November 1, 2003 by Patrick Baker
GALLATIN, Tenn. - From zero to champion in less than eight hours. That's the prospect that faced each of the 10 Pro Division anglers who boated away from Bull Creek Marina at 7 a.m. Saturday to commence EverStart Championship action - but only one can fish past the challenge to realize the goal.
Over three days of hard-nosed fishing on Old Hickory Lake outside of Nashville, the pro field has been whittled down from 149 competitors to 10. Each of those finalists has an equal shot at the top prize as they begin the final round, fishing from a zero weight. So, as the saying goes, it's anybody's game.
The final 10
The championship has provided some surprises thus far, the most notable arguably being a four-way tie for 19th place in the Co-angler Division after the two-day opening round. The tie led to a plus-sized semifinal field of 22 pros and 22 co-anglers, allowing two additional anglers to compete on Friday in each division. The co-angler race for the championship title concluded Friday, and only 10 pros remain contenders for the honor as they battle on Old Hickory one last time today.
A more predictable aspect of the EverStart Championship is a bass bite that has been as tough as 10-year-old beef jerky. That factor has remained consistent from pre-fishing through Friday's semifinal round. Relatively few limits of bass have been caught on Old Hickory this week, and the highly pressured body of water has offered catch weights considerably lighter than what EverStart anglers are used to during an average tournament.
But the playing field is as level as ever for the finalists, despite the tricky bite. The championship title - as well as a hefty cash and prize package - will go to the pro who is best able to lock on to some semblance of a fall pattern on the lake today. Perhaps one of the EverStart Series' finest will crack the Old Hickory code and bring back a fat sack to the final weigh-in. Regardless of the number or size of bass brought to the scales, however, only one man will walk away with the top trophy Saturday.
In contention for the EverStart Championship title are pros Tony Christian of Hull, Ga.; Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala.; Kevin Vida of Clare, Mich.; Troy Eakins of Nixa, Mo.; Dave Lefebre of Erie, Pa.; Dick Shaffer of Celina, Ohio; Scott Sills of Dahlonega, Ga.; Vic Vatalaro of Kent, Ohio; Clifford Pirch of Payson, Ariz.; and Tommy Dillon of Manhattan, Kan.
The full field of 149 pros and 149 co-anglers that began the 2003 EverStart Championship on Wednesday has been pared down to just the final 10 pros. The co-angler champion, Mario Ringo of Arcadia, Calif., was determined Friday. Weights were cleared for the pro finalists after Friday's semifinal competition, so each man began from scratch today. The EverStart Series Championship will be broadcast to 55 million subscribers of the Outdoor Life Network on the "FLW Outdoors" television program Nov. 8 at 6 p.m. Central time and Nov. 9 at noon Central time. Today's final weigh-in Nov. 1 will also be broadcast live to Wal-Mart Stores nationwide.
The winning pro is guaranteed $25,000 cash plus an Evinrude- or Yamaha-powered Ranger boat equipped with Garmin electronics, a Minn Kota trolling motor and EverStart batteries. If the winner is an original owner of a Ranger boat, he will receive a $10,000 bonus for a top pro award of $76,900.
The 2003 EverStart Series champion will be crowned at Saturday's weigh-in, beginning at 3 p.m. at the Wal-Mart Supercenter, located at 1112 Nashville Pike in Gallatin. The EverStart Series Family Fun Zone, which features free admission, free giveaways and interactive games for children, opens at 11 a.m. The community is encouraged to attend the weigh-in and the Family Fun Zone, where some of the nation's top pros will be available for autographs and photos.
For fans outside the Gallatin/Nashville area, you can follow the drama of EverStart Series Championship competition live every day on FLWOutdoors.com. Complete with live, streaming audio and results, FLW Live is your fastest and most complete option for catching all the bass action from Old Hickory Lake. Transmission begins every day at the start of weigh-in.
Sunrise: 6:09 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 54 degrees
Expected high temperature: 77 degrees
Water temperature at the ramp: 62 degrees
Wind: from the south-southeast at 3 mph
Relative humidity: 93 percent
Day's outlook: partly cloudy