This week's tournament is slightly different than any other EverStart Series event this year. Since much of the tournament waters are on the Wisconsin side of the river system, Wisconsin fishing regulations must be followed. One such regulation prohibits culling fish once placed in the livewell. Anglers, therefore, must make the decision after each legal catch to keep or release the bass - play it safe or gamble that a larger bass will strike later in the day. Another important factor this week involves precipitation. The region around Red Wing has received significant rainfall in the past weeks, and drenching rains continued to fall Wednesday. Anglers only received a short break from the pounding rain on day one. "The river was high when we got here," Norman said, "and it doesn't look like it's going down any time soon. But all the rain doesn't appear to be affecting the fish.
"I'm catching most of my fish shallow around some wood and a little vegetation. I'm getting mostly reaction bites. I think there are quite a few fish in my area because my traveling partner, Ed Huber of Westerville, Ohio, had some boat trouble in practice and ended up fishing with me. So he's fishing the same area and had a limit in less than 2 hours this morning and is in fourth place."
Rounding out the top five pros are Mark Rose of Marion, Ark. (five bass, 12 pounds, 12 ounces); Bill Lowen of Addyston, Ohio (five bass, 12 pounds, 5 ounces); Aaron LaRocque of Wabasha (five bass, 12 pounds, 2 ounces); and Huber (five bass, 12 pounds, 2 ounces). David Ashley of Markleville, Ind., leads the Co-angler Division thanks to a limit weighing 12 pounds, 1 ounce. Ashley's limit consisted of three smallmouths - the larger of the three weighed 3 pounds, 8 ounces and tied for the Co-angler Division Snickers Big Bass worth $125 - and two largemouths.
"I mostly fished a Fluke today," Ashley said. "We were in about 4 feet of water with grass just under the surface. "I have to give credit to my pro partner, Lawry's pro Jim Moynagh, who is in 11th place in the Pro Division. He is a great guy and really put me on the fish. I'd would also like wish my daughter the best who is serving in Iraq." Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Troy Schwab of Elk River (five bass, 9 pounds, 2 ounces); Chris Hoenshell of Laughlintown, Pa. (four bass, 8 pounds, 9 ounces); Thomas Bryant of Summerfield, Fla. (four bass, 8 pounds, 5 ounces); and Nelson Sergent of Laurinburg, N.C. (four bass, 8 pounds, 4 ounces).
Anglers will take off at 6 each morning from Treasure Island Resort and Casino, located at 5734 Sturgeon Lake Road in Welch. Thursday's weigh-in will also be held there beginning at 2:30 p.m., and Friday and Saturday's weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 295 Tyler Road S. in Red Wing beginning at 3:30 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 will 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 will advance 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 $3.88 million 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 presented by Energizer, 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. Northern Division anglers who finish in the top 40 in the final points standings are eligible to compete in the championship.
The second Northern Division tournament will be held July 21-24 on the Detroit River near Trenton, Mich., followed by a stop on Lake Erin near Buffalo, N.Y., August 25-28. Regular-season competition concludes September 22-25 on Lake Champlain near Plattsburgh, N.Y.
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. For a complete list of FLW Outdoors sponsors and for more information about the premier products and services they offer, please visit FLWOutdoors.com.