Savanna, Ill. — When he took off this morning on the Mississippi River, tournament leader Mark Dove was more focused on the ultimate prize rather than winning the Cabela’s B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship.
“I would love to win,” he said. “That is why everybody fishes (tournaments) is to win. But right now all I am concentrating on is trying to maintain that 6-pound lead (on the Indiana team) and get to the Nationals (Cabela’s B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship) because the ultimate goal is the (Bassmaster) Classic.” The Indiana angler qualified for the 1997 Classic and has a chance to return to the Federation Nation Championship and another shot at a Classic berth if he can finish as the top angler on the Indiana team.
Leading a major tournament headed into the last day is a familiar situation for Dove. “I had a fairly sizeable lead in a state tournament,” he recalls. “This also reminds me a little bit when I fished the Nationals (in 1997 won by Dalton Bobo) on the Red River. I had about a 9-pound lead going into the last day, and all I could think about was hitting a log because the river was flooded.”
Keeping his boat floating could be a concern for Dove today since he has a reputation for getting stuck in the shallows such as in the 2004 Northern Divisional when his boat had to be towed off of a sandbar. “The second day of practice here I was stuck on a wing dam,” he said. “I got out and was pulling on the boat when my fingers slipped off and I went in over my head.”
Dove knows from his extensive experience in fishing the Ohio River that he has to venture into skinny water and take the chance of grounding his boat to succeed in this event. “Fish are always shallow on the river and that’s the way I like to fish,” said Dove, who has found more cooperative bass here than on the Ohio. “This is a cakewalk for me. I caught a limit in 42 minutes yesterday.”
Today’s forecast called for mostly cloudy skies, but during the take-off the weather was already clearing. “Every time I try to predict what the weather is going to do it does just the opposite, so all I know is I will go out and fish my seven hours,” said Dove, who thinks sunshine might reposition his fish. “They are not going to move. They will be there. It is just a question of what kind of bait I catch them on.”
Dove and the rest of the Northern Divisional contenders will return at 1:15 p.m. CT to the Savanna Marina for the final weigh-in to determine the individual and team champions.