BUFFALO — On a day when boats were destined for a pounding, the first casualty of the morning came in the marina parking lot, when 2006 Angler of the Year Mike Iaconelli found his electronics on the fritz.
As the other boats launched, Iaconelli rushed to repair his depthfinder, and finding that of no use, he hastily moved his gear and co-angler into one of back-up boats BASS has on hand. The only problem: while most anglers never fish using deck seats, rough conditions on Lake Erie prompted them to install the seats for the first day of the Empire Chase presented by Mahindra Tractors.
Iaconelli raced off without seats on the spare boat. He caught 13 pounds, 4 ounces to settle into a tie for 76th place in a tournament that should have played to his strengths as a smallmouth fisherman.
"I just didn't catch 'em today," he told the audience quickly. Asked about the seats, he said, "You've just got to work with what you've got."
His bottom lip was split in the middle, as if from sun damage, and he looked altogether spent.
Kevin Langill had such a great time boating his 21-5 pound bag, he didn't even want to go back in.
While most anglers told of how much the rough waters of Lake Erie tore them to shreds, Langill actually enjoyed himself.
"I might be the only one," Langill said, "but I had a blast out there."
Currently in third place, Langill can't wait for Day Two's action … and surf.
Frank Scalish played it safe. As a result he showed up at the Day One weigh-in one fish short of his limit.
When a nice 12-inch fish swallowed his hook, he threw it back into the Canadian waters he was fishing. Scalish wanted to avoid a penalty.
"I didn't want to take a chance that it would die, and figured I'd land something bigger."
BASS rules state that anglers can't cull dead fish.
Baby's got the bends
In addition to rocky conditions, anglers had to deal with pulling fish from deep waters that had "the bends."
This condition makes keeping fish alive even more difficult. Because of this, several anglers commented that they were heading to the BASS release boats to learn about a technique called "fizzing" fish, when a needle is inserted into the bladder to release the nitrogen-laden air and giving the bass a better chance of survival.
This way, anglers could "fizz" their own fish before placing them in their own livewell.
The wreck of the Edwin Fitzgerald
It was a rough start for Edwin Evers. Literally. With high surf greeting anglers just outside of the launch marina's protected waters, Evers found himself broken down only minutes after take-off.
"I can't thank the BASS support staff enough. They got me a replacement boat and I was off and running in no time." Undaunted, Evers still finished his Day One in 6th place with a 20-13 pound stringer.