November 7, 2002 by Gary Mortenson
Clark finds himself atop the leaderboard in Co-angler Division
ALEXANDER CITY, Ala. - With gusting winds, unseaonsable temperatures and muddy water providing less-than-ideal conditions during the opening round of EverStart Championship competition, it came as no surprise that the majority of the field struggled mightily today on Lake Martin. In fact, the conditions were so difficult that only eight pros managed to produce stringers weighing 8 pounds or more.
However, while the majority of the field fell victim to the elements, Jason Quinn of Lake Wylie, S.C., had no such problems. Using a catch of 11 pounds, 11 ounces, Quinn surged into the lead and perfectly positioned himself to make a run at tomorrow's top-20 cut.
"It feels pretty good, but coming in first place after the first day doesn't mean a whole lot," said Quinn. "Overall, though, I feel pretty comfortable. I have a lot of good areas and I'm mixing it up really well right now."
Due to the cool water temperatures, Quinn said that the early morning bite has been virtually nonexistent.
"As far as I can tell, the bite doesn't really turn on until about 10:30 a.m.," he said. "But after that, you can fish deep or shallow and still catch some good fish."
With the projected top-20 cut estimated at 13 pounds, Quinn said he is going to fish conservatively tomorrow while, at the same time, attempting to explore some new ground.
"I'm going to try to catch enough fish to make the cut tomorrow, but after that, I'll probably try to do some more practicing," he said. "I still have quite a few good areas that I didn't have a chance to get to today. So, basically, I'm just going to have to play it by ear."
Shumpert snags second place
Bolstered by a catch of 11 pounds, 9 ounces, Ricky Shumpert of Lexington, S.C., managed to grab hold of second place heading into tomorrow's round of EverStart competition. Shumpert, one of the most gregarious and likeable members of the tour, said today's performance was exactly what he needed to make a run at the title.
"I wanted to come in here today and catch a good sack. Because, when you do that, it really takes the pressure off," he said. "It's really important not to get stuck in the middle of the pack. That's when you really have to worry about making up ground."
Like Quinn, Shumpert should only be a few pounds away from qualifying for tomorrow's top-20 cut.
"I think that if I can go out there and catch about three keepers, I should be in really good shape," he said. "And if I'm able to catch those fish early, I'll go and start looking for some new water."
Shumpert, who is fishing spinner baits in shallow water, hopes the wind doesn't play a big factor in tomorrow's competition.
"The wind definitely affected my fish today," he said. "I couldn't even fish half of the good spots I'm on. I'm just hoping that the wind dies down and that the sun comes out. If that happens, I like my chances."
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top five pros were Felton Langley (third) of Lafayette, Ala., with a catch of 11 pounds, 2 ounces; Jason Graham (fourth) of Coleman, Mich., with a catch of 9 pounds, 5 ounces; and Al Gagliarducci (fifth) of Agawam, Mass., with a catch of 9 pounds, 4 ounces.
Don Oswalt of McCalla, Ala., won the day's big-bass award in the Pro Division after netting a 6-pound, 7-ounce largemouth bass. Oswalt won $625 for his efforts.
Clark turns in gutsy performance
If the pro field was struggling on Lake Martin, then the co-anglers were getting an abject lesson in humility. With only 14 limits caught among the entire field of 150 co-anglers, only a select few of today's competitors could boast about having a banner day. However, one of those anglers was Ed Clark.
Using a catch of 8 pounds, 15 ounces, Clark not only managed to position himself atop the leadearboard, but he also out-fished 144 pros in the process.
"This feels great," said Clark, who used spinner baits and crankbaits to land the majority of his catch. "I feel better about it now than I did this morning."
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top five co-anglers were Steve Marler (second) of Fenton, Mo., with a catch of 7 pounds, 15 ounces; Johnny Johnson (third) of Springfield, Tenn., with a catch of 7 pounds, 13 ounces; Jeff Taylor (fourth) of Vernon, Ala., with a catch of 7 pounds; and Jon Carlile (fifth) of Broken Arrow, Okla., with a catch of 6 pounds, 13 ounces.
Kevin Lavender of Amston, Conn., won the day's big-bass award in the Co-angler Division after landing a 4-pound, 5-ounce bass. Lavender won $250 for his efforts.
Tomorrow's takeoff is scheduled to take place at 6:30 a.m. at Wind Creek State Park Marina, located at 4325 Highway 128 in Alexander City, Ala.
Quick Bites: EverStart Championship, Day 1
Results of day-one pairings