April 7, 2002 by Gary Mortenson
Arkansas native takes home top honors in EverStart Central Division tourney on Grand Lake
GROVE, Okla. - The final day of EverStart competition couldn't have started off any worse for Al Fisher. After hooking two largemouth bass that weighed approximately 6 pounds earlier in the day, Fisher wound up losing them both. Discouraged, Fisher started thinking that his two missed opportunities would cost him the tournament.
"I only had two fish in the boat at the time," said the native of Hackett, Ark. "I just knew I blew it."
However, as luck would have it, Fisher eventually managed to turn things around, stringing together a five-fish, 16-pound limit - just enough to win the tournament by a mere 5 ounces.
"It's great. It's my biggest win ever. But it's been a long haul," said Fisher, visibly exhausted after the intense weigh-in. "I made sure not to get too excited all week because that's when you start losing fish. So, yes, I'm happy. But I'm also very tired. I think it probably won't sink in until I'm driving back home tonight."
Fisher, who walked away with the grand prize of $15,000 and a brand new, fully equipped Ranger boat, said the key to his success was a slow presentation and a lot of hard work.
"I just slowed everything way down and concentrated as hard as I could on just a few areas," said Fisher, who threw crankbaits near pea gravel and chunk rock in 1 to 4 feet of water to land the majority of his catch. "The key was fishing hard and making lots of casts. In some areas, I probably made about 100 casts.
"In the end, it worked out pretty good," he said.
Eakins nets second place, $10,000 check
Jim Eakins of Nixa, Mo., finished the day right where he left off in the semifinals - in second place. However, even though he missed out on first place by only 5 ounces, he said he was proud of his performance.
"I had a limit every day and I only missed one fish all week," he said. "And today, I had a limit by 9:30 a.m. I just need one more 3-pound bite. That was the difference. I've struggled on this lake in the past, but this time around things went a lot better. Overall, I'm happy."
Eakins used his namesake lure all week - a brown Eakins jig with a green pumpkin crawdad trailer - targeting pockets near the Grand Lake dam.
"The fish cooperated all week," said Eakins, who recorded a total catch weighing 15 pounds, 11 ounces in the finals. "I have no complaints."
Tutt turns in another great performance
After winning the first EverStart Central Division event of the year on Sam Rayburn, Jim Tutt of Longview, Texas, used a 13-pound, 8-ounce catch to grab third place and a check for $9,000.
"I had four keepers early this morning, but I lost one fish that probably weighed about 6 pounds," he said. "But it's only the third time I've been to this lake, so overall, I'm pretty happy."
Ransom is money on Grand Lake
Jeff Ransom of Muldrow, Okla., used an 11-pound, 5-ounce catch to capture fourth place and a check for $8,000.
"It's been a tough week. My nerves are about shot," said Ransom. "All week, most of my fish have been coming after 1:30 p.m. And that's pretty stressful. I just needed about 15 more minutes of fishing today. But I've had a great time this whole tournament. If I could just find a job, I'd move here. It's a great lake."
Greg Hackney of Oak Ridge, La., finished the day in fifth place after landing an 11-pound, 2-ounce catch. Hackney won $7,500 for his efforts.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top 10 finishers were: Toby Hartsell (sixth) of Grove, Okla., with a catch of 10 pounds, 12 ounces; Darrel Robertson (seventh) of Jay, Okla., with a catch of 10 pounds, 2 ounces; James Fredieu (eighth) of Saint Martinville, La., with a catch of 8 pounds, 1 ounce; David McCormick (ninth) of Shawnee, Kan., with a catch of 7 pounds, 6 ounces; and Tommy Dillon (tenth) of Manhattan, Kan., with a catch of 0 pounds.
The next EverStart Central Division event is scheduled to take place May 1-4 on Kentucky Lake in Gilbertsville, Ky.
Results of day-four pairings