UPCOMING EVENT: FLW SERIES - 2020 - Toledo Bend Lake

Nuckols jumps to head of pro pack in $185,000 EverStart tourney

Nuckols jumps to head of pro pack in $185,000 EverStart tourney
Pro James Nuckols, Jr. of Rockwood, Tenn., shows off part of his whopping 28-pound, 3-ounce catch. Nuckols was in first place heading into tomorrow's finals.

Georgia native claims top spot in Co-Angler Division heading into tomorrow's final round of competition

CLEWISTON, Fla. - James Nuckols, Jr., of Rockwood, Tenn., wasn't taking any chances on Friday. He wanted to make the top-10 final round and he decided to do everything in his power to get there. However, he need not have worried. Fishing like a man possessed, Nuckols hauled in a staggering 28-pound, 3-ounce catch, blowing away the rest of the pro field by nearly 9 pounds. To further underscore the accomplishment, Nuckols also crushed the largest five-fish limit of the tournament to date by more than 8 pounds.

Even after the weigh-in, Nuckols was still in awe of his performance.

"That was a huge bag of fish," said Nuckols. "Anytime you can catch a limit weighing more than 25 pounds, you've got to be tickled to death."

In fact, Nuckols performance actually tied the EverStart semifinal-round weight record with 28-3 - originally set by Lex Costas last year on Santee Cooper. The EverStart one-day weight record for the Pro Division is 30-5, set by Rick Gunter last year on Okeechobee.

However, Nuckols said that he has an even bigger goal in mind than setting EverStart records.

"I finished in first place on day two at an EverStart Series tour event at Lake Martin, Ala., last year," he said. "And I finished in first place on day three today. Now, I'd like to finish first on day four tomorrow."

Nuckols knows all too well that a first-place finish in the Pro Division championship tomorrow will net him a cool $15,000 and a brand new Ranger boat.

Nuckols confessed that his confidence was high.

"I'm around a bunch of big fish," he said. "And the fish are following a similar pattern to what I'm used to back home in Tennessee. If the fish are biting tomorrow, I should be in pretty good shape."

Rufus Johnson of Strawberry Plains, Tenn., also appears to be in good shape. After finishing in first place on day one and day two, Johnson landed a catch of 19 pounds, 11 ounces on Friday - a feat good enough for second place in the Pro Division heading into tomorrow's finals.

"I feel like I can catch a good limit tomorrow," said Johnson, who has averaged more than 18 pounds of fish each day of the tournament so far. "I've found some really great spots. There's definitely a 20-pound bag where I've been fishing. But we'll have to wait and see."

Johnson said it's not surprising that he and Nuckols have done well this tournament.

"We've been friends for about 10 years now and he's taught me a lot," said Johnson. "We've helped each other a bunch so far and we both have similar styles. We fished within sight of each other all day today. But tomorrow, my goal is to win the tournament."

Dwayne Horton of Knoxville, Tenn., finished in third place with a catch of 18 pounds, 10-ounces - marking the first time in recent memory that the top-three finalists all hailed from the same state. Rodney Sorrell of Stokesdale, N.C., was in fourth place with a catch of 17 pounds, 3 ounces. Dan Jackson of Youngsville, N.C., finished in fifth place with a catch of 17 pounds.

Rounding out the top-10 pro finalists were Mark Rogers of Naples, Fla., with a catch of 15 pounds, 5 ounces; Mike Glazier of Frederick, Md., with a catch of 14 pounds, 1 ounce; Greg Pugh of Cullman, Ala., with a catch of 14 pounds; Roger Crafton of Boca Grande, Fla., with a catch of 13 pounds, 13 ounces; and Chris Daves of Spring Grove, Va., with a catch of 13 pounds, 10 ounces.

Altman rallies to take lead in Co-Angler Division

Roy Altman, Jr., of Augusta, Ga., rebounded from his 29th-place finish after day two to take over the top spot in the Co-Angler field heading into tomorrow's final. Altman, who had never fished an EverStart Series tour event until Wednesday, said he was extremely pleased with his performance to date.

"It doesn't get much better than this," said Altman, who landed a catch of 14 pounds, 13 ounces. "My goal was to make the top 30 in an EverStart tournament once in my life. So I guess I'm off to a pretty good start."

While Altman's first EverStart tournament can already be characterized as a success, the Georgia native said that he owes a lot of the credit to his fishing partners.

"I owe today's performance to my partner, Dwayne Horton," said Altman, who recently retired from the Medical College of Georgia to concentrate on his Buckeye Lure Company business. "He was just a super guy. He carried me to the fish and gave me my baits. And he made sure I caught my limit even though he could've saved those fish for himself tomorrow. I can't thank him enough."

Altman said that while he would love to win the tournament tomorrow, the trip will be a success no matter what happens the rest of the way.

"There's really no pressure on me," he said. "I didn't even think I was going to make the cut yesterday, so I'm pretty happy to be where I am. I'm looking forward to tomorrow. And if I win, great, but if I don't, that's okay too."

Jim Kimball of Okeechobee, Fla., found himself in second place with a total catch of 14 pounds, 4 ounces. Kimball, who led the Co-Angler Division the previous two days, will be paired with pro partner, Rufus Johnson, for the second day in a row. Kimball said that the pairing could be a potent combination.

"He's a great partner to have. Rufus really goes all out on the water," said Kimball, who is also fishing in his first EverStart Series tour event. "One thing is for sure, tomorrow we will be around fish."

Kimball said the tournament has gone better than his wildest dreams.

"I feel just ecstatic right now," he said. "It could go any way tomorrow, but I know Rufus will give me a chance to win. And that's all you can ask for. The ballgame is definitely mine to win or lose."

Tom Turner of Bowie, Md., turned in a catch of 11 pounds, 5 ounces and was in third place heading into tomorrow's final round. Greg Lineberry of Galax, Va., was in fourth place with a catch of 10 pounds, 15 ounces. Dave Schneider of Indianapolis, Ind., was in fifth place (by virtue of a tie-breaker) with an identical catch of 10-pounds, 15 ounces.

Rounding out the top-10 co-anglers were Roger Phillips of Delta, Ala., with a catch of 10 pounds, 9 ounces; Lloyd Block of Caruthersville, Mo., with a catch of 10 pounds, 1 ounce; Allen McKinney of Tobaccoville, N.C., with a catch of 10 pounds; Ralph Mulleins of Cumberland, Va., with a catch of 9 pounds, 15 ounces; and Dale Warren of Newton Grove, N.C. with a catch of 9 pounds, 6 ounces.

Saturday's action begins at 7 a.m. at Roland Martin's Marina located at 920 East Del Monte Ave. The final weigh-in begins at 4 p.m. at the Wal-Mart Supercenter located at 1005 West Sugarland Highway.

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Tags: gary-mortenson  headline-story  2001-02-07-okeechobee 

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