GILBERTSVILLE, Ky. – A full field of 330 top bass anglers from around the country embarked on Kentucky Lake early Wednesday morning as part of the expanded $2.5 million 2001 EverStart Series season. When the field returned for the opening day weigh-in, Jim Eakins of Nixa, Mo., led the Pro Division with five largemouth bass weighing 18 pounds, 1 ounce.
Eakins, who has two EverStart Series top-10 finishes to his credit, caught the majority of his bass in shallow water. He estimates that it will take at least 22 pounds to make the cut Thursday.
“This is just day one,” Eakins said shortly after the weigh-in. “The whole deal here is to make it into the top 30. I need 4 pounds at least, so I’m going to go out and catch what I can early.”
The $185,000 tournament features 165 pros and 165 co-anglers probing the warming waters of Kentucky and Barkley lakes in hope of winning $15,000 cash and a Mercury-or Yamaha-powered Ranger boat in the Pro Division and $6,000 in the Co-Angler Division.
Jim Criswell of Del Rio, Texas, finished opening day in second place with five bass weighing 16 pounds, 6 ounces. He was followed by Greg Hackney of Oak Ridge, La., with five bass weighing 15 pounds, 15 ounces; Koby Kreiger of Osceola, Ind., with five bass weighing 15 pounds, 7 ounces; and Cody Bird of Granbury, Texas, with five bass weighing 14 pounds, 10 ounces.
In the Co-Angler Division, Tyrone Phillips of Little Rock, Ark., led with five bass weighing 14 pounds, 14 ounces followed by Jerry Wade of Indianapolis, Ind., with four bass weighing 12 pounds, 7 ounces and Claude Broomes of Indianapolis with five bass weighing 11 pounds, 9 ounces.
Big bass and $750 in the Pro Division went to Todd Ratcliff of Bailey, Miss., for a 5-pound, 9-ounce bass. Big bass and $250 in the Co-Angler Division went to Ray Johnson of Clinton, Ky., for a 5-pound, 10-ounce bass.
A total of 629 bass were caught Wednesday including 37 five-bass limits. More than 97 percent of the bass were released alive.
For a shot at victory, anglers in both divisions must secure one of 30 slots available in Friday’s semifinal round by catching the heaviest two-day total of bass in round one. During the semifinal round, anglers start from zero and compete for one day to determine the top 10 pros and top 10 co-anglers who will compete in Saturday’s finale. Catch weights are cleared again for the final day of competition, and the winner of each division is determined by the weight of that day’s catch.
Competition begins at 6 a.m. each morning at Moors Resort in Gilbertsville. Weigh-ins Thursday and Friday will also be held at Moors starting at 3 p.m. each day. Saturday’s final weigh-in will be held at the new Wal-Mart Supercenter located at 310 West 5th Street in Benton, Ky., at 4 p.m.
The 4-year-old EverStart Series now includes three divisions-Eastern, Central and Northern-with four events each plus a year-end championship. Tournament winners and the top 50 pros and top 50 co-anglers from each division will earn a spot in the championship, which will be held Nov. 7-10 on Pickwick Lake in Florence, Ala. There, the winning pro will receive a Mercury-or Yamaha-powered Ranger boat and $25,000 cash. The winning co-angler will receive a Mercury-or Yamaha-powered Ranger boat and $10,000 cash. More than $2.5 million will be awarded during the 2001 EverStart Series season. The series also provides a pathway to the $4.45 million Wal-Mart FLW Tour-bass fishing’s most lucrative tournament series.