Pack finished the two-day opening round in first place to be one of the 20 anglers who advanced to Friday’s semifinal round, where he caught five bass weighing 16 pounds, 14 ounces to again sit in the No. 1 spot heading into Saturday’s competition. He caught another five bass Saturday that weighed 15 pounds, 15 ounces to lead the field by a 9-pound, 4-ounce margin.
Prior to the event, Pack studied his maps and located a spot on Wilson Lake that produced limits of bass throughout the tournament. Pack was dialed in to a fish-producing pattern duplicated by no one else, as most anglers struggled to catch a keeper bass, and few caught five-bass limits. He used a 7-foot medium-heavy Falcon spinning rod instead of bait-casting equipment and used 30-pound-test braided line, which enabled him to make longer casts and cover more water.
“My key spot on Wilson was a hump out in the middle of the lake,” said Pack, who used a Lake Fork Baby Creature bait in a Killer Craw color. “It came up to 3 or 4 feet, and the surrounding water was 10 to 15 feet deep. The key was the shell beds and the stumps on it, but they were submerged stumps – you couldn’t see them unless the sun was out.”
Pack prevailed over a tough 15-inch minimum size limit and water fluctuations by observing that the fish were moving up to warmer water after several days of temperatures in the 70s and 80s. “It had been cold, but with the air temperatures warming now, the fish were pulling out of that deep water to spawn but also just to get out of that cold water and warm up,” he said. “I knew I had a good area to stay on because more and more fish kept coming up every day.”
As winner, Pack earned $10,000 cash plus a fully rigged Ranger 519VS powered by a Yamaha outboard and equipped with Garmin electronics, a Minn Kota trolling motor and EverStart Batteries. Pack also received the $10,000 Ranger bonus and earned another $3,000 from Ranger as the highest-finishing participant in the Ranger Cup incentive program for a total cash and prize package worth $64,900.
Rounding out the top five pros are Dan Morehead of Paducah, Ky. (10 bass, 23 pounds, 9 ounces, $10,000); Larry Sisk of Evansville, Ind. (seven bass, 16 pounds, 3 ounces, $9,000); Joe Bennett of Independence, Mo. (six bass, 14 pounds, 12 ounces, $8,000); and Dewey Allen of Connersville, Ind. (four bass, 11 pounds, 13 ounces, $7,500).
Co-angler Ronald Aikin of Valley Station, Ky., bested the final-round co-anglers to claim $5,000 Saturday as winner of the Co-angler Division. He caught a two-day total of three bass weighing 7 pounds, 7 ounces to earn the victory in only his second career EverStart Series event. He fished with Pack and caught his winning bass on the same Lake Fork creature bait Pack used to earn his win.
“It feels great; I’m just worn out,” said Aikin, who won the tournament by a scant 6 ounces. “It was great to fish with a guy of (Pack’s) caliber. Everybody I fished with throughout this tournament was great to me. I should have had 12 to 13 pounds, but I broke off four good fish. I just couldn’t get them to the boat.”
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Chris Gist of Rogersville (two bass, 7 pounds, 1 ounce, $4,000); John Capitani of Pleasant Hill, Iowa (two bass, 6 pounds, 5 ounces, $3,500); Bill Rogers of Jasper, Texas (two bass, 4 pounds, 1 ounce, $2,500); and Billy Yelverton of Baton Rouge, La. (two bass, 3 pounds, 13 ounces, $2,000).
The tournament began Wednesday from McFarland Park in Florence with a field of 200 pros and 200 co-anglers hunting for one of 20 spots in both divisions in Friday’s semifinal round. Anglers advanced to the semifinal round based on their two-day accumulated weight, and anglers started over at zero Friday and competed for two days to determine the winner based on their accumulated weight from Friday and Saturday.
The EverStart Series Central Division’s next stop will be April 28-May 1 on the Red River in Natchitoches, La., and the final Central Division event of the 2004 season is set for June 2-5 on Kentucky Lake in Gilbersville, Ky.
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.