New Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League to open on Lake Okeechobee
GILBERTSVILLE, Ky. (Jan. 29, 2001) - The world's largest retailer will begin
its newest bass fishing endeavor Feb. 3 with a tournament on Lake
Okeechobee. The Gator Division tournament is the first in a 119-event series
for weekend anglers known as the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League (BFL).
Wal-Mart announced last spring that it would become title sponsor of the
popular Operation Bass Red Man Tournament Trail series that is widely
credited with opening competitive bass fishing to the masses. The
announcement marked the end of an era for Red Man, which became the tour's
original title sponsor in 1983 and helped Operation Bass pioneer affordable,
close-to-home, weekend tournaments.
Operation Bass chairman Irwin L. Jacobs believes that Wal-Mart's sponsorship
of the BFL will open new marketing avenues for the retailer and the series.
"Wal-Mart is committed to elevating sport fishing in America," he said.
"This sponsorship is a natural extension for them, as it will have a
significant impact on their customers in grass roots markets. Wal-Mart
customers and fishing enthusiasts are one and the same."
Indeed, Wal-Mart sponsorship of the BFL signals the company's strong
commitment to one of the nation's most popular pastimes and bodes well for
the future of the sport. In recent years, professional bass fishing has
moved from the backwaters of southern impoundments to the mainstream largely
due the big-money Wal-Mart FLW Tour and EverStart Series, both of which are
Operation Bass programs.
"We are always looking for innovative ways to reach our customers," said
Mike McFadden, vice president, divisional merchandise manager for Wal-Mart.
"Our support of the BFL is a new way to communicate with Wal-Mart customers
who enjoy the outdoors and love to fish."
The BFL features a boater and co-angler format to accommodate anglers of
various skill levels. It also uses a 200-point scoring system that insures
equitable treatment of all competitors. Under the system, an angler receives
200 points for a win, 199 points for second, 198 points for third and so on.
Every angler who receives weight credit during a tournament receives points.
The Feb. 3 weigh-in will begin at 3 p.m. at Okee-Tantie marina located on
State Road 78 approximately 10 miles southwest of Okeechobee city. The
winning boater will collect up to $6,000, and the winning co-angler will
receive up to $3,000 based on a full field of 200 boaters and 200
The Wal-Mart BFL will return to Florida Feb. 24 for a tournament on Lake
Toho near Kissimmee followed by a March 24 event on Lake Okeechobee near
Clewiston. Lake Toho will host the fourth Gator Division tournament May 5,
and Lake Okeechobee will be home to the division's Super Tournament in
Clewiston Oct. 6-7.
Nationwide, the BFL is divided into 22 divisions - each featuring four
one-day qualifying tournaments and a two-day Super Tournament. Entry fees in
each qualifying event are $150 for boaters and $75 for co-anglers. Entry
fees for Super Tournaments are doubled, as are payouts. Each Super
Tournament will award up to $12,000 to the winning boater and up to $6,000
to the winning co-angler.
After the qualifying events and the Super Tournaments are complete, the top
30 boaters and top 30 co-anglers from each division advance to one of six
three-day regional tournaments. At the regionals, boaters compete for a new
Chevy Truck and a Ranger boat. Co-anglers fish for a Ranger boat. Anglers
who have fished all five tournaments within a division but do not qualify
for a regional can compete in the Chevy Trucks Wild Card Regional for a shot
at qualifying for the $250,000 BFL All-American - one of the most lucrative
post-season tournaments in competitive angling.
The top eight boaters and top eight co-anglers from each regional (four from
the Western Regional) will advance to the All-American along with the top
six boaters and top six co-anglers from the Chevy Wild Card. The
All-American champion receives priority entry in the 2002 Wal-Mart FLW Tour.
The top 30 anglers from each BFL division may advance to the 2002 EverStart
Series - the pathway to the FLW Tour.
The support given to bass fishing by the world's leading retailer is
unprecedented. Wal-Mart's initial sponsorship of the FLW Tour in 1997 was
the first sponsorship in the company's history. Wal-Mart then expanded its
involvement in the sport in 1998 as title sponsor of the EverStart Series.
EverStart is Wal-Mart's private label automotive and marine battery. It is
also the No. 1 selling retail automotive and marine battery in the world.
Awards for the 2001 BFL season could reach $5.7 million based on full fields
at each tournament.
Sponsors of the 2001 Wal-Mart BFL are ALPO Pet Foods, BC Powder, BFGoodrich
Tires, Black & Decker, Chevy Trucks, CITGO, Coleman, Energizer, EverStart
Batteries, Frito-Lay, FujiFilm, Garmin, Kellogg's, Land O'Lakes, Mercury
Marine, Minn Kota, Pepsi, Poulan, Pure Fishing, Ranger Boats, Snickers
Cruncher Bar, Stren, Shop-Vac, Timex, US Bank, Visa, Weed Eater, Wrangler
and Yamaha Outboards. ACDelco is an associate sponsor of the Wal-Mart BFL.