—Feb. 7-10, Lake Okeechobee, Clewiston, Fla.
—March 7-10, Smith Lake, Jasper, Ala.
—April 11-14, Beaver Lake, Rogers, Ark.
—May 16-19, Lake Eufaula, Eufaula, Ala.
—June 6-9, Grand Lake, Grove, Okla.
—June 27-30, Lake Chickamauga, Dayton, Tenn.
—Aug. 15-18, Red River, Shreveport-Bossier City, La., for the Forrest Wood Cup
FLW has announced the 2013 Walmart FLW Tour schedule, and once again, the prestigious group of bass anglers will return to the Chattanooga area. However, there will be some very interesting twists in 2013.
FLW hosts several tournament series. Compare them to the Major Leagues and Minor Leagues in baseball.
One "major league" FLW Tour event will be held on Chickamauga Lake in 2013. However, unlike the previous such event based at Chester Frost Park in 2011, the 2013 FLW Tour event will be based in Dayton, Tenn. That tournament will be held June 27-30, 2013.
Meanwhile the "minor league" event, called the BFL All-American, will be held on the same dates on Nickajack Lake.
According to Bill Taylor, FLW director of tournament operations, the weigh-ins for that event will be held at the downtown Riverfront. It will be the first-ever major bass tournament weigh-in to take place in downtown Chattanooga proper. Taylor said FLW officials will be making site visits to Chattanooga this week to review the facilities for the Nickajack BFL event.
With a top prize of $125,000 in tour events, the biggest names in bass fishing will be at the tournament in Dayton, so area bass tournament enthusiasts might have a tough choice to make.
According to articles in the Rhea County Herald, the Rhea County Commission and the city of Dayton put up a total of $52,500 to attract the major bass tournament to town.
Kathy Fennell, FLW president of operations, declined to comment on the specifics of any financial arrangements except to say, "Dayton contacted us, and they were very interested. Certainly we find events are better if the community has a stake in it. Financial agreements, however, are confidential."
In Dayton, anglers will take off in their high-powered bass boats from Dayton Boat Dock, at the back end of Richland Creek. The creek is relatively small and winding for about two miles before it reaches the open water of Chickamauga Lake. Taylor said he is very familiar with the creek, having fished the area many times. He said he hasn't decided exactly what the rules will be for takeoffs in the creek, but he said safety will be the primary factor.
The first two days' afternoon weigh-ins will be on the water at Dayton Boat Dock. The last two days' weigh-ins will be held in the parking lot of the Dayton Walmart. Walmart is a major FLW sponsor.
Of course, with career earnings of $1.4 million, Andy Morgan from Dayton is one of the most successful FLW anglers of all time. Michael Neal, also from Dayton, is considered an up-and-comer in the FLW.
Taylor said the influence of Morgan and Neal certainly didn't hurt Dayton's chances of being included on the FLW Tour. In fact, as of July, Neal is the owner of Dayton Boat Dock. He said, however, that he personally had very little to do with the FLW decision.
"That was all in the works long before I bought this place," Neal said. "However, we've got some major improvements planned that will certainly help when the tournament gets here."
Neal, however, won't be a businessman for the tournament—he will be an angler. He plans to fish the 2013 FLW Tour again, not a decision made easily. Entry fees alone for the six tour events total $24,000, not including travel expenses.
As for the Dayton tournament, Neal said, "I'll be a great thing. It will bring us a lot of exposure about just how good this place really is."
Richard Simms is a contributing writer, focusing on outdoor sports.