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Team Koolau Wins Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour Event in Sarasota

April 15, 2007

SARASOTA, Fla. – Team Koolau captained by Conrad Lau of Neptune Beach, Fla, caught a kingfish weighing 29 pounds, 12 ounces Sunday to win $100,000 in the Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour event presented by Land O' Lakes in Sarasota with a two day total of two king mackerel weighing 67 pounds, 7 ounces. The top award included bonuses of $30,000 from Wellcraft and $30,000 from Evinrude.

Anglers woke Sunday morning to blustery conditions as a line of heavy thunderstorms made its way across the southeastern U.S. Skies cleared around midday and teams fished in partly sunny weather with strong winds stirring seas as high as 14 feet in the Gulf of Mexico.

Team Koolau – also including Andy Seeker and Rocky Cusack, both of Jacksonville, Fla. – fished around the Sunshine Skyway Bridge spanning the mouth of Tampa Bay. They spent some time inside the bay, but caught their winning kingfish over a deep hole off the north end of Egmont Key, west of the bridge.

At 1:30 the big king hit a ribbonfish on a downrigger at 20 feet. Seeker fought the fish for about 20 minutes and Cusack gaffed it. “It felt like an eternity because of the conditions,” Seeker said. “It was really difficult fighting that fish on the front of the boat the way it was rocking us around. One wave went right over the bow, over me and just kept on going.”

Seeker credited Lau's superb helmsmanship for maintaining proper boat positioning – a difficult task in rough conditions.

“The fish made a couple big runs and the first time it came up and saw the boat, it took off again,” he said. “Our captain did an excellent job of keeping the fish out in front of us. The gaff shot was perfect. The fish came to the surface and laid up one time and Rocky reached out and stuck him.”

Fishing an Evinrude-powered 35-foot Wellcraft Tournament Edition center console, the winners had a stable platform for tackling the conditions. However, with 30-mph winds pushing 6- to 8-foot seas inside Tampa Bay, even sturdy boats take a pounding.

“It was sporty I don't care what kind of ride you were in,” Seeker said. “We didn't even attempt to go offshore.”

The anglers had to adjust their tactics for the sloppy seas. “We could not get all the lines out as we wanted them. The wind was twisting our lines and pushing us around. We pulled more ribbonfish today because our live baits were having trouble swimming in these conditions. We used live blue runners that were left over from (the qualifying rounds).”

Entering the final round on the strength of their 37-pound, 11-ounce day one effort, Team Koolau caught only one kingfish Sunday. The anglers were relieved to boat a good fish, but uncertain of what it meant to their final placement.

“At that point, it was just anybody's game,” Seeker said. “We were out there begging for a 10-pound fish. When that fish came on board, we were ecstatic. But then you start guessing about what the other teams had. You here radio chatter and you start wondering where you stand.”

The winners concluded their day early and headed to port around 2 p.m. “We figured we had one good fish and we didn't feel we were going to get a better fish. We didn't have a long run, but we had a snotty run. We took our time so we didn't have any trouble getting back.”

Seeker said that patience and determination fueled his team's success. “You can't give up when you have that much money on the line. We just stayed positive, stayed focused and had a good time while we were doing it.”

Rounding out the top five teams were Team Reelin captained by Marc Pincus of Hilton Head Island, S.C. (two kingfish, 64 pounds, 14 ounces, $13,960); Team The Reel Won captained by Robert Woithe of Placid, Fla. (two kingfish, 62 pounds, 4 ounces, $8,213 plus $5,250 Yamaha bonus); Team Pro Marine USA.com captained by Kevin Hannon of Seminole, Fla. (two kingfish, 60 pounds, 10 ounces, $6,570); and Team Lured Away captained by Bobby Schoenfeld of Conroe, Texas (one kingfish, 45 pounds, 7 ounces, $5,748 plus $3,750 Evinrude bonus).

Teams caught four kingfish Saturday weighing 100 pounds, 6 ounces.

FLW Kingfish Tour qualifying tournaments are three-day events. The entire field competed Friday and Saturday, and the top five teams based on the heaviest kingfish from either day competed Sunday.

Coverage of the Sarasota tournament hosted by the Sarasota Convention & Visitors Bureau will be broadcast to 81 million FSN (Fox Sports Net) subscribers in the United States May 20 as part of the “FLW Outdoors” television program. “FLW Outdoors” airs Sunday mornings at 11 Eastern Time. “FLW Outdoors” is also broadcast internationally to 429 million households in such countries as Germany, China, South Africa, Australia, Malaysia, Russia, Hungary and the United Kingdom, making it the most widely distributed fishing program in the world. Additionally, FLW Outdoors is proud to provide tournament coverage to more than 800,000 servicemembers stationed around the world in 177 countries and aboard Navy ships through broadcasts on the American Forces Network.

The $1.7 million Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour consists of four regular-season events. After four events are complete, the top 50 teams will compete in the three-day, no-entry-fee $500,000 Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour Championship presented by BP in Biloxi, Miss., Nov. 2-4. The winning team at the championship will take home as much as $150,000.

The FLW Kingfish Tour will stop in Fort Pierce, Fla., June 8-10 for its second regular-season event, presented by Evinrude Outboards, followed by an event August 17-19 at Beaufort, SC presented by Yamaha Motors. The tour's last qualifying event, presented by Raymarine, will be held in Atlantic Beach, NC, September 28-30.

Named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood, FLW Outdoors administers the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Series, Stren Series, Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail presented by Abu Garcia, Ranger Owners Tournament Championship Series, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye League, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Series, Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series and Wal-Mart FLW Striper Series. These circuits offer combined purses of nearly $43 million through 241 events in 2007.

Wal-Mart and many of America's largest and most respected companies support FLW Outdoors and its tournament trails. Wal-Mart signed on as an FLW Outdoors sponsor in 1997 and today is the world's leading supporter of tournament fishing. For more information about Wal-Mart, visit Walmart.com .

For more information about FLW Outdoors and its tournament programs, browse FLWOutdoors.com or call (270) 252-1000.

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