GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. – The final EverStart Series Eastern Division tournament of 2002 opened Wednesday on Guntersville Lake with 330 bass anglers representing more than a dozen states. When opening day drew to a close, pro Tommy Swindle of Warrior, Ala., held the lead with a five-bass limit weighing 18 pounds, 6 ounces.
Swindle, the father of Wal-Mart FLW Tour pro Gerald Swindle, caught his bass on top-water baits while fishing over grass in 4 to 8 feet of water.
“It’s always good to be king, even if it is just for one night,” Swindle said. “It helps you sleep a lot better knowing you are in good shape for day two.”
Swindle moved up to the EverStart Series from the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League this season, and he has already earned a top-20 finish on Lake Eufaula. He is in good position to make the top-20 cut here, too.
Steve Miller of Mechanicsville, Va., is nipping at Swindle’s heels, however, with five bass weighing 18 pounds, 2 ounces.
Rounding out the top five pros are: A.E. Moore of Graham, N.C., with five bass weighing 17 pounds, 10 ounces; Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tenn., with five bass weighing 17 pounds, 10 ounces; and Edward Gettys of Stevenson, Ala., with five bass weighing 17 pounds, 7 ounces.
Co-angler Roy Altman of Augusta, Ga., leads his division with the day’s heaviest catch, five bass weighing 19 pounds, 12 ounces. Lance Henderson of Fort Ogden, Fla., trails by 1 pound, 12 ounces. Henderson is in second with five bass weighing 18 pounds, and Charlie Reed Jr. of Hayes, Va., is 4 pounds, 3 ounces back, in third with five bass weighing 15 pounds, 9 ounces.
An 8-pound, 2-ounce largemouth landed Darrell Stevens of Roseland, Va., big bass honors and $750 in the Pro Division while an 8-pound, 11-ounce largemouth landed David Ashley of Markleville, Ind., big bass honors and $250 in the Co-angler Division.
A total of 971 bass weighing 2,433 were caught Wednesday including 103 limits.
For a shot at victory, anglers in both divisions must secure one of 20 spots in Friday’s semifinal round with their two-day opening round total. Anglers then start from zero and compete for one day to determine the top 10 pros and co-anglers who will fish in Saturday’s finale. Catch weights are cleared for the final day, and the winners are determined by that day’s catch.
The $210,000 tournament features 165 pros who supply boats, control boat movements and fish for a top award of more than $50,000 in cash and prizes. The 165 co-anglers who fish from the back deck of each boat compete for a top award of $6,000 cash. If the winning pro’s boat is equipped with a fixed-mount Garmin Fishfinder or combination GPS/Sounder, he also receives a $1,000 bonus from Garmin.
Competition begins at 5:30 a.m. each morning at Guntersville State Park in Guntersville. Thursday’s weigh-in will also be held at the park starting at 2:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins will be held at the Guntersville Wal-Mart Supercenter located at 11697 U.S. Highway 431 South starting at 3:30 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 where they could win up to $260,000 and $40,000 in cash, respectively.