Clewiston, Fla. (Jan. 26, 2002) — JT Kenney, Frostburg, Md. (5 bass, 21 pounds, 13 ounces) won the Wal-Mart FLW Tour season opener on Lake Okeechobee Saturday. He was flippin’ a Blue Shadow Gambler crawdad with a 5/16th-oz. weight into grass and bullrushes. “I never really knew I had the tournament won,” Kenney said.
“I always thought that if I was catching fish today, everyone else was too. I lost a big fish early and it haunted me all day. Kept thinking I was going to lose it by just a little bit. A very little bit.” Kenney said earlier he couldn’t believe he had made the Poulan Cut to the top-10. Luckily, he did and plans to put his winnings to good use: pay this season’s FLW Tour entry fees.
Kenney added that when the big fishing started biting, it got ugly real quick and that there were no words to describe what he felt.
Jimmi Leuthner, Vernon, Vt. (5 bass, 20 pounds, 4 ounces); Jay Yelas, Tyler, Texas (5 bass, 13 pounds, 11 ounces); Gary Klein, Weatherford, Texas (5 bass, 12 pounds, 2 ounces); and Joe Don Setina, Pittsburg, Texas (5 bass, 9 pounds) round out the final top five professionals.
The Children’s Miracle Network also received a $25,000 donation from Energizer at Saturday’s weigh-in. The check was awarded to the Children’s Miracle Network for FLW Outdoors maintaining a 98 percent live release rate during the previous season on the Wal-Mart FLW Tour.
Okeechobee has been the Wal-Mart FLW Tour opener for six of the last seven years. In 1999 and 2000, the clear water areas needed to harbor bass were scarce. In 2001, the lake was at record low levels and hardly any green vegetation existed. Fishermen said they were impressed with the water’s clarity and amount of vegetation this season and do believe it has affected their strategies. FLW Outdoors again awarded $5,000 to the Fish America Foundation for fisheries habitat improvement on Lake Okeechobee. Each year, FLW Outdoors contributes approximately $100,000 to the Fish America Foundation for direct benefit on tournament waters.
Anglers appeared on PAX TV Saturday, when the final weigh-in was broadcast live nationally on the FLW Outdoors television show. All FLW Outdoors television shows will air Saturdays at 3 p.m. EST, 2 p.m. CST and 3 p.m. PST.
Wal-Mart FLW Tour professional anglers competed for $110,000. Co-angler Gregg Lineberry, Galax, Va. (5 bass, 13 pounds, 11 ounces) won the $15,000 first place prize for his division. Twenty pro and co-anglers advanced to Friday’s semifinal out of the 175 field after two days of competition. The top 10 pros from the semifinal round advanced to Saturday’s final round, when weights started from zero.
The 2002 Wal-Mart FLW Tour sponsors include: Wal-Mart, ALPO Pet Foods, BFGoodrich Tires, Castrol, Chevy Trucks, Coleman, Conseco, Eagle Electronics, Energizer, EverStart Batteries, Evinrude, Faded Glory, Frito-Lay, Fujifilm, Kellogg’s, Land O’Lakes, Maxwell House, Minn Kota, Pepsi, Poulan, Ranger Boats, Shop-Vac, Snickers, Stanley Works, US Bank, Weed Eater and Yamaha Outboards. Associate sponsors are Abu Garcia, Act II, Berkley, David Sunflower Seeds, Eagle Claw, Laker, Plano and Solar Bat.
Story Courtesy of FLW Outdoors