JASPER, Texas – Tim Carroll, 39, Owasso, Okla., will lead 20 of the nation’s top professional bass anglers into Friday’s semifinal round at the $210,000 EverStart Series tournament on Sam Rayburn Reservoir with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 37 pounds, 4 ounces.
Carroll, a 2002 Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League All-American qualifier who recently left his job as a fleet manager for an electrical cooperative to pursue a professional fishing career, caught five bass weighing 21 pounds, 11 ounces Wednesday to take control of first place. He then turned up the heat Thursday despite a strong northerly wind and 40 degree air temperature with five more bass weighing 15 pounds, 9 ounces to retain his Pro Division lead.
“This is just my third trip to Sam Rayburn,” said Carroll, who caught his bass on a Bill Norman Deep Little N crankbait while targeting 12-foot deep grass growing in the lake’s south end. “It’s a great feeling to be in this position. I was confident going into the tournament, and I have a lot of family support, which helps a great deal.”
Friday the top 20 pros and co-anglers will start from zero and fish for one day to determine the top 10 anglers advancing to Saturday’s final round for a shot at a top pro award of more than $50,000 in cash and prizes and top co-angler award of $6,000 cash.
Pro Jeff Ransom, Muldrow, Okla., caught 10 bass weighing 35 pounds, 1 ounces over two days to secure the No. 2 spot in the semifinal round. Wesley Burnett, Hot Springs, Ark. (seven bass, 28 pounds, 4 ounces); Robert Baney, Houston (10 bass, 27 pounds, 15 ounces); and Dicky Newberry, Houston (seven bass, 26 pounds, 10 ounces) rounded out the top five pros.
Local co-angler Stephen Francis, 50, Brookeland, Texas, claimed the top spot in his division with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 21 pounds, 14 ounces. He caught the majority of his bass from the edge of a hydrilla patch along the river channel in 23 feet of water using a Carolina-rigged Zoom centipede with a 1-ounce weight.
Finishing in second and third place were co-anglers Justin Hale, Nacogdoches, Texas, (five bass, 21 pounds, 14 ounces) and Charles Carlile, Tulsa, Okla (six bass, 19 pounds, 8 ounces). Despite having the same opening-round weight, Francis edged past Hale on the strength of Thursday’s five-bass catch weighing 12 pounds, 5 ounces. Hale’s heaviest catch weighed-in at 11 pounds Wednesday.
A 9-pound, 6-ounce largemouth landed Terry Butcher, Talala, Okla., big bass honors and $750 in the Pro Division while Rick Rickman, Martindale, Texas, landed co-angler big bass honors and $250 with a 6-pound, 14-ounce largemouth.
A total of 494 bass were caught Thursday including 19 five-bass limits. All of the bass were released alive.
Competition begins at 7 a.m. each morning at Twin Dikes Marina in Brookfield, Texas. Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart Supercenter located at 800 West Gibson in Jasper starting at 4 p.m.
Now in its fifth season, the EverStart Series features three divisions – Eastern, Central and Northern – with four events each plus the $325,000 EverStart Series Championship presented by Conseco. The top 50 pros and co-anglers from each division will be invited to the Championship for a shot at top pro awards of more than $60,000 in cash and prizes and top co-angler awards of more than $40,000 in cash and prizes. The top 10 pros and co-anglers from each division also receive priority entry into the 2003 Wal-Mart FLW Tour – bass fishing’s most lucrative tournament series – where they could win up to $260,000 and $40,000 in cash respectively.
More than $2.8 million will be awarded to bass anglers through the 2002 EverStart Series.