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Vatalaro blows into first at EverStart

Vatalaro blows into first at EverStart
Pro Vic Vatalaro of Kent, Ohio, caught five bass weighing 18 pounds, 14 ounces Friday to lead the semifinal round of the EverStart Series Northern Division on Lake Erie in Port Clinton.

Wind change stirs up Lake Erie; Phillips leads co-anglers by 6 pounds

PORT CLINTON, Ohio - The wind changed direction for day three of EverStart Series Northern Division competition on Lake Erie, and that blew a number of anglers off course Friday. But not Vic Vatalaro. The pro from Kent, Ohio, battled back to his hot spot through the swells and captured the semifinal-round lead with a five-bass weight of 18 pounds, 14 ounces.

The first two days of competition the wind held at a light southerly breeze, and most competitors had relatively little problem with Lake Erie's big water, which can produce vicious swells for anglers in 20-foot bass boats. But today it switched around to the north and picked up in speed a little bit. And then came the swells.

"It wasn't too bad going out because the wind was blowing out of the west a little bit," said Vatalaro, who ran "not too far" to the east to his spot Friday. "But when it switched to the north, I didn't get a bite for three hours."

Vatalaro battled the waves, stayed on his spot and landed seven good smallmouth by noon using mainly a green tube with a 5/16-ounce jig head. But it wasn't easy.

"I lost a fish right off the bat that was over 4 pounds, then later I lost one that was 5 1/2. Between 7:30 and 10 o'clock I didn't even have a bite," he said, adding that he didn't realize at the time how much trouble his fellow competitors were having with the conditions. "I never been so sick as when I lost those two fish today."

Windy day

How much trouble were the wind and waves?

"We were in rollers up to 6 and 7 feet," sixth-place co-angler Mark McNeil of Ledyard, Conn., said. "With those rollers, it's brutal."

Longtime pro angler Dwayne Horton of Knoxville, Tenn., couldn't get to his spot because of the conditions and posted a goose egg Friday. He finished the week in 17th place. "I'm used to fishing the Tennessee River," he said. "When the waves get that big, we go home. My hat's off to these guys who fished in this today because every time I turned my boat, water came over my head."

Pro Ted Will of Augusta, Mich., also zeroed, finishing in 19th place. "If I could find me the weatherman who did the forecasting for today, I would (give him a piece of my mind)," he said, using language a bit too colorful for a family Web site. "The wind came in and took the 5 feet of visibility (beneath the water surface) we had the first two days down to 6 inches."

Vatalaro and the other leaders, however, managed to tough it out mainly by being able to hold their positions over their fish. On a day when many competitors used a drift sock to steady their boats, Vatalaro and second-place Scott Dobson of Waterford, Mich., both stood strong on their trolling-motor pedals in the face of 5-foot swells.

"The key was that big trolling motor," said Vatalaro, who uses a Minn Kota. "Without that long 52-inch shaft, I wouldn't have been able to keep it still."

"It just held it right into the waves," said Dobson, who uses the same trolling setup. "The waves were breaking over the boat, but it held."

The leaders

Dobson caught his five bass weighing 18 pounds, 7 ounces to the north of the takeoff point at Pelee Island. He's fishing a reef in 25 feet of water using a Carolina rig and a tube. Like Vatalaro, his bites are few and far between, but they are quality. While he only caught six keepers Friday, he plans to return to the spot Saturday even though the north-south run is vicious with the north wind.

"Unless they tell us we've got to stay in the bay, I don't care. I'm going," said Dobson, who has top-10ed twice on the Wal-Mart FLW Tour and top-20ed once before on the EverStart Series. "I've got to win one of these things.

Mike Trombly of Perrysburg, Ohio, placed third in the Pro Division with a five-bass weight of 17 pounds, 8 ounces. He had an especially long, rough ride since he went all the way to the north shore of Erie for his fish. It was worth it Friday, but will he do it again Saturday?

"I think so, but it kind of depends on what NOAA weather radio does to us tomorrow," he said.

Dan Mansky of Youngstown, Ohio, placed fourth with a five-bass weight of 17 pounds, 7 ounces despite some tough luck leading up to the event. In practice, he got water in his boat's gas tank and ended up spending the night on South Bass Island, missing out on two days of pre-fishing. Still, the local found a spot with big enough bass in it to propel him into the final round.

"I only got six bites today, so if I can get five bites tomorrow, it might be enough to win this thing," he said.

Opening-round leader Joe Balog of Independence, Ohio, squeaked out a last-minute fish to fill out his limit and placed fifth with a weight of 16 pounds, 12 ounces.

"Today, we caught a few quick ones and then it died," he said. "(My partner) Trevor (Jancasz) was snapping everything down in the boat to go, and I saw we had time to run up to one last spot. I got that fifth fish with, like, 30 seconds to go."

Rounding out the top 10 pro finalists are Robert Sherry of Saint Charles, Ill., (sixth place) with four bass weighing 12 pounds, 14 ounces; Daniel Dyke of Clayton, Ohio, (seventh) with four bass weighing 10-4; Brian Hensley of Edwardsburg, Mich., (eighth) with three bass weighing 10-0; Jim Liechty of Fort Wayne, Ind., (ninth) with three bass weighing 9-8; and Don McCulla of New Baltimore, Mich., (10th) with three bass weighing 8-14.

Phillips lands only co-angler limit

Mark Phillips of Fayetteville, Ark., was the only co-angler who managed to land five bass Friday and led the semifinals with a weight of 17 pounds, 13 ounces. Not only did he beat second-place Brad Baldwin of Dayton, Ohio, by over 6 pounds, he out-fished his pro partner, Richard Lowitski of St. Charles, Ill., by three fish and 10 pounds.

"I've had a great week. This is a great fishery," Phillips said. "The waves are big, but Richard's a great boat driver. I only got wet once."

Baldwin caught four bass weighing 11 pounds, 12 ounces. Fishing from the back of Vatalaro's boat Friday, he found the conditions just as daunting as everybody else.

"Vic is on big fish," he said, "but it was tough fishing because it was so windy. It was tough to get your bait down."

Rounding out the top 10 co-angler finalists are opening-round leader Trevor Jancasz of White Pigeon, Mich., (third place) with a three-bass weight of 11 pounds, 6 ounces; Lewis Southard of Chandler, Ariz., (fourth) with a two-bass weight of 5-13; Thomas Bryant of Summerfield, Fla., (fifth) with a one-bass weight of 4-6; Mark McNeil of Ledyard, Conn., (sixth) with a one-bass weight of 4-2; Bob Evans of Elkhart, Ind., (seventh) with a two-bass weight of 3-11; Fred Williams of Dry Ridge, Ky., (eighth) with a one-bass weight of 2-13; Chuck Willis of Kettering, Ohio, (ninth) with a one-bass weight of 2-9; and Bub Cooksey of Newark, Ohio, (10th) with a one-bass weight of 2-9.

Final round Saturday

Final-round action begins Saturday at safe light at Dempsey State Access located on Bayshore Road in Marblehead, Ohio. All competitors will restart the day with zero weight. The final weigh-in will be held the Wal-Mart store located at 4070 East Harbor Road in Port Clinton beginning at 3:30 p.m.

The winning pro is guaranteed $10,000 cash and an Evinrude- or Yamaha-powered Ranger 519VS Comanche bass boat equipped with EverStart batteries, a Minn Kota trolling motor and Garmin electronics. If the winner is the original owner of a Ranger boat, Ranger will award an additional $10,000 cash bonus for a total prize package of $61,900.

The winning co-angler is guaranteed $5,000 cash. If the co-angler winner is a registered Ranger boat owner, Ranger will also award a new Ranger 519VS Comanche bass boat.

Click here for a preview of day four.

Day-three links:

Photos
Results
Saturday's pairings
Press release

Tags: jeff-schroeder  headline-story  2003-08-20-lake-erie 

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