PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (Sept. 24, 2003) – The final regular season tournament of the $3.88 million 2003 EverStart Series kicked off Wednesday on Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh with 200 pros and 200 co-anglers scouring the mammoth fishery for hefty limits of smallmouth bass, which as usually for this lake, where weighed in by the dozens.

No less than 202 five-bass limits, including 39 limits weighing more than 15 pounds were produced by the field. It was Brian Gates of Mendon, Vt., however, who set the pace with four largemouth bass and one smallmouth weighing a total of 19 pounds, 3 ounces. If the EverStart Series rookie can reproduce his early success throughout the four-day tournament, he sands to win as much as $61,900 in cash and prizes, including a fully rigged Ranger boat.

“I’m going to chase smallmouths tomorrow and leave my fish for days three and four,” said Gates, who caught his largemouth bass by flipping a jig around rocks and grass. “I figure I need about 12 pounds, and I can do that anywhere on the lake with my eyes closed. I was throwing back 3-pound smallies all day.”

Rounding out the top five pros after day one are Tom Monsoor of La Crosse, Wis. (five bass, 18 pounds, 11 ounces); Thomas C. Lavictoire of West Rutland, Vt. (five bass, 17 pounds, 14 ounces); Sam Newby of Pocola, Okla. (five bass, 17 pounds, 14 ounces); and Patrick Martin of Carver, Minn. (five bass, 17 pounds, 10 ounces).

Johnathan Dingle of South Meriden, Conn., who recently finished third in a Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League tournament at Thousand Islands, led the co-angler field with a five-bass catch weighing 19 pounds.

“It was hit and miss early and then they really came on strong for awhile,” said Dingle, who caught all smallmouth bass using a crankbait and Texas-rigged 8-inch worm while fishing grass in 15 to 20 feet of water behind Land O’Lakes pro Keith Williams of Conway, Ark. “Later in the day, it was a struggle again. I must have made 2,000 casts with that crankbait.”

Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Troy Sprague of Lincoln, Neb. (five bass, 18 pounds, 4 ounces); Dean Meckes of Clayton, N.Y. (five bass, 15 pounds, 9 ounces); Bob Melanson of Springfield, Mass. (five bass, 15 pounds, 8 ounces) and Philip Borsa of Redford, Mich. (five bass, 15 pounds, 6 ounces).

Lavictoire earned Pro Division big-bass honors and $750 Wednesday thanks to a 6-pound, 1-ounce largemouth. A 4-pound, 14-ounce smallmouth earned Dingle $250 as the Co-angler Division big-bass winner.

A total of 1,251 bass were caught Wednesday, and more than 99 percent were released alive.

Anglers take off each morning at 6:30 a.m. from Mooney Bay Marina in Plattsburgh. Thursday and Friday’s 2:30 p.m. weigh-ins will also be held at the marina. Saturday’s final weigh-in will be held at 3:30 p.m. at the City of Plattsburgh parking lot adjacent to the Farmer’s Market on Durkee Street. The community is encouraged to attend daily takeoffs and weigh-ins.

Following Thursday’s conclusion of the opening round, the top 20 pros and 20 co-anglers based on their two-day accumulated weight advance to Friday’s semifinal round. Weights are cleared for Friday’s competition, and the top 10 pros and 10 co-anglers advance to Saturday’s final round based on Friday’s total weight. Weights are again cleared for Saturday’s competition, and anglers compete for the heaviest one-day weight.

The winning pro will take home a guaranteed cash award of $10,000 plus a new Ranger 519VS Comanche equipped with Garmin electronics and powered by an Evinrude or Yamaha outboard. If the winner is the original owner of a Ranger boat, he will receive an additional $10,000 cash bonus from Ranger for a total of $61,900 in cash and prizes. Ranger will also award an additional $3,000 to the winner if he is a Ranger Cup participant, and Garmin will award $1,000 to the winner if his boat is equipped with a fixed-mount Garmin Fishfinder or combination GPS/Sounder.

The winning co-angler is guaranteed $5,000 cash. If the winning co-angler is a registered Ranger owner, he will also receive a new Ranger 519VS Comanche for a total of $27,800 in cash and prizes.

Lucrative payouts aside, anglers are also fishing for crucial points in the year-end standings. Dan Mansky of Youngstown, Ohio, currently leads all pros with 566 total points, and Trevor Jancasz of White Pigeon, Mich., leads the co-anglers with 587 points. Pros and co-anglers who finish in the top 40 in the regular-season standings earn an automatic berth into the no-entry-fee $335,975 EverStart Series Championship, which will be held on Old Hickory Lake near Gallatin, Tenn., Oct. 29-Nov. 1

Four divisions – Eastern, Central, Northern and Western – comprise the 2003 EverStart Series, and each division stages four regular-season tournaments leading up to the championship.

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

FLW Outdoors is named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood