JASPER, Texas — Randy Millender of Teague, Texas, survived four days of intense competition and rough conditions Saturday on Lake Sam Rayburn to win $10,000 and an Evinrude- or Johnson-powered Ranger bass boat in the EverStart Batteries Series Central Division opener.
Millender, 42, caught four bass weighing 13 pounds, 13 ounces during the tournament's final round to claim victory over nine other finalists in the Pro Division. He caught the bass pitching a black and blue Strike King jig to stumps and laydowns.
“It was very windy and rough today,” said Millender, who sought refuge from 30-mph wind gusts in an isolated area of the lake known as Ash Bayou. “I happened to have a few places where I could get out of the wind and catch fish.
“Sam Rayburn was a lot better to me this year than last season. I had a lot of confidence in what I was doing this time around, and it made a big difference.”
Taking second through fifth in the Pro Division were Mike Hawkes of Sabinal, Texas, with five bass weighing 12-1 worth $10,000; Carl Svebek of Sam Rayburn, Texas, with five bass weighing 11-7 worth $9,000; Tim Poe of Benton, Ark., with five bass weighing 11-7 worth $8,000; and Chris McCall of Jasper, Texas, with five bass weighing 9-15 worth $7,000.
Wesley Burnett, 31, of Hot Springs, Ark., claimed first place in the Co-Angler Division and collected $6,000 for five bass weighing 14-6. Finishing second through fifth in the division were Lonnie Fuller of Hemphill, Texas, with five bass weighing 10-4 worth $3,500; Phil Hennigan of Center, Texas, with three bass weighing 6-14 worth $3,000; Ralph Myhlhousen of Council Bluffs, Iowa, with three bass weighing 6-4 worth $2,500; and Fred Hill of Gibsonville, N.C., with two bass weighing 3-14 worth $2,000.
“It feels great,” said Burnett, who was fishing in just his second EverStart tournament. “This is the first major tournament I've ever won. The first thing I'm going to do is pay off my truck.”
The tournament began Wednesday morning with 175 professional anglers and 175 co-anglers taking off from Twin Dykes Marina in Jasper to claim a piece of the event's $164,000 purse. After two elimination rounds, however, only 10 anglers remained in each division for Saturday's finale.
Now in its third year, the EverStart Series is comprised of two divisions, Eastern and Central, with four multi-day events per division. The top 75 pros and top 75 co-anglers from each division will advance to the year-end EverStart Invitational Challenge at Cypress Gardens, Fla., which features a purse of $360,000.
Over the course of the season, the EverStart Series awards anglers up to $1.7 million in cash and prizes. It also provides a pathway to the prestigious Wal-Mart FLW Tour, the richest tournament series in history. Winning anglers in the Pro and Co-Angler Divisions of each EverStart tournament, as well as the overall top 10 anglers, based on a system of points and pounds, receive priority entry into the 2001 FLW Tour.