LAKE WALES, Fla. (Jan. 26, 2009) – Boater Jeremy Smith of Plant City, Fla., won the Walmart Bass Fishing League Gator Division tournament on the Kissimmee River Saturday with a five-bass catch weighing 28 pounds, 12 ounces. The victory earned Smith $4,271 and placed him one step closer to qualifying for the Clarks Hill Lake Regional Championship in Martinez, Ga., Oct 15-17, where he could ultimately win a new Ranger boat and a Chevy truck.
“Watching the Weather Channel I knew it had been cold all week. I just had a thought in my mind that the fish would pull out in deeper water,” said Smith. “When I practiced, I stuck with that idea that fish were going to be deeper and discovered that Friday before the tournament.”
Smith caught a total of eight fish between takeoff hours and lunchtime and kept the best five, culling only once. Smith said he knew that Saturday was forecast to be a nice day, and by mid-morning the weather had improved.
“I didn’t have to fish anymore, so I put my pole down and tried to help my co-angler catch his limit,” Smith said. The winning fish were caught on a Rat-L-Trap and a Yo-Zuri lipless crankbait.
“I normally don’t catch that much weight the day of takeoff. But I ran up to Lake Toho and fished in a new place. An angler before me caught a 9-pound, 2-ounce bass, and I thought he had caught the big one. But I fished it for a while longer and caught a bigger one,” Smith said.
Rounding out the top five boaters are Kyle Walters of Palm Bay, Fla. (five bass, 26-13, $2,136); John Stahl of Wesley Chapel, Fla. (four bass, 20-08, $1,424); Micah Silverman of Orlando, Fla. (five bass, 14-09, $997) and Miles Burghoff of Saint Cloud, Fla. (five bass, 14-06, $854).
Smith took home the Boater Division Big Bass award, earning $4,271 for a 9-pound, 11-ounce bass he caught.
Scott Kerslake of Henderson, N.C., earned $2,136 as the co-angler winner Saturday thanks to five bass weighing 15 pounds, 12 ounces.
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Johnny Dease of Orlando, Fla. (five bass, 12-04, $1,068); Chris Youngblood of Dunedin, Fla. (five bass, 10-13, $712); Douglas Conklin of Harmony, Fla. (five bass, 8-13, $498) and David Lepsic of Haines City, Fla. (five bass, 8-07, $427).
Kerslake earned $2,136 as the co-angler Big Bass winner after catching a 15-pound, 12-ounce bass.
The next Gator Division event will be held on the Harris Chain of Lakes in Tavarez, Fla., Feb 14.
The top 40 boaters and 40 co-anglers in each of the BFL’s 28 divisions at the end of the season advance to a no-entry-fee Regional Championship where boaters fish for a new Ranger boat and a Chevy truck and co-anglers fish for a new Ranger boat. Seven regional championships will each send six boaters and six co-anglers to the no-entry-fee Walmart BFL All-American presented by Chevy, which features a $1 million purse and a top award of $140,000 in the Boater Division and $70,000 in the Co-angler Division. Anglers who compete in all five regular-season events within a division but do not advance to a Regional Championship are eligible to compete in the Chevy Wild Card, which will also send six boaters and six co-anglers to the All-American for a total of 48 boaters and 48 co-anglers advancing through BFL competition.
In BFL competition, boaters supply the boat and compete from the front deck against other boaters. Co-anglers compete from the back deck against other co-anglers.
As the nation’s leading provider of affordable, close-to-home weekend tournaments, the BFL is widely credited with opening competitive bass fishing to the masses. It also serves as a steppingstone for anglers who wish to advance to the Stren Series and ultimately the FLW Tour – bass fishing’s most lucrative tournament circuit.
Total awards are based on a full field of 200 boats in every tournament.

Till next time tight lines and good fishing….
From Staff Writer Capt Todd Kersey ([email protected])
BassOnline.com / 888-829-BASS
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