Anglers that had success making long eastward runs during the opening round of the competition on Lake Erie took off Friday morning knowing that they might have to change their strategy. An overnight thunderstorm shifted the southerly breeze to a north wind that moved the bass around, but still made for a great semifinal round.
“Things were a little different today with the wind switching to the north,” said Vatalaro, who entered the semifinal round in the No. 2 spot with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 37 pounds, 2 ounces. “The fish changed position in the area I was fishing, but once I found them I had an easy time catching my limit.”
Vatalaro landed his limit of five bass Friday using a tube jig in 12-18 feet of water. “It is really exciting and nerve-racking to be in fist place going into the finals,” he said.
Rounding out the top five pros are Scott Dobson of Waterford, Mich. (five bass, 18 pounds, 7 ounces); Mike Trombly of Perrysburg (five bass, 17 pounds, 8 ounces); Dan Mansky of Youngstown (five bass, 17 pounds, 7 ounces); and Joe Balog of Independence (five bass, 16 pounds, 12 ounces).
Mark Phillips of Fayetteville, Ark., leads 10 co-anglers into the final round after catching five bass weighing 17 pounds, 13 ounces Friday on a tube jig in 15-30 feet of water.
“I am really nervous,” said Phillips, who reaches the finals of an EverStart Series event for the first time. “I just want to go out tomorrow and fish well.”
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Brad Baldwin, Dayton (four bass, 11 pounds, 12 ounces); Trevor Jancasz of White Pigeon, Mich. (three bass, 11 pounds, 6 ounces); Lewis Southard of Chandler, Ariz. (two bass, 5 pounds, 13 ounce); and Thomas Bryant Jr. of Summerfield, Fla. (one bass, 4 pounds, 6 ounces).
A field of 179 pros and 179 co-anglers descended upon Lake Erie Wednesday and fished for two days for one of 20 spots in Friday’s semifinal round. Weights were cleared for Friday’s competition, and the field was cut again to the top 10 pros and 10 co-anglers based on Friday’s catch weight. Weights will be cleared again for Saturday’s competition, and anglers will compete for position and prize money.
The winning pro will take home a guaranteed cash award of $10,000 plus a new Ranger 519VS Comanche equipped with Garmin electronics and powered by an Evinrude or Yamaha outboard. If the winner is the original owner of a Ranger boat, he will receive an additional $10,000 cash bonus from Ranger for a total of $61,900 in cash and prizes. Ranger will also award an additional $3,000 to the winner if he is a Ranger Cup participant, and Garmin will award $1,000 to the winner if his boat is equipped with a fixed-mount Garmin Fishfinder or combination GPS/Sounder.
The winning co-angler is guaranteed $5,000 cash. If the winning co-angler is a registered Ranger owner, he will also receive a new Ranger 519VS Comanche for a total of $27,800 in cash and prizes.
Anglers will take off Saturday at 7 a.m. from Dempsey State Access ramp in Marblehead, followed by the final weigh-in at the Wal-Mart store located at 4070 East Harbor Road in Port Clinton beginning at 4 p.m. The community is encouraged to attend takeoff and weigh-in activities.
Four divisions – Eastern, Central, Northern and Western – comprise the 2003 EverStart Series. Each division stages four regular-season tournaments leading up to the no-entry-fee $335,975 EverStart Series Championship, which will be held on Old Hickory Lake near Gallatin, Tenn., Oct. 29-Nov. 1.
In EverStart Series competition, pros supply the boats, control boat movement and fish from the front of each boat against other pros. Co-anglers fish from the back of each boat and compete against other co-anglers.
FLW Outdoors, the world’s leading marketer of competitive fishing, administers the EverStart Series. Other FLW Outdoors-sanctioned tournament trails include the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, the Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail, the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Tour and the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye League. FLW Outdoors will award as much as $20 million through 175 tournaments in 2003.
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.