CLEWISTON, Fla. — Robert Beatty of Orlando, Fla., survived four days of intense competition on Lake Okeechobee to win $10,000 and an Evinrude powered Ranger bass boat Saturday in the first EverStart Batteries Series tournament of 2000.
Beatty, a 52-year-old engineer, caught 12 pounds, 4 ounces of bass during the tournament's fog-delayed final round to claim victory over nine other finalists in the pro division. He caught his five keepers out of pockets in the eelgrass on the lake's north shore using a spinnerbait and a paddle-tail worm. Beatty was the only angler to catch a limit.
“I was a little apprehensive because of the fog delay,” says Beatty, who has been fishing tournaments since 1989. “But to go out on Lake Okeechobee in the middle of the day on a Saturday and catch three of four fish in two hours was great. You can win most tournaments like that.”
Taking second and third in the pro division were Roger Crafton of Boca Grande, Fla., with 9 pounds, 2 ounces and Jay Stuart of West Palm Beach, Fla., with an 8-pound, 2-ounce catch. Crafton earned $10,000 for his effort while Stuart received $9,000.
Kindle Nelms of Lake City, Fla., claimed first place in the co-angler division and collected $6,000 for two bass weighing 3 pounds, 14 ounces. Finishing second and third in the co-angler division were Steve Montelaro of Palm Harbor, Fla., and Robert Bennett of Doyle, Tenn., with 3 pounds, 1 ounce and 2 pounds, 10 ounces respectively. Montelaro received $3,500 and Bennett earned $3,000.
“I was fortunate to win,” Nelms says. “There are a lot of quality anglers in the (co-angler) division, and my first day out, I didn't catch a fish. This is my third year fishing the EverStart and the first time I've made the top ten.”
The tournament began Wednesday morning with 175 professional anglers and 175 co-anglers taking off from Roland Martin's Marina in Clewiston to claim a piece of the event's $164,000 purse. After two elimination rounds, however, only 10 anglers remained in each division for the final round.
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 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 automatic berths in the 2001 FLW Tour.