MONETA, Va. — Chris Dillow of Waynesboro, Va., persevered through near-freezing conditions and a one-hour fog delay on Thursday to catch a limit of 15 pounds, 10 ounces and seize a more than 2-pound lead in the CITGO Bassmaster Northern Tour stop on Smith Mountain Lake.
After the Smith Mountain event — the final stop on the 2006 Northern Tour — three qualifiers for the 2007 CITGO Bassmaster Classic and five qualifiers for the 2007 CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series will emerge. Tour pros have been accumulating points all season for the coveted spots.
Meanwhile, if Dillow holds on to his lead, he will take home nearly $30,000 in cash and a fully rigged Triton boat powered by Mercury motor valued at $45,000.
Dillow, 49, said he didn't develop a solid pattern in practice so Thursday he went to a junk-fishing strategy, a technique that involves throwing a variety of different lures to many different spots.
"The fish are scattered all around and therefore you have to run around the lake to a number of different locations to maximize the bite," said Dillow, one of only 13 pros who brought in a five-fish limit on Thursday.
Dillow's Perfect Jig — a lure Dillow makes himself — enticed his biggest bass of the day, a 5-13 largemouth. Although the Virginia angler declined to discuss the color of the bait, he did say he would use it extensively throughout the tournament.
With his hometown of Waynesboro about two hours away from Smith Mountain Lake, Dillow fishes the 20,000-acre lake about 10 times a year.
Trailing Dillow was 47-year-old Kenny Reynolds. Reynolds, who brought in a limit that weighed 13 pounds, 9 ounces, hails from Danville, Va., which is roughly 40 minutes from Smith Mountain Lake. He estimated that he fishes it over 100 times a year and attributed some of his success Thursday to his vast experience on the fishery.
Much like Dillow on Thursday, Reynolds visited a number of different areas on the lake, including docks, which are usually a popular spot for anglers on the picturesque fishery.
"My day started out slow, but once I caught them, I started to get in a rhythm," Reynolds said. "Friday, I think I can repeat the success I had, but it all depends on the rain. I don't want it to rain."
Friday's forecast is for heavy rain throughout the day.
Rounding out the top five were Michigan's Art Ferguson (13-6), Elite angler and Alabama resident Kotaro Kiriyama (12-13), and Virginia's Robert Hoyt Jr. (12-10). Kiriyama weighed in the Purolator Big Bass of the Day, a 7-15 lunker.
On the co-angler side, Virginia angler Bill Uzzell led the way with 6 pounds. He was followed by New York's Ken Golubjatnikov (5-14) and Virginia's Daniel Ray Towe (5-6).
Mike Iaconelli, the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year, finished the day with 0-0. Like many other pros, he didn't catch a keeper-sized bass.