CLARKSVILLE, Va. — The vexation of going to the well once too often has bitten many a tournament angler, but Daniel Gray defied that angling axiom and closed the deal at the Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Mid-Atlantic Divisional on Buggs Island Reservoir with a 3-day total of 28 pounds, 11 ounces.
Hailing from Butler, Pa., Gray placed sixth on Day 1 and then took over the lead on a tough Day 2 after plucking two bass — both weighing 4-1 — off a spot where he had caught a 5-pounder in practice. The key area was a sandy bar extending off a clay bank right outside a small creek.
After trying other areas in the morning, Gray returned to his key area around mid-morning on Day 3 and caught a couple more keepers that sealed his victory by a 1-pound margin.
“Today, I had a great boater (William Goots of the Virginia team), and we went to his spots in the early morning, where I caught two keepers off deeper brushpiles,” Gray said. “Then he said ‘Whatever you want to do.’”
“We went to my spot, and I can’t believe it happened — it was great.”
On the brushpiles, Gray caught his fish by flipping Texas rigged plastics. His best colors were green pumpkin and watermelon red. On the sandy bar, he fished 3 1/2-inch tubes goofy rigged — essentially a weedless arrangement using a 1/4-ounce jig head.
A member of Pennsylvania’s Extreme Anglers bass club, Gray caught four bass for 10-5 on Day 3. He also broke 10 pounds on Day 1 (10-4) and had the Big Bass for Day 2 (4-1).
Overall, the Day 3 weights were better than Day 2. The average fish was a little less than 2 pounds. The Top 10 had 18 pounds or more, but the vast majority of competitors brought in 7 to 12 pounds for their total weight. Only six anglers boasted limits.
Gray not only won the overall tournament; he also topped the Pennsylvania team, which finished three spots behind first-place Virginia, the host state. The Virginia B.A.S.S. Nation state team had two anglers in the Top 10 and won the state competition by a margin of 15-1. Virginia had 181 pounds, 11 ounces, followed by Delaware with 166-10, and New Jersey with 149-15.
Gray earned an invitation to the 2014 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, November 6-8 on Louisiana’s Ouachita River. Other state winners were Greg Alexander, Delaware; Brian Trieschman, Maryland; Michael Sentore, New Jersey; Rodney Rice, Virginia; Randy Huffman, West Virginia.
Essential to Virginia’s team victory was the performance of high school anglers Brandon Strayer and James Graves, who finished 15th overall and third on the Virginia team. Their limit of 11-9 was the largest of Day 2 and the second-largest of the tournament.
High School anglers only fish on Days 2 and 3, so their performance was particularly impressive.
“This is our fourth Divisional this year, and we’ve seen it in every one where the high school team has played a key role in the winning team’s (collective performance),” said B.A.S.S. Nation Director Jon Stewart. “Strayer and Graves had two good days of fishing on a fishery that was tough, and they ended up third on their team in two days, not three. The high schoolers are playing a huge part in what the teams do.”
Ronald Littleton’s 5-pound, 1-ounce bass won the Carhartt Big Bass honors, a $500 prize awarded to the biggest bass of the tournament. Gray won the $250 Livingston Lures Leader award, which goes to the Day 2 leader.
The next divisional in which anglers will earn berths into the championship is the Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Northern Divisional to be held August 13-15 on Indiana's Lake Monroe. More information is available on Bassmaster.com.