“I had a good time today,” said Christian, who switched to a 3/8-ounce jig Friday after using a lizard during the opening round. “At my first stop, I caught my biggest fish (approximately 5 pounds), and I was able to relax for the rest of the day. That is the only big fish I’ve caught in practice or the tournament. I quit fishing at 9:30 a.m. and left my area.”
Rounding out the top five pros are 2003 Wal-Mart FLW Tour Kentucky Lake winner Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., who caught one of two five-fish limits Friday to finish the semifinal round in second place with 8 pounds, 10 ounces; Banana Boat pro Kevin Vida of Clare, Mich., who extends an outstanding year on the EverStart Series with five fish weighing 8 pounds, 1 ounce; Troy Eakins of Nixa, Mo., with four fish weighing 7 pounds, 11 ounces; and Yamaha pro Dave Lefebre of Erie, Pa., with three bass weighing 7 pounds, 8 ounces.
The Co-angler Division title, which was determined by Friday’s semifinal round, went to Mario Ringo of Arcadia, Calif. Ringo only needed two keepers weighing 5 pounds, 4 ounces to win the championship. One of three anglers from the new EverStart Series Western Division to finish in the top five, Ringo had never fished a lake east of Arizona, but he adjusted to the conditions and won $10,000 cash and a fully-rigged Ranger boat.
“The water we’re (Western Division anglers) used to fishing is deep and clear,” Ringo said, “but I like the lake. I had to use heavier line and never really used crankbaits before. But I did a lot of cranking and flipping. This is a dream come true.”
Rounding out the top five co-anglers were Danny Phillips of Temecula, Calif., in second place with two bass weighing 3 pounds, 14 ounces, worth $7,000; Ken Crumpler of Marianna, Fla., with two fish weighing 2 pounds, 13 ounces, good for $6,000; Mike Freeman of Oxford, Ala., in third place with two bass weighing 1 pound, 14 ounces, worth $5,000; and Lewis Southard of Chandler, Ariz., in fifth place with one bass weighing 1 pound, 8 ounces, worth $4,000.
Co-angler Ken Baldwin of Needles, Calif., father of 1999 Wal-Mart BFL All-American champion Mike Baldwin, earned $1,000 for catching the tournament’s Snickers Big Bass, a 7-pound, 3-ounce monster, on opening day. The top 10 pros advance to Saturday’s final round where weights will be zeroed.
The winning pro is guaranteed $25,000 cash plus an Evinrude- or Yamaha-powered Ranger boat equipped with Garmin electronics, a Minn Kota trolling motor and EverStart batteries. If the winner is an the original owner of a Ranger boat, he will receive a $10,000 bonus for a top pro award of $76,900.
Bull Creek marina in Gallatin will host and final-round takeoff at 7 a.m. Takeoff for Friday is at scheduled for 8 a.m. at Bull Creek marina. Saturday’s weigh-in will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 1112 Nashville Pike in Gallatin beginning at 3 p.m. The EverStart Series Family Fun Zone, which features free admission, free giveaways and interactive games for children, opens at 11 a.m. The community is encouraged to attend the weigh-in and the Family Fun Zone, where some of the nation’s top pros will be available for autographs and photos.
The EverStart Series Championship will be broadcast to 55 million subscribers of the Outdoor Life Network on the “FLW Outdoors” television program Nov. 8 at 6 p.m. Central time and Nov. 9 at noon Central time. Saturday’s final weigh-in will also be broadcast live to Wal-Mart Stores nationwide.
The EverStart Series is administered by FLW Outdoors, the world’s leading marketer of competitive fishing. Other FLW Outdoors-sanctioned tournament trails are the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, the Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail, the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Tour and the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye League. EverStart Batteries 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.