GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. – At the last EverStart Southeast event on Santee Cooper in April, Justin Sward of Birmingham, Ala., was leading the Co-angler Division going into the last day. Then after a lengthy fog delay, Sward failed to catch a keeper on the final day and finished second, missing the win by a mere 5 ounces.
This week, Sward redeemed himself with a win at Lake Guntersville. And instead of playing around with ounces, Sward dominated the co-angler field checking in catches of 19-2, 21-1 and 22-9 for a three-day total of 62 pounds, 12 ounces, winning by over 9 pounds.
“What a relief!” Sward exclaimed after his win. “I travel with a bunch co-anglers who flat sack them. They all have won; some even multiple times. So to finally get a win is really a relief.”
“It’s so weird how this co-angler stuff works,” he continued. “You can draw the best stick on the lake and he makes a couple of bad decisions and you can catch nothing. At the same time, you can draw a guy who has never seen the lake before and both of you sack them up. You can just never tell what’s going to happen. But this week it all finally lined up for me. I drew some real sticks and they were all catching them.”
During the week Sward fished with pros Webb Collums, Casey Martin and Alex Davis. His first fish of the week was a 7-pound, 13-ounce lunker that took big fish honors in the Co-Angler Division and set the pace for his winning week.
Like his pros, Sward’s fish came deep on various single swimbaits and Alabama rigs. Today three of his better fish came on a ¾-ounce Scrounger.
Atkins, who won this event last year, almost pulled off back-to-back wins on G-ville.
His bait of choice all week was a 1/2-ounce Chatterbait in a shad color teamed with a Fluke.
“No matter where my pro went, the Chatterbait is what I threw,” Atkins said. “Even when they fished deep, I’d cast it out, let it go to the bottom and then swim it back in just like a single swimbait.”
Ed Shannon of Milford, Ohio, finished third with a three-day total of 53 pounds, 5 ounces.
Keller, Mims round out top five
Steve Keller of Bethel, Ohio, finished fourth with a three-day total of 42 pounds, 6 ounces. He found success on a Zara Spook in a bone white color.
Josh Mims of Clanton, Ala., rounded out the top five with a three-day total of 41 pounds, 4 ounces.
Rest of the best
6th: Kyle Giella of Pooler, Ga., three-day total of 40-4
7th: James Bobbitt of Rainbow City, Ala., three-day total of 39-4
8th: Randy Brewington of Moulton, Ala., three-day total of 38-4
9th: Ben Johnson of Huntsville, Ala., three-day total of 33-5
10th: Wally Coward of Beech Island, S.C., three-day total of 28-1
Co-angler of the Year
Taking the Co-angler of the Year in EverStart Series Southeast Division is Cal Clark of Pulaski, Tenn., with a total of 742 points. Clark’s phenomenal season included a second-place finish at Okeechobee, back-to-back wins at Seminole and Santee Cooper and then a 58th at Guntersville.