JASPER, Texas – Pro Jonathan Newton of Rogersville, Ala., caught five bass weighing 17 pounds, 8 ounces Friday to lead the semifinal round of the EverStart Series Central Division season opener on Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Jasper. Newton, who was ranked 12th last year in the EverStart Series Eastern Division, leads a pack of 10 Pro Division anglers who will compete Saturday for a top award of as much as $61,900 in cash and prizes.
“The weather has been miserable and damp,” said Newton, who entered the semifinal round in the No. 7 spot with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 28 pounds, 6 ounces. “It is great to be in the lead, but [Saturday] is the important day.”
Newton landed his limit of five bass Friday using a black and blue 1/2-ounce jig along bushes in 2 feet of water. He put his first fish in the boat at 9 a.m. and hooked his fifth keeper by 11 a.m. “I hope to be able to do the same thing in the finals,” he said.
Rounding out the top five pros are David Truax of Beaumont, Texas (four bass, 15 pounds, 6 ounces); Dicky Newberry of Houston, Texas (five bass, 14 pounds, 5 ounces); Trey Morgan of Goldonna, La. (five bass, 12 pounds, 13 ounces); and Larry Sisk of Evansville, Ind. (five bass, 10 pounds, 4 ounces).
All week anglers have contended with cloudy skies and highs in the 40s, but Sam Rayburn’s big bass seem unaffected by the less than ideal conditions. Just ask the co-anglers. On Wednesday, co-angler Jerry McKnight of Wells, Texas, took home big bass honors with a 10-pounder. Then, on Thursday, co-angler Jeary Wheeler of Batesville, Ark., set a new EverStart Series record with a Texas-sized 12-pound, 11-ounce bass that he caught with just minutes to spare.
“I was hoping to catch 20 pounds,” Wheeler exclaimed on the weigh-in stage, “but I wasn’t expecting to do it with just two fish.”
Big bass honors for the pros went to Jonathan Newton of Rogersville, Ala., Wednesday for an 8-pound, 9-ounce largemouth and David Cochran of Hot Springs, Ark., Thursday for an 8-pound, 7-ounce largemouth.
Co-angler Barry Goen of Hartsburg, Mo., leads 10 co-anglers into the final round after catching five bass weighing 11 pounds, 12 ounces Friday on a Rat-L-Trap.
“This has been a tremendous tournament,” said Goen, who is starting his second year in the EverStart Series Central Division.
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Wheeler (three bass, 5 pounds, 13 ounces); Mike Neal of Dexter, Kan. (three bass, 5 pounds, 7 ounces); Lonnie Fuller Jr. of Hemphill, Texas (two bass, 5 pounds, 1 ounce); and Dean Morgan of Port Arthur, Texas (one bass, 4 pounds, 15 ounces).
Eighty-five bass were caught Friday, including five five-bass limits. One hundered percent of the bass were released alive.
A full field of 200 pros and 200 co-anglers descended upon Sam Rayburn Reservoir Wednesday and fished for two days for one of 20 spots in Friday’s semifinal round. Weights were cleared for Friday’s competition, and the field was cut again to the top 10 pros and 10 co-anglers based on Friday’s catch weight. Weights will be cleared again for Saturday’s competition, and anglers will compete for position and prize money.
The winning pro will take home a guaranteed cash award of $10,000 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 $61,900 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 $5,000 cash. If the winning co-angler is a registered Ranger owner, he will also receive a new Ranger 519VS Comanche for a total of $27,800 in cash and prizes.
Anglers will take off Saturday at 7 a.m. from Twin Dikes Marina in Brookeland, Texas, followed by the final weigh-in at the Wal-Mart store located at 800 W. Gibson in Jasper beginning at 4 p.m. The community is encouraged to attend takeoff and weigh-in activities.
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.
To accommodate tremendous demand, EverStart Series Eastern, Northern and Central division fields have been expanded from 175 pros and 175 co-anglers to 200 pros and 200 co-anglers wherever facilities will allow. Payback in each of the expanded tournaments has also increased from $239,325 to $256,825. The extra cash is spread through the bottom three-quarters of the field, and 10 more places were added to the payout, giving 51st through 60th each $650 on the pro side and $250 on the co-angler side.
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. For a complete list of FLW Outdoors sponsors and for more information about the premier products and services they offer, please visit FLWOutdoors.com.