UPCOMING EVENT: Walmart Bass Fishing League - 2016 - Lake Okeechobee

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
Press release

Tags: headline-story  jeff-schroeder 


Devere Takes BFL Wild Card Win

The decision of what to fish come tournament time can be difficult for most. For others – like Mike Devere – relying on a single bait that you have confidence in is all you need. Devere’s one bait, one rod method was strong enough to carry him to victory by nearly 2 pounds in the BFL Wild Card held on Lake Hartwell. READ MORE »


Hanselmania 4.0

Saturday, in Paducah, Ky., on the shores of the Ohio River, Ray Hanselman rewrote history for the second time this season. After winning all three 2015 Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division events, which had never been done before, Hanselman came to Kentucky and won the Rayovac FLW Series Championship. READ MORE »


Rayovac Championship Day 3 Coverage

The final day of the Rayovac FLW Series Championship on the Ohio River will largely be fished on the Tennessee River, as all but two anglers rolled up it to chase smallmouths. READ MORE »


Hanselman on the Verge of Four-Peat

Day two of the Rayovac FLW Series Championship on the Ohio River was fished primarily on the nearby Tennessee River and resulted in a major shuffling of the leaderboard. In the end, Ray Hanselman rose from second to first and will lead the top 10 into the final day with 30 pounds, 14 ounces. READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from the Ohio River Day 2

After two days of competition, Ray Hanselman leads the Rayovac FLW Series Championship on the Ohio River, but as the leaderboard has reflected, the river’s hefty smallmouths are certainly capable of producing some fireworks and providing some surprises. READ MORE »


Rayovac Championship Day 2 Coverage

Down at Paducah, the start of day two of the Rayovac FLW Series Championship was just about perfect – a light wind, temps in the low 40s and no fog. That’s not the case elsewhere. READ MORE »


Barnes Blasts 21 on the Ohio

On day one of the Rayovac FLW Series Championship on the Ohio River David Barnes Sr. of China, Maine, hauled exactly 21 pounds of smallmouth across the stage to take the lead on a day that was tough for many. READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from the Ohio River Day 1

Shortly after David Barnes electrified the Rayovac FLW Series Championship weigh-in with his leading weight of 21 pounds of smallmouths, Ray Hanselman followed suit with an all-smallmouth limit weighing 19 pounds. READ MORE »


Rayovac Championship Day 1 Coverage

Updates from day one of the Rayovac FLW Series Championship on the Ohio River. READ MORE »


McCaig Wins Neely Henry Regional

There are times that a little local knowledge helps you in a bass tournament, and then there are times it does not. And sometimes, it pays to ignore past experiences altogether, as Mark McCaig figured out en route to winning the Oct. 22-24, 2015 Walmart Bass Fishing League Regional presented by Ranger Boats on Lake Neely Henry out of Gadsden, Ala. By disregarding what his local experience might have suggested he do and approaching the tournament a little differently, the Oxford, Ala., boater posted a three-day total weight of 45 pounds, 7 ounces to take home the $20,000 winner’s purse as well as a 2015 Ranger Z518C with 200-hp outboard. READ MORE »


Goodwin Wins at Lake of the Ozarks

Day-two leader Shonn Goodwin of Moore, Okla., held on to win the Walmart Bass Fishing League Regional presented by Mercury at Lake of the Ozarks Oct. 22-24 by bringing four bass to the scale on the third and final day. Those fish weighed 8 pounds, 11 ounces. His three-day total of 14 bass weighed 43-13. For the win, Goodwin earned $20,000 and a new Ranger bass boat. READ MORE »


Walters Wins Wateree BFL Regional

Todd Walters relied on a combo pattern to win the Walmart Bass Fishing League Regional on Lake Wateree. The North Carolina boater fished rocky cover upstream and brush piles in the lake's clear lower end. The two-part program produced a three-day winning weight of 47 pounds, 4 ounces, which was 11 pounds better than second place. READ MORE »


Uribe By An Ounce

After Jody Jordan brought 24 pounds, 5 ounces to push his total past 66 pounds on the final day the crowd waited with bated breath for day two leader Joe Uribe Jr. to bring his fish to the scale. As Uribe transferred his third bass from the bag to the scale, he shook his head and whispered back “you’ve got it,” to the watching Jordan. READ MORE »


Anderson Wins KY Lake Regional

You might say there weren’t any surprises at the 2015 Walmart Bass Fishing League Regional presented by Lowrance on Kentucky Lake Oct. 15-17. The techniques of the top 12 pros who fished the final day were typical of the Tennessee River in fall: surface fishing with frogs and Zara Spooks and winding Rat-L-Traps and ChatterBaits. The winners weren’t surprising either: Ryan Sykes of Hamilton, Ohio, won the co-angler division for the second consecutive year, and Tennessee pro Brent Anderson earned his sixth win on the Kentucky/Barkley system since 2009. READ MORE »


Grover Takes Co-angler Title on Clear Lake

Rick Grover of Trabuco Canyon, Calif., pulled in 55 pounds, 5 ounces of bass for the Rayovac FLW Series co-angler win on Clear Lake. All told, it was worth a new Ranger Z117 with a 90-horsepower outboard and $5,000. READ MORE »


Clear Lake Midday Update Day 3



Uribe Takes Lead and AOY at Clear Lake

Joe Uribe Jr. jumped into the lead going into the final day of the Rayovac FLW Series presented by Evinrude on Clear Lake. Uribe caught 20 pounds, 13 ounces on day two for a total of 44 pounds, 8 ounces and was the only pro to weigh more than 20 pounds both days. READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from Clear Lake Day 2

When the scales had closed after the second day of the Rayovac FLW Series Western Division tournament presented by Evinrude on Clear Lake, no doubt more than a few anglers breathed a sigh of relief that they were still in contention. READ MORE »


Clear Lake Midday Update Day 2

Day two of the Rayovac FLW Series presented by Evinrude on Clear Lake has been a little slower than day one. READ MORE »


Crutcher Cracks 29-9

Midway through a weigh-in that was noticeably lacking in super-sized bags, Mark Crutcher of Lakeport, Calif., lit up the leaderboard with 29 pounds, 9 ounces of Clear Lake goodness. READ MORE »