June 8, 2002 by Gary Mortenson
EverStart rookie ekes out victory by smallest of margins
GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. - Fishing in only the second EverStart tournament of his career, Edward Gettys of Stevenson, Ala., used a 17-pound, 6-ounce catch to edge out Wesley Strader of Spring City, Tenn., by a mere 1 ounce to capture the Eastern Division title on Guntersville Lake. Gettys, a high school biology teacher from Stevenson, Ala., won $15,000 and a brand new Ranger boat valued at $35,000 after pulling off one of the most closely fought victories in the history of the EverStart Series.
"This is the biggest tournament I've ever won," said Gettys. "I knew I had a chance to win coming back to the weigh-in, but I lost three big fish today and that usually hurts you. Overall, it's just a fantastic win. This week has been hard, but it's also been a lot of fun. I sure have enjoyed it."
Gettys said that he was lucky to have made the finals at all.
"Yesterday, with only a few minutes left before check-in time, I had about 5 pounds of fish," he said. "I knew I needed 11 or 12 pounds to qualify for the finals. So, with time running out, I went to this ledge in the hopes that I could pull it out. After two casts, I landed a 3-pounder and a 5-pounder and qualified for the finals."
His lucky streak continued during today's action as well.
"We were fixing to leave a spot, but at the last minute we decided to stay a little while longer so my co-angler could try to catch a spotted bass," he said. "While I was waiting for him, I threw out my line and hooked a big fish. But it got off. So, I decided to throw my line out again. I hooked into another big fish and just as I got it in the net, the hook came out. I was pretty lucky."
Gettys said he used a combination of baits to land his winning catch: a Zara spook, a V&M Hawg Wild 11-inch worm and a Fat Free shad crankbait.
Because of his demanding high school teaching schedule, Gettys said that he has had a difficult time finding enough time to enter many fishing tournaments - a fact which made this victory even sweeter.
"I've only been able to fish two EverStart tournaments all year, so it feels really good to get this win," he said. "Hopefully, next year, I'll be able to fish a lot more of these tournaments.
Second place is bittersweet for Strader
With one 2002 FLW tournament title, three FLW top-10 finishes and five EverStart top-10 finishes including three in 2002 alone, Wesley Strader has been arguably one of the hottest anglers on the FLW Outdoors circuit during the past two years. However, for all of his accomplishments, Strader had never tasted victory in the EverStart Series. Today was no exception.
"I swear I thought today I was going to get my first win today," said Strader, who turned in an impressive 17-pound, 5-ounce sack to grab second place and a check for $10,000. "I really thought I had a big enough stringer today to do it. I just can't seem to pull it out. This is the second time I finished in second place in the last two years. I'm going to be known as the Tommy Biffle of the EverStart Series."
Strader was referring to FLW Tour veteran Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Okla., who turned in a seemingly endless string of second-place finishes before finally breaking through with a victory last season.
But after nailing an FLW victory on Lake Ouachita earlier this year worth over $100,000, why is an EverStart title so important? After all, Strader has already shown that he can succeed at the highest level of competition.
"I don't care about the money, it's the principle of the thing," he said. "I really like fishing the EverStart Series. The competition is tough, but it's a more relaxed atmosphere. I have a lot of fun here. I just really want to win one of these things."
Despite having to settle for second place, Strader said that it was important to keep everything in perspective.
"I barely squeaked in there yesterday, so I really can't complain," said Strader, who advanced to today's finals by finishing in the 10th and final qualifying position after yesterday's competition. "Overall, it's been a good week for me. I fished really well, and I didn't lose any fish at all today. One of these days I'm going to win this tournament."
Morgan finishes third, nets $9,000 in prize money
Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tenn., used a 16-pound, 9-ounce catch to finish today's tournament in third place.
"What a week," said Morgan. "Overall, I had a great tournament. The problem was that I just couldn't get the big bites today. The cloud cover really scattered my fish and that kind of hurt me today."
Craig Powers of Rockwood, Tenn., grabbed fourth place after turning in a catch weighing 13 pounds, 11 ounces.
"I can't complain," said Powers, who won $8,000 for his efforts. "If you had told me before the tournament that I'd be here on the final day, I would have told you that I would have been sitting in the audience. I had a great time."
Day-three leader Koby Kreiger of Osceola, Ind., finished the tournament in fifth place after landing a catch weighing 13 pounds, 8 ounces.
"Anytime you can go fishing for four days and earn a check, you really have nothing to complain about," said Kreiger, who walked away with $7,500 in winnings.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top 10 finalists were: Tommy Chumley of Jasper, Ga., with a sixth-place catch of 12 pounds, 9 ounces; Rick Couch of Ocala, Fla., with a seventh-place catch of 10 pounds, 9 ounces; Pat Fisher of Stone Mountain, Ga., with an eighth-place catch of 10 pounds, 1 ounce; Scott Sills of Dahlonega, Ga., with a ninth-place catch of 6 pounds, 7 ounces; and Michael Brown of Chatsworth, Ga., with a tenth-place catch of 4 pounds, 15 ounces.
Fisher also won the 2002 Eastern Division year-end standing's championship with a total of 752 points.
The Guntersville, Ala., tournament concludes the 2002 regular season of Eastern Division competition. However, the top 50 EverStart Eastern Division qualifiers will be invited to participate in the 2002 EverStart Championship, scheduled to take place Nov. 6-9 on Lake Martin in Alexander City, Ala.
Results of day-four pairings