Taylor goes from 10th to first in Everstart event

FLORENCE — Rick Taylor can be forgiven for his apparent shock after winning the Everstart Series Southeast Division bass tournament on Wheeler Lake Saturday.

After all, he had barely made the top 10 on Friday and started Saturday morning at the bottom of the standings.

But a five-bass catch of 21 pounds, 12 ounces rocketed him from 10th to first to claim a prize of almost $29,000. His three-day catch was 57 pounds, nine ounces.

“I won the damn thing,” Taylor kept saying over and over. “I’m absolutely in total shock. I told the (co-angler) I fished with at the beginning of the day that there was nowhere for us to go but up, and we did.”

Taylor was the first angler to weigh in Saturday when he put up his impressive total. He then sat in the chair on the stage reserved for the leader and never had to get up as angler after angler came up short of Taylor’s total.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Taylor said of his extended sit in the chair. “I sat down in that chair and just gritted my teeth and gritted my teeth. I got pretty comfortable in that chair.”

Taylor said he found success in a very small area of shallow water where fish were spawning.

“It was about two acres, and every day I just went around and around that area,” Taylor said. “The fish just move in in a school, they were coming in continuously. Every time I made a pass around, I’d catch two more fish.”

The tournament was Taylor’s first of the year. He and his wife each have had health problems and Taylor had been unable to compete until this event.

“This win really is rewarding,” Taylor said. “The stars just aligned for me today.”

J.T. Kenney of Palm Bay, Fla., was second with a three-day total of 54 pounds, 14 ounces while Jeff Fitts of Keystone Heights, Fla., was third with 54 pounds, 11 ounces.

Sheffield’s William Davis finished eighth with 50 pounds, 14 ounces.

The anglers were complimentary of Wheeler Lake, not only for the size of the bass they were catching but for the sheer number of fish.

“If you want to have a good time, just come down here,” said Nick Thliveros, who won the co-angler competition. “The people were friendly, the food was great and the fishing was even better. In four days of practice and the three-day tournament, I probably caught about 125 fish.”

Taylor, from West Olive, Mich., had only fished Wheeler Lake once and never in the spring, but said this time won’t be the last.

“I guarantee you I’ll be back,” Taylor said. “This week was amazing and one I won’t soon forget. Life is good.”

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