Professional anglers from around the country — including at least eight local fishermen and an up-and-coming California competitor — are expected to enter the inaugural FLW Stren Series bass tournament to be held April 16 to 18 at Roosevelt Lake.
The locals include Tracy Purtee, John Browning, Bobby O’Donnell, Jon Pelto, Glenda McNeeley, Buddy Randall, Ron Bowman and Levi Armstrong.
Also entered is Folsom, Calif. angler Justin Lucas who has fished 29 FLW tournaments since 2006. With $186,467 in career earnings, he is lauded as one of the most promising young fishermen on the pro tour.
Lucas has competed as a pro and co-angler on the Walmart FLW Tour, Stren Series, the National Guard Western Division and Bass Federation National Championship. In March of 2008, he weighed in a 13-pound-9-ounce lunker that won the Big Bass Award at a National Guard tournament held on the California Delta.
His largest catch of his tournament career, 23 pounds, 11 ounces, was also caught during an FLW tournament on the California Delta.
Lucas has been featured on FOX Sports Network, FLWoutdoors.com and in several magazines and newspapers.
He will compete in the FLW tournament at Roosevelt as a member of the National Guard angling team.
Among the locals entered in the Roosevelt clash, Purtee has long been an accomplished angler who also serves as director of two benefit trout tournaments held at Willow Springs.
He also annually volunteers at the Optimists Club Fishing Festival at Green Valley Park.
Purtee is no stranger on the FLW circuit, having fished in several including a national shoot-out two years ago in Clear Lake, Calif.
Browning and O’Donnell have been bass tournament fishing partners for more than a decade and both are regarded as some of the Rim Country’s finest anglers. The two compete on the Monterey, All-Star and FLW circuits.
Browning and O’Donnell joined forces in the fall of 2007 to win back-to-back All-Star tournaments at Lake Pleasant.
Earlier that year, Browning — while competing in the Bill Luke Big Bass Days at Lake Pleasant — boated a 7.12-pounder that earned him $13,000 in prize money for being the tournament’s largest catch.
O’Donnell once pocketed $10,000 for finishing second at an FLW tournament at Lake Havasu.
Randall, of Pine, was on a hot streak two years ago when he won three major tournaments at Roosevelt and was second overall at the Bill Luke days.
He often teams with Allison Randall in All-Star Couples competitions and with high school student Clay Bucks Parsons in other team tournaments.
Among Randall’s tournament loot is a fully rigged bass boat.
McNeeley is a veteran angler who has sometimes partnered with O’Donnell in couples tournaments. During a Roosevelt fray, she led the team to an eighth-place finish landing a 5.2-pound smallmouth that earned her big-fish prize money.
Pelto and Armstrong were teammates on the 1999 Payson High School football team. Even before graduating, the two expressed an interest in competitive bass fishing and later joined the tournament trail. In 2006, Armstrong pocketed $650 for a third-place team finish in an All-Star tournament at Roosevelt.
In 2003, Armstrong enjoyed one of the finest paydays in his early career winning $2,500 for a first-place finish at a Summer Nights Tournament held on Apache Lake.
Hoopla, festivities and a carnival-like atmosphere will highlight the FLW tournament’s weigh-in, to be held at 3 p.m. April 18 at Walmart.
The gala event is certain to tickle the fancy and impress those who have never witnessed one.
The local FLW committee, which includes Dennis Pirch, Mary McMullen, Cameron Davis, Craig Swartwood and Jim Goughnor, is hoping townspeople turn out in force to show anglers and FLW officials that Payson and Roosevelt Lake can become a featured stop on the pro tour.
The weigh-in will also feature plenty of family and fun activities as well as booths and displays from Chevrolet, Ranger Bass Boat, Walmart and tackle manufacturers.
Also, hot dogs, chips and drinks will be given out in exchange for donations of choice to the Gracie Lee Haught Children’s Memorial Fund.
FLW officials say the pro anglers will begin arriving in Payson and at Roosevelt Lake about three to five days before the tournament to begin pre-fishing.
Anglers and co-anglers from California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona are expected to participate in the fray, which is one of the stops on the FLW’s Stren Series.
Co-anglers are fishermen who usually ride in the back of a professional’s boat. The advantage of being a co-angler is that novices and newcomers might learn from an FLW pro in three days what could normally take years to acquire.
Co-anglers are paired with a pro the night before a tournament.
Registration for both anglers and co-anglers will be April 16 in the Mazatzal Casino bingo room and the tournament marina will be the Cholla recreation site.
For more information, go to FLWOutdoors.com.
The deadline to enter the tournament is April 15.