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Posted By The Bass Hog

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Television’s biggest name in fishing is now entering its 20th season on ESPN. The 2019 season of the award-winning program The Bassmasters will see expanded airtime on ESPN networks as part of the sports giant’s increased coverage of B.A.S.S. fishing.

Beyond its 30 hours of coverage of Bassmaster Elite Series events and the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, ESPN has nearly doubled (54 hours) its shows on ESPN Classic for the 2019 season.

“For two decades, ESPN has had an incredibly strong relationship with B.A.S.S., giving millions of bass fishing fans innovative, quality coverage of professional bass fishing,” said Mike McKinnis, vice president of media content for JM Associates and producer of Bassmaster LIVE and The Bassmasters. “No matter the sport, ESPN has the best networks for coverage, and we’re excited that ESPN has committed fantastic coverage for our shows.” (View the schedule here, )

In addition to the television coverage, ESPN will now be streaming 24 hours of “Bassmaster LIVE” programming from each Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on both ESPN3 and the ESPN App – up from 18 hours per tournament in 2018. Counting nine regular-season Elite events, the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship and the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods, B.A.S.S. will be live-streaming 252 hours of programming through ESPN and this year, an increase of 27 percent in streaming hours over last year.

Coverage of B.A.S.S. will also extend to ESPNU, with nine hours of programming from events in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops as well as the Mossy Oak Fishing High School Series.

The Bassmasters will begin airing on ESPN2 with back-to-back weekends from the biggest stage in tournament fishing, the Bassmaster Elite Series. March 9 will kick off with the inaugural event of the Elite season, the Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River, Fla., followed the next weekend, March 16, by the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Lanier, Ga.

The GEICO Bassmaster Classic will be covered in three episodes airing on Sunday mornings, March 31, April 7 and April 14.

McKinnis noted that the recently announced agreement with the Pursuit Channel to air The Bassmasters has been expanded to 130 hours for 2019, providing for a total of 223 hours of television time to complement the on-the-water streaming programming.

“Along with our industry-leading magazines, website and social media following, the increased programming hours on ESPN networks and the Pursuit Channel, more fans will now be able to enjoy their favorite sport wherever, whenever and however they want to follow it,” said Bruce Akin, B.A.S.S. CEO. “This means the biggest stage in bass fishing just got even bigger.”

About B.A.S.S.

B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport. With more than 510,000 members internationally, B.A.S.S. is not only home to the nation’s premier fishing tournament trails, but it also boasts the most expansive and comprehensive media network in the fishing industry. Its media include The Bassmasters on the ESPN networks, more than 130 hours of tournament programming on the Pursuit Channel, 250 hours of on-the-water streaming coverage onBassmaster LIVE and 1 million monthly visitors to the flagship website on bass fishing – B.A.S.S. also provides more than 4.4 million readers with the best in bass fishing coverage through Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times, and its radio and social media programs and events reach hundreds of thousands each month.

The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, culminating in the ultimate event on the biggest stage for competitive anglers, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. The trail also includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Open Series, B.A.S.S. Nation Series, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series, and the Bassmaster Team Championship.

Courtesy of BASS Communications.

Posted By The Bass Hog

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The 2017 Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Championship presented by Magellan will be held on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell, Oct. 19-21, B.A.S.S. announced today.

Competitors from all over the world will compete for a chance to return to Lake Hartwell next March for the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.

“We are excited to be going to Anderson, S.C., and Lake Hartwell for the Championship,” said Jon Stewart, B.A.S.S. Nation director. “It is a great fishery, and Green Pond Landing is a fantastic launch and weigh-in area.

“The city and state did a great job renovating the ramp area for the 2015 GEICO Bassmaster Classic a few years ago, and they have improved it even more since then. We are expecting the weather and the fishing to be excellent that time of year.”

Forty-seven states and one Canadian province (Ontario) will send 20-person teams (10 boaters and 10 nonboaters) to one of three regional tournaments — Central, Western and Eastern. The top boater and nonboater from each state will then advance to the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on Hartwell.  

Also invited to the Championship are the top boater and nonboater from nine other foreign countries (which have their own qualifying events), the Paralyzed Veterans of America champion and the defending B.A.S.S. Nation champion.

“We are so proud of the opportunity to host the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship at Green Pond Landing and Lake Hartwell,” said Neil Paul, Visit Anderson’s executive director. “In Anderson County, we take great pride in being able to host anglers from all over the country in our community, and the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship is yet another opportunity to host a championship event in our championship facility on our championship lake.

“It’s an honor and privilege to be able to host the great team from B.A.S.S. in Anderson County, and we cannot wait to welcome the anglers and their families to our great community.”

The champion will receive a Bassmaster Elite Series berth, paid entry into the division of their choice in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens, a prize boat to keep, plus a “B.A.S.S. Nation’s Best” prize package, which is a fully rigged tournament-ready boat for one year.

Second- and third-place finishers will earn paid entry into their division of choice in the Bassmaster Opens, and the “B.A.S.S. Nation’s Best” prize package, which is also the use of a fully rigged tournament-ready boat for one year.

The nonboater champion will win a memorial trophy, paid Bassmaster Opens entry to his or her division of choice, a prize boat and a Bassmaster Classic Marshal spot.

In 2016, Ryan Lavigne of Gonzales, La., won the tournament as an unlikely candidate — a nonboater — and won it by an enormous margin of 16 1/2 pounds on Lake Conroe outside of Houston, Texas. He also earned a chance to compete in the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, which was held March 24-26, 2017, also on Lake Conroe, in which he finished 16th among 52 of the world’s best bass anglers.

The Western Regional will be April 19-21 on Lake Shasta, California, with the final qualifying tournament, the Eastern Regional, to be held June 14-16 on Upper Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.

Competing in the Eastern Regional for a berth in the Championship will be a few new female faces, including Angela Mayo, who was crowned the first female non-boater champion in the North Carolina Western qualifier.

Last year, Becca Golightly became the first female angler to compete in the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship.

Courtesy of BASS Communications.

Posted By The Bass Hog

MONROE, La. — Jamie Laiche of Gonzales, La., only traveled four hours to get to the 2015 Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, so it seems like he would have home-lake advantage over the rest of the field. However, he had never fished the Ouachita River until he started pre-fishing it earlier this fall, and now he leads the event on Day 1 with 16 pounds, 6 ounces. 

“I call the Atchafalaya Basin my home water,” Laiche said, “and so I’d call myself a shallow-water, stump, cypress tree fisherman. This is right in my wheelhouse. 

“I’m used to fishing tough for seven to eight bites a day, which is how this is fishing,” he said. 

Laiche is one of a handful of anglers who brought small boats to navigate the stumpfield of the Ouachita. 

The drawback to that small boat? “It goes 28 miles per hour,” said Laiche with a laugh. “They’re all passing me.” 

He’s covering a lot of water in his area, though, just using his trolling motor. He’s relied a lot on a push-pole, too, which has left him muddy from each time he pulls it out of the water. 

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wish I could have that second day back,” Laiche said. The Ascension Area Anglers club member had qualified for the Classic that year through the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship. He had a great first day that put him in the Top 20. But then, the second day came. 

“I changed my game plan because of the weatherman,” he said. “I should have stayed with my game plan.” He ended up finishing in 38th place. 

Laiche is confident going into Day 2, but he’s not counting his chickens before they hatch. 

“There is no comfortable lead in the Central Division,” he said. “It’s got some phenomenal anglers. I can’t slip. I’ve got to make the right decisions, I’ve got to execute, and I’ve got to have all my equipment top-notch.” 

Laiche added that he would be very surprised if he could follow up with another 16-pound sack. 

Courtesy of BASS Communications.

Posted By The Bass Hog

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Brad Weese used a rarely exploited river fishing tactic to win the Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Mid-Atlantic Divisional on the Monongahela River Friday. 

In three days of undeniably some of the toughest fishing in divisional history, the West Virginian caught 19 pounds, 1 ounce to win the three-day event with 10 bass total.

His tactic focused on man-made current generated by the water release from navigational locks. Much of the tournament field of 78 anglers sharing boats locked upstream on the Monongahela into other fisheries. Not Weese, who intentionally remained within range of the discharge creating current in his area. 

“That’s why I had such a good bite in the early morning,” said Weese, who fished for the Maryland B.A.S.S. Nation as a member of its the Garrett Bassers. 

“It’s a long run into both pools so everyone was headed up there early.”

The current generated by the emptying of the 10,000-gallon lock chambers from either dam provided just enough moving water for his pattern. The bite went cold when the water returned to calm conditions. 

In another wise move, Reese chose one lure capable of covering lots of water and quickly. The single bait enabled him to focus on one technique, instead of spending costly time changing lures and modifying presentations for the area. 

His choice was a custom-made spinnerbait made by local acquaintance Brent Dodrill. The 1/4-ounce lure has a white skirt and head with twin gold Colorado blades. 

“The presentation wasn’t anything special,” he said. “I slow -rolled the spinnerbait anywhere from 6 inches to 10 feet.”

In simple terms, Weese dictated his casts and retrieve based on the shoreline features. Casting targets included isolated laydowns and stretches with concentrations of wood on the bank. 

“The key was keeping the bait in the water and not spending time running the river,” he added. 

Weese spent most of the tournament in the same area:, a boat ramp he defined as a community hole. However, the appeal of making long runs by most of the tournament field left the area open to Weese. 

The win was made sweeter for Weese because Maryland won the competition between the six states. Maryland finished with 88 pounds, 2 ounces, with Virginia taking second place with 74-9. New Jersey placed third with 63-6, and West Virginia took fourth with 62-7. Pennsylvania claimed fifth place with 57-14, and Delaware finished with 46-4 for sixth place. Scores were totaled based on the cumulative weight caught by each 14-angler team. 

For the win, Maryland received a Skeeter/Yamaha boat, motor, trailer and accessories package valued at $33,340.  

Jacob Jones and Austin Gaab of the Susquehanna Valley Fishing Club in Pennsylvania won the high school division. High school state champions fished for the final two days in the tournament under a model program that introduces students to tournament fishing at a higher level. 

Weese will go to the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship in November as the top angler from Maryland. Advancing with him is Fabian Rodriguez of Delaware; Michael McMahon of New Jersey; Chad Shutty of Pennsylvania; Brian Harold of Virginia; and Sammy Bounds of West Virginia. 

Anglers earned the following sponsorship contingency awards:. Livingston Lures Leader Award: Weese earned the $250 award by leading the tournament on Day 2 with 13-7.

Courtesy of FLW Outdoors.

Posted By The Bass Hog

BISMARCK, Ark. — In celebration of the Yuletide season, Brandon Gray received a couple of early Christmas presents for being a good angler at DeGray Lake.

By winning the bracket portion of the Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship, Gray earned the final 2015 Bassmaster Classic berth and accepted another gift of a Skeeter FX20/Yamaha 250 outboard rig for him to run in the Classic Feb. 20-22 at Lake Hartwell in South Carolina. The Bullock, N.C., angler caught five-fish limits both days during the individual fish-off and finished with 20 pounds, 3 ounces.

“It’s been a long hard road for me,” said the 42-year-old Gray. The occupational hearing conservationist (he conducts OSHA standard hearing tests for companies) disclosed he has  come close to making the Classic three times through the Bassmaster Weekend Series National Championship.

“The last three years I have fished it, I finished second at Dardanelle and lost by 2 pounds, then lost by 2 pounds at Guntersville the year before and lost by about 3 pounds at Old Hickory last year,” Gray said.

Gray had doubts about even coming to this team championship. “It was a long drive, and we had a successful year back home (fishing with Todd Massey in the Anglers Choice team trail),” Gray said.

However, he thought there might be something  special about the site of the championship so they made the long trip. “We both have the same last names — DeGray Lake and Brandon Gray,” he said.

Gray thought spooning would be the best way to catch DeGray bass, but he changed his mind when the tactic produced only a couple of keepers in practice. “It’s all about making the right decisions, and I felt like I made the right decisions here,” said Gray, who decided to throw Norman DD22 crankbaits to catch his fish the last two days.
Courtesy of BASS Communications.

Posted By The Bass Hog

BISMARCK, Ark. — Fishers of Men teammates Flannagan Fife and Royce Davis made B.A.S.S. history Thursday by becoming the first team winners of the inaugural Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship today at DeGray Lake by bringing in a two-day total weight of 26 pounds, 8 ounces.

The Arkansas anglers topped a field of 155 two-man teams from a host of B.A.S.S.-sanctioned team trails across the country to earn the championship title along with the grand prize of a Nitro Z7 bass boat/Mercury Optimax 150 Pro XS outboard rig and the Livingston Lures Leader Award of $500. The national champions also received a traveling trophy to take back to their Fishers of Men team trail.

Thursday’s action concluded the team competition of this unique four-day tournament. Friday the six anglers from the Top 3 teams will fish individually for the final two days of competition. The individual Bassmaster Team Trail champion qualifies for the final 2015 GEICO Bassmaster Classic berth and receives a Skeeter FX20/Yamaha 250 outboard rig to run in the Classic.

Fife and Davis spent both days cranking the shallows to earn the nine bass they caught Thrursday. Although the weather changed from sunshine yesterday to clouds today, Fife thought their pattern stayed about the same.

“We had a lot of lulls when we weren’t getting bites, and we would try to make adjustments. But, we still wouldn’t get bit, so we went right back to cranking,” he said.

The team tried about 30 spots during the two competition days, but only four of their spots kept producing fish. Even though they will be fishing the next two days, Fife and Davis didn’t save any spots for the next round.

“We went all out (to win),” Fife said. “Most of our spots are isolated, and we didn’t have a lot of them. To get five bites we had to fish everything and lean on it hard. I don’t know if there is anything left there or not.”

Fishers of Men anglers Brandon Gladish and Aaric Correll moved into second place with 23-13 and will also fish in the bracket round starting Friday. The weather change caused their fish to go deeper, so they had to make some adjustments to catch a limit weighing 12-8 today.

Gladish said they used “three or four different baits,” while keying on largemouth bass the first two days and are using tactics totally different than what they fish back home in Indiana. Since they will be fishing against each other Friday, they will have to share their most productive spot. “There are a lot of fish there, so we should be in good shape,” Gladish said.

Day 1 leaders Brandon Gray and Todd Massey stumbled today and caught only four keepers weighing 8-14. However, they made the bracket cut by finishing in third place with 23 pounds overall.

“The cloud cover really hurt our fish,” Massey said. “We just couldn’t get anything really good going. We had four keeper bites today and fished clean. We did catch a short fish which was probably a quarter of an inch short in the last 15 minutes, but it might have moved us up only one place. We just couldn’t get the bites.”

The North Carolina anglers from the Anglers Choice circuit keyed on one area both days. “We bounced around and tried a few other areas but went back to that one area we have really been focusing on and lived or died there,” Massey said.

Hosting the tournament is the DeGray Lake Resort State Park. Launches and weigh-ins for Friday and Saturday will be held at Caddo Bend in DeGray Lake Resort State Park, Bismarck, Ark.

Courtesy of BASS Communications.

Posted By The Bass Hog

BISMARCK, Ark. — North Carolina anglers Brandon Gray and Todd Massey had never seen DeGray Lake before this week, but this team found a few clues in practice to have a solid start on the first day of the Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship.
Massey said their practice went “not real well,” and he was surprised they caught five fish weighing 14 pounds, 2 ounces to move into first place today. “We found some spots (in practice) that had some fish, but we never really beat them to see what was there,” Massey said. “Today, we just started picking those spots and tried to dissect them from there. We bounced around a couple of times but kind of stayed in the same general area.”
The North Carolina anglers caught fish in both deep and shallow water. “I think the fish are scattered,” Massey said. “There are some fish shallow, and there are some fish deep. So you can fish whatever style you prefer to fish.”
Massey and Gray qualified for the first Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship through the Anglers Choice circuit and have fished as a team for four years. “We traveled together and fished the (Bassmaster) Weekend Series for some years,” Massey said.
Fishers of Men teammates Flannagan Fife and Royce Davis fish DeGray Lake about once a year and usually do well in tournaments on the lake, according to Fife.

The Arkansas anglers took over second place with four bass weighing 13-1. Because they had what Fife described as an “inconsistent practice,” they decided to use their confidence bait today. “Everything we caught was on crankbaits shallow — about 4 feet of water or less,” Fife said. “We were doing a lot of hopping around and fishing isolated stuff.”
Another Fishers of Men team from Arkansas moved into third place. Wayne Dixon and Jared Allen had only five bites all day, but they boated five keepers weighing 12-9 to take over third. “We didn’t fish for Kentuckies. We stayed out and fished for largemouth all day long. We just junk fished all day,” Dixon said, referring to a term used to describe fishing a variety of techniques and locations.
This unique four-day tournament is two events rolled into one. Today was the first round of a two-day competition pitting two-man teams from various B.A.S.S.-sanctioned team trails across the country against each other to determine a national champion.
The winning team will be awarded the first-place prize of a Nitro Z7 bass boat/Mercury Optimax 150 Pro XS outboard rig and the Livingston Leader Award of $500. A traveling trophy is also presented to the team champions to take back to the team trail they represent.
The six anglers from the Top 3 finishers of the team competition advance to the final two days of the tournament and will fish individually. The individual winner of the tournament will qualify for the final 2015 GEICO Bassmaster Classic berth and receive a Skeeter FX20/Yamaha 250 outboard rig to run in the Classic.
The DeGray Lake Resort State Park is hosting the Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship. Launches and weigh-ins for the next three competition days will be held at Caddo Bend in DeGray Lake Resort State Park, Bismarck, Ark.

2014 Bassmaster Team Championship Title Sponsor: Toyota Bonus Bucks

2014 Bassmaster Team Championship Official Sponsors: Mercury, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha

2014 Bassmaster Team Championship Supporting Sponsors: Booyah, Diet Mountain Dew, Livingston Lures

Courtesy of BASS Communications.

Posted By The Bass Hog

MONROE, La. — Jennifer Carden of Calera, Ala., likes to see her husband in first place. And when she comes to Coby Carden’s events, she usually gets exactly that.
Jennifer surprised Coby by driving all day a couple of years ago with their two kids in tow to the 2013 Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Southern Divisional, and he not only led each day, but he also won the event. Jennifer and the kids showed up again last night — unexpectedly — and Coby now has the Day 1 lead of the 2014 Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on Louisiana’s Ouachita River.
“She likes surprises,” said Coby with a laugh after the first weigh-in of the event. “Let’s hope it works out again this time.”
Coby Carden has had a pretty great run the last two years. He won the 2013 divisional, went on to win his division last year at the championship, competed in the 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic and finished in the top half of the field, and then won his state again this year at the 2014 divisional. He wants to get back to the Classic again, but that’s not all: He wants to win it.
“That’s just the competitor in me,” said Carden, a member of the LA Po Boys club in Alabama. “I want to win.”
But he has two more days of tough competition before a Classic win is even a possibility — a fact that has not escaped him.
“I got lucky today,” said Carden. “I had one big bite. Without it, I would have only had 6 pounds and change.”
Carden is referring to the 4-pound, 10-ounce bass he brought to the scales on Day 1, the biggest bass of the day by far and currently the leader in the Carhartt Big Bass competition. His total sack for the day was 11 pounds, 8 ounces, a pound heavier than second place Levi McNeill of Utah.
“I caught the big one flipping my Missile D Bomb in wood,” said Carden. “I had caught a big one in that same area in pre-fish a couple of weeks ago. The tough part will be staying in the lead for the next two days.”
McNeill, who is fishing 1,500 miles from his Utah home, led for a while on Day 1 with his catch of 10 pounds, 8 ounces. He had a slow morning, but he found one laydown that appealed to him, and he ended up pulling three keepers from the spot in the span of only 20 minutes.
McNeill’s weight was not typical, but his experience was. Many anglers said they had dry spells that lasted hours with no bites — or if they had bites, the fish were short.
“There were lots of 11 and 99/100-inch fish,” said Troy Diede of South Dakota, regarding the 12-inch minimum length each bass must meet before being brought to the scales. “There were so many that just didn’t measure.”
“I drove 1,250 miles to get here,” said Scott Sheldon of Colorado, “and the fish here have the same problem the bass in Colorado do: Their heads are too close to their tails!”
The ones that met the length requirement were not very heavy, either. The average size of the bass wasn’t even 1 1/2 pounds.
Still, only three anglers zeroed, and half the field weighed in limits — which is significant in a fishery this tough.
With weights this small, though, it’s still anyone’s game. One 4-pounder can move an angler up 15 to 20 places, so there’s plenty of room for movement on the leaderboard.
Only six anglers will advance to the 2015 GEICO Bassmaster Classic.
 Courtesy of BASS Communications.

Posted By The Bass Hog

MUSKOGEE, Okla. — The Arkansas River is shaping up nicely for local angler Chris Jones to repeat last year's performance when he won the Central Open here.
The river conditions for the 2014 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open presented by Allstate finale Sept. 11-13 are similar to last September’s tournament, which was held a week later. “There is a little bit more water flowing this year than there was last year,” Jones said. “There has been cooler weather, so they haven’t been generating quite as much and have been holding water back. There is a little bit of current still in the river, which is uncommon for this time of the year.
“The current could be a deciding factor, especially if you know what areas have current and when the current kicks on,” Jones said.
The Bokoshe, Okla., angler has observed the water clarity on the river is in better shape this year. “It is a little cleaner with a little bit more grass and vegetation than there has been in previous years,” he said. “It is shaping up to be a good tournament.”
The water temperature is usually in the 90-degree range this time of the year, but it has ranged in mid- to upper 80s because of this summer’s cooler weather. “We have been hitting the 100-degree mark lately, so the water temperature will be going up,” Jones said. “Last year I think we had 100-degree weather seven to 10 days in a row right before the tournament.
“The weather has been really crazy around here,” Jones said. “It has been really different. The water willows along the bank are usually burnt up by this time of the year and have turned yellow and lost oxygen, but now they are still green — kind of like everybody’s lawns this year.”
Central Open anglers can target grass along with wood and rocks for this event. “It is up in the air on all of them,” Jones said. “The weather will predict what the fish are going to be on.” He suggests typical river lures and tactics such as square bill crankbaits, spinnerbaits, flipping jigs, swimming jigs and topwater frogs will work best during the Open.
The local angler expects both the main river and backwaters to be productive throughout the Open. “It hasn’t gotten as hot this year, so there are fish in both areas,” Jones said. “It is just a matter of having an area or areas to yourself and having enough fish to go around for those three days.
“Managing the fish will be the most important part of this tournament,” Jones said. “It is like a relay race in that you have to scatter your fish out. You just can’t go in and catch a 20-pound bag and not have any fish for the next day. You can’t go into an area and weed out a bunch of fish to have a good sack.”
Jones has noticed the fishing has been good on the river this summer, taking 16 to 20 pounds to win one-day tournaments nearly every weekend. With the river in better shape and larger fish being caught lately, Jones thinks it might take more weight to make the Top 12 cut this year. “If you can catch 11 to 11 1/2 pounds a day, both days, and finish with 22 to 24 pounds, you will be fishing the final day,” he said. Jones expects the winning catch will be in the 40- to 45-pound range.
                                     Courtesy of BASS Communications.

Posted By The Bass Hog

DETROIT — The home-field advantage played a big role in the first round of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open presented by AllState on Lake St. Clair Thursday.

Two local anglers jumped to the head of the pack, with formidable pro Joe Balog of Harrison Township, Mich., sacking 22 pounds, 8 ounces, good for a 4-ounce lead over fellow Harrison Township angler Andrew Smith.

Canadian Chris Johnston is third with 21-12, while Bassmaster Elite Series pros Fletcher Shryock of Ohio and Michigander Chad Pipkens are tied for fifth with 21-6.

In addition to valuable prizes going to the winner of this final leg of the Northern Open is a berth in next February’s Bassmaster Classic to be held on Lake Hartwell of out Greenville, S.C., providing the winner has competed in two previous 2014 Northern Opens.

As always when fishing St. Clair and its adjoining waters, Friday’s weather could have an impact on how well the field does. The potential of thunderstorms and heavy winds loom in the forecast for Friday, which could affect those anglers making the long trek to Lake Erie.

“I made a big run today, and the weather will be a huge factor in what I do tomorrow,” said Balog, who won a Bassmaster Open on Lake Erie in 2006 and was second to Michael Iaconelli on Lake St. Clair last year. “I have other options, but at this point, I’m not sure what I will do.”

Historically, Erie produces the heavier weights in St. Clair events, but storms can not only hamper fishing conditions, but they also cause anglers problems trying to return.
That held true for Derek Remitz, of Grant, Ala., who received a 2-pound penalty for being two minutes late. His hefty sack of 22-1 was diminished to 20-1 and pushed him into 10th place.

“It’s 40 miles from here (Metropark in Harrison Township) to the mouth of Erie,” noted Balog. “If it’s rolling, that makes for a short day, and you have to allow for it.”

Bad weather could bode well for second place Smith who said he stayed in Lake St. Clair to catch his fish.

Smith went to his first spot and caught a small keeper and a 5-9 smallmouth — but the spot went dead.

“I decided to go to a place where I previously had caught only 2 1/2-pounders, and the big ones were there,” said Smith, who grew up on St. Clair.

Several anglers said the fish were moving around and the hot spots they found in practice produced very little.

“Fishing had been pretty good, and the bass were gobbling up perch and crawfish,” Smith explained. “But the weather got hot, and they seemed to have scattered.”

Co-angler Jay Ahonen of Ortonville, Mich. caught the biggest bass of the day, a 6-pound, 10-ounce smallmouth. He caught the fish on a drop shot rig in 18 feet of water while fishing with pro Troy Morrow of Georgia.

Tournament anglers will take off daily from Metropark in Harrison Township at 7 a.m. Friday’s weigh-in will be held at Metropark at 3 p.m., but on Day 3, only the Top 12 finalists will compete, and the weigh-in will be held at Bass Pro Shops in Auburn Hills beginning at 4:15 p.m.

                             Courtesy of BASS Communications.