May 4, 2013 by Gary Mortenson
FLORENCE, Ala. - Heading into the final day of EverStart Series competition on Pickwick Lake, Tim Cummings of Waynesboro, Tenn., held a formidable 6-pound, 2-ounce advantage over his next closest competitor. Clearly, it was his tournament to lose ... and he almost did. Awaiting his turn at the weigh-in podium, Cummings was forced to watch as the No.2 and No. 3 challengers brought 25-1 and 24-4 pounds to the scales respectively. Suddenly, Cummings inexorable climb to the top appeared to be as shaky as ever. Consequently, as Cummings approached the scales, the Tennessee native couldn't have been more apprehensive. "I really only thought I had about 18 pounds," Cummings admitted. "I didn't think I had enough." After dedicating the tournament to his mother who was diagnosed with cancer just three weeks prior, Cummings could only stare at the weigh-in scale in nervous anticipation. Then his weight was announced - 19 pounds, 6 ounces. Cummings, who had been on a top-10 stage many times before without ever coming away with a significant victory, shot his arms into the air in jubilation. "I won a BFL tournament years ago, but this is my first major win," said Cummings. "I've been close so many times. And I really didn't think I had enough to do it. So this is just awesome. I really feel relieved right now. It all goes to my mom. We have a couple of rough weeks ahead of us but we'll get through it. So this win is dedicated to her." Cummings said that he fished main-lake points with a combination of Strike King 6XD and 10XD crankbaits to land the majority of his catch all week. "Today started off slow today but it ended up working out for the best," he said. "I had great pros all week who really helped me out. And today wasn't any different. My pro partner Randy Haynes, at the end of the day, he turned his boat around and told me where to throw. I had a limit at 12:30 and wound up culling with like 30 minutes left. And that made the difference. I can't thank him enough. "It was a tough tournament," Cummings continued. "Things changed every day. But it all worked out. Like I said, I've been close a bunch of times before. But there ain't no place like first place." For his efforts, Cummings took home a brand new, fully rigged Ranger Z117 bass boat. Smith loses heartbreaker After heaving a 25-pound, 1-ounce stringer onto the scales during the final day of competition, Jason Smith of Killen, Ala., thought he'd done enough to walk away with the coveted first-place trophy. But in the end, Smith fell 7 ounces short and settled for second place overall - completing a wild, rollercoaster ride of a tournament. "This one was a tough one to swallow," said Smith, who recorded a total, three-day catch of 56 pounds, 3 ounces. "I did everything I could today. I'm completely worn out." Smith said he targeted bass with a 5 1/2-inch Keitech swimbait and Berkley Hollow Belly swimbait with a ¾-ounce lead head. "I used it on rock piles in about 12 to 15 feet of water," he said. "Fishing wise, today was just a dream day for me. I made all of the right decision. It was unbelievable." While Smith acknowledged that he lost his fair share of expensive baits navigating hard-cover targets today, he said the prize money should ease the pain somewhat. "There is no telling how much money I lost in those rock piles," he said. "But it was worth it." As a nice consolation prize for finishing in second place and losing a good chunk of his arsenal on the final day, Smith walked away with over $4,000 in winnings. Hopper snares third Like Smith, John Hopper of Falkner, Miss., thought he just might have done enough to win the tournament. But in the end, his final-day 24-pound, 4-ounce catch (and three-day total weight of 52 pounds, 12 ounces) was only good enough for third place. However, Hopper said he had virtually no regrets. "We had a great day on the water. I couldn't have asked for a better day," said Hopper. "It was just an unbelievable tournament. Spectacular would be an understatement." Hopper said he fished a combination of 4- and 6-inch swimbaits, while targeting a series of rocky outcrops near current breaks in anywhere from 10 to 15 feet of water to land the majority of his catch. "I wound up catching a 5-pound, 11-ounce smallmouth first thing this morning and it was on after that," he said. "I probably caught 20 keepers and culled four or five times. So it was a great day." In the end, Hopper walked away with over $3,200 in prize money. Beale maintains AOY lead Although Tim Beale of Hernando, Miss., didn't win the title, he did manage to maintain his first-place overall standing in the 2013 Strike King Co-angler of the Year race for the Central Division. "I can't even put this tournament into words," said Beale. "This is the best season of my career - ever." Adding to his wonderful week was the fact that he had the opportunity to weigh-in a whopping 10-pound largemouth on the final day of competition. "It's the biggest fish I ever weighed in," he said. "Overall, it was just a great day. I went to bed last night and it was raining. But then the sun came out today, the fish were biting and we're really started tearing it up." Beale, who brought a three-day total weight of 46 pounds, 8 ounces to the scales, said that he used a Strike King 6XD crankbait in sexy shad and chartreuse colors to land the majority of his catch. For his efforts, Beale netted over $2,800 in prize money. "To be able to go out and fish with the caliber of guys in this tournament is just unreal," said Beale. Best of the rest Tripp Pittman of Holly Springs, Miss., used a total catch of 38 pounds, 7 ounces to take home fifth place overall and more than $2,400 in winnings. Rounding out the top-10 co-angler finalists: 6th: Steve Sorrell of Beavercreek, Ohio, 35-2 7th: Chuck Rounds of Benton, Ky., 34-2 8th: Terry Hussey of Nickerson, Neb., 33-1 9th; Logan Bliss of Cottage Grove, Wisc., 32-5 10th: Michael Phelps of Arlington, Tenn., 27-4 For a complete list of co-angler results, click here. To view photos from today's tournament, click here. EverStart Series Central Division action resumes June 13-15 on Kentucky Lake in Benton, Ky.