EVERSTART SERIES ACTION KICKS OFF ON LAKE OKEECHOBEE

Clewiston, Fla. (Jan. 5, 2005) – In a day that saw nearly 3,000 pounds of bass brought to the scale, pro J.T. Kenney of Frostburg, Md., came out on top with a five-bass limit weighing 32 pounds, 12 ounces. The $262,125 tournament, which is hosted by Roland and Mary Ann Martin’s Marina and Resort, concludes Saturday with the winning pro earning as much as $60,000 and the winning co-angler earning as much as $35,000.

Kenney’s stringer broke the previous EverStart Series record by more than 2 pounds. The previous record of 30 pounds, 5 ounces was set by Rick Gunter of Holly Hill, Fla., on Okeechobee in 2002. Kenney is known for having won the FLW Tour Okeechobee event in 2002.

Kenney said there were only two clear areas in the lake; one in the South Bay and one in the Monkey’s Box area. The rest of the lake was murky from the grass killed by the recent hurricanes. Kenney was fishing 18 miles from the boat ramp, and he was flipping a creature bait near heavy grass. On his third flip of the morning, he landed an 8-pound, 3-ounce bass. He said he only caught seven fish all day, but four of them were huge.

“It was just my day. Four or five of the other top 10 guys were right beside me,” Kenney said, adding that there were 50 or so boats in the area. “So I’m not going to save the spot. We probably won’t catch the fish in there tomorrow that we did today, but I’m going to do the same thing each morning of the tournament.”

Lake Okeechobee, considered one of the top lakes in the country for largemouth bass, presented anglers with fewer choices of presentation than normal on Wednesday because of the unusually murkey waters and smaller amount of vegetation. With highs in the 80s and a moderate southeasterly wind, water temperatures are mild, and bass are in prespawn, spawn and postspawn patterns.

Rounding out the top five pros are David Williams of Maiden, N.C., (five bass, 26 pounds, 9 ounces); Daryl Deka of Wellington, Fla. (five bass, 24 pounds, 15 ounces); Chad Morgenthaler of Coulterville, Ill. (five bass, 21 pounds, 7 ounces) and Larry Pinder of Port Charlotte, Fla. (five bass, 21 pounds).

The top co-angler of the day, Kenneth Owens of Wise, Va., also had a good day on the water, with a five-bass limit weighing 19 pounds, 13 ounces.

“It seemed like a lot of the fish were bunched up,” Owens said. “I got the big bite early and probably caught a dozen or so keepers during the day.” Owen’s largest fish was an 8-pound, 3-ounce largemouth. He said the fish were mostly on a prespawn pattern, and they were caught mainly on soft plastics.

Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Johnnie Parker from Elkhorn, Ky. (five bass, 17 pounds, 6 ounces); Lloyd Meyers Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla. (five bass, 16 pounds, 12 ounces); Aymon Wilcox of Lauderdale Lakes, Fla. (five bass, 15 pounds, 14 ounces); and Ed Hembree of Berea, Ky. (four bass, 15 pounds, 8 ounces).

Anglers caught 1,635 bass that weighed a total of 2,905 pounds.

Pinder earned $750 as Wednesday’s Snickers Big Bass award winner in the Pro Division thanks to a 9-pound, 8-ounce lunker. Bill Hullet of Broken Arrow, Okla., earned the $250 Snickers Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division with a 10-pound, 8-ounce behemoth largemouth.

Roland and Mary Ann Martin’s Marina and Resort, located at 920 E. Del Monte Ave. in Clewiston, hosts daily takeoffs at 7 a.m. each morning. Thursday’s weigh-in will also be held at the marina, beginning at 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 1005 W. Sugarland Hwy. in Clewiston, beginning at 4 p.m.

EverStart Series tournaments are four-day events consisting of two rounds. The entire field competes Wednesday and Thursday, and the top 10 pros and co-anglers – based on two-day accumulated weights – advance to the final round. Anglers start at zero Friday, and pro and co-angler winners are determined Saturday based on two-day accumulated weights.

For more information on the EverStart Series or any of FLW Outdoors’ eight tournament trails, visit FLWOutdoors.com.