March 28, 2004 by Gary Mortenson
FLORENCE, Ala. - As expected, the EverStart finals in the Pro Division came down to two FLW heavyweights. With Mark Pack of Mineola, Texas, and 2003 FLW Tour Angler of the Year Dan Morehead of Paducah, Ky., battling it out on a daily basis, bass-fishing enthusiasts knew they were in for a treat heading into the final weigh-in. However, in the end, Pack outgunned and outfished Morehead - pulling away on the final day of competition by nearly 10 pounds to grab first place on Pickwick Lake. Although the finals ultimately proved to be somewhat anticlimactic, that was just fine with Pack. "It feels good to finally win one," said Pack, who owned multiple top-10 performances over the years in the EverStart Series, but had never won a title until today. "I knew it'd come sooner or later." Not only did it come sooner, but it came a lot easier than expected. Heading into the finals, Pack held a precarious 3-pound, 15-ounce lead over Morehead. However, although there were some early morning jitters, Pack managed to calm his nerves and return with a triumphant 15-pound, 15-ounce stringer in the finals, bringing his two-day total to an unassailable 32 pounds, 13 ounces. Pack ultimately won $10,000 in cash and a new, fully rigged Ranger boat valued at approximately $40,000. "I knew (Morehead) was going to need about 20 pounds to beat me, and I knew it was probably going to be tough for him to do," said Pack. "I struggled a little bit at the beginning of the day. I caught one fish about 8:30 a.m. and then I didn't catch another fish for a while. But I stayed relaxed and focused because I knew a lot of my fish turned on between 10:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. And that's pretty much what happened. My area also gave me a lot of confidence. It was a big (half-mile) area that had everything you need to catch fish this time of year. My guiding experience also helped me a lot today." Pack said that he really didn't deviate from his primary bait of choice all week - a Lake Fork Tackle Creature bait. "I used a Carolina rig in about 3 to 8 feet of water," said Pack, who led the tournament for three straight days. "I targeted scattered shells and mussel beds. The funny thing is that I found this area very late on the last day of practice. But the key for me was making really long casts. These smallmouth bass got real spooky if you got too close." In the end, Pack successfully kept his distance from his smallmouth bass. But more importantly, he kept his distance from the rest of the pro field when it mattered most. Morehead nets second place Although his two-day catch of 23 pounds, 9 ounces came up short, Morehead still managed to be more than happy with his performance this week. "I really can't complain. It's been a good tournament. I'm happy with what I did," said Morehead. "(Pack) had a solid pattern and he was on fish all week. I really didn't have a pattern. My motto was, `Just keep (the bait) wet.'" Morehead, who took home a check for $10,000, said he flipped a small-profile FLW jig tipped with a crawdad trailer all week. "I'm so tired of flipping a jig right now," Morehead joked. "That's what I did all four days. Like I said, I didn't have a pattern. I stayed pretty close by on Wilson Lake, targeting boat docks and the back bays. I probably didn't burn 15 gallons of gas all week." While Morehead acknowledged that he struggled in the first two FLW tournaments of the year, his last two EverStarts - a 23rd-place finish at Sam Rayburn and a second-place finish at Pickwick - have given him some added confidence heading into the Wal-Mart Open scheduled for next week. "I'm happy with my finish," said Pack. "It's great timing too. Now I feel like I'm back." Consider the rest of the FLW Tour field forewarned. Sisk snares third place Using a two-day catch of 16 pounds, 3 ounces, Larry Sisk of Evansville, Ind., grabbed third place overall as well as a check for $9,000. "I wasn't sure what was going on today," said Sisk, on his difficulty of landing a huge stringer in the finals. "I'm just an old junk fisherman from the Ohio River. Overall though, I had a good tournament." Best of the rest Joe Bennett of Independence, Mo., took advantage of a two-day catch of 14 pounds, 12 ounces to grab fourth place overall. However, Bennett admitted that the rising water levels really hurt his chances of making a significant move in the finals. "They raised Wheeler Lake about a foot today," said Bennett, who ultimately took home a check for $8,000. "All of my stumps were underwater and I couldn't see any of them. It just didn't work out today." Fifth place belonged to Dewey Allen of Connersville, Ind. Allen, who recorded a catch of 11 pounds, 13 ounces, won $7,500 for his efforts. Rounding out the top 10 pro finishers were Mark Richards (sixth) of Houston with a catch of 9 pounds, 3 ounces; Dick Shaffer (seventh) of Rockford, Ohio, with a catch of 8 pounds, 12 ounces; Allen Powell (eighth) of Clarksdale, Miss., with a catch of 8 pounds, 12 ounces; Rusty Smith (ninth) of Somerset, Ky., with a catch of 8 pounds, 12 ounces; and Robert Robinson (10th) of Mobile, Ala., with a catch of 7 pounds, 10 ounces. Tie-breakers were settled by angler results over the first two days of the tournament. EverStart action continues April 28-May 1 on the Red River at Natchitoches, La.