November 7, 2001 by Gary Mortenson
Ohio native one of only three anglers to record five-fish limit
FLORENCE, Ala. - After one of the stingiest days of tournament fishing recorded in the history of the EverStart Series, Richard Grosse of Hebron, Ohio, used a well-placed, 13-pound, 8-ounce stringer to vault into first place after the opening round of competition at the 2001 EverStart Championship.
Although Grosse's stringer was modest by "normal" tournament standards, the Ohio native wasn't complaining. After all, when the day's competition finally ended, only three out of 324 anglers had been able to weigh in five fish - the maximum number allowed during each day's competition.
"It was a very interesting day to say the least," said Grosse, remarking on the extraordinarily low weights turned in during the day's competition. "What is the top-10 cut right now?"
Grosse was informed it was only 8 pounds. After a reporter paused to let the information sink in, Grosse was also reminded that he was leading the 2001 EverStart Championship.
"Wow," he said. "It feels awesome. I've been waiting for this for a long time. Hopefully I can keep this up."
Grosse, who caught the majority of his fish using crankbaits off ledges near steep dropoffs, said he should be in good position to make a run at the title.
"I've caught about the same weight every day I've been here," said Grosse. "I think my pattern will hold out; the only question is whether or not the fish hold out. I've got about six to eight spots to choose from. So, hopefully, I'll be in good shape."
After failing to finish three EverStart tournaments this year due to mechanical difficulties with his boat, Grosse was asked if he thought his luck was finally changing.
"Well, I almost ran out of gas today and I had to make another (unexpected) stop because my oil light went on," he said. "But hopefully you guys are right. I need my luck to change."
A man for fall seasons
As usual, Darrel Robertson saved some of his best fishing for last. Robertson, who is notorious for capturing tournament victories during the fall season, appeared to be in top form again with an impressive 12-pound, 11-ounce stringer. Robertson's five-fish stringer was good enough for second place.
"I don't know what it is about fall fishing," he said. "I just seem to understand the patterns better than I do in the summer and spring. On this lake, if you can find where the fish are feeding this time of the year, you'll do alright."
However, Robertson, a native of Jay, Okla, conceded that things weren't "alright" during pre-fishing.
"I caught more fish today than I did in five days of practicing," he said. "In all honesty, I think the good Lord played a big part in this."
While many athletes have pointed to divine intervention over the years to explain top performances, Robertson just may have a point concerning today's competition.
"I was reeling in my lure and a fish hit it," said Robertson, who entertained the crowd with one of the strangest stories of an already strange day. "The fish jumped in the air and disappeared back in the water. But when I finally reeled the fish in, another fish was caught on the back of the lure. I probably caught 30 fish today, five of them keepers. But two of those keepers came on one cast. Try and explain that?"
Best of the rest
Joe Balog of Independence, Ohio, finished in third place with a 12-pound, 9-ounce catch. Vic Vatalaro of Kent, Ohio, took fourth place with a 12-pound, 4-ounce finish. Rounding out the top five was Terry Tucker of Gadsden, Ala., with a catch of 11 pounds, 6 ounces.
Glen Northcutt of Del City, Okla., won the day's Big Bass award after landing a 5-pound, 13-ounce fish. The achievement earned Northcutt $625 as well as a 15th-place finish.
Carmen captures co-angler lead
Despite some disappointing performances during the regular season of EverStart Series competition, Jeffery Carmen of Liberty, Ky., managed to turn things around during the most important tournament of the year. Using a 9-pound, 5-ounce catch, Carmen climbed atop the leaderboard in the Co-angler Division for the first time all year.
"I feel really good about it," said Carmen, who has never led an EverStart tournament until today. "All year long I really struggled. But today, everything worked out. I just hope I can catch enough tomorrow to qualify for the top 10."
Carmen credited his day-one pro partner, Greg Pugh, for turning his luck around.
"I've got to give my partner credit for my accomplishment today," he said. "This guy was the best partner I've had all year. He kept me informed on what he was doing throughout the day, he was helpful and he put me on fish. You can't ask for more than that. It really feels good to have a partner who you feel comfortable fishing with."
Best of the rest
Chuck Welch of Knoxville, Tenn., took over second place with an 8-pound, 7-ounce catch. Ken Keyes of Evansville, Ind., finished in the third spot with a catch of 6 pounds, 12 ounces.
Rounding out the top five were: David Bailey (fourth) of Churubusco, Ind., with a catch of 5 pounds, 10 ounces; and Renee Flesh (fifth) of Edwardsburg, Mich., with a catch of 5 pounds, 6 ounces.
Flesh also won the day's Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division with her 5-pound, 6-ounce bass.
Tournament action resumes tomorrow at 6:30 a.m. at McFarland Park Marina located on James M. Spain Drive, just off Hwy. 20 in Florence, Ala.
Quick Bites: Day 1