FLW Tour brings world’s top anglers to Harris Chain of Lakes
Published By OutdoorsFIRST Media Published February 13, 2018
The FLW Tour, the most lucrative tournament-circuit in professional bass fishing, returns to the water Feb. 22-25 for the FLW Tour at the Harris Chain of Lakes presented by Lowrance. The event, hosted by Lake County, Florida, will feature 372 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.
The FLW Tour last visited the Harris Chain of Lakes in March of 2017 when rookie Bradley Dortch of Atmore, Alabama, won with 73 pounds, 9 ounces, of Florida largemouth bass. This year, FLW Tour pro and 10-time Forrest Wood Cup qualifier J.T. Kenney of Palm Bay, Florida, said he thinks the fishing will be even better.
"The Harris Chain is fishing really strong right now," said Kenney, who finished second at the 2017 FLW Tour event on the Harris Chain. "It's taken 30 pounds to win day tournaments there for weeks now - it's really on. Usually the spawn doesn't really get going until late-February or early-March, but this year they've been spawning for the last month and a half."
Kenney said with all of the migration, anglers will likely be seen targeting bass in all three phases of the spawn.
"You can sight-fish and do well, or you can fish for both pre- and post-spawners out in the grass beds and still be competitive," said Kenney. "It's truly going to be about figuring out what stage they're in."
Kenney said nearly all of the lakes in the chain will offer productive areas for anglers, citing Big and Little Harris, Dora, Griffin and Eustis specifically. He said typical Florida-ready baits will also be top choices for competitors in the field.
"Anytime you're around the spawn in Florida, you reach for plastic worms," said Kenney. "Rattle baits, spinnerbaits and swimbaits will all be good for pre- and post-spawn bass out around the grass beds."
The Florida veteran went on to say that it will likely take more than 80 pounds over four days to win the tournament.
Anglers will take off at 7 a.m. EST each day from the Venetian Gardens boat ramp, located at 201 E. Lake Harris Drive in Leesburg. Thursday and Friday's weigh-ins, Feb. 22-23, will be held at the Venetian Gardens beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday's weigh-ins, Feb. 24-25, will also be held at the Venetian Gardens, but will begin at 4 p.m.
"Visit Lake County is excited to welcome back the FLW Tour, and the more than 180 professional bass anglers to the Harris Chain of Lakes and Lake County," said Steven Clenney, sports development manager for Visit Lake County. "The economic impact of this event on Lake County is significant, and we cannot understate our appreciation for being selected to host a Tour stop for a second-consecutive year. We wish all of the competitors a great time on the lakes and we hope to showcase to the world why we are called 'Lake Big Bass!'"
Television coverage of the FLW Tour at the Harris Chain of Lakes presented by Lowrance will premiere in high-definition (HD) on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) April 11 from Noon-1 p.m. EST. The Emmy-nominated "FLW" television show airs on NBCSN, the Pursuit Channel and the World Fishing Network and is broadcast to more than 564 million households worldwide.
Prior to the weigh-ins Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 24-25, FLW will host a free Family Fishing Expo at the Venetian Gardens from noon to 4 p.m. each day. The Expo is the perfect opportunity for fishing fans to meet their favorite anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by FLW sponsors, and learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities.
Also for youth, the FLW Foundation's Unified Fishing Derby will be held at the Venetian Gardens on Saturday, Feb. 24 from 9-11 a.m. The event is hosted by FLW Foundation pro Cody Kelley along with other FLW Tour anglers, and is free and open to youth (18 and under) and Special Olympics athletes (all ages). Rods and reels are available for use, but youth are encouraged to bring their own if they own one. The 1st and 2nd place anglers that catch the biggest fish will be recognized Saturday on the FLW Tour stage, just prior to the pros weighing in.
As part of the FLW Tour's community outreach initiative, FLW Tour anglers will visit patients, guests and staff at Florida Hospital Waterman, located at 1000 Waterman Way in Tavares, Fla., on Wednesday, Feb. 21, from 9-10 a.m. to interact with guests, snap photos and sign autographs for patients, give away some goodie bags and share fishing stories.
In FLW Tour competition, pros and co-anglers are randomly paired each day, with pros supplying the boat, controlling boat movement and competing against other pros. Co-anglers fish from the back deck against other co-anglers. The full field of 372 anglers competes in the two-day opening round. Co-angler competition concludes following Friday's weigh-in, while the top 30 pros based on their two-day accumulated weight advance to Saturday. Only the top 10 pros continue competition Sunday, with the winner determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from the four days of competition.
Throughout the season, anglers are also vying for valuable points in hopes of qualifying for the 2018 Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of professional bass fishing. The 2018 Forrest Wood Cup will be on Lake Ouachita in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Aug. 10-12 and is hosted by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and Visit Hot Springs.