The tournament, which is the fourth and final regular-season Eastern Division event, has run the gamut from tornado-like weather to calm, sunny skies. As varied as the weather were the anglers’ bait choices, as almost anything seems to be working as long as one can find the fish. Morgan went “junk fishing” Friday in scattered showers to catch his tournament-leading bass.
“I’ve just been bouncing around; I’ve got 25, 30, 40 stops a day that I’ve been hitting, just trying to get to as many as I can,” said Morgan, a Wal-Mart FLW Tour pro who won the EverStart Series Eastern Division opener on Lake Okeechobee in January. “I’ve spent a lot of time down here, and I know several places to fish. I’ve caught a lot on a Zoom Ole Monster worm, a DD-22 and a jig. Sunshine would help me a little bit. I wasn’t really tickled with the clouds last year; I came in third, and the cloud cover killed me. This year, a lot of the grass is gone where the current washed it out; the grass is deeper, and the fish are reluctant to come up.”
Three days into the tournament, talk around the dock still revolves around Wednesday’s violent storm, when Morgan got a look at his first tornado. “I was talking to Pat Fisher and Michael Brown, and the sky was so black,” he said. “I said, ‘Guys, have you ever seen a tornado? Look over my left shoulder,’ and their eyes got as big as silver dollars. It was the worst lightning storm I’ve ever seen.” Scattered thunderstorms are expected to hit the Guntersville area again Saturday.
Rounding out the top five pros are Marshall Deakins of Dunlap, Tenn. (five bass, 19 pounds, 1 ounce); Tim Buckner of Scottsboro (five bass, 16 pounds, 12 ounces); Phillip Nunnelley of Cullman (four bass, 16 pounds, 8 ounces); and J. Doug Campbell of Grant (five bass, 16 pounds, 7 ounces). Delane Harrison of Northport tops the list of final-round co-anglers thanks to his catch Friday of five bass that weighed 16 pounds, 13 ounces. He too caught his bass Friday by going “junk fishing.”
“I’m throwing a little bit of everything, catching whatever I can catch,” said Harrison, a first-year EverStart competitor who also fishes the Bama Division of the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League. “I’m throwing a Carolina rig and just changing what’s on the end of it. I had a top-20 finish at Okeechobee and was wondering if I was going to make any more money this year. I was worried about making the championship. I’m tickled to death; if I can catch enough to win (Saturday) I’ll put it toward a down payment on a house.”
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Charles Turner of Spring City, Tenn. (four bass, 15 pounds, 5 ounces); Richard Angel of Surf City, N.C. (four bass, 11 pounds, 5 ounces); Thomas Henderson of Roseland, Fla. (four bass, 11 pounds, 4 ounces); and A.K. Boatright of Cleveland, Ala. (three bass, 10 pounds, 11 ounces).
A total of 128 bass were caught Friday, including 15 five-bass limits.
Anglers will take off from the Guntersville State Park Pier at 6 a.m. Saturday, followed by the final weigh-in at the Wal-Mart store located at 11697 U.S. Highway 431 in Guntersville beginning at 4 p.m. The community is encouraged to attend the final takeoff and weigh-in.
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.
Four divisions – Eastern, Central, Northern and Western – comprise the 2003 EverStart Series. Each division stages four regular-season tournaments leading up to the no-entry-fee $335,975 EverStart Series Championship, which will be held on Old Hickory Lake near Gallatin, Tenn., Oct. 29-Nov. 1.
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 FLWOutdoors.com.
FLW Outdoors is named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood.