JASPER, Texas (Feb. 25, 2004) – Pro Joe Gundel of Seligman, Mo., caught five bass weighing 19 pounds, 9 ounces to lead the $256,825 EverStart Series Central Division event on Sam Rayburn near Jasper, Texas. A full field of 200 boats are competing in the tournament, which will award the winning pro as much as $61,900 in cash and prizes.

Many anglers practicing last weekend reported excellent catches with several bass in the 9- and 10-pound range. At the time, temperatures were hitting 70 degrees each day and some largemouths were starting to move into shallow water. On Tuesday, however, a low-pressure system worked its way into east Texas. When anglers launched Wednesday morning, they were met with light rain, stiff north winds and temperatures in the low 40s. Temperatures remained unseasonably cold throughout the day. The passing weather system certainly made for tough fishing conditions, but as usual, many anglers managed to find productive locations and effective patterns.

Gundel leads the pro side by nearly 2 pounds, but on Sam Rayburn no lead is safe. His limit included the Pro Divisions big bass of the day, an 8-pound largemouth worth $750.

Rounding out the top five pros are Larry Lovell of Emory (five bass, 17 pounds, 11 ounces); David Curtis of Trinity (five bass, 17 pounds, 8 ounces); Bradley Stringer of Huntington (five bass, 16 pounds, 13 ounces); and David Truax of Beaumont (five bass, 16 pounds, 13 ounces).

Frank Divis Sr. of Fayetteville, Ark., is dominating the Co-angler Division thanks to a five bass limit weighing 23 pounds, 4 ounces. Divis not only weighed in the day’s largest catch, he also boated the day’s largest bass, a monster 9-pound, 2-ounce largemouth worth $250.

“I almost hate to say it, but I could have done a lot better today,” Divis said. “I lost an 8 pounder at the boat first thing this morning and lost two 4 pounders later in the day. I should have had about 32 pounds.

“I caught all my fish on prototype tackle by 2IG-Extreme (owned by BassMedics). A tournament probably isn’t the right time to try new products, but their new rod and tube bait obviously made a big difference for me. The key was fishing that tube 10 to 20 feet into the grass line and dead sticking the bait. My partner, Bud Martin, and I were hauling in fish all day, but no one around us was catching a thing.”

Interestingly, a fellow Fayetteville, Ark., resident, Daniel Armstrong, stands in second place behind Divis with four bass weighing 18 pounds, 6 ounces – the third largest weight among either division.

Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Mark Everett of Tyler (five bass, 14 pounds, 1 ounce); David Hargett of Sherwood, Ark. (five bass, 13 pounds); and Jerry McCaffrety of Muscle Shoals, Ala. (five bass, 13 pounds.

Anglers caught 910 bass Wednesday, including 66 five-bass limits. More than 100 percent of the bass were weighed alive.

Anglers will take off at 6:30 each morning from Twin Dikes Marina in Brookeland. Thursday’s weigh-in will also be held at the marina beginning at 3 p.m., and Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 800 W. Gibson in Jasper beginning at 4 p.m. The community is encouraged to attend daily takeoffs and weigh-ins.

The full field will compete for two days to determine the top 20 pros and 20 co-anglers who advance to Friday’s semifinal round based on their two-day accumulated weight. Weights are cleared for the semifinal round, and anglers compete for one day to determine who advances to Saturday’s final round. Only the top 10 pros and 10 co-anglers compete Saturday, and the winner is determined by the heaviest two-day weight.

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. 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 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, 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. Central Division anglers who finish in the top 40 in the final points standings are eligible to compete in the championship.

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.