Manning, S.C.—Tennessee angler Jonathan Edwards came closest to catching the 20-pound limit that the local experts were predicting would be the daily big bag on Santee-Cooper during the BASS Federation Southern Divisional.
Edwards weighed in a 19-pound, 7-ounce limit to take the lead today in the opener of the Southern Divisional. The 47-year-old convenience store operator who owns a chain of Quik Mart stores is a member of the Alabama-Tennessee Bass Club competing on the Alabama state team in his first divisional. He has a slim edge over a couple of anglers who weighed in 18-pound limits: Phil Bain of North Carolina with 18-9 and Waine Pittman of Georgia with 18-3.
The pattern Edwards discovered in practice held up well for him today. "I was shaking fish off in practice and hooking them today," said Edwards. "I saw a few fish in practice but I didn't throw at any of them."
Some of the contestants reported catching bass in all three phases of the spawn, but Edwards was unsure about his catches. "I didn't really look at my fish that close to tell if they were spawned out," he said. "Their tails didn't look that rough so they may be prespawn fish."
The Alabama team leader caught five keepers from one location and two more from another spot. "I planned to live and die at one place but it quit about lunch time today so we made a change."The Southern Divisional combines two competitions into one event. Competitors from seven states are fishing for the top spot on their team to qualify for a berth to the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship, the ultimate event of amateur bass fishing. Their daily catches also count towards their state team's score as the seven Federation Nations compete for bragging rights and the top prize of a Triton 18X2 bass boat and Mercury Optimax 150 h.p. outboard rig with a total value of $30,000.
Alabama leads the team division with 99 pounds, 7 ounces followed closely by host state South Carolina with 94 pounds and North Carolina with 90-9.
In addition to Edwards, the other six state leaders include Larry Cahan, Florida; Pittman, Georgia; Bain, North Carolina; Gary Bonnet, Kentucky; William Smith, South Carolina; and Danny Lea, Tennessee. The team champions and the top Federation Nation of the Southern Divisional will be determined at the conclusion of the three-day tournament on Friday.
Daily launches and weigh-ins are being held at the John C. Land III Ramp. Weigh-ins start at 3 p.m. EDT each day.