WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – After weighing in five bass that registered 10 pounds, Al Gagliarducci, 25, of Agawam, Mass., will lead five of the nation’s top professional anglers into Saturday’s final round of the EverStart Series Challenge at Cypress Gardens.
Gagliarducci, a rookie from the EverStart Series Eastern Division, caught his bass by flipping grass near deep drops.
“I thought I could make the top 10 by catching consistent weight each day, but these guys are catching some pretty big fish” Gagliarducci said. “I did find a new patch of grass though, so I’m going to start out there.”
Finishing the round in second through fifth position in the Pro Division were Chip Harrison of Bremen, Ind., with three bass weighing 6-7; Jim Short of Ocean Pines Md., with five bass weighing 6-1; Alister Johnson of Cottondale, Fla., with three bass weighing 6-0; and opening round leader, Darrel Robertson of Jay, Okla., with two bass weighing 5-11.
In the Co-Angler Division, 31-year-old Wesley Burnett of Hot Springs, Ark., won $10,000 cash and a Johnson-powered Ranger boat with five bass weighing a whopping 16 pounds.
“I never dreamt I could win it,” said Wesley, another EverStart rookie. “When I left the house I said that I was going to do everything I could to make it to Friday.”
Finishing second through fifth in the Co-Angler Division were Chris Abney of Mount Sterling, Ky., with two bass weighing 11-10 worth $9,000; Kendall Martin of Tremont, Ill., with three bass weighing 5-8 worth $8,000; Asa Godsey of Mechanicsville, Va., with three bass weighing 3-14 worth $7,000; and George Anders Jr., with two bass weighing 2-6 worth $6,000.
On Saturday, the top five pro anglers will start over and fish for one day to determine the victor. The winning pro will receive $25,000 cash and an Evinrude-powered Ranger Comanche fishing machine.
Saturday’s final-round action begins at 7 a.m. on Lake Summit in Cypress Gardens. The final weigh-in at Cypress Gardens begins at 2 p.m.
The three-year-old, nine-event EverStart Series is comprised of two divisions, Eastern and Central, with four multi-day events per division. Over the course of the season, the series awards anglers up to $1.7 million in cash and prizes. It also provides a pathway to the prestigious Wal-Mart FLW Tour, the richest tournament series in history.
Greg Hackney of Oak Ridge, La., won the Eastern Division professional points title Thursday with 143 points, and Todd Schaaf of Hume, Va., won the Eastern Division co-angler points title with 160 points. In the Central Division, the pro points title went to Robertson after he edged past Carl Svebek III of Sam Rayburn, Texas, thanks to a weight advantage that broke a 146-point stalemate. The Central Division co-angler points title went to Fred Hill of Gibsonville, N.C., with 153 points.