been small, so I figured that I would try to catch a couple of largemouth early and get a few bonus fish,” Birge said. “I was extremely fortunate to catch two of them early and it calmed me down. I knew the bite would turn on around noon, and it did.”

Birge said that he stuck with the baits he has been working with all week, catching three largemouth off of beds with a lizard, two on a frog and the rest of his keepers on a Santone Lures buzzbait.

“I think with a near 4-pound lead, the plan for tomorrow is to go try and catch five spotted bass right away in the morning and get my mind right,” said Birge. “Once I get five keepers in the boat, I’m going to go sit on my largemouth and make them bite. All that I can do is fish for the biggest bag that I can and we’ll see what happens.”

The top 10 pros advancing to the final day of competition Sunday on Lewis Smith Lake are:

1st: Zack Birge, Blanchard, Okla., 15 bass, 54-8
2nd: Clark Wendlandt, Leander, Texas, 15 bass, 50-13
3rd: Tracy Adams, Wilkesboro, N.C., 15 bass, 49-10
4th: Drew Benton, Panama City, Fla., 15 bass, 48-9
5th: Jason Reyes, Huffman, Texas, 15 bass, 47-13
6th: Scott Martin, Clewiston, Fla., 15 bass, 46-9
7th: Dave Lefebre, Erie, Pa., 15 bass, 46-0
8th: John Cox, Debary, Fla., 15 bass, 45-15
9th: Livingston Lures pro Andy Morgan, Dayton, Tenn., 15 bass, 45-13
10th: Clayton Batts, Macon, Ga., 15 bass, 45-12

Finishing in 11th through 20th are:

11th: Quaker State pro Matt Arey, Shelby, N.C., 15-3, 15 bass, 44-13, $12,000
12th: Ishama Monroe, Hughson, Calif., 15 bass, 43-14, $12,000
13th: Luke Clausen, Spokane, Wash., 15 bass, 43-12, $12,000
14th: Wesley Strader, Spring City, Tenn., 15 bass, 42-13, $12,000
15th: Anthony Gagliardi, Prosperity, S.C., 15 bass, 42-13, $12,000
16th: Jayme Rampey, Liberty, S.C., 15 bass, 42-6, $12,000
17th: Walmart pro David Dudley, Lynchburg, Va., 15 bass, 41-9, $12,000
18th: Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., 15 bass, 41-2, $12,000
19th: Scott Wiley, Bay Minette, Ala., 14 bass, 40-4, $12,000
20th: Shinichi Fukae, Palestine, Texas, 15 bass, 39-13, $12,000

Final results for the remaining field can be found at FLWFishing.com.

Overall, there were 99 bass weighing 282 pounds, 4 ounces, caught by pros Saturday. 19 of 20 pros weighed in 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.

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 for the fourth and final day of competition from Smith Lake Dam Access located at 7482 Smith Lake Dam Road in Jasper at 7 a.m. on Sunday. 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 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.

Coverage of the Lewis Smith Lake tournament will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) on Oct. 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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