It isn’t just the pros who are chasing big money during Walmart FLW Tour events. The anglers on the rear decks of those brightly colored rigs have plenty at stake, too.
Those co-anglers, or amateurs, pay an entry fee of $700 per event. For three of the four days, they fish from the back of the boat for cash prizes ranging from $20,000 to the winner to $700 for 60th place.
At year’s end, the Co-Angler of the Year (based on points) receives a Ranger Z518 boat rig with 200-horsepower engine valued at about $40,000.
Steven Meador of Bella Vista has fished in 10 events as a co-angler since 2006, all at Beaver or Table Rock lakes, piling up $21,531 in earnings.
Naturally, he’s enjoyed himself along the way.
“It’s a lot of fun being out there with those guys,” said Meador, whose “day job” is working as vice president of technology and director of network security for Arvest Bank. “I’d have to say my fondest memory is drawing out with local favorite Greg Bohannan [of Rogers] on the final day of the 2008 Beaver Lake Open and we both took third place.”
A strong contender in local tournaments from the front of his own boat, Meador credits some of that success to things he’s learned fishing behind the pros.
“I’ve learned a lot from those guys, especially patience and confidence,” he said.
One nonangling skill that experienced co-anglers develop is how to read their pro — in particular, whether to talk or be silent.
“The main thing is to be respectful,” Meador said. “These guys are out here to make a living. The last thing you want to do is annoy them in any way. I let them set the tone for the day. You will have a good idea once you meet that morning. Almost always, the first few hours is quiet. Then they will begin to open up once the adrenaline and nervousness subside.”
Having two top 10 finishes on Beaver under his belt — he was fifth last year — Meador hopes to taste victory this time around.
“I’ve been very fortunate to make some top 10’s in front of my home crowd,” he said. “Standing on that stage, looking out and seeing your family, your friends, your sponsors and all your fishing buddies cheering you on is indescribable. To win would be a dream come true and I am ready!”