SOMERSET, Ky. – Western Division angler Brent Ehrler of Redlands, Calif., continued the West Coast domination of this week’s EverStart Series Championship presented by Energizer on Kentucky’s Lake Cumberland, hauling in a Pro Division-leading weight of four bass weighing 5 pounds, 13 ounces during Friday’s semifinal round. Ehrler and the other nine final-round pros will continue competition Saturday, with the winner determined by the heaviest two-day weight. If Ehrler claims the win tomorrow, he will earn a fully rigged Ranger boat and as much as $35,000 cash.
The deep, clear water of Lake Cumberland that mimics West Coast fisheries has played right into the hands of Western Division anglers this week, as six of the top 10 co-anglers hailed from the West. Ehrler is the only pro from the West to make the final round, but he accomplished what no one has done so far this week – knock local pro H.C. Sumpter of Nancy off the top of the leaderboard.
“I’m fairly happy with (my weight),” said Ehrler, who squeaked into Friday’s competition in 10th place. “I had two that I snapped off on a hookset. One shook his head, and he was about a 2-pounder, but that’s the way it goes. I was happy to get as many bites as I did.”
Ehrler has only made two fishing trips east of the state of Arizona – this week’s event and last year’s EverStart Series Championship on Tennessee’s Old Hickory Lake. Ehrler, the No. 3 angler in the Western Division this season, finished 31st in that event. “I’ve had some huge days here,” he said. “The smallmouths are amazing in this place. I’d love to come back.”
Rounding out the top five pros are Warren Wyman of Calera, Ala. (three bass, 5 pounds, 2 ounces); Pedigree pro Greg Pugh of Cullman, Ala. (two bass, 4 pounds, 9 ounces); Sumpter (four bass, 4 pounds, 5 ounces); and Stratos pro Ramie Colson Jr. of Cadiz (four bass, 3 pounds, 3 ounces).
Ronald Mueller of Prosperity, S.C., caught four bass Friday that weighed 5 pounds, 1 ounce to emerge as the 2004 EverStart Series champion in the Co-angler Division. For the win, he earned $10,000 cash plus an Evinrude- or Yamaha-powered Ranger boat equipped with a Minn Kota trolling motor, Garmin electronics and EverStart batteries. He ranked 10th in the Eastern Division of the EverStart Series to qualify for the championship.
“It was pretty tough today,” said Mueller, who caught his fish on a Fluke and a Spot Remover. “I had one fish early, and right before we came in I caught those other three. I really didn’t think I had a shot to win today; I figured I needed one more. The Western Division anglers are tough, and they had me a little worried.”
Mueller also gave credit to EverStart Series pro and fellow Prosperity resident Anthony Gagliardi, who won $100,000 this past May at the Wal-Mart FLW Tour event on Kentucky Lake. He has fished with Gagliardi for four years. “This win means a lot, especially having my wife and my little boy, Blake, here,” he said. “I’d like to thank my dad, who’s really supported me over the years financially. This is my biggest win ever.”
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Earl Dalton of Jackson, Calif. (three bass, 3 pounds, 5 ounces, $7,000); EverStart/Evinrude Co-angler of the Year Gary Collins of Moorpark, Calif. (two bass, 2 pounds, 15 ounces, $6,000); Tony Sarkis of Phoenix (one bass, 1 pound, 7 ounces, $5,000); and Richard Vizcarra of Peoria, Ariz. (one bass, 1 pound, $4,000).
General Burnside State Park in Somerset will host the final-round takeoff Saturday at 7 a.m. The Pro Division champion will be crowned at the weigh-in beginning at 3 p.m. at the Somerset Wal-Mart store.
The EverStart Series is comprised of four divisions – Eastern, Central, Northern and Western – with four regular-season events each. Every angler who receives weight credit in a tournament earns points, and the top 40 from the Eastern, Central and Northern divisions and the top 30 from the Western Division based on year-end points standings earned a ticket to the championship.
The EverStart Series features a pro/co-angler format with pros supplying the boats, fishing from the front deck against other pros and controlling boat movement. Co-anglers fish from the back deck and compete against other co-anglers.
Coverage of the EverStart Series Championship will be broadcast to 65 million subscribers of the Outdoor Life Network on “FLW Outdoors.” The show will air Sunday, Nov. 21 at 1 p.m. EST and again Wednesday, Nov. 24 at 5:30 p.m. EST.
FLW Outdoors is the industry’s premier provider of sport-fishing tournaments, including the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, the world’s most lucrative bass-fishing circuit; the EverStart Series, known as the gateway to the FLW Tour; the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League for weekend anglers; the Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail; the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Tour, the world’s most lucrative walleye-fishing circuit; the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye League for weekend anglers; the Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour, the world’s most lucrative kingfish series; and the Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series.