UPCOMING EVENT: Walmart Bass Fishing League - 2015 - Ohio River

Shepard finds shelter from the storm

An emotional Shepard hugs his pal, Frank Allen, upon realizing that he has won.

Pro angler quit job to fish EverStart Series, takes home emotional first win

EUFAULA, Ala. - Lake Eufaula managed to top itself today. While thunderstorms and a relentless pouring rain hammered the tournament lake, the bass just refused to quit biting for the final round of the second EverStart Series Eastern Division tournament despite quickly rising water levels. Eufaula was so fruitful today, in fact, that for the first time in history, every single angler weighed in a full five-fish limit.

That meant an even 100 bass were weighed in by all 20 of the pro and co-angler finalists.

So there were no losers in today's final round, but there was one big winner in the Pro Division. Literally.

Mark Shepard stands about 6 feet, 4 inches tall. But today he must have felt 64 feet tall. He brought in 20 pounds, 5 ounces of bass to edge out Rodger Beaver of Leesburg, Ga., and captured his first pro title and $50,000 in cash and prizes.

"Oh my gosh," he said afterwards. "I changed my whole life to do this. I can't believe this."

What the 35-year-old Shepard proved today was that a competitor can go a long way on heart, especially if he has some talent. He caught his winning stringer using spinnerbaits and by flipping a lizard into grassy flats in about a foot of water.

But it is the story of how he got there that is especially compelling.

For nine years, Shepard worked for a charity organization in Ohio. There he befriended a man named Frank Allen, who introduced him to competitive bass fishing. After quickly qualifying for the new EverStart Series in 1997 through several high finishes on the Red Man Tournament Trail, Shepard was willing to take the next step.

But his employer wasn't willing to give him the time off to do it.

Fortuitously, he got a new job as a subcontractor and moved to South Florida where he entered Gator Division tournaments and, again, fished well enough to qualify for the EverStart. Again, his employer refused to give him the time off he needed to travel for the tournaments.

So, last year he quit his job and decided to just go fishing - competitively.

Shepard's first EverStart tournament was last month's event near his Labelle, Fla., home on Lake Okeechobee. He fished well and placed 12th.

Today, as he followed in the police-escorted parade from the boat ramp to the Eufaula Wal-Mart for the final-round weigh-in, Shepard knew he had something special in his livewell.

"I just couldn't even believe I got into the top 30 two tournaments in a row," said the rookie pro. "I just about ran off the road because I had tears in my eyes."

When the last pro had weighed in and Shepard's 20-pound, 5-ounce sack of fish remained the heaviest on the board, what followed were tears of joy and disbelief. He had just won his first EverStart tournament in only his second try.

"This is an absolute miracle," he said. "It's a dream come true."

Miracle, maybe not. But it was an impressive victory under the circumstances. He beat three former EverStart winners in the final round, including runner-up Rodger Beaver, who made a remarkable run just to make the top 10. The other two were Frank Poirier (Lake Eufaula, 1998; fourth place today) of Hopewell, Va., and James Nuckols Jr. (Lake Okeechobee, 2001; ninth place today) of Rockwood, Tenn.

Beaver started out this week in rough shape, placing 65th on day one. He picked it up on day two, however, and barely slid into the semifinal round in 30th place. (Coincidentally, Beaver pulled a similar stunt during the EverStart tournament he eventually won last year at Lake Cumberland, Ky. He edged into the final round in 10th place.) He clawed his way up to sixth in yesterday's semifinals and looked like he might be headed toward victory number two - weighing in 18 pounds, 6 ounces today - until Shepard came across the stage.

While many competitors didn't mind the rain so much because the bass were still biting today, Beaver found that it got in his way.

"I was catching my better fish by sight-fishing," he said. "The clouds and rain hurt that. I had a half-dozen 3- to 5-pound fish that I couldn't see today."

Pro Jeffrey Thomas of Broadway, N.C., had trouble with the weather, too, but not because he couldn't see. The rain shorted out the trim on his motor, which locked it into position and prevented him from reaching some of his more productive shallow spots. Still, he managed to reel in 16 pounds, 11 ounces for third place and $9,000.

Behind Thomas in fourth place was Poirier with 15 pounds, 12 ounces. Finishing in fifth place was Mark Rogers of Naples, Fla., with 15 pounds even.

The next EverStart Series event is an Eastern Division event scheduled for Lake Santee Cooper, S.C., March 28-31.

Day-four related links

Rookie Bowersock slams `em for co-angler victory
Photos
Results
Press release

Tags: headline-story  jeff-schroeder 

/news/2015-08-03-balog-back-on-top

Balog Back on Top

Joe Balog of Harrison Township, Michigan, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 21 pounds, 8 ounces Saturday to win the third Walmart Bass Fishing League Michigan Division tournament on Lake St. Clair. For his victory, Balog earned $6,418. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-03-edwards-finally-brings-it-home

Edwards Finally Brings it Home

Gary Edwards of Milton, Kentucky, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 11 pounds, 11 ounces Saturday to win the third Walmart Bass Fishing League Hoosier Division tournament on the Ohio River. For his victory, Edwards earned $6,963. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-01-browne-sticks-to-the-bank-to-win

Browne Sticks To The Bank To Win

A lot would have had to happen for Glenn Browne to relinquish his hard-earned lead on the final day of the Rayovac FLW Series event presented by Plano on Lake Champlain. It turned out that a lot did happen, but with help from his friends and a great pattern, Glenn Browne socked 18 pounds, 7 ounces on the final day for a 63-pound, 8-ounce total and a payday of $34,097 plus a new Ranger Z518 with a 200-hp outboard. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-01-champlain-midday-update-day-3

Champlain Midday Update Day 3

Day three of the Rayovac FLW Series presented by Plano on Lake Champlain started with a beautiful sunrise and light rain that had tapered off by the beginning of takeoff. For leader Glenn Browne, the beauty was soon marred by a breakdown that occurred shortly into his run south. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-31-top-5-patterns-from-champlain-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Champlain Day 2

Day two of the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division event presented by Plano on Lake Champlain definitely shook up the leaderboard. While Glenn Browne took a huge lead, the rest of the pack swapped around and remained pretty tight. Browne is catching his fish down south near Ticonderoga, but the north end has also produced very well for the rest of the field. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-31-browne-crushes-again-leads-by-6-

Browne Crushes Again, Leads By 6+

Averaging 20 pounds or more is a difficult thing to do in a multi-day tournament on Lake Champlain, but Glenn Browne might be on his way to doing it in the Rayovac FLW Series presented by Plano. After two days, the Ocala, Fla., pro has run to Ticonderoga twice and sacked up nearly identical bags for a total of 45 pounds, 8 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-31-champlain-midday-update-day-2

Champlain Midday Update Day 2

While day one of the Rayovac FLW Series presented by Plano on Lake Champlain was wracked by high winds and rain in the morning, day two has been almost as good as Champlain can be. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-30-cioppa-leads-on-champlain

Cioppa Leads On Champlain

David Cioppa of Hopkinton, Mass., weighed 22 pounds, 13 ounces late in the weigh-in to grab the lead after the first day of the Rayovac FLW Series event on Lake Champlain. Cioppa weighed all largemouths and says that he caught the entirety of his weight by about 9 a.m. from one location in the northern end of the lake. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-30-top-5-patterns-from-champlain-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Champlain Day 1

Lake Champlain was rough and wild on day one of the Rayovac FLW Series event presented by Plano, and a bunch of the anglers still got it done in a big way. David Cioppa caught largemouths in the Inland Sea, but the rest of the top guys spread out all over the massive lake. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-30-champlain-midday-update-day-1

Champlain Midday Update Day 1

Takeoff was placid enough, with a beautiful sunrise and a light breeze in the slightly protected corner that is Plattsburgh. By about 6:30 a.m., day one of the Rayovac FLW Series presented by Plano on Lake Champlain was already beginning to get rough. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-21-top-picks-from-icast

Top Picks From ICAST

A few days of walking the floor at ICAST is enough to exhaust a body, but it isn’t enough to know exactly what’s worthwhile. For that, you need some time to reflect and probably a few tournament seasons to fly by to see what rises up. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-20-renfrew-fished-to-win

Renfrew Fished to Win

Ian Renfrew of Phoenix, New York, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 16 pounds, 11 ounces Saturday to win the third Walmart Bass Fishing League Northeast Division tournament on Oneida Lake presented by Navionics. For his victory, Renfrew earned $4,695. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-20-docks-and-rocks-key-for-synders

Docks and Rocks Key for Synders

Rus Snyders of Nashville, Tennessee, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 16 pounds, 6 ounces Saturday to win the fourth Walmart Bass Fishing League Music City Division tournament on Old Hickory Lake presented by Navionics. For his victory, Snyders earned $2,703. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-20-jig-crankbait-carry-powroznik

Jig, Crankbait Carry Powroznik

Ryan Powroznik of Prince George, Virginia, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 17 pounds, 15 ounces Saturday to win the fourth Walmart Bass Fishing League Piedmont Division tournament on the James River. For his victory, Powroznik earned $7,507. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-20-persistence-pays-for-arning

Persistence Pays for Arning

Ray Arning Jr. of Walnut Hill, Illinois, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 13 pounds, 5 ounces Saturday to win the third Walmart Bass Fishing League Illini Division tournament on Rend Lake presented by Navionics. For his victory, Arning earned $5,804. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-17-new-rod-roundup

New Rod Roundup

Rod companies continue to impress each year with a new crop of lighter, faster and more affordable (sweet!) rods. On the subject of price, these days, a tournament pro or an average angler could be fishing with rods that cost less than $100 apiece, but without giving up anything in the realm of quality. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-17-new-terminal-tackle

New Terminal Tackle

Don’t skimp where it counts the most – terminal tackle. Hooks, weights, jigheads and the like are the keys to taking all those new soft baits and swimbaits to the fish, hooking them and getting them in the boat. Here’s the best stuff we saw on the floor at ICAST 2015. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-16-flw-announces-2016-tour-schedule

FLW Announces 2016 Tour Schedule

FLW announced the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour regular-season schedule today in a live press conference held at the 2015 ICAST show in Orlando, Fla. With the help of six veteran Tour pros, the company unveiled each of the six events, one-by-one, to a crowd of observers gathered around the FLW booth. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-16-6-new-reels-to-try

6 New Reels to Try

Whether you need to replace an old reel or you’re just looking to add to the arsenal, here are some of the latest and greatest from ICAST. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-16-6-new-lines-from-icast-2015

6 New Lines from ICAST 2015

Line might just be the most important part of the package when it comes to landing fish. From presenting the bait to getting them in the net, your line is involved the entire way. If you’re looking for something new to try, the following lines are worth a shot. READ MORE »