May 21, 2005 by Rob Newell
VALLEY, Ala. - Craig Powers of Rockwood, Tenn., has made 11 top-10 cuts in EverStart tournaments and has never won one.
That all changed today as Powers brought in another five-bass limit weighing 12 pounds, 3 ounces to take the West Point Lake EverStart Series Southeast Division title with a two-day total of 24 pounds, 7 ounces.
Perhaps the 12th time is the charm, but to hear Powers tell it, his first EverStart win almost never happened.
Powers, who owns a Domino's Pizza, originally had planned to skip the West Point event because of work.
"School is out back home, and we are slammed with last-day-of-school pizza parties," Powers said. "I had to stay home and work."
In fact, Powers was making pizza like a mad man last Sunday when his roommate and fellow pro Koby Kreiger called with a fishing report.
"Koby called me like 20 times on Sunday saying, `Man, you've got to get down here, they're killing topwater,'" Powers recounted. "One time he called me after hooking a 6-pounder - I could hear it thrashing around beside the boat - and it killed me."
Monday morning, Powers called FLW Outdoors and filled one of the last available slots in the tournament.
"I left home at 3:30 in the morning on Tuesday," Powers said. "I was on the lake by 7:30 and knew exactly how I was going to fish by 9:30."
With the exception of a few fish caught on wacky worms and Senkos, Powers caught most of his fish on an oversized Pop-R tied to 17-pound-test line.
"I was running and gunning pockets all up and down the lake," he said. "I fished any piece of shallow-water cover that looked good - brush, stumps, bank grass - you name it.
"The closest I ever came to winning one of these EverStarts was here at West Point in 1999 - I finished third, and missing that win really chapped me," he said. "And now, to win here when I wasn't even planning to fish - it's just weird how things work out."
Mike Keel of Auburn, Ala., came up 6 ounces shy of an EverStart win today, finishing second with a two-day total of 24 pounds, 2 ounces.
Keel alternated between shallow- and deep-water patterns all week, but said the deeper bite was better today.
He fished a 1/2-ounce Stanley Jig - black/blue - with a black trailer on 20-pound-test line around isolated rocks, stumps and brush piles in 8 to 12 feet of water.
"I was hopping the jig up off the bottom around those isolated pieces of cover," Keel said.
Gagliardi moves to third
Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity, S.C., finished third with a two-day total of 22 pounds, 2 ounces.
Gagliardi sight-fished early in the week and then discovered a "bream pattern."
"Wherever I would find groups a bream, the bass would be nearby," he said. "Each time I found a group of bream, I would always hit that spot early the next morning and catch a couple of key bass."
Gagliardi used wacky worms on 10-pound-test line and Brian's Bees "Prop Bee" topwaters that featured double props.
Kennedy slips to fourth
Day-three leader Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., dealt with the frustration of watching his primary shallow-water pattern cave today under the pressure of wind and boat traffic.
After incurring a 1-pound dead-fish penalty for two dead bass, his five-fish limit weighed in at 4 pounds, 14 ounces, giving him a two-day total of 21 pounds, 2 ounces to finish fourth.
"I was fishing isolated cypress trees out on the main lake," he said. "The fish were only in about 18 inches of water, and the wind and wave action from all the Saturday boat traffic just destroyed it."
Kennedy relied on a watermelon Kinami flash fished on 10-pound-test line most of the week.
"I was fishing it on a spinning rod so I could skip it under the trees," he said. "If the bait landed up there with a loud splash, they wouldn't bite it - I had to slide it up under there quietly with a skip cast."
Though Kennedy hated to see another EverStart win elude him, his fourth-place finish did net him the EverStart Series Angler of the Year honor for the Southeast Division.
Michael Johnson of Talking Rock, Ga., finished in fifth place with a two-day total of 17 pounds, 13 ounces.
Johnson fished a 1/4-ounce root beer-colored jig with a twin-tail trailer on shallow wood to catch his fish.
"I can't even tell you how many trees, stumps and logs I've fished in the last four days," Johnson said. "I'd make about 10 pitches to each one, crank up and run to the next."
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros in the EverStart Series Southeast event on West Point Lake:
6th: Jared Parmer of Roanoke, Ala., with a two-day total of 14-1
7th: Asa Godsey of Clewiston, Fla., with a two-day total of 13-9
8th: Tony Wood of Bowdon, Ga., with a two-day total of 9-13
9th: Rick Couch of Ocala, Fla., with a two-day total of 6-14
10: Flash Butts Roanoke Rapids, N.C., with a two-day total of 4-4