As the original owner of a Ranger boat, Dudley also received a $10,000 cash bonus from Ranger, and because he was the highest-finishing participant in the Ranger Cup incentive program, he received another $3,000 cash. He also earned $1,000 from Garmin for using a fixed-mount Garmin Fishfinder or combination GPS/sounder for a total prize package worth $65,900.
Dudley, who is also in contention for the Land O’Lakes Angler of the Year title on the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, finished the two-day opening round in ninth place and advanced to the final round with a second-place effort in the semifinals. He primarily used a top-water in the opening and semifinal rounds, but after the top-water bite gave out Saturday, he caught his tournament-winning bass fishing around boulders with a Zoom Super Fluke in watermelon and green pumpkin colors.
“A win’s a win,” said Dudley, whose wife is expected to deliver their first child in early July. “I don’t really look at the money; if a person is able to come out on top in the fishing world it’s a pretty good accomplishment. Fishing is not a dominating sport, and wins are hard to come by. I feel good about it.”
Dudley is one of FLW Outdoors’ most successful anglers, earning one of bass fishing’s most lucrative awards by winning the Ranger M1 tournament on the Mobile-Tensaw Delta in 2002. Dudley pocketed $700,000 cash for the win. He is currently ranked second on the Wal-Mart FLW Tour with one event remaining, and 2003 will be the seventh consecutive year that Dudley has ranked in the top 30 on the FLW Tour and his fourth year in the top 10. The Lake Vermilion win was his second career victory and his 16th visit to the top 10 in FLW Outdoors-sanctioned tournaments.
Rounding out the top five pros are Mark Zona of Sturgis, Mich. (five bass, 14 pounds, 6 ounces, $10,000); Art Ferguson III of St. Clair Shores, Mich. (five bass, 13 pounds, 9 ounces, $9,000); Koby Kreiger of Okeechobee, Fla. (five bass, 11 pounds, 4 ounces, $8,000); and Jim Moynagh of Carver (five bass, 11 pounds, 3 ounces, $7,500).
Co-angler Mark McNeil of Ledyard, Conn., scored his second tournament victory Saturday with a five-bass catch weighing 9 pounds, 13 ounces. McNeil caught largemouths in the weeds in 3 to 6 feet of water on Stalker tubes and jigs to claim the top co-angler award of $5,000 cash.
“This place is awesome,” said McNeil, who was the co-angler winner at the EverStart Northern Division tournament on New York’s Thousand Islands in 2002. “It’s a major fishery here. We need to come back. I had great partners; everything went smoothly.”
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Chris Wade of Preston, Conn. (five bass, 9 pounds, 11 ounces, $4,000); Todd Truax of Canton, Ohio (five bass, 9 pounds, 1 ounce, $3,500); Warren Thomas of Lakewood, Wis. (five bass, 9 pounds, 1 ounce, $2,500); and Richard Wyrick of Frankfort, Ill. (four bass, 8 pounds, 5 ounces, $2,000). Ties are resolved by day-two standings.
A total of 95 bass were caught Saturday, including 17 five-bass limits. One hundred percent were released alive.
The EverStart Series Northern Division will make its second stop July 23-26 on the Detroit River in Trenton, Mich. Four divisions – Eastern, Central, Northern and Western – comprise the $3.88 million EverStart Series. Each division stages four regular-season tournaments leading up to the no-entry-fee $335,975 EverStart Series Championship, which will be held on Old Hickory Lake near Gallatin, Tenn., Oct. 29-Nov. 1.
A field of 189 pros and 189 co-anglers took off from Fortune Bay Resort and Casino in Tower Wednesday to kick off the event. The field was cut from 189 to 20 in both divisions following Thursday’s competition. Weights were cleared for Friday’s semifinal round, and the top 20 pros and 20 co-anglers competed Friday for one of 10 slots in Saturday’s final round. Weights were again cleared for Saturday’s competition, and the top 10 pros and 10 co-anglers competed for position and prize money.
In EverStart Series competition, pros supply the boats, control boat movement and fish from the front of each boat against other pros. Co-anglers fish from the back of each boat and compete against other co-anglers.
FLW Outdoors, the world’s leading marketer of competitive fishing, administers the EverStart Series. Other FLW Outdoors-sanctioned tournament trails include 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. FLW Outdoors will award as much as $20 million through 175 tournaments in 2003.
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.
FLW Outdoors is named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood.