The FLW tournament series will be an expansion into striped bass competitive fishing for the organization that bears the initials of Forest L. Wood, founder of Ranger Boats, and that introduced the Wal-Mart FLW freshwater bass competitions in 1996. FLW also produces competitive walleye, redfish and kingfish tours.
The 7-tournament tour is scheduled to begin May 13 in Sea Bright, N.J. Massachusetts events are planned in August out of Bass River Marina in West Dennis and in September out of Marina Bay in Quincy. There will be a national championship in December out of Virginia Beach, Va.
?We intend to have a live-release tournament and we decided to have a slot limit instead of a big fish tourney,? said FLW Striper Tournament Director Bill Carson. For example, he said, the Massachusetts slot would be stripers from 28-34 inches.
Payout at each tournament will be for the top 40 places in a 200-boat field. The first-place winner could take home as much as $50,000, with $20,000 coming from FLW and $15,000 each from boat and motor sponsors. The top 25 finishers in each tournament will be eligible to compete in the national tournament.
However, before it makes its way up the coast, promoters have to clear regulatory hurdles in three states ? New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. FLW wants to hold catch-and-release tournaments using specially designed tubular live wells now used in the freshwater events, but those three states have regulations against holding live stripers for culling purposes. Carson was confident the regulations will be waived, but said the tour will by-pass states that will not relax regulations for a catch and release event.
?We are a little nervous. This is brand new to us, and we have some concerns. This is big commercial fishing,? said Mike Armstrong, coordinator of the sport fishing program for the state Division of Marine Fisheries.
The state Marine Fisheries Advisory Board is expected to consider the FLW regulation waiver request on Friday. Of major concern is whether the live-wells will hold up to saltwater use, according to Armstrong.
?We hate to say no. We are the premier striped bass fishing state in the world; we ought to have a tournament,? Armstrong said.
The staff is likely to recommend in favor of the waiver, Armstrong said, ?But we will closely monitor the events.?
For more information on the FLW tour, visit: www.FLWoutdoors.com