On the cutting edge - Major League Fishing

On the cutting edge

EverStart anglers hit Pickwick Lake in effort to qualify for Thursday’s top-20 cut
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Boaters prepare to depart McFarland Park Marina. Photo by Gary Mortenson.
March 25, 2004 • Gary Mortenson • Archives

FLORENCE, Ala. – As nearly 400 competitors departed McFarland Park Marina, set against the backdrop of a brilliant sunrise and nearly perfect fishing conditions, the full field was well aware that exactly one day of fishing remains to qualify for Friday’s semifinals. For the anglers, the equation is simple. Either perform well on the water today and advance to tomorrow’s round of competition or flounder and go home.

To be sure, anglers wasted little time racing toward their destinations of choice shortly after the 6 a.m. takeoff. But while getting the line in the water as quickly as possible is always a pressing desire, the field has some extra incentive today to fish as long and as hard as possible. The reason is simple. With the new 15-inch minimum catch requirement, many anglers have struggled mightily so far to secure a five-fish limit. In fact, with only seven limits brought in during yesterday’s competition and only 12 stringers recorded above 10 pounds, anglers are well aware that the tournament is wide open.

In short, with most anglers battling the stringent fishing requirements, every angler – no matter how far back in the standings – has a legitimate shot to advance.

Currently, Sam Moody of Athens, Ala., leads all pros with a total weight of 24 pounds, 5 ounces. On the co-angler side, Ernie Hamilton of Prairieville, La., holds first place after netting a catch of 11 pounds, 10 ounces.

Boaters get ready for takeoff.After today’s cut, weights will be cleared for the semifinals. On Friday, anglers will compete to determine who advances to Saturday’s final round. Only the top 10 pros and 10 co-anglers will advance to the finals, the winner being determined by the heaviest two-day weight over the course of the semifinals and final day of competition.

The winning pro is guaranteed to receive a cash award of at least $10,000 as well as a fully rigged Ranger boat, valued at another $40,000. The top co-angler will be awarded $5,000 and, if various incentives are met, receive a Ranger boat package valued at an additional $35,000.

EverStart action continues at today’s weigh-in, scheduled to take place at 3 p.m. Central time at McFarland Park located on James M. Spain Drive in Florence, Ala.

Thursday’s conditions:

Sunrise: 5:47 a.m.

Temperature at takeoff: 52 degrees

Expected high temperature: 79 degrees

Water temperature: 58 degrees

Wind: from the southeast at 6 mph

Relative humidity: 89 percent

Day’s outlook: partly cloudy