ABT Trip to States Blog- Updated 6/8/07 3.15pm US Time

Bassers,

Here’s a rundown of our activites in the US at the FLW Forrest Wood Cup at Hot Springs, Arkansas.

They’re giving away $1,000,000 to the first placed boater so it’s big time.

All the days from the trip are now online, and we’re sitting at the Little Rock airport waiting to begin the commute back. I’ll add the latest pic as soon as i have better internet access.

Day 5- A $1,000,000 Payday


Well do the Americans put on a show or what? It was packed
to the rafters in the stadium for the weigh-in, with 21,000 people there to see
the first ever $1,000,000 cheque awarded at a bass tournament.

The lead-up to
the weigh-in was bigger than big. It kicked off at 3pm with the World Junior
Bass Championship weigh-in (how they can call it world championship when only
Americans fish I don’t know).

Then there was the usual sponsors giveaway parade, with FLW
supports throwing and shooting products into the crowd (We weren’t lucky enough
to get any though, I did contemplate tackling this little kid for his yellow
Land O Lakes Frisbee though. Steve said it probably wouldn’t be good for
international relations though, so I let him keep it).

After this is was straight into a concert by some country
singer called Tracey Bird, I originally thought some chick was going to sing,
that was until a guy walked out (it was 45 mins of my life I’ll never get
back). Once he was done Hank Parker came out and introduced some army dudes,
then we did a live cross to the Afghanistan
to talk to the son of some local guy who was serving overseas. These guys get
into the military like you wouldn’t believe, it’s entwined in their culture
like football and cricket is in ours.

Then the bass pros hit the stage walking through a row of
fire works before taking up their position on one of the ten bass boats
surrounding the stage. The presentation of the US
flag and the singing of the national anthem was next (the girl singing was much
better than Miss Arkansas
we had they day before, she was just awful). Then it was eventually time to
start the weigh-in, and it began by weighing the bag of the leading angler,
they did this so, 1. They could work out what everybody needs to win, and to,
2. Make the leader sweat his living brains out. (It was great, I’ll have to
keep it mind for the Grand Final).

Following him they weighed the bags from 10th
through to 2nd.

All the guys brought their fish up to the scales in a
closed, non-see-through bag, so you had no idea of how many fish they had, or
what size bag they might have (it works great and gives nothing away). Then
they add the fish to the water filled weigh tub one fish at a time as they
weigh them. The last bag weighed saw it come down to a battle between 1st
and 2nd from yesterday with the victory going to yesterday’s leader
Scott Suggs from Arkansas.

As the local lad in the field the applause was enormous as
you’d expect, with a cascade of streamers falling from the roof and a 100
weddings worth of confetti blasted into the air. His victory parade throughout
the arena with his cheque and cup held aloft was befitting of a title fight win
(if I had just one a $1,000,000 I’d be milking for all I was worth too). Once
the celebration had subsided enough they drew the lucky draw winner of the
$53,000 Ranger 20z Comanche boat, with the much envied prize going to local
Wendy Smith. Her son was so excited, it was great.

Once the congratulations had been done, they launched into
the post tournament interviews. It was very much like an electoral press
conference, but only a lot more interesting and news worthy. It was interesting
to find out that this was only the second tournament the victor Scott Suggs had
won, the first was at the beginning of his pro career 10-12 years ago, and for
that he won $4,000. Not a bad event to win to ad your second win to your CV.

That’s it guys Steve and I have beer drinking, pizza eating,
and fornicating with American women to do tonight and tackle stores to hit
tomorrow before we begin the commute home. Steve has a couple more weeks over
here having some R&R and I hit Aussie shores on Wednesday morning. Speak to
you when I get home.

Cheers

Simon.

P.S. Yes Marcel I have brought you a present, it’s a pink
Rapala cap, you’ll love it…….. Jacki I haven’t managed to find any snow domes
yet, so I’ll have to keep looking.

Day 4- Action &
Fun For All



The most noteworthy feature of the Fun Zone other than the
shear size of it all is that it’s completely free. You can come along and work
your way through the whole show and not open your wallet once.

With a heavy
focus on kids the show features interactive activity based displays that
engages visitors to participate rather than simply look at a line up of product
displays.

All the FLW sponsors are present including, BP, Walmart (they
have a whole tackle section display set-up for you to buy your goodies from-
it’s great!), Berkley, M&M, Fuji, Castrol, Folgers, Gain, Evinrude, Ranger,
Yamaha, Chevy, Lawrys, the list goes on.

The activities on the stands are broad ranging from basic
hands on stuff, to technology based simulators. Some of the best activities on
show were, the National Guard climbing wall, Folgers jig making, BP winning
wheel (fill out a questionnaire, have a go at the wheel and win a prize), Fuji
Film photo with a fish, Berkley and Goodrich fishing and boat simulator, and the
Pal Pedigree dog show.

Of course all the displays are kick arse, with staff and
sponsor representatives readily available to help you with any enquiries. The integration
of tournament pros into the sponsor displays is second to none. The pros have
real pulling power with the fans and sponsors realize this and make the most of
it.

The amount of product that is given away is enormous, with
each stand handing out copious amount of their product. Kids stagger out of the
show with bags bulging full of chocolate, t-shirts, frisbies, sunscreen,
drinks, popcorn, caps, the list is endless. It’s staggering and the sponsors
I’m sure see it as a great brand exercise and an excellent way to strengthen
the consumer and sponsor relationship. From what I see it definitely works.


Each stand of course has their own tournament pro player
cards available, with the pros on hand to sign them for the kids. It’s not
uncommon to see a line-up of people waiting to get their player card or poster
signed. They definitely have hero status over here the pros, with them taking
on a real sports star role. It’s great to see kids looking up to these guys and
aspiring to be a bass pro when they grow up. It beats wanting to grow up to an
accountant! (No offence to accountants, it just does seem to be to exciting of
a job)
All this takes place from 11am until 8pm and gets the people
in before the 5pm weigh-in.


The weigh-in was a big one with the
champion co-angler decided. A 63 year old (see Pete Morgan you’ve still got a
chance to win a GF) claiming the prize and picking up $25,000.
The weigh-in for
the pros was tight, with tough fishing plaguing almost the whole field. One
angler Scott Suggs nailed the large mouth and heads into day two with a huge
lead. With $1,000,000 up for grabs I don’t think he’ll sleep much tonight.

That’s it guys I’ll have more tomorrow.

Cheers

Simon.

Day 3- Making the Cut (11.04pm)

The trip to the start at Brady Mountain Resort at Lake Ouachita saw us climb aboard one of three yellow US-styled school buses for the _ hour drive down to the lake. (It was just like the bus out of the Simpson’s except it wasn’t driven by some Metallic listing dude called Otto). Arriving at our destination in the post dawn gloom we were greeted by a throng of spectators and a flotilla of sponsor wrapped bass boats and tow vehicles. The process taking place was the same as at home, with pros launching their boats and having their boats checked out, while co-anglers busily looked for their partners. Spectators both on water and land-based rubbed shoulders with camera crews and media representatives all busily looking for the money shot or grab quote before the 7am takeoff.


In typical patriotic US tradition the national anthem and a pray was sung and given before the start with a canon shot from the local army contingent rounding out the pre-start drill. (what ever you do don’t mention the war, it only encourages further patriotism). Right on 7 the first flight began to file past the start line, with 4 flights of 20 boats each heading off. The last boat crossed the start at about 7.20 and had a finish time of 5.00pm, so it was a long hard day (9.40hours) in the hot sun for the anglers (max temp approx 32degrees). Who said this tournament fishing was easy.

The weigh-in and battle to make the final cut (top ten) for day three was a nail bitter, with the final bag weighed in for the day deciding the top ten pros. Considering they all start day three on zero weight it would have been a hard pill to swallow for the poor bugger that got bumped out of tenth place. (Steve and I actually saw him downstairs in the bar not that long ago, so he was either trying to drown his sorrows, or erase the memories with alcohol)


I snuck out the back during the weigh-in to see how it all takes place, and was amazed with the number of bags and fish they process and the detail they go-to to ensure their wellbeing. Once the fish come out of the boat livewells they’re placed straight in water tight weigh-bags then immersed in large holding tubs the size of a kids wading pool. The tubs are infused with oxygen, while each weigh-bag has an aeration stone place directly in the weigh-bag.

From here their inspected at a checking station by an official for size and mortality then transferred into the self draining weigh-in crate which the angler then takes up to the finally holding talk where he waits before he goes up on the stage.

From here it’s up onto the stage and the flash glamour of the lights and cameras to have their sack weighed.


While I can’t recall off the top of my head all the pros that qualified through to day three, I do know that they’re all running a Ranger boat so the $1,000,000 is definitely going to be given away on Sunday night. The champion co-angler is decided tomorrow, so the $50,000 cheque will be handed to over to some lucky guy Saturday evening. Not a bad way to finish the day I suppose.

I know I said I’d give you a run down on the Fun Zone today but I’m a bit knacked so I’ll save it for tomorrow. I’m going to hit the sack, that’s if I can fall asleep; Steve’s busy snoring at the moment.

Cheers

Simon.

P.S. I scored some tackle bargains today, $7.50 Lucky Craft Live Pointers & $2.50 Rapalas. The search continues tomorrow.

Day Two- Here We Go!
After a well needed sleep-in and a hearty breakfast it was off to check
out the set-up for the tournament and meet some representatives from
FLW.

Imagine a downsized version of the Brisbane Convention Centre and you
get some idea of the set-up for the weigh-in and the tournament
display. One of the half of the Convention Centre is devoted to the
staging of the weigh-in while the other half plays host to the Family
Fun Zone and Outdoor Show. The later is a who’s who of FLW sponsors,
with an assortment of interactive activities and products on show. I’ll
go into more detail on the Fun Zone and Outdoor Show tomorrow, but be
rest assured it’s kick arse and is a great warm up to the weigh-in.


The warm-up routine for the weigh-in sees the sponsors coming out onto
the stage pumping up the crowd and throwing copious amounts of their
product into the stage.
Evinrude and the National Guard had the crowds screaming hard for their
giveaways, while the Land O Lakes (dairy products-i.e. butter) gave
away a year’s supply of butter to a lucky winner (seems a little odd,
but hey we all need butter), and Yamaha went for the power approach
shooting shirts from a gun into the waiting crowd.

From here it was full steam ahead into the weigh-in, with the 81
boaters and 81 non-boaters run through in just over two hours. These
guys were slick, with a two compare, and multi-staff process allowing
the anglers to get through at a quick pace and entertain the crowd to
their fullest.


The onstage process saw the anglers deliver their fish to the weigh
scales in a self-draining basket that was then emersed into a
water-filled display that sits atop of the scales. The weight of the
water-filled display tank is tared off before each bag, insuring only
the weight of the fish is measured. It looks fantastic being able to
see the fish swim around in front of you, and it means their not
hanging in the breeze out of the water more than they need to be. (I’ll
have to see if I can knock one up at home)

The other notable inclusion in the weighing process was the induction
of oxygen and fish supporting additives into the water. If you look
close at the photo of the tank you’ll see the blue tinge to the water
from the additives.


The arena itself is your standard indoor arena with a well lit stage
surrounded by tiered setting and seating on the ground in front of the
stage. The note worthy differences was the inclusion of numerous large
screens around the arena that display the filmed activities as they
occurred, and the boat yard (10 boats) of bass boats that surrounded
the stage. Wrapped in the stylings of the series sponsors they formed
an impressive and integral part of the stage, with rececessed cuts outs
in the stage allowing the boat transom and motor to sit flush against
the stage edge. A great set-up that allows the anglers and sponsors to
walk straight onto the boats and closer the raucious crowd.

I’m sure on Sunday we’ll see the final ten take their places on these
boats for the final weigh-in. It might the only place to find a seat in
the house considering their giving away $1,000,000.


While the fishing was tough for most of the field, in typical
tournament fishing style there were a handful of guys who managed to
bag-out on good fish. Leading at the end of the day was tour rookie
Bryan Thrift, who compiled 15lb 7oz bag to put himself into the number
one spot leading into day two. He was that excited his hands were
shaking as he was being interviewed by weighmaster Charlie Evans (I
spoke to him today, and he’s actually shorter than I am, how good’s
that).

Well that’s it for day one of the tournament guys, Steve and I have had
a t-bone steak and two Bud Light beers each so it might be time to hit
the sack. We’ve got a 5.45am shuttle bus to catch down to the takeoff
in the morning at the lake and we don’t want to miss it. So speak to
you tomorrow.

Cheers

Simon.

P.S. I have tomorrow earmarked as tackle buying day so hopefully I’ll have some good new on the goodies we found.



Day One- We Finally Arrived

After about 24 straight hours of commuting, including three plane flights (one delayed at Dallas due to thunderstorms), and an hour driving in a hire car we made it to the home of the FLW Tour Championship, Hot Springs Arkansas. The name hot is very apt; it was in the high twenties, steamy and not a breath of wind when we arrived at 8 at night. It was like being back on the BARRA Tour.

The strangest part of the whole commute without a doubt was driving on the right hand side of the rode. You feel like you’re on your learners again, but you have to constantly remind yourself that no, in fact you have to keep doing this seemingly unnatural act. We have travel insurance and I’ll leave most of the driving to Steve so we should come home fairly unscathed. I hope!


The lineup of FLW wrapped semi-trailers was impressive, with the sight of a ten foot smiling American holding a bass great to see. The car park itself was full of sponsor emblazoned utes, imagine a car park full of pickups like Steve’s Cayonero covered in FLW and associated stickers and you’ll get some idea. Obviously they must all have company full cars to be able to afford the petrol.

Well that’s it guys it’s time to hit the sack, there’s sleeping to be had.

Cheers

Simon.