Folks who want to see fishing and tourism promoted in Southeast Tennessee got a huge shot in the arm this week from FLW Outdoors with the airing of the June tournament held on Chickamauga Lake, based out of Dayton.
The first airing of the show was Sunday.
Anglers all over the country and the world are marveling at the huge bass caught by winner Casey Martin, pulled from waters most of us drive by every day. The TV shows air on the NBC Sports Network. FLW claims the show is broadcast to 564 million households worldwide and that it is the most widely distributed weekly outdoors sports television show in the world. Even if the claims are highly exaggerated, there is little doubt that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people have been impressed this week, as Martin’s four-day total weight of 103 pounds, 3 ounces, is second of all time in FLW tour history.
Besides reruns of the FLW Chickamauga event, more TV exposure is on tap for the area. At the same time the big name pros were fishing Chickamauga Lake, the lesser-known FLW pros were fishing Nickajack Lake in the BFL Championship. The winner of that event, Kerry Milner, fished all three days in the tailwaters of Chickamauga Dam. That show is slated to air on NBC Sports Network Aug. 30 at 4 p.m.
FLW stands for Forrest L. Wood, the legendary founder of Ranger Boats. At one time, B.A.S.S. was the only major player in the national bass tournament circuit. But beginning in the mid-'90s, FLW started giving the organization founded by Ray Scott a run for its money. There are many who say FLW has now outpaced B.A.S.S., attracting the best fishermen in the world to its events.
Local fishermen had an added investment in the show. Rookie angler Martin lives just down the road in New Hope, Ala. However, three other anglers who made the top 10 cut in the tournament were all local boys from Rhea County. Wesley Strader, Michael Neal and Andy Morgan placed second, third and fifth in the tournament, respectively, and all were highly featured on the TV show.
Also interesting to local anglers was where each angler was fishing. Martin caught most of his fish in popular waters around Patten Island in Harrison Bay. Viewers also got to see angler Dan Morehead capture one of the largest bass of the tournament, 9 pounds, out of Chester Frost Park (also known as Dallas Bay).
The average weekend angler couldn't help but be impressed at the catches the professionals brought in, not necessarily from secret fishing holes, but from places they fish every day. As one angler put it jokingly on the Chattanooga Fishing Forum, "I watched [the show], and it reminded me how bad of a fisherman that I am."
Martin has been featured all year in a YouTube reality series titled "Circuit Breaker." An FLW news release said, "Fans won’t want to miss the Chickamauga finale."
The final FLW pro event of the season is the Forrest Wood Cup, slated for Aug. 15-18 on the Red River in Shreveport, La.
Richard Simms is a contributing writer, focusing on outdoor sports.