Wesley Strader and Andy Morgan were born 19 days apart in late 1971, and both Rhea County residents have made double-digit appearances in the Walmart FLW Tour's Forrest Wood Cup tournament.
Next week's trip to "the world championship of bass fishing" on Lake Ouachita in Arkansas will be the 14th for Dayton's Morgan and the 11th for Spring City's Strader, who finished seventh in FLW Tour Majors points this year. Morgan was 10th after finishing fourth and second in the Angler of the Year standings the last two years.
Strader was 16th and Morgan was 20th in last year's Forrest Wood Cup on Georgia's Lake Lanier.
The two also hunt together, sharing a hunting lease, "so, yeah, we're pretty good friends," Strader acknowledged Wednesday.
They went to different high schools -- Strader to Rockwood, Morgan to Rhea County -- but their fathers fished together in their younger years.
"And I think Andy's grandfather, Doc Morgan, gave my dad his first spinner bait," Strader said. "It's funny how things work out sometimes."
Morgan is No. 1 this year in 2011 FLW Tour Opens, where he has earned $29,500 to go with his $54,185 in the majors. The revamped schedule had six major tournaments this year, the last one ending July 24 on Pickwick Lake as a replacement for a weather-canceled early-May event in Missouri. Strader has $58,095 in majors winnings.
David Dudley of Lynchburg, Va., was the Angler of the Year for the second time and was fifth in the Opens standings. He has totaled right at $200,000.
The pro winner on Aug. 14 at Hot Springs, Ark., will receive $500,000 -- plus $100,000 if he qualifies for the Ranger Cup bonus. There also will be a co-angler division including Dalton's Van Foster Jr. That winner gets $50,000 and can add a $10,000 Ranger Cup bonus.
Each of the 58 pro-division anglers in Arkansas is guaranteed $7,000 just for putting his boat in Ouachita. Places 31-40 get $10,000 each.
"That's a pretty good reward right there," said Strader, who's on the Walmart pro team. "Another good thing is that being in the top 15 [in points] puts me in the Toyota Texas Bass Classic. Last-place money there will be at least $3,000."
The Texas tournament is set for Oct. 28-30.
"I've had a good year. I've been 28th or better every tournament except one," Strader said. "Other than that it's been a great year. The good Lord has blessed me. I can't wait to see what else he's got in store for me."
The Forrest Wood Cup participants aren't allowed on the Arkansas lake this week, but Strader checked it out last week before it was closed off at 12:30 a.m. Thursday.
"I went there after the Pickwick event and rode around for a couple of days," he said. "It's just really, really hot -- first thing in the morning the water temperature already was 90 to 94 degrees. They've had over 20 days of 100 degrees plus. It's just super-duper hot."
As a result, he said, the bass are going to be slow to bite.
"I think there's going to be a lot of suspended fish and hard-to-catch fish," he said in an FLW Tour news release about the tournament.
This year's top majors money winner, Mark Rose of Marion, Ark., said, "I think if a man caught 12 pounds every day he'd be in really good shape. I think we'll see bigger weights, though. And it may not take that much to win. You can't ever tell.
"This time of year you had just better be prepared for it to be hot," added Rose, who was first to Strader's second in an FLW Eastern Series tournament last year on Lake Chickamauga.