Lakecaster Online

Wilkerson takes 1st in Boater Division at Toledo Bend in the Wal-Mart BFL
By Patty Lenderman

June 28, 2003 marked the last qualifying event in the Cowboy division before the BFL Super tournament and was held out of Frontier Park, Toledo Bend Lake. 164 anglers in each division, boaters and co-anglers, headed out Saturday morning to try to land a place in the points standing high enough to advance to the next level of Wal-Mart's Bass Fishing League's (BFL) tournament series.

It started out a beautiful morning with gentle winds as these anglers headed out to their fishing spots. It did not take long for the temperatures to reach the mid 90's with very little relief as the cloud cover dissipated. With the influx of fresh water from the recent rains, the lake level had been on the rise and getting stained from practice days to competition and these anglers were struggling to chase down big bass and get them to bite.

Boater division:
1st place - 14-2 lbs - $4,317 - Chris Wilkerson of Livingston, TX had found some real good fish in practice, catching a 10 and a 7 pounder, but with the changing lake levels and water clarity he could not get those kinds of bites at competition. Going to familiar areas, he threw Rapalla DT-16's in a shad pattern in 25' depths at main lake ridges that had brush. Having his first limit by 9:00, he reported that his best bite was between 10-12:00. He managed to land 9 keepers throughout the day. "I didn't think my weight would hold. There are a lot of great anglers here that usually bring in a lot more than I did" Chris stated. As the highest finishing boater participating in the Ranger Cup bonus, he also received a check from Ranger in the amount of $1,000 as well as a bonus check from Garmin in the amount of $1,000. Chris is sponsored by Texas Tire, Bridgestone, Travis Boating, Falcon Rods, Ranger Boats, Cyclone Baits and Shimano Reels.

2nd place - 14-0 lbs - Mark Richards of Houston, TX came in second by mere ounces. Using a Texas rigged red bug worm in 10' depths, he found his fish on the south end of the lake on main lake grassy points. "I had a big bass on today but she pulled off before I could get her to the boat" Mark stated. He came into this event "cold", not having a chance to practice before the tournament.

3rd place - 13-9 lbs - Mike Cortelloni of Many, LA used a blue/pearl Norman DD-22 for his catch. Fishing brush in 7-15' depths off of main lake points, he was able to land about 20 bass throughout the day. Mike is sponsored by Skeeter Boats, Yamaha Motors, Gene Larew, Lowrance, Bill Lewis Lures, Kistler Rods, Motor Guide and Pro Kontrol.

4th place - 13-4 lbs - Glen Freeman of Converse, LA fished the north end of the lake throwing a fire tiger Bomber. Fishing main lake ridges with scattered grass, he found his fish in 12-15' depths, reporting that around 10:00 was his best bite. Glen is sponsored by Nichols Marine, Champion boats, Yamaha motors, Bomber, Shimano reels and Lowrance.

5th place - 12-13 lbs - Wayne Ebarb of Many, LA slid into 5th place fishing ridges in the north lake area. Throwing mudbugs and 9A Bombers in 12-15' depths, the mid day bite was best for him. "I lost two good ones today" Wayne reported but was able to cull twice to his final weight.

Co-Angler division:
1st place - 10-0 lbs - Craig Morris of Lufkin, TX brought in the winning stringer in the co-angler division using Carolina rigged Reaction Gator Pups in watermelon red. Fishing the south end of the lake with his pro partner Ron Festavan, he found his fish in 17-22' depths in a creek with ridges and other structure. Positioning the boat about 60-70 yards off the bank, he put a 20" leader and 3/4 ounce weight on his rig.

2nd place - 9-0 lbs - Mike Harmon of Bastrop, TX brought in a five fish limit that weighed 10 lbs even, but two of his fish did not make it live to the scales which cost him a first place tie. Using a Tennessee shad colored crank bait and a Texas rigged red bug worm he found his fish in the brush. Fishing the mid lake area, his fish were in 10-12' depths along main lake creek channels. Dickie Newberry was his pro partner and he reported that it took all day to land his five fish limit.

3rd place - 8-14 lbs - Joseph Coatney of Dickinson, TX enjoyed an all day bite but caught a lot of small fish. He threw a Carolina rigged watermelon red lizard in 20-30' depths in a creek with brush.

4th place - 8-10 lbs - Tim Achee of Many, LA used Texas rigged Reaction Trick worms in watermelon red for his catch. He reported an all day but slow bite as he fished 14-20' depths along south lake creek bends.

To qualify to fish the regional competition, these anglers must fish four one day qualifying events, boater vs. boater, co-angler vs. co-angler. Next is the Super Tournament, a two day elimination round where the full field competes on day one and then only 20% of the field competes the second day. This event will be September 20-21, day one weighing in at Twin Dikes Marina and then at Jasper Wal-Mart on day two. At the conclusion of the five qualifying events, the top 30 boaters and top 30 co-anglers from each division, based on points standings, compete in a three day elimination round competition. At regionals, the full field of boaters and co-anglers compete for two days to determine the top six who will advance to the final day of competition, when the winner will be determined by their total three day weight. All six boaters and co-anglers automatically advance to the BFL All-American. There, the boater champion will win a purse totaling $100,000 and the co-angler champion will win $50,000.

Whether you're an avid angler or just getting started in the sport of competitive fishing, there's a place for you in the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League (BFL). The league's boater / co-angler format accommodates the skill levels of all anglers, pitting boaters against boaters and co-anglers against co-anglers. With 120 qualifying vents divided into 24 divisions, the Wal-Mart BFL is the nation's largest tournament circuit. In addition to qualifying events, the 2003 Wal-Mart BFL includes seven postseason regional competitions and one major championship - the Wal-Mart BFL All-American. For more information please call 270-252-1000 or visit their website at

Sponsors include: Walmart - EverStart Batteries - Garmin - Faded Glory - Land O Lakes - Lawry's Seasoning - Shop Vac - Fuji Film - Banana Boat - Chevy Trucks - Snickers - Ranger Boats - Rubbermaid - US Bank - Yamaha - 7 UP - Kellogg's - Energizer - Evinrude - Castrol - Stanley - Weed Eater - Minn Kota - BF Goodrich - Frito Lat
Associate Sponsors: Abu Garcia/Berkley - Champion Boats - Dean Foods - Eagle Claw - Hellmann's - Hover-Lure - Lipton Side Dishes - Maxwell House - Palmer & Cay - Plano - Skippy Peanut Butter - Solar Bat - Stratos Boats

Chris Wilkerson landed 1st place in the boater division with 14-2 lbs
<photo by Stephanie Wilkerson>

Craig Morris took top honors in the Co-Angler division with 10-0 lbs
< photos by Patty Lenderman >

(L-R) Top 5 Boaters - 1st / Chris Wilkerson, 2nd / Mark Richards (np), 3rd / Mike Cortelloni, 4th / Glen Freeman, 5th / Wayne Ebarb

(L-R) Top 4 Co-Anglers - 1st / Craig Morris, 2nd / Mike Harmon, 3rd / Joseph Coatney, 4th / Tim Achee

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