EUFAULA, Ala. – Brian Randall, 28, of McCalla, Ala., will lead 20 of the nation’s top professional bass anglers into Friday’s semifinal round at the $210,000 EverStart Series tournament on Lake Eufaula with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 34 pounds, 5 ounces.
Randall caught five bass weighing 18 pounds, 15 ounces Wednesday to place fifth. He then turned in five more bass weighing 15 pounds, 6 ounces despite a cold front and heavy rain that moved through the area overnight to claim the Pro Division lead Thursday. 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 a top co-angler award of $6,000 cash.
Targeting grass and wood cover in shallow water, Randall used a combination of buzzbaits and 4-inch tubes to land his limit each day. Thursday’s late breaking sun, he says, played a key role in positioning fish so he could catch them.
“I caught all but one of my fish in the last two hours,” said Randall, who advanced to the 2002 EverStart Series after landing the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League’s Bama Division points championship last season. “I was struggling, and I was running out of time. I knew something had to happen or I was in trouble. Then I caught a 5-pounder, and things started to come together.”
Pro Craig Daniel of Cullman, Ala., caught 10 bass weighing 33 pounds, 14 ounces over two days to secure the No. 2 spot in the semifinal round. Greg Pugh of Cullman, Ala., (10 bass, 33 pounds, 9 ounces); Rusty Smith of Somerset, Ky, (10 bass, 33 pounds, 1 ounce); and Chris Lane of Lakeland, Fla., (nine bass, 31 pounds, 14 ounces) rounded out the top-five pros.
Co-angler Red Downey of Fort Myers, Fla., claimed the top spot in his division with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 25 pounds, 14 ounces. Rounding out the top three co-anglers were Skip Mundy of Cusseta, Ga., (nine bass, 21 pounds, 12 ounces) and Ronnie McDonough of Vestavia Hills, Ala., (nine bass, 20 pounds, 3 ounces).
A 6-pound, 12-ounce bass landed Mike McAdams of Pascagoula, Miss., big bass honors and $750 in the Pro Division while Jimmy Hale Jr. of Rocky Mount, Va., landed co-angler big bass honors and $250 with a 6-pound, 3-ounce bass.
A total of 920 bass were caught Thursday including 87 five-bass limits.
Competition begins at 6 a.m. each morning at Lake Point State Park, which is part of the Alabama Bass Trail. Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart Supercenter located at 1218 Eufaula Ave. in Eufaula 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 no-entry-fee EverStart Series Championship presented by Conseco. The top 50 pros and co-anglers from each division will earn a spot in 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.