March 24, 2002 by Gary Mortenson
Georgia native takes home $15,000 first-place prize and brand new Ranger boat
EUFAULA, Ala. - As a professional angler, Pat Fisher couldn't have asked for a better name. But today, he couldn't have asked for a better performance. Using a monstrous catch weighing in at 17 pounds, 14 ounces, Fisher out-fished the rest of the highly competitive pro field on Lake Eufaula, walking away with the tournament title and his first-ever EverStart Series victory in the process. Not bad for four day's of work.
"It really hasn't hit me yet, I'm still nervous," said Fisher, immediately after edging out second-place competitor Billy Bowen Jr., by 1 pound, 7 ounces in the final weigh-in. "I had a great practice - I was catching 20-pound stringers all week - so, I knew I was on the winning fish. I just hoped I could land a 6-pound bite."
To land his winning catch, Fisher went approximately 12 miles up river and started targeting "bean bushes" on spawning flats in stained water. He was using a 4-inch, Zoom tube bait exclusively.
However, things didn't go quite as planned in the early morning hours.
"I got on a good pattern over the course of the week, but conditions really changed today," he said. "The wind didn't blow and that hurt me in the beginning. By 11:00, I still didn't have a fish in the boat. I had to adjust quite a bit. But I kept fishing hard. And eventually, I figured things out. The key was making long casts."
With his technique finely tuned, Fisher proceeded to haul in his bounty and search for the elusive 6-pound bite.
"Basically, I was sight-fishing all day without seeing the fish," said Fisher. "And then, finally, I threw out my tube bait and caught a 6-pounder. Oh my gosh, this is a great lake."
With only three EverStart tournament under his belt - a top-30 performance in last year's tourney at Detroit, a 15th-place finish at Okeechobee in January and a first-place finish today - Fisher was ecstatic to claim his first title.
"It's just been a fantastic week," he said. "The lake is beautiful and I caught fish all week. Today was a big day."
Bowen suffers tough defeat
Having already weighed in a 16-pound, 7-ounce catch, Billy Bowen Jr., of Ocala, Fla., found himself standing on stage with only one competitor left in the tournament who could dethrone him. Unfortunately, that lone competitor was Fisher.
"It just wasn't my day," said Bowen. "Usually when you lose two big fish, it's going to cost you. And that's what happened today."
Bowen, who lost a 3-pound largemouth as well as another fish weighing 5 or 6 pounds, appeared to take everything in stride, despite the disappointment.
"I had some good luck today and some bad luck," said Bowen, who walked away with $10,000 in winnings. "But overall, it was a great week. This is just a super place. And we'll be back. I can't wait until the next EverStart on Santee Cooper."
Bowen, who finished in third place at the Lake Okeechobee tournament last January, fished up river in 1 to 8 feet of water, targeting timber "off the banks." Bowen, who now leads the overall year-end Eastern Division points race, fished for largemouth bass with a Gambler bacon rind and Gambler ninja jig with a Walker chunk trailer.
Roger Crafton of Boca Grande, Fla., finished the day in third place after landing a 14-pound, 7-ounce stringer.
"I thought my catch would be enough to win, but some of the guys just did a little bit better," said Crafton, who took home a check for $9,000. "But I had a great week."
David Dudley of Manteo, N.C., arguably one of the hottest bass fishing anglers in the nation, came in fourth place after landing a 14-pound, 6-ounce stringer.
"This lake is awesome, it's got to rank as one of the best fisheries in the country," said Dudley, who won $8,000. "Overall, I had a pretty good week. But I'm a competitor and I like to win."
Dudley used a pearl white, Zoom crankbait and a homemade jig to land his catch.
Coming in fifth place was Craig Powers of Rockwood, Tenn., with a catch of 11 pounds, 13 ounces.
"Today was a great day of fishing no matter what happened," said Powers, who won $7,500 for his efforts. "All you can do in these tournaments is to try and get to the final day. If you do that, you have a one in 10 chance to win $40,000 (in cash and prizes). And you can't get much better odds than that."
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top 10 finalist were: Koby Kreiger (sixth) of Osceola, Ind., with a catch of 11 pounds, 7 ounces; Christopher Lane (seventh) of Lakeland, Fla., with a catch of 9 pounds, 8 ounces; Ronnie Ray (eighth) of Phenix City, Ala., with a catch of 7 pounds, 6 ounces; Vince Ingle (ninth) of Maryville, Tenn., with a catch of 3 pounds, 13 ounces; and Craig Daniel (tenth) of Cullman, Ala., with a catch of 3 pounds.
EverStart Eastern Division action resumes April 10-13 at Lake Santee Cooper in Manning, S.C.
Results of day-four pairings