The tournament began Wednesday with a full field of 200 pros and 200 co-anglers, but only the top 20 in both divisions based on their two-day accumulated weight advanced to Friday’s competition. The road to the top-20 cut, however, was an uphill one, as Pickwick has yielded low numbers of bass this week due to a combination of factors, the strongest being a recently imposed 15-inch minimum size limit. Pack, however, is ahead of the curve with a working pattern that he fished in an area he has confidence can take him to the winner’s circle.
“It was tough during practice, but yesterday I figured them out a little better,” said Pack, who also competes on the Wal-Mart FLW Tour. “They’re a little deeper than I thought they were in practice. I’m fishing shell beds in a big, flat area right off the river, and there are big smallmouths and some largemouths in the area.”
Pack used a Lake Fork creature bait to catch his limit Thursday and used a 1-ounce tungsten weight that hit the bottom well enough to allow Pack to find the patches of shell beds.
“I’m fishing a winning area if I can get the right bites and get them in the boat,” he said. “You just have to make lots of casts and throw them in the right area to catch them. I’m out of the current; current won’t affect me any. In the Tennessee River they run current a lot, and the smallmouths are only biting when the current’s on in Pickwick. I’m fishing Wilson Lake, so that helps a lot.”
Rounding out the top five pros are Sam Moody of Athens (five bass, 24 pounds, 5 ounces); Joe Bennett of Independence, Mo. (eight bass, 23 pounds, 9 ounces); Robert Robinson of Mobile (eight bass, 22 pounds, 6 ounces); and William Davis of Russellville (eight bass, 21 pounds, 4 ounces).
Pack claimed $750 as Thursday’s Pro Division big-bass winner with a 4-pound, 15-ounce bass.
John Capitani of Pleasant Hill, Iowa, leads the 20 semifinal-round co-anglers thanks to a two-day total of seven bass weighing 17 pounds, 6 ounces. He caught his tournament-leading bass from the back of Texas pro Bob Davis Jr.’s boat.
“We basically fished main-lake points,” said Capitani, who has earned his first EverStart Series top-20 finish. “We’re fishing in a little deeper water, maybe 10 feet, and just dragging rigs. I talked to the pro I’m fishing with tomorrow, and we’re doing the same thing, and it’s my strong point so I’m excited.”
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Chris Gist of Rogersville (five bass, 12 pounds, 8 ounces); Ernie Hamilton of Prairieville, La. (four bass, 11 pounds, 10 ounces); Nathan Tully of Peggs, Okla. (three bass, 11 pounds, 7 ounces); and Mike Curry of Burkeville, Texas (four bass, 11 pounds, 2 ounces).
Scott Towry of Lawrenceburg, Tenn., took co-angler big-bass honors Thursday with a 7-pound, 13-ounce bass, the heaviest of the tournament.
McFarland Park in Florence hosts daily takeoffs at 6 each morning. Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 3100 Hough Road in Florence at 4 p.m. The community is encouraged to attend daily takeoffs and weigh-ins.
After Friday’s competition, the field will be narrowed from 20 to 10 based on Friday’s weight, and competition will continue Saturday with the winners 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 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.