JASPER, Texas – Kellogg’s pro Jim Tutt, Longview, Texas, claimed the No. 1 qualifying spot Friday going into the finals of the $210,000 EverStart Series Central Division opener on Sam Rayburn Reservoir with five bass weighing 23 pounds, 7 ounces.
Tutt, an EverStart Series veteran with five top-10 finishes including a win on Lake of the Ozarks in 1999, will compete Saturday against nine other Pro Division finalists for a top award of more than $50,000 in cash and prizes.
Anglers start on equal footing in the final round as weights from previous rounds are erased, and the winner is determined by the weight of Saturday’s catch. The original field of 165 pros was whittled to the top 20 Thursday and cut to the top 10 Friday.
The wet, cold weather anglers experience in the opening round gave way to mild temperatures and bluebird skies Friday, allowing Tutt to catch the largest stringer of the tournament using an orange Rat-L-Trap around hydrilla beds in 6 to 12 feet of water. In the opening round, he caught a two-day total of eight bass weighing 22 pounds, 9 ounces using the same technique to make the semifinal-round cut in 10th place.
“I have one primary spot and five or six secondary locations that I’ve been fishing all week,” Tutt said. “It just warmed up (Friday) and got the big ones moving around a bit. I also slowed down my presentation and fished a little deeper.”
Opening round leader Tim Carroll, Owasso, Okla. (four bass, 15 pounds, 7 ounces); David Curtis, Trinity, Texas (five bass, 14 pounds); Jeff Ransom, Muldrow, Okla. (four bass, 13 pounds, 10 ounces); and Dicky Newberry, Houston, Texas (four bass, 11 pounds, 1 ounce) rounded out the top-five pros.
Tutt’s partner, Gerald Andrews, Benton, Ky., claimed the top co-angler spot Friday with two bass weighing 10 pounds, 5 ounces. He survived the semifinal round cut from 165 to 20 co-anglers Thursday in 10th place with a two-day total of six bass weighing 14 pounds, 10 ounces.
Billy Yelverton, Baton Rouge, La., qualified in second with three bass weighing 9 pounds, 8 ounces followed by Hubert Allred, Granby, Mo., with four bass weighing 8 pounds, 6 ounces.
Like their pro counterparts, co-anglers start from zero Saturday with the winner determined by the day’s heaviest catch. The winning co-angler receives $6,000 cash.
Saturday’s action begins at 7 a.m. at Twin Dikes Marina in Brookfield, Texas. The final weigh-in 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.