Fishing & Boating News

Lexington’s Walser Wins T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League Regional Championship on Lake Norman Presented by Costa Sunglasses

Virginia’s Smelser Grabs Co-angler Title

by: Brian Johnson, FLW

Boater Robert Walser of Lexington, NC, caught a 3-day cumulative total of 15 bass weighing 35 lbs, 8 oz, to win the T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League (BFL) Regional championship on Lake Norman.
Photo by courtesy FLW Outdoors
(Oct 22, 2018 - HUNTERSVILLE, N.C.)

 Boater Robert Walser of Lexington, North Carolina, caught a three-day cumulative total of 15 bass weighing 35 pounds, 8 ounces, to win the T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League (BFL) Regional championship on Lake Norman presented by Costa Sunglasses. Walser earned $66,000 for his efforts, including a new Ranger Z518C boat with a 200-horsepower Evinrude outboard and automatic entry into the 2019 BFL All-American Championship.
Walser said he made a 20- to 25-minute run to the Buffalo Shoals Road bridge near Long Island, North Carolina, each morning of the tournament and fished his way back to the takeoff ramp. Along his route, he flipped docks using a Texas-rigged, green-pumpkin-colored Zoom Baby Brush Hog and a Zoom Z Craw Jr. with 5/16th-ounce Echo Pro tungsten weights and 3/0-sized Berkley Fusion19 offset hooks. He also caught some bass on the bank between docks with a Rush Lures spinnerbait.

“I probably hit 80 to 100 docks each day. I’d fish three or four in a stretch and then move on,” said Walser, the 2006 BFL All-American champion who logged his 11th career victory in BFL competition. “A lot of the docks I targeted had brush, which I could see on my Garmin Panoptix electronics, so that’s where I concentrated my casts. All of my fish came from less than 10 feet of water.

“I keyed in on docks that have had fish on them over the past couple of weeks. Depth- and structure-wise, there wasn’t really anything that made one dock better than the next, they just needed to have fish,” continued Walser. “You could have three or four bites at one dock, and then not have anything at any others in the area.”

Walser said he caught 8 or 10 keepers each day Thursday and Friday, and at least three or four limits on Saturday. He used an 8-foot Lamiglas 806 flipping rod with a Pflueger 7:1 Supreme reel and 20-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100-percent fluorocarbon line.

“I think the south wind pushing the cold front toward us made them bite better Saturday,” said Walser. “There was also less fishing pressure [since only the top 12 anglers fish on Saturday].”

Walser went on to say that in addition to catching fish, he also had to deal with various mechanical issues. The North Carolina boater said he ended up needing to use a different boat each day of the event.

“An employee at Angler’s Choice Marine brought me the other boat I own on Thursday, which I used until a gasket failed on Friday. I’d like to give them a special thanks for helping me,” said Walser. “The mental strain of having all that stuff fail was a lot, but I got through it and it all worked it out.”

The top six boaters that qualified for the 2019 BFL All-American were:
              1st:           Robert Walser, Lexington, N.C., 15 bass, 35-8, $66,000
               2nd:         Scott Beattie, Lincolnton, N.C., 15 bass, 32-1, $10,000
               3rd:          Dylan Fulk, Concord, N.C., 15 bass, 30-10, $5,200
               4th:          Bryan New, Belmont, N.C., 15 bass, 29-14, $3,100
               5th:          Michael Fox, Statesville, N.C., 15 bass, 29-11, $2,000
               6th:          Travis Young, Charlotte, N.C., 15 bass, 29-9, $1,800
Rounding out the top-10 boaters were:
               7th:          Jack Dice, Lynchburg, Va., 15 bass, 29-4, $1,600
               8th:          Jake Frye, Charlotte, N.C., 13 bass, 27-7, $1,400
               9th:          Chad Poteat, Mount Airy, N.C., 15 bass, 27-1, $1,200
               10th:        Cole Huskins, Mt. Holly, N.C., 12 bass, 25-8, $1,000

Wayne Smelser of Rural Retreat, Virginia, won the Co-angler Division and a new Ranger Z518C boat with a 200-horsepower Evinrude outboard with a three-day cumulative catch of 15 bass weighing 28 pounds, 12 ounces.
The top six co-anglers that qualified for the 2019 BFL All-American were:
              1st:           Wayne Smelser, Rural Retreat, Va., 15 bass, 28-12, $45,200
               2nd:         Larry Freeman Jr., La Crosse, Va., 13 bass, 27-11, $5,000
               3rd:          Tristen Trull, Mt. Holly, N.C., 13 bass, 25-13, $2,500
               4th:          Ben Dacey, Chesterfield, Va., 15 bass, 25-3, $1,550
               5th:          Jeff Rikard, Leesville, S.C., 12 bass, 23-7, $1,000
               6th:          Khris Williams, Mount Holly, N.C., 13 bass, 21-3, $900
Rounding out the top-10 co-anglers were:
               7th:          Ronnie Cutshall, Piedmont, S.C., 12 bass, 18-15, $800
               8th:          Darren Kelly, Wartburg, Tenn., 10 bass, 18-8, $700
               9th:          David Blakely, Kingsport, Tenn., 10 bass, 18-6, $600
               10th:        Bart Beasley, Mount Pleasant, S.C., eight bass, 16-13, $500

The T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League Regional Championship on Lake Norman presented by Costa Sunglasses was hosted by Visit Lake Norman, Visit Charlotte and Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation.

The 2018 BFL is a 24-division circuit devoted to weekend anglers, with 128 tournaments throughout the season, five qualifying events in each division. The top 45 boaters and co-anglers from each division, along with the five winners of the qualifying events, will advance to one of six regional tournaments where they are competing to finish in the top six, which then qualifies them for one of the longest-running championships in all of competitive bass fishing – the BFL All-American. The 2019 BFL All-American will take place May 30-June 1 on the Potomac River in Marbury, Maryland, and is hosted by the Charles County Board of Commissioners and the Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism. Top performers in the BFL can move up to the Costa FLW Series or even the FLW Tour.

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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 2018 across five tournament circuits. Headquartered in Benton, Kentucky, with offices in Minneapolis, FLW and their partners conduct 286 bass-fishing tournaments annually around the world, including the United States, Canada, China, Italy, South Korea, Mexico, Portugal, South Africa and Spain. 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.