GALLATIN, Tenn. (Oct. 30, 2003) – After an opening day characterized by a fog delay and tough fishing conditions, anglers were greeted with unseasonably warm temperatures and bluebird skies for Thursday’s conclusion of the opening round of the $335,975 EverStart Series Championship on Tennessee’s Old Hickory Lake. Leading the charge into Friday’s semifinal round is Kellogg’s pro Clark Wendlandt of Cedar Park, Texas, whose two-day total of eight bass weighing 20 pounds, 12 ounces puts him first in the running for a top pro award worth as much as $76,900 in cash and prizes, including a fully rigged Ranger boat.

Wendlandt bagged four keepers Thursday weighing 10 pounds, 5 ounces to move from second place to first place with a two-day total of 20 pounds, 12 ounces. Wendlandt stuck with the same pattern that produced on day one.

“I’m still throwing a jig,” said Wendlandt, who ranks among the most successful anglers on the Wal-Mart FLW Tour. “I was really blessed today. I didn’t fish any of the places I did yesterday; I just practiced all day. My partner was in second and I was in second, so we really didn’t need to catch many fish (to make the cut).”

After two days of fishing, the top 22 pros and 22 co-anglers based on their two-day accumulated weight advanced to Friday’s semifinal round, where weights will be zeroed. Typically, the top 20 anglers advance, but a three-way tie for 19th place in the Co-angler Division allowed for two more pros to make the cut.

Pro angler Lou Treat of Flippin, Ark., jumped from 10th to second place thanks to a five-fish limit weighing 12 pounds, 4 ounces that gave Treat a two-day total of seven bass weighing 19 pounds, 11 ounces. Leaping from 28th to third place was Dan Mansky of Youngstown, Ohio, with a two-day total of six bass weighing 17 pounds, 15 ounces. Mansky also earned Snickers Big Bass honors for day two with a 6-pound, 4-ounce largemouth worth $625.

Rounding out the top five pros are Wesley Strader of Spring City, Tenn., in fourth, who remained in the top 10 with an opening-round total of seven bass weighing 17 pounds, 6 ounces, and Tommy Dillon of Manhattan, Kan., with a total catch of eight bass weighing 17 pounds, 4 ounces. Finishing sixth Thursday was Kellogg’s pro Jim Tutt of Longview, Texas, who made up for his opening-round catch of zero bass with a five-fish limit Thursday that weighed 16 pounds, 12 ounces.

Co-angler Bill Rogers of Jasper, Texas, continued his solid opening-round run and jumped from third to first place in the Co-angler Division with Thursday’s catch of four fish weighing 6 pounds, 9 ounces. His two-day total of seven bass weighing 11 pounds, 9 ounces leads second place by more than 2 pounds.

“We ran from one end of this (lake) to the other today but caught most of them up north,” said Rogers, who was in third place after day two at the EverStart Series Central Division event on the Red River earlier this year. However, Rogers had to leave that event early because his son was getting married, but he said his performance this week “makes up for that.”

Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Ken Baldwin of Needles, Calif., with a two-day total of two bass weighing 9 pounds, 3 ounces; Mario Ringo of Arcadia, Calif., with an opening-round total of four bass weighing 8 pounds, 9 ounces; Todd Truax of Canton, Ohio, who jumped from the bottom of the pack with a two-day total of four bass that weighed 8 pounds (Truax zeroed on day one); and Jeff Taylor of Vernon, Ala., with a two-day total of four bass weighing 6 pounds, 15 ounces.

Ron Chambers of Phoenix landed the co-angler big bass of the day with a 4-pound, 6-ounce largemouth worth $250.

The co-angler champion will be crowned Friday, while the top 10 pros after Friday’s competition advance to Saturday’s final round, where they will once again start at zero.

The winning pro is guaranteed $25,000 cash plus an Evinrude- or Yamaha-powered Ranger boat 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 for a top pro award of $76,900. The winning co-angler is guaranteed $10,000 cash and a fully rigged Ranger boat.

Bull Creek marina in Gallatin will host semifinal- and final-round takeoffs at 8 a.m. and 7 a.m., respectively. Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 1112 Nashville Pike in Gallatin beginning at 5 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday. The EverStart Series Family Fun Zone, which features free admission, free giveaways and interactive games for children, opens Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 11 a.m. The community is encouraged to attend the daily weigh-ins and the Family Fun Zone, where some of the nation’s top pros will be available for autographs and photos.

The EverStart Series Championship will be broadcast to 55 million subscribers of the Outdoor Life Network on the “FLW Outdoors” television program Nov. 8 at 6 p.m. Central time and Nov. 9 at noon Central time. Saturday’s final weigh-in will also be broadcast live to Wal-Mart Stores nationwide.

The EverStart Series is administered by FLW Outdoors, the world’s leading marketer of competitive fishing. Other FLW Outdoors-sanctioned tournament trails are 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. 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.

For complete tournament results and more on FLW Outdoors, visit www.flwoutdoors.com.