Two hundred pros and 200 co-anglers kicked off the event Wednesday, and the field was whittled to 20 in both divisions following Thursday’s competition based on two-day accumulated weights. The winning pro will collect as much as $61,900 in cash and prizes at the conclusion of the event Saturday, and the winning co-angler can earn as much as $35,000 in cash and prizes.
The bite was again tough on the Red River Thursday, and a brief but strong thunderstorm also passed through the area that brought hail and hard rain on the EverStart Series competitors. Morgan, however, managed to continue his run of good luck Thursday with a five-bass catch that weighed 12 pounds, 13 ounces, including a 5-pound kicker fish. He caught a limit Wednesday that weighed 15 pounds, 3 ounces to enter Thursday’s competition in third.
“It’s a lot of tough fishing,” said Morgan, who ranked sixth in 2003 Central Division points standings. “It’s postspawn right now and the water is fluctuating a good bit, too, rising and falling in pools three and four both. It’s up one day and down the next as much as 8 to 10 inches. Plus there are four or five lakes that everybody’s fishing, and the boat pressure is causing it to be a tough bite more than anything.”
Morgan flipped a plastic bait to a small ridge to catch his tournament-leading bass. “I’ve got this one primary spot that I went to yesterday that I caught about 15 pounds on, and today I kind of left it and tried to find some more stuff close by and really didn’t find a whole lot,” he said. “I just got back from the (Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail) event on Lake Texoma, and I only had two days to practice. I got to my spot about 8 o’clock today and after 45 minutes I had about three fish, so I knew I had enough to make the cut and I just went out scouting again. I’ve been fishing up in Pool 4, but I’ve got a couple of places in Pool 3 I can go to if I need to.”
Rounding out the top five pros are Scott Rook of Little Rock, Ark. (10 bass, 26 pounds, 6 ounces); Glenn Maxwell of Crossett, Ark. (10 bass, 25 pounds, 11 ounces); Dan Morehead of Paducah, Ky. (10 bass, 24 pounds, 6 ounces); and Lendell Martin Jr. of Nacogdoches, Texas (10 bass, 23 pounds, 11 ounces).
Emmet Barnett of Waldron, Ark., leads the list of semifinal-round co-anglers thanks to his two-day total of seven bass weighing 16 pounds, 1 ounce. Barnett sat in the No. 88 spot heading into Thursday’s competition after catching only two bass Wednesday that weighed 2 pounds, 7 ounces. He rebounded Thursday with a limit weighing 13 pounds, 10 ounces to take the tournament lead.
“I fished a different spot today, and my partner had some better fish found,” said Barnett, who is currently ranked 15th in Central Division points standings, his best year to date. “I found fish all day, just one here and one there. I caught seven keepers and lost one good fish, and I’m catching them on mostly spinnerbaits, and I’ve been pitching a tube. We were fishing around moss beds most of the day. I try not to do the exact thing my pro is doing so that maybe I’ll have a chance at some fish he didn’t catch.”
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Stephen Francis of Brookeland, Texas (10 bass, 15 pounds, 15 ounces); Bill Gift of Alix, Ark. (eight bass, 15 pounds, 1 ounce); day-one leader Brian Branum of Lewisville, Texas (six bass, 13 pounds, 12 ounces); and Jay Lamb of Kansas City, Mo. (six bass, 13 pounds, 9 ounces).
Jason Ammerman of Grant, Mich., was Thursday’s big-bass winner in the Pro Division thanks to a 5-pound, 15-ounce bass. He earned $750 for his big bass. Bill Rogers of Jasper, Texas, earned $250 Thursday as the co-angler big-bass winner with a 5-pound, 10-ounce bass.
The Grand Encore launching facility, which is located at 160 Rufus Morgan Road in Natchitoches, hosts daily takeoffs at 6:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 925 Keyser Ave. in Natchitoches beginning at 4 p.m. The community is encouraged to attend daily takeoffs and weigh-ins.
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.