The world’s leading tournament fishing organization is coming to Payson.
It arrives in the form of an FLW Outdoors bass tournament to be held April 16 to 18 at Roosevelt Lake with the final weigh-in at the Payson Walmart parking lot and headquarters at Mazatzal Hotel & Casino.
FLW officials say the tournament could draw 200 professional anglers, possibly 200 co-anglers, and have a total economic impact on Northern Gila County of $683,200.
The inaugural tournament is being hosted by a group of local outdoorsmen and businessmen that includes retired teacher and coach Dennis Pirch. He touts
the upcoming event as a fun and exciting competition that will have much to offer both anglers and fans.
He also predicts the tournament will be a boon for Payson and Roosevelt because it will showcase the lake as one of the finest bass fisheries in the West.
Although FLW holds very few Arizona tournaments, some at Lake Mead, the tour is highly popular on the East Coast, Midwest and far West hosting 17 of the top 18 fishing tournaments in the country.
Annually the tournaments draw 90,000 entries to 240 events with purses exceeding $42.6 million.
Many of the tournaments are televised nationally on the Outdoor Channel.
“Drawing FLW to Roosevelt for the first time is huge,” Pirch said. “It will be
really good this spring because the lake is now close to full.”
Among the professional anglers who fish the FLW tour is Pirch’s son Clifford, a National Guard, Yamaha and Ranger-sponsored fisherman.
Clifford says he is not sure if he will be available to compete in the Roosevelt tournament due to other commitments.
His schedule shows that one day before the tournament opens he’ll be wrapping up a FLW Walmart event in Table Rock Lake, Mo.
Other FLW Stren Series Western Division tournaments are being held this spring in California at Lake Oroville, Kelseyville and Oakley.
Tournaments outside the Western Division are slated for Florida, Maryland, New York, Missouri, Louisiana, South Carolina, Kentucky and Texas.
The Stren Series championships will be Nov. 5 to 7 at McFarland Park in Florence, Ala.
The top pro award will be $25,000 along with a Ranger Cup bonus that includes a 198VX bass boat equipped with a Yamaha or Evinrude 2000 horsepower outboard motor. The co-angler top award is a new Ranger 177TR Yamaha or Evinrude 90 horsepower outboard boat along with a bonus of $5,000.
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 and are asked to help police the sport by keeping everything honest, Kellogg’s pro Dave Lefebre wrote on his Web site.
Registration for both anglers and co-anglers entering the Roosevelt tournament will be held April 16 in the Mazatzal Casino bingo room and the tournament marina will be the Cholla recreation site.
Dennis Pirch and fellow organizer Jim Goughnor will spend the next few months ironing out details and completing the scheduling it takes to host a major tournament.
The weigh-in, traditionally celebratory affairs that draw hundreds of spectators, begins at 3 p.m. April 18.
Dennis Pirch, Goughnor and other committee members are hoping townspeople turn out in force at the weigh-in to show the anglers and FLW officials that Payson and Roosevelt Lake can become a featured stop on the pro tour.
Officials promise 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.
For those unfamiliar with the FLW, the initials stand for Forrest L. Wood, the founder of Ranger Boats and a pioneer of modern bass fishing.
FLW Outdoors named the tour after Wood in 1996.
Participation in Stren Series events is open to only to members of FLW Outdoors who are 16 years of age or older.
Each tournament is limited to 400 contestants or 200 boats carrying one angler and a co-angler.
For more information or to join FLW Outdoors, go to www.FLWOutdoors.com.
The deadline to enter the tournament is April 15.