SOMERSET, Ky. — Rodger Beaver, 36, of Leesburg, Ga., walked away with the EverStart Batteries Series victory on Lake Cumberland Saturday, winning $10,000 and an Evinrude- or Johnson-powered Ranger bass boat in the final Eastern Division tournament of 2000.
After finishing round one in second place, Beaver nearly missed the final round shootout. He managed to catch just three bass weighing 5 pounds, 6 ounces Friday, but it was enough to squeak into the finale in last place. Saturday, however, his fishing picked up again, and he landed five bass weighing 15-11 to claim victory over nine other finalists in the Pro Division. He caught his limit by slow rolling a 1-ounce spinnerbait in 5 to 10 feet of water around Burnside Island.
“I can't believe it yet,” said Beaver, who has made four top 10 appearances. “When I started culling fish I thought I might be in contention, but I didn't know how tough the fishing was going to be for the other guys. I ended up having enough to do it though.”
Taking second through fifth in the Pro Division were H.C. Sumpter of Nancy, Ky., with five bass weighing 14-15 worth $10,000; David Dudley of Manteo, N.C., with five bass weighing 13-0 worth $9,000; Rusty Smith of Somerset, Ky., with five bass weighing 12-11 worth $8,000; and Ron McClure of Mount Vernon, Ky., with five bass weighing 10-4 worth $7,000.
Tony Hill, 29, of Chatsworth, Ga., claimed first place in the Co-Angler Division and collected $6,000 for four bass weighing 8 pounds, 14 ounces. Finishing second through fifth in the division were Jamie Nolan of Corbin, Ky., with five bass weighing 7-8 worth $3,500; Ronnie Fields of Somerset, Ky., with two bass weighing 4-14 worth $3,000; Stephen Coulter of Newark, Ohio, with two bass weighing 3-10 worth $2,500; and Steve Montelaro of Palm Harbor, Fla., with two bass weighing 3-7 worth $2,000.
“It feels great,” said Hill, a former professional motocross racer who traded in his motorcycle for a fishing pole five years ago. “I'm real happy to win. I'm a competitor, and I've been trying real hard. It's satisfying.”
Like Beaver, Hill almost didn't make it into the final round. His opening two-day total of 6 pounds was enough, however, for him to slip into the semifinal round in 30th place. He went on to qualify for the final in fifth position with three bass weighing 7-0.
The tournament began Wednesday morning with 150 professional anglers and 150 co-anglers taking off from Burnside Island State Park in Burnside, Ky., 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 in the 2001 FLW Tour.
The series' title sponsor, EverStart Batteries, is the No. 1 retail selling automotive and marine battery brand in the world.