JASPER, Texas (Feb. 27, 2004) – Pro Lloyd Pickett Jr. of Bartlett, Tenn., caught a five-bass limit weighing 17 pounds, 9 ounces to lead the first round of the $256,825 EverStart Series Central Division event on Sam Rayburn near Jasper, Texas. Pickett, who finished the first round in second place, is competing with 10 other pros Saturday for a top pro award worth as much as $61,900 in cash and prizes.

Warm weather finally made an appearance at Sam Rayburn after two days of very chilly temperatures. Weights were solid Friday, but nothing special for Big Sam standards. Four out of 20 pros managed to weigh in more than 15 pounds. With temperatures in the 60s Friday and similar conditions forecasted for Saturday, the final day of the tournament may yield the largest catches of the week.

“I brought my wife down here for Valentine’s Day do spend some ‘quality’ time with her on the water,” Pickett said. “That was two weeks ago, and I found a good pattern of throwing jigs and Carolina rigs on main-lake points. I came back the following weekend to try to figure out the grass bite – since that’s what Rayburn is so famous for – and just couldn’t work out anything. So when the tournament started, I stuck with what I knew.

“The fish are moving up and down the points throughout the day depending on water temperature. So yesterday before I even made a cast, I drove over the point to try to find the depth of the fish. I saw some on the graph, made a cast and caught one that weighed 6 pounds, 10 ounces. Then I caught a 5-10 on the second cast. The same thing happened today. I caught a 6 pounder on the first cast. You just have to a take a minute every now and then and find the depth the fish are at holding at.”

Rounding out the top five pros are Lendell Martin Jr. of Nacogdoches (five bass, 16 pounds, 3 ounces); first round leader Bradley Stringer of Huntington (four bass, 16 pounds, 1 ounce); David Truax of Beaumont (five bass, 15 pounds, 8 ounces); and Slade Dearman of Sam Rayburn (four bass, 13 pounds, 14 ounces).

Darren Roberts, who finished the first round in third place in the Co-angler Division, took the lead Friday with a solid limit weighing 13 pounds, 11 ounces. Roberts caught his fish by Carolina-rigging a Senko and centipede on points in 5 feet of water.

Spots two through five belong to Arkansans. Daniel Armstrong of Fayetteville, Ark., held onto second place for the third consecutive day by catching a limit Friday weighing 13 pounds, 6 ounces. Bill Gift of Alix, Ark. (five bass, 12 pounds, 6 ounces); first leader Frank Divis Sr. of Fayetteville, Ark. (three bass, 11 pounds, 8 ounces); and Scotty Villines of Compton, Ark. (four bass, 8 pounds, 10 ounces) round out the top five.

Anglers caught 124 bass Friday, including 11 five-bass limits, for a total of 321 pounds, 4 ounces. All bass were weighed alive.

Anglers will take off at 6:30 Saturday morning from Twin Dikes Marina in Brookeland. Saturday’s weigh-in will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 800 W. Gibson in Jasper beginning at 4 p.m. The community is encouraged to attend the takeoff and weigh-in.

The full field competes for two days to determine the top 20 pros and 20 co-anglers who 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 advances 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 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.