Clouse caught one of the largest one-day limits of the tournament to win by an unexpected huge margin. Ounces, not pounds, separated the leaders throughout the week, but Clouse found a location loaded with active, quality bass and weighed in a solid limit on the final day. The fishing conditions have been extremely tough on Lake Pleasant this past week, and many anglers expected 15 pounds to win the tournament.
"I prefished for four days and got one bite," Clouse said. "But on the last day of prefishing, I found a place where the fish were stacked up. So on the first day of the tournament I went straight to that spot and caught 11 pounds. It was overcast and the fish were really turned on. I shook off 30 fish to save them for later in the week. I went back to the spot on the second and third days, but it was sunny and I only caught two or three keepers each day. When I got up Saturday and saw that it was overcast, I knew it was going to be a good day.
"Between my partner and I, we probably caught 60 fish today. We were throwing topwaters, spinnerbaits, whatever we wanted, and the fish were hitting them. The bass were schooling on the surface chasing baitfish. For the most part, I let my partner fish for the shallow fish, which were a little smaller, and he won the Co-Angler Division. I fished deeper for bigger fish and caught some nice 3- to 4-pound bass in 48 to 50 feet of water.
Rounding out the top five pros were Art Berry of Ramona, Calif. (10 bass, 14 pounds, 7 ounces); Jim Lyon of Reno, Nev. (eight bass, 12 pounds, 4 ounce); Michael Bennett of Roseville, Calif. (eight bass, 11 pounds, 10 ounces); and Mike Folkestad of Yorba Linda, Calif. (nine bass, 11 pounds, 2 ounces).
Berry was the highest finishing Ranger Cup participant and won $1500.
With a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 14 pounds, 1 ounce, Gary Collins of Moorpark, Calif., jumped from fourth place to win the Co-angler Division title worth $4,700.
"I used a Lucky Craft topwater and caught two keeper bass at the same time on my first cast," Collins said. "I had my limit in six casts. It only took 5 minutes to get my limit, and it wouldn't have taken that long except I had to get my hooks out of the net. It was unbelievable. The bass would push baitfish up and they would just boil on the surface. And they were so aggressive they would jump over the lure or pop the lure up in the air. It was absolutely incredible.
"Last year the same thing happened on the last day, and my pro tore them up with a topwater. I left mine in the truck that day, but I wasn't going to do the same thing this year. I made sure I had topwaters with me."
Rounding out the top five co-anglers were Tony Sarkis of Phoenix (nine bass, 13 pounds); Rick Klassen of Spring Valley, Calif. (seven bass, 11 pounds, 8 ounces); Mark Meddock of Woodland, Calif. (10 bass, 10 pounds, 10 ounces); and Shane Meisel of Alta Loma, Calif. (eight bass, 9 pounds, 8 ounces).
Anglers caught 62 bass Saturday, including seven five-bass limits. Total weight for bass caught Saturday was 85 pounds, 9 ounces. More than 98 percent of the bass were released.
A full field of 162 boats competed for two days to determine the top 20 pros and 20 co-anglers who advanced to Friday's semifinal round based on their two-day accumulated weight. Weights were cleared for the semifinal round, and anglers competed for one day to determine who advanced to Saturday's final round. Only the top 10 pros and 10 co-anglers competed Saturday, and the winner was determined by the heaviest two-day weight.
The winning pro was guaranteed $8,500 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 $60,400. 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). The program also includes the "Powered by Yamaha" contingency award, which awards an additional 50 percent of Ranger Cup bonus to the Ranger Cup winner if the boat is powered by a Yamaha outboard. 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 $4,500 cash, and if he is a Ranger boat owner, Ranger will award him a new Ranger 519 VS for a total prize package worth $34,500. 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 $3.88 million 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 presented by Energizer, 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. Western Division anglers who finish in the top 30 in the final points standings are eligible to compete in the championship.
The second Western Division tournament will be held March 17-20 on Lake Havasu in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., followed by a stop on Clear Lake in Clearlake, Calif., April 14-17. Regular-season competition concludes May 5-8 with a tournament presented by Garmin on the California Delta near Oakley, Calif.
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. For a complete list of FLW Outdoors sponsors and for more information about the premier products and services they offer, please visit FLWOutdoors.com.