GILBERTSVILLE, Ky. (June 3, 2004) – Local anglers continue to dominate this week’s EverStart Series Central Division event on Kentucky Lake, as the tournament’s opening round concluded Thursday with Camden, Tenn., pro Sam Lashlee taking over the lead with a two-day catch of 10 bass that weighed 35 pounds, 1 ounce. Twelve of the 20 pros who advanced to Friday’s semifinal round call Kentucky and Barkley lakes home, and Lashlee has racked up four top-10 finishes on the lakes since 2000 in the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League. The four-day, $256,825 EverStart Series event will award the winning pro as much as $61,900 in cash and prizes, including a fully rigged Ranger boat, at the conclusion of Saturday’s final round.

Lashlee, who is fishing his first career EverStart Series event, spent two weeks on the water in preparation for the tournament, finishing third at a BFL event along the way. The heavy local presence at the top of the leaderboard comes as no surprise to Lashlee, who says this time of year the dreaded home-lake curse tends to dissipate due to the positioning of the fish.

“I think a lot of the fish are out wide, and they’re a lot harder to find,” Lashlee said. “It takes a lot more time to find the fish when they’re out on ledges and stuff like that, and a local definitely has an advantage when they’re out wide and deeper. I’ve spent countless hours fishing all those ledges and humps. I also have some ledges that are doing really well that have taken me years to learn. This time of year, if you’re not fishing ledges, you’re in trouble.”

Like most anglers, Lashlee caught several of his fish in deeper water, but he defied convention by catching a few shallow as well. “I knew I was on fish, and I felt good about doing well in the tournament, but I didn’t want to be leading it,” he said. “I hope I haven’t caught too many fish.” Lashlee caught his tournament-leading bass exclusively on the Kentucky Lake side and is making a one-hour run to his fish-rich areas.

Rounding out the top five pros are Jonathan Newton of Rogersville, Ala. (10 bass, 34 pounds, 7 ounces); Evinrude pro Dan Morehead of Paducah (10 bass, 33 pounds, 8 ounces); Yamaha pro Terry Bolton of Paducah (10 bass, 33 pounds, 6 ounces); and Larry Caldwell of St. Peters, Mo. (10 bass, 32 pounds, 8 ounces).

Day-one leader Woody (James) Clark of Bandera, Texas, extended his lead into day two, topping the list of the 20 semifinal-round co-anglers thanks to a two-day catch of eight bass that weighed 24 pounds, 9 ounces.

“We actually fished a different area today; I didn’t catch nearly as many fish today as I did yesterday,” said Clark, who is fishing Kentucky Lake for the first time. “Fortunately I did have a good weigh-in yesterday so I didn’t have to have that many to make the top 20. I did have three fish today, and if I hadn’t have caught those three I would not have been in the No. 1 position. I’m just following the pro around and doing what they do. It’s very exciting.”

Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Eric Braden of Radcliff, Ky. (10 bass, 24 pounds, 4 ounces); Bill Rogers of Jasper, Texas (eight bass, 23 pounds, 4 ounces); Keith Newsom of Memphis, Tenn. (eight bass, 22 pounds); and Tim Webb of Olpe, Kan. (nine bass, 21 pounds, 3 ounces).

Christian Romans of Carrollton earned $750 Thursday as the big-bass winner in the Pro Division with a 6-pound, 5-ounce bass. David Garrett of Dawson Springs claimed co-angler big bass honors with a 6-pound, 3-ounce bass that earned him $250.

Moors Resort in Gilbertsville hosts daily takeoffs at 6 each morning. Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 310 W. Fifth St. in Benton beginning at 3:30 p.m. The community is encouraged to attend daily takeoffs and weigh-ins.

The tournament began Wednesday with 200 pros and 200 co-anglers competing for two days for one of 20 slots in both divisions in Friday’s semifinal round. Weights are cleared for Friday’s competition, after which the field will be cut to the top 10 pros and 10 co-anglers based on their one-day weight. Competition continues Saturday 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. 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.