Stratos pro Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tenn., winner of last year’s Okeechobee EverStart Series event, warns that high water could make the Big O a challenge, giving a clear advantage to no one. “High water combined with high winds may have eliminated a lot of the aquatic barriers (reeds and grass beds) that act as filters to create clear water in the shallows behind them,” Morgan said. “My guess is there will still be some barriers available, but you’re going to have to look around harder to find them.”
According to Morgan, a myriad of techniques could take home the trophy, including casting worms into eelgrass, flipping in hydrilla and hyacinth, and throwing a top-water bait.
Anglers take off each morning at 7 a.m. from Okee-Tantie in Okeechobee. Wednesday and Thursday’s weigh-in will also be held at Okee-Tantie beginning at 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 2101 S. Parrott Ave. in Okeechobee beginning at 4 p.m. The community is encouraged to attend daily takeoffs and weigh-ins.
The full field will compete for two days to determine the top 20 pros and 20 co-anglers who will advance to Friday’s semifinal round based on their two-day accumulated weight. Weights are cleared for the semifinal round, and anglers compete for one day to determine who will advance to Saturday’s final round. Only the top 10 pros and 10 co-anglers compete Saturday, and the winner is determined by the heaviest two-day weight.
The winning pro is guaranteed $10,000 cash plus an Evinrude- or Yamaha-powered Ranger 519 VS equipped with Garmin electronics, a Minn Kota trolling motor and EverStart Batteries. If the winner is the original owner of a Ranger boat, he will receive a $10,000 bonus from Ranger for a top pro award worth $61,900. If he is a qualifying participant in the Ranger Cup incentive program, Ranger will award another $3,000 cash (or $1,500 to the highest-finishing Ranger Cup participant if not the winner). Garmin will award the winning pro $1,000 if he uses only Garmin electronics and at least one unit is a qualifying unit.
The winning co-angler is guaranteed $5,000 cash, and if he is a Ranger boat owner, Ranger will award him a new Ranger 519 VS for a total prize package worth $35,000. Co-anglers who make the final round of each regular-season EverStart Series event and wear an EverStart/Evinrude shirt and cap on stage are awarded points toward the EverStart Batteries and Evinrude Outboard Engines Co-angler Award. The co-angler receiving the most points by the end of the season receives a 2004 Evinrude 225HO Direct Injection outboard engine rigged on a Ranger boat equipped with a Minn Kota trolling motor and EverStart batteries.
The EverStart Series features a pro/co-angler format with pros supplying the boats, fishing from the front deck against other pros and controlling boat movement. Co-anglers fish from the back deck and compete against other co-anglers. Every angler who receives weight credit in a tournament earns points that determine angler standings. Two hundred points are awarded to the winner, 199 points for second, 198 points for third, and so on.
Designed as a pathway to the $6.8 million Wal-Mart FLW Tour, the world’s most lucrative bass-tournament series, the EverStart Series features four divisions – Eastern, Central, Northern and Western – with four regular-season events each. The season culminates with the $335,975 EverStart Series Championship, which will be held Nov. 3-6 on Lake Cumberland near Somerset, Ky. The event will be broadcast to 65 million subscribers of the Outdoor Life Network on the “FLW Outdoors” television series. Eastern Division anglers who finish in the top 40 in the final points standings are eligible to compete in the championship.
Named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood, FLW Outdoors is the world’s leading marketer of competitive fishing. FLW Outdoors-sanctioned tournament trails are the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, EverStart Series, Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail, Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Tour and Wal-Mart RCL Walleye League. EverStart Batteries, the best-selling batteries in the world, are marketed exclusively by Wal-Mart stores.
Wal-Mart and many of America’s most respected companies support FLW Outdoors and its six tournament trails. Wal-Mart has been the title sponsor of FLW Outdoors since 1997.