19.Jan.2013 by Gary Mortenson
OROVILLE, Calif. – Heading into the opening event of the 2013 EverStart Series Western Division season, Ryan Friend of Oroville, Calif., decided that he wanted to participate in an FLW tournament as a boater for the very first time in his career. However, despite a difficult tournament, Friend managed to shake off some rookie nerves, pull off some last-minute heroics and turn in a stellar three-day performance resulting in a total weight of 37 pounds, 5 ounces – good enough to capture the very first EverStart Series title of his career.
Needless-to-say, Friend was ecstatic with the result.
“This is absolutely the best win of my career,” said Ryan, who netted the top prize of $33,000 as well as a brand new, fully rigged Ranger Z518 boat with 200 HP outboard engine for his efforts. “I can’t really explain how I’m feeling right now. I grew up here reading about these guys and to be standing on stage and competing against them now is unbelievable. This is my first experience as a boater at an FLW event and to win it’s just amazing. I really had just an awesome week.”
Although Friend fished extraordinarily well all week, targeting bass in 15 to 20 feet of water primarily with lighter, finesse jigs, he knew that he would need one heck of a sack in today’s competition to fulfill his dream of capturing an EverStart tournament title.
“It was really slow today but I pounded my spots as much as I could,” he said. “I was basically targeting flats, clay banks and shallow points with boulders all week. At around 1 p.m., I had about 10 pounds in the boat, but I didn’t have a big kicker fish like I had the first two days. And I knew I had to get that big bite because on this lake, if you don’t get one of those, you’re in real trouble.”
As luck would have it, fate smiled on Friend just as time nearly expired in today’s contest.
“With about 20 minutes to go, I went back to a spot I’d fished the first two days and finally hooked into a big fish,” said Friend, referring to 4-pound, 14-ounce giant. “When I finally got that fish into the boat, I couldn’t believe it. It just goes to show that you can never give up. Overall, the day ended up great. Pretty much everything just went right for me today.”
After receiving word from the tournament director that he in fact had pulled off the win, the normally reserved California native gave a huge fist pump to the crowd and shouted, “Boom!”
The relief on Friend’s face was palpable.
“I knew that I had really beaten up my spots,” he said. “And I’m just glad I don’t have to go fishing tomorrow because I’m not even sure what I’d do. This has just been an awesome week.”
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