The field of 192 pros and 192 co-anglers was whittled to 20 after Thursday’s conclusion of the opening round of the tournament, which is presented by Schick Quattro and hosted by the City of Plattsburgh and I Love New York. The semifinal-round competitors will fish Friday for one of 10 slots in Saturday’s final round, which will award the winning pro as much as $61,900 in cash and prizes and the winning co-angler as much as $35,000 in cash and prizes.
Though not quite as hefty as Wednesday’s catch, Thursday’s weights remained high, with over 3,500 pounds of bass weighed in. Ferguson entered day two in the No. 8 position and rose to the top despite a less-than-defined pattern and a tough bite in the morning.
“I can’t say I’ve got anything figured out,” said Ferguson, who finished fourth at last year’s EverStart Series event on Lake Champlain. “I was just fishing super-hard, fishing several different areas and different depths. I was concentrating on ledges, humps and breaks, moving around until I pinpoint where the fish are. Today I only had an 8- or 10-pound limit going into the afternoon, but in one key spot I found a really good school of fish that put me where I am today in a half-hour stretch of fishing.”
Ferguson is keying on smallmouths and using three different baits and three different styles of fishing (which he declined to disclose). Ferguson will turn 40 on Sunday and said he was trying to enjoy the final tournament of his thirties. “I feel so cool to be leading this going into my 40th birthday,” he said. “I just qualified for the FLW Tour and the EverStart Series Championship, and I think I’m right there for points leader in the (EverStart Series) Northern Division. A lot of stuff on the line can really mess up a person if you let it get to you, especially as tough as the fishing was for me.” Ferguson entered the tournament ranked seventh in Northern Division points standings.
Rounding out the top five pros are Craig Workman of Fort Worth, Texas (10 bass, 35 pounds, 12 ounces); day-one leader Mike Oberski of Ypsilanti, Mich. (10 bass, 35 pounds, 9 ounces); Kellogg’s pro Clark Wendlandt of Cedar Park, Texas (10 bass, 35 pounds, 4 ounces); and David Wolak of Warrior Run, Pa. (10 bass, 34 pounds, 14 ounces).
Kenneth Witter of Pine Valley leads the 20 semifinal-round co-anglers with a two-day total catch of 10 bass weighing 33 pounds. He caught five bass Wednesday that weighed 17 pounds, 3 ounces to place fifth and followed it up Thursday with another five bass weighing 15 pounds, 13 ounces to take the lead.
“I got lucky I guess,” said Witter, who is fishing his first EverStart Series event. “I’d rather be lucky than good. We were fishing 15 feet to 6 feet of water today, and I was using a jig, tube, spinnerbait and a little crankbait. (The best colors) were brown and green. There weren’t a lot of bites; I was just lucky to get the bigger bites.”
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Larry Butler of New Haven, Vt. (10 bass, 32 pounds, 14 ounces); Dominic Gambardella of North Haven, Ct. (10 bass, 30 pounds, 10 ounces); Chuck Willis of Dayton, Ohio (10 bass, 29 pounds, 15 ounces); and Bob Snyder of Marion, Ind. (10 bass, 29 pounds, 13 ounces).
Ken Golub of Pittsford earned $750 as Thursday’s Pro Division big-bass winner thanks to a 5-pound, 11-ounce bass. Witter took co-angler big-bass honors and $250 Thursday with a 5-pound, 12-ounce bass.
Mooney Bay Marina in Plattsburgh hosts daily takeoffs at 7 each morning. Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 25 Consumer Square in Plattsburgh beginning at 4 p.m. The community is encouraged to attend daily takeoffs and weigh-ins.
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.
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.
For more information on the EverStart Series or any of FLW Outdoors’ six tournament trails, visit FLWOutdoors.com. For more information about visiting New York, log on to ILoveNY.com.