Four-foot swells on Lake Erie did little to hamper the fishing action, as 112 of the 184 Pro Division competitors weighed in a limit. While it comes as no surprise that Erie smallmouths comprised the majority of the heavy stringers, what did raise some eyebrows were several smallmouths weighing over 6 pounds, including a 6-pound, 3-ounce smallie caught by Sid Tutt of Longview, Texas, that took co-angler big-bass honors. Several anglers near the top of the leaderboard reportedly caught their fish as deep as 40 feet. Impressive weights are expected to cross the weigh-in stage again tomorrow, likely making the top-20 cut weight extremely close.
Rounding out the top five pros are Aaron Barber of Fenwick, Ontario (five bass, 20 pounds, 5 ounces); Rodney Sorrell of Stokesdale, N.C. (five bass, 20 pounds, 3 ounces); Al Gagliarducci of Agawam, Mass. (five bass, 19 pounds, 4 ounces); and Jimmi Leuthner of Vernon, Vt. (five bass, 19 pounds, 4 ounces).
Jeff Harris of Grand Blanc, Mich., leads the Co-angler Division after day one thanks to a five-bass limit that weighed 18 pounds, 12 ounces.
Rounding out the top four co-anglers are James Richardson Jr. of Cincinnati (five bass, 17 pounds, 10 ounces); Casey Hewes of Thornton, Ill. (five bass, 17 pounds, 1 ounce); and Lou Zahra of Warrensburg (five bass, 17 pounds). Tied for fifth are Franklin Collins of Huntington, W. Va., and Jim Short of Ocean Pines, Md. Both anglers caught five bass that weighed 16 pounds, 7 ounces.
Gagliarducci and Kenneth Plencner of South Bend, Ind., tied for Pro Division big-bass honors Wednesday. Both anglers caught a 6-pound, 1-ounce bass to earn $375 each. Tutt earned $250 for his Co-angler Division big bass.
Daily takeoffs are at 7 a.m. from NFTA Boat Harbor in Buffalo. Thursday’s weigh-in will also be held there beginning at 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins will begin at 4 p.m. at the Wal-Mart store located at 4255 McKinley Parkway in Hamburg. The community is encouraged to attend daily takeoffs and weigh-ins.
The entire field will compete again Thursday, and the top 20 pros and co-anglers based on two-day accumulated weights will advance to Friday’s semifinal round. Anglers then start at zero Friday, and the top 10 pros and co-anglers will advance to Saturday’s final round, with the winners determined by the heaviest two-day weights.
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), and Yamaha will match 50 percent of Ranger Cup winnings if the angler’s 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 $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.
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.
For more information on the EverStart Series or any of FLW Outdoors’ six tournament trails, visit FLWOutdoors.com.