Newton caught five bass weighing 12 pounds, 1 ounce Wednesday then added another four bass weighing 14 pounds, 12 ounces in rapid succession Thursday. He was flipping a 1/2-ounce black and blue Strike King jig in his home waters of Wheeler Lake both days.
"I wasn't really expecting it to be this good," said Newton, who has earned 10 top-10 finishes in FLW Outdoors competition since 2001. "Just making it into the top 10 is fine with me. I want to win it as much as anyone, but it's my first top 10 this season, and that's a great accomplishment."
Jerry Green of Justiceburg, Texas, trailed Newton by just one ounce after adding five bass weighing 14 pounds, 10 ounces to his opening-day catch of four bass weighing 12 pounds, 12 ounces for a total of nine bass weighing 26 pounds, 12 ounces. He ran more than 90 miles to the deep clear water of Bay Springs Lake and boated a limit, including a 5-pound, 5-ounce smallmouth, in less than two hours.
Kellogg's pro Dave Lefebre of Union City, Pa., claimed the No. 3 qualifying spot with a two-day total of seven bass weighing 22 pounds, 14 ounces.
Pedigree pro Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala. (six bass, 22 pounds, 1 ounce) and Kellogg's pro Sam Newby of Pocola, Okla. (four bass, 18 pounds, 15 ounces) rounded out the top five pros who will fish Friday and Saturday.
Toby Hartsell of Livingston, Texas, earned the day's Snickers Big Bass award of $750 in the Pro Division with a 5-pound, 13-ounce largemouth that he caught on an Eakins jig.
Gilbert Herald of Pittsburg, Texas, leads the Co-angler Division thanks to a two-day catch of three bass weighing 11 pounds, 13 ounces. Herald caught one bass weighing 3 pounds, 12 ounces Wednesday while fishing with pro Brian Hensley of Edwardsburg, Mich., then added another two bass weighing 8 pounds, 1 ounce to his total Thursday while casting a Santone jig on Pickwick Lake with pro Charles Cummings of Leeds, Ala.
"It was incredible," said Herald, who has already earned two top-five finishes this season. "I had one smallmouth that would have easily went 5 pounds jump off. It looked like a tarpon out there. This is just awesome. It's a dream come true."
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are James Chapman of Cedartown, Ga. (three bass, 10 pounds, 4 ounces); Paul Bailey of Agoura Hills, Ca. (four bass, 9 pounds, 10 ounces); Mark Guin of Crossett, Ark. (four bass, 9 pounds, 8 ounces); and Steven Christensen of Ferron, Utah (five bass, 9 pounds, 5 ounces).
Ralph Wells of Castaic, Calif., and Chapman tied for the day's Snickers Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division, and each earned $187.50 with 4-pound, 11-ounce bass.
Of the states represented in Florence this week, California has the largest contingent of anglers with 53 followed by Alabama and Michigan with 24 anglers and North Carolina with 23.
Anglers take off from McFarland Park at 7 each morning. Friday's weigh-in will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 3100 Hough Road in Florence beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday's weigh-in will also be held at Wal-Mart beginning at 3 p.m.
The community is invited to join all the tournament festivities in the Family Fun Zone Friday and Saturday outside the weigh-in tent in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The Family Fun Zone, which opens at 3 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday, features interactive displays, product samples and games for the entire family to enjoy. Everything in the Fun Zone is absolutely free.
The top 40 pros and top 40 co-anglers from each of the EverStart Series' five divisions qualified for the championship. Weights are cleared for the final round, and co-angler competition concludes Friday with the winner determined by the day's heaviest catch. Pro competition concludes on Saturday, with the winner determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from Friday and Saturday.
Complete coverage of the EverStart Series Championship will be broadcast more than 80 million FSN subscribers as part of the "FLW Outdoors" television program Dec. 4. "FLW Outdoors" airs Sundays at 11 a.m. Eastern time. Additionally, "FLW Outdoors" is broadcast by the American Forces Network to 800,000 service men and women stationed around the world in 177 countries and aboard naval ships.
Beginning in 2006, the popular EverStart Series will be renamed the Stren Series and EverStart Batteries will remain a core sponsor.
Named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood, FLW Outdoors administers the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Series, Stren Series, Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye League, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Series, Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series, Ranger owners' tournaments and Stratos owners' tournaments. These circuits offer combined purses exceeding $35 million through 244 events in 2006.
For more information on Wal-Mart, visit Wal-Mart.com. For more information on FLW Outdoors and its tournament programs, visit FLWOutdoors.com or call (270) 252-1000.