Berry, Hite lead semifinal round of $215,000 EverStart Series event - Major League Fishing

Berry, Hite lead semifinal round of $215,000 EverStart Series event

January 31, 2003 • MLF • Archives

PEORIA, Ariz. – Pros Art Berry of Ramona Calif., and Brett Hite of Phoenix, Ariz., each hauled in five bass weighing 10 pounds, 6 ounces Friday lead the $214,525 EverStart Series Western Division event on Arizona’s Lake Pleasant heading into Saturday’s final round.

The field was cut from 20 pros and 20 co-anglers to 10 in both divisions following Friday’s competition, and anglers will start from zero Saturday and compete for position and prize money. With pros competing for a top award of as much as $60,400 in cash and prizes, the excitement runs high for competitors in this first-ever Western Division event.

Anglers enjoyed a third straight day of pristine Lake Pleasant weather Friday, with sunny skies, calm winds, and warm temperatures. According to Berry, continually rising water on Lake Pleasant has not been detrimental to the fishing.

Berry stands on the brink of FLW Outdoors history should he win the Lake Pleasant event. According to tournament officials, no one has ever led a tournament for three days, as Berry has, and gone on to win. Berry is still fishing the same sweet spot he has been fishing over the course of the tournament but encountered a surprise Friday morning.

“Someone put a sign on a tree that says `The Berry Bush – Keep Out – Good Luck – Win!,” said Berry, who has no idea who put up the encouraging sign. “This is incredible and very exciting.” Berry caught his limit Friday in 45 minutes and continued to guard his spot the remainder of the day.

Rounding out the top five pros are Tim Klinger of Boulder City, Nev. (five bass, 8 pounds); Clifford Pirch of Payson, Ariz. (five bass, 6 pounds, 15 ounces); and Phil Strader of Glide, Ore. (five bass, 6 pounds, 5 ounces).

John Griffith of Mesa, Ariz., leads the Co-angler Division into Saturday’s final round thanks to a five-bass catch weighing 7 pounds.

Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Jason Billmaier of Las Vegas, Nev. (three bass, 6 pounds); Jim Wockam of Morristown, Ariz.(five bass, 5 pounds, 13 ounces); Gary Collins of Moorpark, Calif. (three bass, 4 pounds, 15 ounces); and Dallas Merrick of Orville, Calif. (three bass, 3 pounds, 11 ounces).

One hundred and thirteen bass were caught Friday, including seven five-bass limits. More than 99 percent were released alive.

Anglers take off Saturday at 7 a.m. from Pleasant Harbor Marina in Peoria, Ariz., followed by the final weigh-in, also held at the marina, beginning at 3 p.m. The community is invited to attend the final takeoff and weigh-in.

Over 300 anglers took off from Pleasant Harbor Marina Wednesday to kick-start the brand-new Western Division of the EverStart Series. Thanks to the tournament series’ western expansion, anglers from the West can now compete alongside Central, Northern and Eastern division competitors for a share of a $3.88 million EverStart Series purse. The field was cut to the top 20 pros and 20 co-anglers following Thursday’s competition, and anglers started at zero Friday and competed for one of 10 slots in Saturday’s final round.

The winning pro will take home a guaranteed cash award of $8,500 plus a new Ranger 519VS Comanche equipped with Garmin electronics and powered by an Evinrude or Yamaha outboard. If the winner is the original owner of a Ranger boat, he will receive an additional $10,000 cash bonus from Ranger for a total of $60,400 in cash and prizes. Ranger will also award an additional $3,000 to the winner if he is a Ranger Cup participant, and Garmin will award $1,000 to the winner if his boat is equipped with a fixed-mount Garmin Fishfinder or combination GPS/Sounder.

The winning co-angler is guaranteed $4,500 cash. If the winning co-angler is a registered Ranger owner, he will also receive a new Ranger 519VS Comanche for a total of $27,300 in cash and prizes.

Four divisions – Eastern, Central, Northern and Western – comprise the 2003 EverStart Series. Each division stages four regular-season tournaments leading up to the no-entry-fee $335,975 EverStart Series Championship, which will be held on Old Hickory Lake near Gallatin, Tenn., Oct. 29-Nov. 1.

In EverStart Series competition, pros supply the boats, control boat movement and fish from the front of each boat against other pros. Co-anglers fish from the back of each boat and compete against other co-anglers.

FLW Outdoors, the world’s leading marketer of competitive fishing, administers the EverStart Series. Other FLW Outdoors-sanctioned tournament trails include the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, the Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail, the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Tour and the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye League. FLW Outdoors will award as much as $20 million through 175 tournaments in 2003.

Wal-Mart and many of America’s most respected companies support FLW Outdoors and its six tournament trails. Wal-Mart has been the title sponsor of FLW Outdoors since 1997.