Bass Fishing Championship

Fishing For Women

FLORENCE, Ala.--Nov. 9, 2001--Renee Flesh of Edwardsburg, Mich., made history Friday the first female angler to win a national bass fishing championship. Her record-setting catch of two bass weighed just 4 pounds, but it landed her $40,000 in cash and prizes and a spot in the record books.

Flesh qualified for the prestigious $325,000 EverStart Series national championship presented by Conseco during her first year on the circuit. She entered the tournament, which began Wednesday on Pickwick Lake, as the 13th ranked co-angler in the series' Northern Division.

Despite tough fishing throughout the championship, Flesh remained near the top of the leader board from day one when she took big bass honors with a 5-pound, 6-ounce smallmouth. She captured the lead on day two by adding three more bass that weighed 5 pounds, 3 ounces. Overall, her two-day catch of four bass weighing 10 pounds 9 ounces made her the No. 1 seed going into Friday's final round of co-angler competition featuring the top 10 anglers from the original field of 162.

However, anglers started the round from zero, so Flesh and her male counterparts were again on even footing.

"I was fishing against the fish, and the fish don't know who you are," said Flesh, who only female angler to make the final round. "I didn't have a good practice session, so I was just excited to make it to the finals. It hasn't sunk in yet."

Flesh landed her winning catch while fishing a crankbait in shallow water.

Jeffery Carman of Liberty, Ky., finished second in the Co-angler Division and collected $7,000 with one bass weighing 2 pounds, 6 ounces followed by Gary Collins of Russell Springs, Ky. ($6,000); Bo Standley of Silsbee, Texas ($5,000); and Chuck Welch of Knoxville, Tenn. ($4,000). Collins, Standley, and Welch failed to catch a fish Friday.

In the Boater Division, Joe Balog of Independence, Ohio, landed two bass weighing 4 pounds, 5 ounces Saturday to win the EverStart Series Championship and $60,000 in cash and prizes.

As Balog's winning weight indicates, Pickwick Lake was reluctant to give up the quality smallmouths that it is known for. Only 16 bass weighing 35 pounds, 4 ounces were caught Friday by the top 10 pros and co-anglers. Three pros and eight co-anglers came up empty.

The story was much the same for the final five pros Saturday when only eight bass weighing 16 pounds, 9 ounces were caught. Fortunately for Balog, however, his "hot spot" in Wilson Lake produced enough weight for him to win $25,000 cash and a new Mercury- or Yamaha-powered Ranger boat with GARMIN electronics, Minn Kota trolling motor, and EverStart batteries.

Each day Balog locked through from Pickwick to Wilson Lake to fish a creek channel with three small ledges that stretched no more than 20 yards. That small area produced enough largemouth bass for him to make the semifinal round cut to the top 10 pros Thursday in second place with a two-day total of nine bass weighing 21 pounds, 11 ounces. He then squeaked into the top five Friday in fifth place with one bass from the creek channel weighing 3 pounds, 4 ounces.

Second through fifth place went to Ricky Shumpert of Lexington, S.C., with two bass weighing 4 pounds, 4 ounces worth $20,000; Jim Eakins of Nixa, Mo., with one bass weighing 3 pounds, 8 ounces worth $15,000; Greg Pugh of Cullman, Ala., with two bass weighing 3 pounds, 2 ounces worth $12,500; and Richard Grosse of Hebron, Ohio, with one bass weighing 1 pound, 6 ounces worth $10,000.

The $325,000 tournament started Wednesday with 324 anglers from 32 states and Canada fishing for the EverStart Series championship in either the Pro or Co-angler Division. While pros fished four-straight days, the co-angler competition drew to the dramatic close Friday.

The 4-year-old EverStart Series includes three divisions--Eastern, Central, and Northern--with four events each. Tournament winners and the top 50 boaters and co-anglers earned a spot in the championship. Top EverStart competitors may also qualify for the Ranger M1 tournament in Mobile, Ala., Feb. 27-March 2, 2002, where they could win up to $1 million in the world's richest freshwater tournament.