Walmart FLW Tour Set to Kickoff 2016 Season at Lake Okeechobee

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CLEWISTON, Fla. – The first tournament of the 21st season of the Walmart FLW Tour, the most competitive Tour in professional bass-fishing, kicks off Feb. 4-7 with the Walmart FLW Tour at Lake Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats. Hosted by Roland & Mary Ann Martin’s Marina & Resort and the Hendry County Tourism Development Council, the tournament will feature 169 of the world’s best bass-fishing professionals and co-anglers 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.

Scott Martin mixed it up with deep fish and spawning fish to make yet another top 10.

Scott Martin mixed it up with deep fish and spawning fish to make yet another top 10.

“We had our first real cold front of the year during the recent Costa FLW Series tournament last weekend and it really slowed things down a bit,” said local pro Scott Martin of Clewiston, Florida, the defending FLW Tour Angler of the Year. “We’ve had some weird weather here. It was a very mild winter, then last week the cold front came in along with the heavy winds and rains. It’s brought the water levels up a half of a foot.

“That being said, I think that the Tour event is still going to be a fantastic tournament,” Martin continued. “The fish will have adjusted to the colder temperatures by then and I believe we are going to see a lot of fish caught. With the water levels up it has really opened up a lot of new areas, which is very interesting. The water coming up 6 inches on Lake Okeechobee is a lot. The fish are much further back than they normally would be and with the right warming trend we could see a lot of those fish spawning in areas they haven’t been to in years.”

Martin said that all of the standard springtime Okeechobee baits would be in play for tournament anglers. He divulged that he’ll be flipping a Tightlines UV Punch with a big 1½- or 2-ounce weight and throwing a Bruiser Baits Super Swimmer swimbait. Martin also mentioned that he would have various topwater and prop baits rigged up along with moving baits like lipless crankbaits, spinnerbaits, Z-Man ChatterBaits and swim jigs.

“It’s tough to try to predict a winning weight due to the unpredictable weather we’ve been having, but I believe that the winner will most likely weigh in a four-day total of more than 80 pounds,” Martin went on to say.

In FLW Tour competition, anglers are also vying for valuable points in hopes of qualifying for the 2016 Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of bass fishing. The 2016 Forrest Wood Cup will be on Wheeler Lake in Huntsville, Alabama, Aug. 4-7 and is hosted by the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Pro Michael Williamson of Fort Smith, Arkansas, withdrew from the 2016 FLW Tour prior to the Okeechobee tournament due to medical reason. Pro Rick Cotten of Guntersville, Alabama, was disqualified due to an inadvertent violation of FLW Tour Rule No. 5 regarding approved practice partners. Cotten will fish the remaining five regular-season events on the FLW Tour. The FLW Tour event at Lake Okeechobee will fish 169 pros and co-anglers.

Anglers will take off from Roland & Mary Ann Martin’s Marina & Resort located at 920 E. Del Monte, Ave., in Clewiston at 7:30 a.m. each day. Thursday and Friday’s weigh-ins will be held at the marina beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday’s final weigh-ins will be held at Walmart, located at 1005 W. Sugarland Highway., in Clewiston 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 Walmart prior to the final weigh-ins. The Expo includes a 100-yard Lew’s Casting Lane, the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by FLW sponsors, and learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. All activities are free and open to the public.

As part of the FLW Tour’s community outreach initiative, FLW Tour anglers will visit elementary students at Eastside Elementary School on Wednesday, Feb. 3 from 8:30-10 a.m. to introduce students to fishing and outdoor activities in their community. During the presentations the pro anglers will reinforce how science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) relate to outdoor activities as well as boating safety. The presentation will promote the sport of fishing and outdoor recreation and give youth the information they need to “Get Outdoors. Go Fish!”

Also for youth, the FLW Foundation’s Unified Fishing Derby will be held at Roland & Mary Ann Martin’s Marina on Saturday, Feb. 6 from 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. The event is hosted by FLW Foundation pro Cody Kelley along with other FLW Tour anglers, and is free and open to area youth 15 years of age and younger and Special Olympics athletes. Rods and reels are available for use, but youth are encouraged to bring their own if they own one. All bait is provided by the DMF Bait Company.

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About FLW

FLW is the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, providing anglers of all skill levels the opportunity to compete for millions in prize money in 2016 across five tournament circuits. Headquartered in Benton, Kentucky, with offices in Minneapolis, FLW conducts more than 235 bass-fishing tournaments annually across the United States and sanctions tournaments in Canada, China, Mexico and South Korea. FLW tournament fishing can be seen on the Emmy-nominated “FLW” television show, broadcast to more than 564 million households worldwide, while FLW Bass Fishing magazine delivers cutting-edge tips from top pros. For more information and follow FLW at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Periscope: @FLWFishing.