EverStart Series - Championship
OLD HICKORY (Oct. 29-Nov.. 1, 2003)
GALLATIN, Tenn. – Pro angler Dick Shaffer of Celina, Ohio, qualified for the 2002 EverStart Series Championship on Alabama’s Lake Martin and finished in 10th place. A year later, Shaffer hit the jackpot by winning the 2003 EverStart Series Championship on Old Hickory Lake near Gallatin, Tenn., with a five-bass catch Saturday that weighed 14 pounds, 8 ounces. For the win, Shaffer earned $25,000 cash and an Evinrude- or Yamaha-powered Ranger boat for a total first-place prize of $66,900.
The $335,975 championship kicked off Wednesday with the top 150 pros and 150 co-anglers from four EverStart Series Divisions – Central, Eastern, Northern and Western – fishing the two-day opening round for one of 20 semifinal-round slots. Old Hickory proved to be a challenging playing ground for the championship competitors, giving up precious few limits during the tournament’s four days. The semifinal-round field was cut to 10 for Saturday’s final round, and Shaffer bested the competition Saturday by a 3-pound, 5-ounce margin.
“I caught a few fish on a crankbait (this week), but most fish have come on a jig,” Shaffer said. “This feels great. When I got here, I wasn’t expecting anything like this. You don’t get too many opportunities for something like this, and for the last year, I’ve been awful. To finally win one is pretty special.”
Shaffer earned a championship berth by finishing the season ranked 38th in the Central Division. Although the EverStart Series Championship title is Shaffer’s biggest win of the season, it’s not his only win of the year – he’s also a successful angler on the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, and he claimed a Hoosier Division tournament title in April on the Ohio River. Shaffer, who has five BFL wins to his credit, scored his first EverStart Series win at the championship.
Tony Christian, the championship’s semifinal-round leader, finished second with four fish weighing 11 pounds, 3 ounces to earn $20,000 cash. The angler from Hull, Ga., also earned a $10,000 bonus from Ranger Boats as the highest-finishing participant in the Ranger Cup incentive program. Christian, an EverStart Series rookie who has a knack for catching big bass, won the 2003 BFL All-American after winning five of seven qualifying events. He qualified for the EverStart Series Championship by finishing second in year-end Eastern Division points standings thanks in part to a win on Lake Martin in February.
Rounding out the top five are Dave Lefebre of Erie, Pa., in third place with four fish weighing 8 pounds, 1 ounce worth $15,000; Troy Eakins of Nixa, Mo., in fourth place with five fish weighing 7 pounds, 10 ounces worth $12,500; and Vic Vatalaro of Kent, Ohio with two bass weighing 5 pounds, 11 ounces worth $10,000.
Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., won a $500 Wal-Mart gift card as the winner of the Stanley Accuracy Cast Award, which goes to the angler who pitches a jig closest to a specified target.
Christian earned the Shop-Vac High Performance Award, which is given to the angler with the heaviest total catch weight after the first three days of competition. His nine-bass catch weighing 24 pounds, 1 ounce earned him a 10-gallon, stainless-steel Shop-Vac.
Co-angler Mario Ringo of Arcadia, Calif., earned $10,000 cash and a Ranger boat Friday as the Co-angler Division champion. His two-bass catch weighing 5 pounds, 4 ounces was enough for the Western Division angler to claim his first EverStart Series win by a 1-pound, 6-ounce margin.
The EverStart Series Championship will be broadcast to 55 million subscribers of the Outdoor Life Network on the “FLW Outdoors” television program Nov. 8 at 6 p.m. Central time and Nov. 9 at noon Central time. Saturday’s final weigh-in was also broadcast live to Wal-Mart Stores nationwide.