UPCOMING EVENT: Bass Fishing League - 2016 - Lake Ouachita

Fifth time’s a charm

Pro Ken Ellis of Bowman, S.C., landed more than $50,000 in cash and prizes including a Yamaha-powered Ranger boat Saturday with five bass weighing 27 pounds, 14 ounces in the EverStart Series Eastern Division tournament on lakes Marion and Moultrie.

Local fishing guide Ken Ellis wins EverStart Santee Cooper with almost 28 pounds

MANNING, S.C. - For five straight years Ken Ellis of Bowman, S.C., has been fishing in EverStart Series competition at his home waters of lakes Marion and Moultrie, and for the first four he was always a contender - but never the winner. He changed all that Saturday when he hauled in five big largemouths weighing a collective 27 pounds, 14 ounces and won the Pro Division by more than 7 pounds over last year's champion Ricky Shumpert.

For Ellis, who collected $15,000 and a new Ranger boat for first place, this week's win was sweet reward after five long years of solid tournament performances at Santee Cooper culminating in near misses. A 51-year-old former Navy officer who has lived and guided on Santee Cooper lakes for the last 12 years, he seemed to carry the burden of being the local favorite very heavily every time the EverStart Series came to town.

"It's tough when you're considered the local heavy. It's a lot of pressure," an emotional Ellis said following today's weigh-in. "If you win, it's like you're supposed to. If you don't, it's like, why can't I beat these out-of-town guys?"

It's not like he hasn't beaten the bulk of the out-of-towners before today. He has one of the best records at Santee Cooper since the EverStart Series began in 1998; he just hadn't won it all. He has made every cut past the opening round, finishing second in 1998, fourth in 1999, seventh in 2000, 13th in 2001 and now first in 2002. The runner-up finish in 1998 still gnawed at Ellis even today because he lost by a mere 8 ounces to Roger Crafton of Boca Grande, Fla., who also competed in the finals this year and finished in 10th place.

At that 1998 tournament, Ellis set the then opening-round EverStart weight record with 43 pounds, 4 ounces. (Only two pros have since topped the mark: Rick Gunter of Holly Hill, Fla., with 43-15 at Lake Okeechobee in 2000 and William Smith of Moncks Corner, S.C., who smashed Gunter's record this week at Santee Cooper with 48-10.) Ellis also holds the single-day five-bass weight record at Santee Cooper lakes for a stringer he caught in a local tournament that weighed 40-4.

But all that is water under the bridge now. Tournament records and runner-up finishes are no longer a monkey on the back of Ellis, who is now simply - and deservedly - a tournament champion.

"This is just a big load off of my mind," he said.

The pro winner caught his championship bass by focusing exclusively on cypress trees. He used a combination of Hawg Caller plastics - a straight worm, finesse worm and trick worm - on 6-pound test line with a 1-ounce hook and threw it into roughly 3 feet of water all day. His biggest fish, the first one he caught, weighed 8 pounds and he had another one around 7 pounds. He even lost one today that he estimated weighed 6 pounds. He sought out bass in a post-spawn pattern.

"The key was finding the good spawning areas with a few cypress trees nearby," he said. "The fish were wanting to get off the beds and recover from the spawn. But they weren't really aggressive. I had to make eight to 10 casts to a tree to get a bite."

While he said he probably fished a hundred trees throughout the tournament, Ellis caught all of his keepers today off of just four of them.

Shumpert second again

With the exception of Ken Ellis, no one has a more enviable track record at EverStart Santee Cooper than Ricky Shumpert. In 1999 the Lexington, S.C., pro began to display his mastery of this fishery with a 15th-place finish. Since then, he finished second in 2000 and first in 2001.

Shumpert continued that trend Saturday with a final-round five-bass performance weighing 20 pounds, 2 ounces to take his second runner-up finish, worth $10,000, in three years. And while he was happy with his effort, the 2001 champion was a little frustrated that he couldn't come through with the repeat win.

"It's always a disappointment when you come so close and don't win, especially here," he said. "The three largest fish I had were the first three fish I caught."

Shumpert's encouraging start to the day forced him to move around a lot and continue looking for big kicker fish with his plastic lures. He knew it would take a monster stringer to win.

"My goal was to go get that big fish and move on," he said. "I went to a bunch of different little ponds and cuts that I've fished all my life. I have an advantage in that I know where (the bass) will be at before I get there."

But for Shumpert, who prefers sight-fishing, today's weather put a damper on his efforts, especially later in the day. Cloud cover and a breeze made below-surface visibility a difficult proposition.

"With the overcast skies, I had to run around and find the fish," he said. "If the sun would have come out and wind lied down, things would have gone differently. I probably could have had 28 or 29 pounds."

The rest of the top five

Steve Kennedy turned in his best performance ever as a pro and took third place and collected $9,000 with five bass weighing 19 pounds, 15 ounces. While he is a standout on the Wal-Mart BFL with five victories to his name, the Hoover, Ala., native's previous best at the EverStart level was an 18-place finish as a co-angler.

"Every day when I woke up, I said I was just going fishing," he said. "I fished a different spot each day."

Fourth place went to Henry McFadden ($8,000) of Kingstree, S.C., with five bass weighing 18 pounds, 7 ounces and fifth place went to Vince Ingle ($7,500) of Maryville, Tenn., with five bass weighing 16-3.

Past winners report

The other two previous EverStart Santee Cooper champions besides Shumpert who fished Saturday finished in the bottom half of the final-round field. William Smith (2000 winner) caught four bass weighing 7 pounds, 15 ounces and finished eighth ($5,000). He also fell well short of the 100-pound four-day mark that initially looked reachable Saturday morning. Still, his four-day total of 78-4 topped all anglers.

"Yesterday, I had to go to isolated cypress trees to find the fish," he said. "Unfortunately, that's what I wanted to do today."

Roger Crafton's (1998 winner) 10th-place finish ($4,000) was motivated by a two-bass output that weighed 3 pounds even.

"It was a tough day," said Crafton, who led day one. "I just couldn't get it going."

What's next

The next EverStart Series tournament is a Central Division affair to be held at Kentucky Lake, Ky., May 1-4.

The next Eastern Division tournament is the fourth and final one of the season. It is scheduled for Guntersville Lake, Ala., June 5-8.

Day-four links:

Close to the Vest
Photos
Final results
Press release

Tags: jeff-schroeder  headline-story  2002-04-10-santee-cooper 

/news/2016-02-07-hallman-wins-walmart-flw-tour-on-lake-okeechobee-presented-by-ranger-boats

Hallman Wins Walmart FLW Tour on Lake Okeechobee Presented by Ranger Boats

CLEWISTON, Fla. – Pro Bradley Hallman of Norman, Oklahoma, brought just two bass to the scale Sunday totaling 6 pounds, 8 ounces, but it was still enough to earn the win at the Walmart FLW Tour at Lake Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats. Hallman’s four-day cumulative total of 16 bass weighing 71 pounds, 2 ounces earned him the win by an impressive 14-pound, 14-ounce margin over second-place pro Alex Davis of Albertville, Alabama, and $100,000 in the tournament that featured 169 of the best bass-fishing anglers in the world competing in the first FLW Tour event of the regular season. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-07-big-hall-man-on-okeechobee

Big (Hall)Man on Okeechobee

It was the Bradley Hallman show all week long at Lake Okeechobee at the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats. Though, the Norman, Okla., pro struggled on day four and brought in only two fish for 6 pounds, 8 ounces, he pulled off the wire-to-wire victory in his first event on Tour. The 13-pound, 9-ounce lead that Hallman built up through the first three days of competition was enough that he didn't actually have to weigh his fish today. Hallman's tournament total of 71 pounds, 2 ounces far exceeded the 56-04 caught by runner-up Alex Davis. For the win, Hallman earned $100,000. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-07-lake-okeechobee-day-4-coverage

Lake Okeechobee Day 4 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-06-top-5-patterns-from-lake-okeechobee-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from Lake Okeechobee Day 3

Across the board, weights fell off on day three of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats and hosted by Roland and Mary Ann Martin's Marina and Resort and the Hendry County Tourism and Development Council. No one in the top 20 crossed the 20-pound mark. Cloud cover, which prevented the water temperature from rising much above 65 degrees, and low water clarity might both have slowed the replenishment of bass moving into spawn. Tournament leader Bradley Hallman experienced a bit of a stall in the action as well, bringing just four fish to the scales, but he still managed to increase his lead to 13 pounds, 9 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-06-hallman-extends-lead-on-day-three-at-walmart-flw-tour-on-lake-okeechobee-presented-by-ranger-boats

Hallman Extends Lead On Day Three At Walmart FLW Tour On Lake Okeechobee Presented By Ranger Boats

Anchored by an 8-pound, 10-ounce kicker, pro Bradley Hallman of Norman, Oklahoma, brought four bass to the scale Saturday totaling 14 pounds, 3 ounces to extend his lead to more than 13½ pounds heading in to the final day of competition at the Walmart FLW Tour at Lake Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats. Hallman’s... READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-06-can-anyone-catch-hallman-

Can Anyone Catch Hallman?

Despite catching only four keepers on day three, Norman, Okla., pro Bradley Hallman extended his lead at the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats on Lake Okeechobee. With a day-three weight of 14 pounds, 3 ounces and a tournament total of 64-10, his margin over second-place angler Alex Davis is now 13 pounds, 9 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-06-okeechobee-day-3-coverage

Okeechobee Day 3 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-05-top-5-patterns-from-lake-okeechobee-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Lake Okeechobee Day 2

Fueled by 25 mph north winds, the Lake Okeechobee washing machine cleansed some livewells today, keeping them free of the 20-pound limits that are so common here when the weather is sunny, 75 and calm. However, a few 20-plus-pound limits still snuck through the rinse cycle to grace the scales. The biggest limit once again belonged to Bradley Hallman of Norman, Okla. He added 25 pounds, 7 ounces to the 25 he caught on day one. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-05-oklahoma-s-hallman-extends-lead-at-walmart-flw-tour-on-lake-okeechobee-presented-by-ranger-boats

Oklahoma’s Hallman Extends Lead at Walmart FLW Tour on Lake Okeechobee Presented by Ranger Boats

CLEWISTON, Fla. – Pro angler Bradley Hallman of Norman, Oklahoma, brought a five-bass limit weighing 25 pounds, 7 ounces to the scale Friday to extend his lead on day two of the Walmart FLW Tour at Lake Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats. Hallman will bring an 8-pound, 8-ounce advantage into day three of the four-day competition that features 169 of the top bass-fishing anglers in the world competing for a top cash award of up to $125,000. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-05-cales-earns-co-angler-win

Cales Earns Co-angler Win

Co-angler Tim Cales of Sandstone, W.Va., earned his second win with FLW after sacking up 30 pounds, 11 ounces over two days in the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats on Lake Okeechobee. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-05-hallman-way-in-front

Hallman Way in Front

Bradley Hallman is doing his best to make the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats a one-man show. But Alabama pro Alex Davis hopes to spoil Hallman’s hopes of a wire-to-wire victory. Today, Hallman weighed in 25 pounds, 7 ounces to raise his two-day total to 50-07. He’s led the tournament each day thus far. Davis weighed in 20-15 to move from third to second but is still 8 1/2 pounds behind the leader. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-05-okeechobee-day-2-coverage

Okeechobee Day 2 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-04-top-5-patterns-from-the-okeechobee-tour-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from the Okeechobee Tour Day 1

The Walmart FLW Tour has been coming to Lake Okeechobee for the better part of 20 years. And for a vast majority of those years, the north end of the lake has been the business end – where the business of fish catching is done. Today, that tradition was derailed in the first round of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats and hosted by Hendry County Tourism Development Council. Though some boats did sample the Harney Pond area up north, many of the normal fish-producing haunts such as the Monkey Box, Dyess Ditch and Fisheating Bay were complete ghost towns. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-04-hallman-leads-day-one-of-walmart-flw-tour-on-lake-okeechobee-presented-by-ranger-boats

Hallman Leads Day One Of Walmart FLW Tour On Lake Okeechobee Presented By Ranger Boats

Oklahoma pro Bradley Hallman, brought a five-bass limit to the scale weighing 25 pounds even Thursday to grab the early lead after day one of the Walmart FLW Tour at Lake Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats. Right behind him in second place is renowned Okeechobee angler Brandon McMillan of Clewiston, who weighed in five bass totaling 22-8. Hallman now brings a 2½-pound lead into day two of the four-day READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-04-hallman-takes-the-lead-with-25

Hallman Takes the Lead with 25

The old saying is that the third time is the charm, but for Bradley Hallman of Norman, Okla., it’s more like the first time is the charm. Hallman is fishing his first Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee. It’s the first day of the first Tour event of 2016, and Hallman sits in first place with 25 pounds even. Norman, Okla., pro Bradley Hallman sacked up an impressive 25-pound limit of bass to take the lead on day one of the Walmart FLW Tour opener on Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-04-okeechobee-day-1-coverage

Okeechobee Day 1 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-03-5-key-areas-on-okeechobee

5 Key Areas on Okeechobee

There are many well-known areas on Lake Okeechobee that are commonly talked about around the docks before and after each event, but five key spots in particular will certainly play a role in this week’s Walmart FLW Tour opener. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-03-5-to-watch-on-okeechobee

5 to Watch on Okeechobee

This year, the Big O is giving the 169-boat field a different look than they’ve seen in past years in the form of high, dirty water. The odds could favor the locals more than in years past, though the caliber of skill among the entire field is over the top. Really, it could be anyone’s tournament. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-02-scouting-the-big-o-with-wesley-strader

Scouting the Big O with Wesley Strader

Wesley Strader is known and admired for his unique wit and constant cheer, but his consistency is what has been the true hallmark of his successful fishing career. Last week, that consistency paid off with the first big win he’s had since 2002 at the B.A.S.S. Open on the Kissimmee Chain in central Florida. Now he’s got his eye on starting the Walmart FLW Tour season on the right foot a few hours south at Lake Okeechobee. READ MORE »

/news/2016-02-01-okeechobee-practice-with-scott-martin

Okeechobee Practice with Scott Martin

Scott Martin is heading into the first Walmart FLW Tour event of the season with a full head of steam. After earning what might be the first of many Angler of the Year titles in 2015, he gets to kick off the year sleeping in his own bed and fishing Lake Okeechobee, the place where he grew up and where he has caught more than 50 bass weighing more than 10 pounds. READ MORE »