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Bass finals cast in the Q-C this fall

Dispatch/Argus Photo By Rick Cinclair

The Quad-Cities will be host to the 1998 Wal-Mart FLW Tour Bass Fishing Championship, Sept. 16-19. Up to $450,000 in prize money will be awarded. The fishing contest will include professional and amateur anglers.

The term ``casting for cash'' will take on new meaning in the Quad-Cities Sept. 19, when the proverbial bar will be raised to a new height of $250,000 for the professional bass angler who catches the heaviest stringer of five Mississippi River bass.

The Quad-Cities has been selected by Operation Bass, Inc., of Gilbertsville, Ky., as host site for the 1998 Wal-Mart FLW Tour Bass Fishing Championship, presented by Citgo, Sept. 16-19.

``Fishing history will be made here in the Quad-Cities because this event will feature the largest cash prize ever in the annals of bass fishing tournaments -- $250,000 to the winner and a total purse of $450,000,'' Jonathan White, executive director of the Quad Cities Sports Commission, said.

The Wal-Mart FLW Championship is the end of a seven-event tournament in which 50 professional bass anglers and 50 aspiring amateurs, called non-boaters, will have qualified to compete on the Mississippi River by their performances in the six previous events. The six qualifiers will be held in Florida, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky and Connecticut.

For the first two days of the tournament, 50 teams -- each with one pro and one non-boater aboard -- will try to outcatch the others to qualify for one of 10 spots available on the third day.

The final 10 non-boaters will compete out of the back of the 10 remaining pro's boats on the third day to determine the top non-boaters, with the first place amateur angler taking home $25,000, down to $1,000 for 10th place.

The top five pros will advance to day four, history day.

The final five pros, each with an ESPN camera operator on board, will compete for the $250,000 first prize -- or $50,000 per bass in the five-fish limit. The second-place winner will receive $25,000, sliding to $2,500 for 10th place and $750 for 50th place.

While the competition will not be shown on live television, the final day weigh-in, in the parking lot of Moline's Super Wal-Mart, will be shown live on closed circuit TV inside Wal-Marts everywhere.

Mr. White said the tournament will be a great boost to the Quad-Cities. ``In addition to the obvious economic boost that the competitors, the FLW staff, the traveling media, the fishing fans and the sponsors will add to the local economy not only during the event, but also before and after the event, the inclusion of ESPN is huge. You can't put a dollar sign on national exposure. It's priceless!"

The 1998 FLW Tour, named after living legend boat builder, Forrest L. Wood, founder of Ranger Boats, will be the subject of a 13-week primetime television series that will air on ESPN and ESPN2 later this year.

The 1997 FLW Tour Championship was held last November on Lake Ferguson, near Greenville, Miss. The winner was North Carolinian David Fritts, who capped a record-shattering year for professional bass anglers. Mr. Fritts total take for the 1996-97 fishing season was $490,000, from the FLW Tour and BassMaster Tour.

Tommy Biffle, winner of the BassMaster 1995 Illinois Top 100, which was held in the Quad-Cities, finished second in the 1997 FLW Championship, while bass fishing icon, Rick Clunn, took third.

The 1995 BassMaster Illinois Top 100 was the first professional bass fishing tournament ever held in the Quad-Cities.

-- By Bob Groene (February 2, 1998)

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